August 7, 2015

The Evenstar - Separating Book From Film

Peter Jackson's film adaptations of Tolkien's works are known throughout the fan-community to be full of invented material.  In many instances this was required to successfully tell the story in another medium while the benefits of other additions are left up to debate.  One of the more interesting and arguably successful changes (from a film standpoint) was the use of the Evenstar stone.  Given to Aragorn by Arwen in The Fellowship of the Ring film, it was later used throughout the trilogy as a visual reminder of Arwen and her relationship to the future King when the two characters were hundreds of miles apart.  But, how much of this is actually in the book?

The Person...

Like with most other explorations into Middle-earth, names and words often hold the most insight. In the "real world" the word Evenstar is an old term for the "evening star" (i.e. the planet Venus). This will immediately spark a light bulb in the minds of fellow Tolkien fans as the evening star in Middle-earth is the light of the last Silmaril as it is sailed through the sky on a ship helmed by Earendil. Elves in the Second and Third Ages revered the light and the power and promise it represented. With this in mind, the association becomes even stronger when we realize that Evenstar in Tolkien's world is actually a translation of Undómiel, another name for Arwen from the Quenya words Undómë ("evening twilight") and el ("star"). Thus, Evenstar in Tolkien's story is really another name (or rather, a translation of a name) for the character of Arwen that emphasized her place as one of the last and 'brightest' elves to live in Middle-earth.  There is no stone in Tolkien's book called the Evenstar. Indeed, in each of the six times that the word appears in The Lord of the Rings it is used as a name or title for Arwen such as in these examples from the chapter titled, "Many Partings" and Appendix A III.

'I [Eomer] will put Queen Arwen Evenstar first...'
'His [Samwise Gamgee's] daughter Elanor the Fair is one of the maids of Queen Evenstar.' 
In other passages the narrator goes out of his way to emphasize the connection between Undómiel's name meaning "evening star" and her place among her people as the last and greatest elf to live in Middle-earth by calling her the "Evenstar of her people."

So it was that Frodo saw her whom few mortals had yet seen; Arwen, daughter of Elrond, in whom it is said that the likeness of Luthien had come on earth again; and she was called Undómiel, for she was the Evenstar of her people.
-Many Meetings
...the riders came down the North-way to the gates of Minas Tirith... last came Master Elrond, mighty among the Elves and Men... and beside him upon a grey palfrey rode Arwen his daughter, Evenstar of her people.
 -The Steward and the King
The Stone...

OK, Evenstar means Arwen, but then where did the Evenstar necklace in the movies come from?  The answer lies in the guarded realm of Lorien...

And Aragorn answered: 'Lady [Galadriel], you know all my desire, and long held in keeping the only treasure I seek.  Yet it is not yours to give me, even if you would; and only through darkness shall I come to it.'
     'Yet maybe this will lighten your heart,' said Galadriel; 'for it was left in my care to be given you, should you pass through this land.'  Then she lifted from her lap a great stone of a clear green, set in a silver brooch that was wrought in the likeness of an eagle with outspread wings; and as she held it up the gem flashed like the sun shining through the leaves of spring. 'This stone I gave to Celebrian my daughter, and she to hers [Arwen]; and now it comes to you as a token of hope.  In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the House of Elendil!'
     The Aragon took the stone and pinned the brooch upon his breast, and those who saw him wondered; for they had not marked before how tall and kingly he stood, and it seemed to them that many years of toil and fallen from his shoulders.  'For the gifts that you have given me I thank you,' he said, 'O Lady of Lorien of whom were sprung Celebrian and Arwen Evenstar.  What praise could I say more?'
-Farewell to Lorien

While the details of its passing and appearance are different from book to film its purpose is the same.  In both tellings the stone given to Aragorn represented Arwen's commitment to him and provided a source of hope and encouragement when he was out in the wild.

In almost every shot of Aragorn the
Evenstar stone can be seen
We never "see" the stone again in the book, but it was something Aragorn would have kept with him for the rest of his journey and contemplated in times of despair.  In the films PJ & Co. latched on to this idea and prominently used the stone throughout each installment as a visual reminder of the relationship between Aragorn and Arwen, expounding upon an element from the story that remained practically invisible in the book.
Frodo's Evenstar?

This is more of a footnote, but as described in the quote above, the stone given to Aragorn by Arwen in the book is described as appearing quite different from the Evenstar of the films.  However, in the chapter titled, "Many Partings" Arwen gives Frodo a necklace that bears much more resemblance to that silver jewel seen on screen.
And she [Arwen] took a white gem like a star that lay upon her breast hanging upon a silver chain, and she set the chain about Frodo's neck. 'When the memory of the fear and the darkness troubles you,' she said, 'this will bring you aid.'
 -Many Partings
Her purpose in giving the halfling the stone and her very words echo many aspects of the Evenstar element from the films.

The depiction of the Evenstar stone in the movies was not purely "made-up" by PJ & Co. as one prominent Tolkien scholar claimed, but instead was an elaboration upon a minor, but important theme left out of Tolkien's main story.  The Professor himself tried and failed to integrate the relationship between Aragorn and Arwen into his main work and eventually left it underneath the surface.  Through the medium of film (and Hollywood stipulations), PJ & Co. took the opportunity to bring this (and other) hidden subplots and motives above the surface through the symbolism and imagery of the Evenstar stone.

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