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The Weathertop Sequence in "The Fellowship of the Ring" is Absolute Shenanigans
It's not Aragorn's fault, but it kinda is
I am working on a piece for /Film at the moment (Top 10 Fight Scenes in The Lord of the Rings; I’ll drop a link when it publishes). One of the fights will be Aragorn’s harried efforts to ward off the Nazgûl at Weathertop. I had to take a step back as I was considering the sequence of events that led to the fight. It’s pretty outrageous.
So the hobbits are being pursued by these immortal death knights who have only one goal—kill the ring bearer. Nothing will stop them. They’re basically medieval versions of the Terminator. There aren’t subtitles so we don’t know what they’re shrieking when the hobbits make a last-second escape on a ferry, but it’s probably Black Speech for “I’ll be back.”
After the hobbits have two close encounters with these guys, Aragorn hustles the hobbits overland on foot, intending on taking them to Rivendell. They rest at Weathertop. At dusk, Aragorn leaves them with a handful of swords—which they have no idea how to use—and says he’s going to look around. Which seems sensible enough, until you consider the fact that they are camped at a freaking watch tower. You aren’t going to get a better look around than from this vantage point, Strider.
Anyway, let’s assume the real reason is Aragorn needed to relieve himself or maybe wanted a little alone time. This is not a man used to keeping company, after all. Or, if you prefer, we can say Aragorn decided to do the most nonsensical thing imaginable and leave the high ground—somewhere, Obi-Wan is shaking his head—to skulk about where he might be more easily seen.
I’m not saying what happens is Aragorn’s fault. I’m just pointing out that his decisions enabled the ensuing shenanigans.
So Frodo wakes up to discover his comrades have gotten a case of the munchies. Maybe it’s eleventh supper or something, I don’t know. They’re frying up bacon and sausage on a nice little fire. In the middle of the night, the fire has to be visible for miles and miles. In other words—the beacons are lit! But Aragorn either doesn’t notice or has wandered off so far as to leave the ring completely unprotected. Apart from the four hobbits untrained in swordplay of course, three of whom apparently don’t possess the ability to think critically beyond which veggies pair best with blackened sausage.
Again. Not Aragorn’s fault. (But kinda.)
Frodo panics and starts shouting. His voice echoes into the night, which seems almost worse than the fire. The damage is done, anyway. The Nazgûl are there.
The hobbits run to the very top of the watchtower—where Aragorn should’ve been—and clump in a circle, waiting for their doom. At least they remembered their swords. The other hobbits try to protect Frodo but they are hardly an impediment.
Aragorn arrives just before all hope is lost, wielding sword and fire. One man against five Terminator death knights. Never mind the prophecy that no man can kill the Nazgûl—this guy is running around with a torch! Aragorn quickly drives them down the tower. The last Nazgûl is paralyzed with indecision about which way to flee and ends up a deer in the headlights. You almost feel bad when Aragorn throws a torch into his hood.
It’s a thrilling sequence. But now I can’t help but wonder: why didn’t Aragorn just give the hobbits unlit torches and the simple instruction: light in case of emergency? Even if the hobbits knew how to wield swords, the blades were useless against the Nazgûl. But fire? It’s the only weapon that’s any good against them, unless you happen to be packing a Super Soaker 3000. And if he didn’t trust them enough to give them unlit torches, what’s he doing wandering off?
Never mind what I said before. It’s totally Aragorn’s fault.
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