Lord of the Rings and the Power of Heritage
In our western, or at least American, culture we tend to look at the history of our lineage as a stain. It’s not something that lifts a man up to new heights, it’s something that a man must overcome to achieve greatness.
In a way this is a good thing. If for example, your father was a loser, an alcoholic, a psychopath, a criminal, or had any other undesirable trait, you know you are not destined to walk in his shoes. You do not have to relive his crappy life.
But it works both ways. If your father was a successful businessman, humanitarian, inventor, or had any other desirable traits, you are not assumed to have those traits or end up a success like he did.
Society today does not look at your lineage as either a positive or a negative. Some would cry that to do so is racist. Some would say that to do so is not American.
This of course is an issue of mindset. A man’s heritage can be confining or it can be empowering. A man can harness the power of heritage to do great things, and great storytellers like J.R.R. Tolkien knew that.
Aragorn and Lineage
In Lord of the Rings Aragorn is the rightful King of Gondor, the largest and most magnificent kingdom in all of Middle Earth. When the tale starts he is not ruling his kingdom. He is leading a band of nomadic rangers, who are also his people by heritage.
Aragorn’s lineage goes back many generations. He is the direct descendant of 25 kings of Numenor, a magical kingdom that has since been destroyed. Another mythical equivalent to Numenor would be Atlantis. After the kings of Numenor came Isildur, who was the only man to defeat Sauron, the evil and nearly all-powerful villain of the tale. After Isildur many kings followed. Eventually Aragorn was born as the last in their line.
Aragorn eventually discovered his heritage and fought hard in many battles around the world to be strong enough to rule his people when the time came. There was no “if” for Aragorn, it was only “when.” The power of mindset.
When Sauron’s evil forces threatened to conquer all of Middle Earth Aragorn became the natural leader of men who fight against evil. Why? Because of his heritage. Although he had to prove himself as all men do, he was expected to be the king and internalized that expectation.
Throughout the story we are reminded time and time again that Aragorn is Isildur’s heir. Isildur defeated Sauron, so too can Aragorn.
Logically, this makes no sense. The ability to defeat evil cannot be passed down genetically. Yet Aragorn does. How?
The Power of Heritage
The power of heritage is not lost on Aragorn even though one does not inherit the accomplishments of one’s ancestors. The power of heritage lies in expectations. When a proud heritage is taught to a boy from a young age he will naturally grow up to have high expectations for himself. All who know his heritage will also have those expectations of him.
This gives a man a delusional sense of confidence. A delusional sense of confidence is necessary to achieve great things. A man probably won’t be able to accomplish something as incredible as leading the forces of good in defeating the forces of evil. If a man played the odds he wouldn’t even try because failure, which is more likely, would lead to death.
It takes delusional confidence to make a man bet on himself despite the odds. A rich heritage provides that.
Heritage can also provide social pressure. If everyone expects you to be great from a young age you grow up wanting to validate their belief in you. You will work that much harder to achieve what so few can.
The combination of delusional confidence and social pressure is a powerful motivator to achieve the impossible.
But What If I Don’t Have a Proud Lineage?
This is where American opinions of lineage can benefit you. If you don’t have a proud heritage or don’t even know your heritage, don’t acknowledge it. The lineage can start with you at the year of your birth.
You can be the progenitor of a proud lineage.
The pride starts with you and carries over to your sons and daughters. What does that mean? That means you have to be great to make future generations proud. When you have a rich heritage you have to be great to be worthy of your ancestors. There lies the only difference. But the outcome is the same; you have to be great.
How do you start? Here are a few things that I did. I named my son after me. Why did King Henry VIII’s dad name him Henry? So that he would be compelled to live up to the accomplishments of the seven King Henrys before him.
When my son grows to have a son of his own he will name his son after himself. My son is the second, so his son will be the third with our name. It’s not an option and I won’t teach him it is an option. This is how traditions start. Tradition is never an option. That’s what makes it tradition.
I also commissioned a family crest to be made for us.
Amazing right? I commissioned this from artist Biagio D’Alessandro. You can see if he is available for commissions here.
You’ll notice in the crest that I also created my family motto: Superb at Birth, Superior by Merit.
What does all of this mean for me? It means I have to really strive for greatness. I can never fail. I can never give up. What will my sons think of the blood flowing through their veins if their father is a failure?
I have already moved beyond the poor class where I was raised to give my family a middle class life. This is something I will teach my sons. They will expect of themselves to, at the very least, lead a middle class life as well. More likely they will strive for an upper class life. Maybe they will be millionaires. But they won’t be poor. To do so would shame the lineage.
You can do what I did, or more, or something else. Or not. Maybe you don’t want kids or think that heritage is more restraining than it is empowering. You might be right.
But the lives of so many great kings of both fiction and reality tell a different tale.