The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 51, The Hands of the King are the Hands of a Healer

One of the striking aspects of Tolkien's story is how he envisions kingship. 

The Battle of the Pelennnor Fields is won. Rohan arrived. The Witch-King of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgûl, is slain. And Aragorn brings reinforcements with the Army of the Dead.

But much has been wounded and lost. The drama turns to the Houses of Healing in Gondor. 

In the Houses we encounter Ioreth, among the eldest of the women in Gondor who heal and tend the sick. Facing the work of caring for the many casualties of battle, Ioreth pines for the ancient lore to be fulfilled: "Would that there were kings in Gondor, as there were once upon a time, they say! For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known."

Little does she know that the rightful king has arrived in Gondor, and the king is indeed a healer. Gandalf quotes the lore shared by Ioreth and declares, "For it is only in the coming of Aragorn that any hope remains for the the sick that lie in the house." 

Aragorn goes to the Houses. Faramir, Éowyn and Merry are grievously wounded and close to death. What follows are a series of resurrections. 

First, Aragorn searches for Faramir in the Vale of the Dead and calls him back to Life:

Now Aragorn knelt beside Faramir, and held a hand upon his brow. And those that watched felt that some great struggle was going on. For Aragorn's face grew grey from weariness; and ever and anon he called the name of Faramir, but each time more faintly to their hearing, as if Aragorn himself was removed from them, and walked afar in some dark vale, calling for one that was lost.

It's a evocative moment that brings to mind Christ's Harrowing of Hell, his going to the Land of the Dead searching for Adam and Eve and calling home all lost souls.

Aragorn next comes to Éowyn. Over her he speaks, "Éowyn Éomund's daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away!" In calling Éowyn by her name there's a clear echo of the gospel: “Lazarus, come forth!” 

A similar calling happens with Merry. Pippin fears Merry will die, but Aragorn responds, "Do not be afraid...I came in time, and I have called him back."

After calling Faramir, Éowyn and Merry back to life the chapter ends with Aragorn tending to all the sick and wounded in Gondor:

At the doors of the Houses many were already gathered to see Aragorn, and they followed after him; and when at last he had supped, men came and prayed that he would heal their kinsmen or their friends whose lives were in peril through hurt or wound, or who lay under the Black Shadow. And Aragorn arose and went out, and he sent for the sons of Elrond, and together they laboured far into the night. And word went through the City: 'The King is come again indeed.' And they named him Elfstone, because of the green stone that he wore, and so the name which it was foretold at his birth1 that he should bear was chosen for him by his own people. 

And when he could labour no more, he cast his cloak about him, and slipped out of the City, and went to his tent just ere dawn and slept for a little. And in the morning the banner of Dol Amroth, a white ship like a swan upon blue water, floated from the Tower, and men looked up and wondered if the coming of the King had been but a dream.
The crowds gathered at the doors of the Houses, bringing their sick to Aragorn, again echos the gospels where Jesus labored through the night healing and releasing those under the Black Shadow:
That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons.
Again, there is no single Christ-figure in The Lord of the Rings. There are many: Gandalf, Sam, and Frodo all have their moments. And now, once again, Aragorn. And what Aragorn helps us see, in his Christlikeness, is the King as Healer. 

What marks Aragorn as the king isn't military prowess. What marks Aragorn as the king is that he heals the sick and calls the dead back to life.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply