“The Grace of Undómiel”: Analyzing Arwen’s Theme of Determined Hope

“The Grace of Undómiel”: Analyzing Arwen’s Theme of Determined Hope August 29, 2022

Arwen’s refusal to give up her hope for a future with Aragorn was captured in Howard Shore’s piece “The Grace of Undómiel”. This theme plays in The Return of the King when Arwen sees a vision of her son, Eldarion, and goes to confront her father for withholding her full future from her. Renée Fleming lends her beautiful soprano voice to the Elvish lyrics here, singing of Arwen’s wavering light amid the darkness of despair.

The YouTube channel Monoverantus excels in analyzing the music of the three Lord of the Rings movies, and their analysis of “The Grace of Undómiel” is no exception:

Evenstar’s Determination

“The Grace of Undómiel” first starts playing when Arwen sees a vision of her future son, Eldarion, while traveling towards the Grey Havens with the other elves of Rivendell:

The lyrics here sing of Arwen’s hope becoming overshadowed by the mounting despair brought on by the War of the Ring. Whereas once she shone brilliantly, the pressure to give up her hopes and dreams has caused her light to flicker and fade. The vision of her future son gives her a challenging look, silently urging her not to give up.

When she sees Eldarion give her that knowing look, Arwen regains her courage and quickly returns home. She confronts Elrond for withholding the entire truth from her and urges her father to help Aragorn by reforging Isildur’s blade, Narsil. Initially, Elrond scorns this idea, only to look upon his daughter in alarm when she suddenly goes weak:

Because she firmly chose to live a mortal life by Aragorn’s side, and with Sauron’s power rising, Arwen feels herself going cold. On top of that, the Elvish stanza sung here somberly describes what will happen if she gives up.

In contrast to the blissful moment when Arwen sees her vision of Eldarion, Renée Fleming sings in a much more mournful tone. The Elvish lyrics here translate to a sad bit of lines: “For what would have been, for what never was.”

As Fleming finishes singing, her voice lifts on the final note, signifying the last push for hope in the future. Elrond, shaken by the possibility of seeing Arwen fade away if Sauron wins, heeds her plea and has his smiths reforge Narsil into Andúril. Just as his daughter refuses to give up hope, Elrond decides to trust in hope himself.

Holding Onto Hope

This Bible passage showed up recently in my Facebook memories from the summer of 2016:

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.” (Psalm 25: 16-18)

And he thought he didn’t have depression.

These verses represented how overwhelmed I felt the summer before my senior year at college. When I entered my last fall semester, these feelings of loneliness and distress lingered. That entire year, in hindsight, was when I was first truly aware of how deep my depression ran.

Later in that semester, Trump won the election. His victory caused a campus-wide schism that tore apart friendships and filled many of us with crippling uncertainty over what the future would hold.

With depression, not knowing what the future will hold can be severely despair-inducing. It didn’t help matters back then that I was stressed out over my final Fall semester classes.

“You Can Do It”

I think it was late in November 2016 that I had an uplifting dream about a kid (who looked suspiciously like my artistic little step-brother) giving me a drawing of myself as a superhero. In his drawing of me, I looked like a classic Superman-esque hero with a cape and all, flying across the sky with the caption “You can do it” underneath. I broke down crying in the dream, and when I woke up, I had a renewed sense of purpose.

We all need somebody to remind us that we’re capable of more than we realize. Nobody’s invincible, and we’re not supposed to feel like we have to do everything on our own. There’s a difference between being independent and crippling ourselves with arbitrary rules.

I’m grateful I remembered that dream. Life’s felt a bit disorganized and chaotic lately, and I’ve been running the risk of falling back into that mindset from all those years ago.

And oh, am I glad to be rediscovering Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films!

Featured Image by StockSnap/Pixabay

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