Thursday, January 30, 2014

Book Review: A Curse as Dark as Gold

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Greetings, my dear readers!  

Those of you who regularly follow my movie and book reviews know that I rarely write a negative review.  As a matter of fact, I find it difficult to write negative reviews, as I tend to look on the bright side of things, and find the good in everything.  However, I will not compromise my conscience, or the standards I try to live by as a follower of Christ.  As such, the review that follows is one of my first (and few) negative reviews.

The gold thread promises Charlotte Miller a chance to save her family's beloved woolen mill. It promises a future for her sister, jobs for her townsfolk, security against her grasping uncle -- maybe even true love.
To get the thread, Charlotte must strike a bargain with its maker, the mysterious Jack Spinner. But the gleam of gold conjures a shadowy past -- secrets ensnaring generations of Millers. And Charlotte's mill, her family, her love -- what do those matter to a stranger who can spin straw into gold?

This story is an interesting re-telling of the Rumpelstiltskin story, set in early to mid eighteen-hundreds.  The characters were compelling, as was the world in which the story was set.
The story was mysterious, and kept me guessing until about midway through, when the clues started falling into place, and things began to make sense.  However, certain aspects remained a mystery until the climax, when all came together in a most exciting manner.

Unfortunately, for all of its interesting points, this story had one major fault;  the magical elements in it bordered too close to reality.
Most stories that I read involve simple fairy tale magic, so far removed from our world that it has nothing to do with reality.  
However, in this book, the plot centers largely around a curse that was cast years ago, and the elements mentioned in its casting, as well as its warding off, reminded me too much of what I have read of real-life witchcraft.  

The dangers of reading such literature is that it makes magic, real magic, seem like a romantic and desirable thing.  It makes it seem less dangerous, and even attractive.  
In the Bible, God has instructed us to abstain from all such arcane works.  Witchcraft is strictly forbidden, and we are told that it is sinful even to speak of what the wicked do in secret.

While I did finish the book, the closer I got to the end, the more uncomfortable I became with it.  I would not read it again, now that I know how it progresses.  And, despite its many good qualities, I would not recommend it to any of my readers.

As a piece of literature to an unbiased person, I would rate this piece at four stars.
But as a Christian, and looking at the morality issues of the book, the final rating sits at one, or even less.

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-Rayne Speryll

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Awesome (or funny) Advertisements

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Whether you're watching television, surfing Youtube, or even browsing the internet, you're bound to see one thing;  advertisements.
Usually, they're incredibly annoying.  You're gearing up to see the climax of your favorite show, when all of a sudden it cuts to the commercials....  and they just go on and on FOREVER.  By the time they're finished airing, you're thinking that you might as well have watched another movie while you waited!  0_0
But every once in a while, there's an advertisement that's actually worth watching.  Whether it's for awesomeness, comedy, or even stunning intellectual content, these rare commercials are gems in the long and monotonous string of advertisements flashing before our eyes.

Here are a few of the best examples I've come across.  :D

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An ad for Jaguar cars, featuring *gasp*  BRITISH VILLAINS!  XD

An ad for Cartier jewelry:  Winter Tale series, featuring part of the main theme for Girl with a Pearl Earring (film)

And yet another one, this time featuring the song Ice Dance, by Danny Elfman, from the movie Edward Scissorhands

And this hamburger commercial takes an interesting turn...

And now for some Allstate commercials:
(WARNING:  some people might find this... disturbing.  But hilarious.  ;)

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And that's all for now, my readers.  I hope you enjoyed it!

-Rayne Speryll

(DISCLAIMER:  I do not own these advertisements, nor their content, nor the companies.  All credit goes to their owners.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rayne's Comedy Hour: Episode IV

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koma comic strip lotr in a nutshell

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Rayne Speryll

(DISCLAIMER:  I do not own the images in this post, nor the fandoms to which they belong.  All credit goes to the proper owners.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Silmarillion Fanfiction: Melkor's Revenge

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Not too long ago, I wrote this oneshot fanfic for the Silmarillion.  This takes place after the Coming of the Elves, when Melkor (later to become the Dark Lord Morgoth), is put on trial for his treachery.  I wanted to get deeper into the character's individual emotions and thoughts, and so in a frenzied writing fit, this is what came out.   I hope you like it!

DISCLAIMER:  I do not own The Silmarillion, nor any of the characters, names, or places within.  All credit goes to J.R.R. Tolkien, and those of his family who now hold the copyrights.  This is purely a fanwork that is meant to promote the world of Middle Earth, and to express my appreciation for it.

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Melkor's Revenge
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It was not the silence that bothered him most, nor the solitude. Nor was it the dusky darkness that was spread all through the Halls of Mandos.
Nay, it was the powerlessness that he had been reduced to; the shame of his defeat and imprisonment chafed at him without ceasing. The knowledge that it had all been done for the benefit of those creatures which were held now in higher reverence than he ever could be again; the Elves, First Children of Ilùvatar.
Oh yes- that was what tortured him the most in this prison. That he, who was gifted above all the Ainur, should have fallen this low, and all because he had been denied the privilege doing what he wanted most; to create something of his own make, an idea unique to him alone. The Children of Ilùvatar had been favored over him, and he would never forget it. Not for all of eternity.
The sound of a sliding bolt broke the silence. With a silent rush of air, the massive doors of his cell swung open, letting in a flood of light that made him flinch, despite his best efforts.
Silhouetted against the doorway stood the tall, solemn, dark-haired figure of Námo, his keeper. The steward of the Houses of the Dead rarely spoke, unless Manwë himself bid him to. He was rarely referred to by his true name, but was instead called by the same name as his domain, Mandos. Somehow, it seemed to suit him better.
With his hands clasped behind his back, Mandos strode down the steps, slowly descending into the cell. Casting his deep gray eyes upon his prisoner, he opened his mouth and spoke but three words.

“It's time, Melkor.”

Melkor lifted his head and met the eyes of his keeper, choosing to remain silent, but letting the understanding pass between them. Then he felt the magical bonds that had restrained him for so long loosen around him, Melkor rose quetly and alowed himself to be led away. He knew where he was to be taken. It was the place where his fate in Arda would be decided by his foes.
The Ring of Doom.
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“You are disturbed in your spirit, my husband.”

Manwë turned at his wife Varda's voice. Like the stars that she had so lovingly crafted, the love shone out of her eyes with a beautiful light. There he could read all of the compassion, concern, wisdom, and kindness that made up her entire being.

A smile touched Manwë's lips as he lifted his hand to her cheek. “I am, my love,” he said with a sigh. The smile was quickly fading from his face. “My spirit is aches with on this day, as it has since Melkor's betrayal, so many ages ago. Only today I feel it all the more strongly.”

“Yes,” Varda agreed, squeezing his shoulders gently. “During the war, it was easier to bear; for then he was our sworn enemy. But now you have promised to bring him before you with the chance of mercy, and grace, should he choose to mend his ways and repent of his wrongs. With such hope for his submission, and such fear of his rejection of your offer, I cannot fathom the anxiety you must suffer.”

“I can only pray that Ilúvatar will soften Melkor's heart.” Manwë said.

“My Lord!” came a call from a little distance away.

Looking toward the sound, the Valar could see Oromë approaching swiftly.

“What is it, Oromë?” Manwë called.

“Mandos approaches with the prisoner Melkor.” the Hunter replied.

“It is time.” Manwë said, moving to take his seat next to the rest of the Valar.

“Take heart, my love.” Varda said, and took her seat next to him.

Now that Mandos was drawing nearer, Manwë could sense the presence of his old foe, yet it was weaker than it had been before. It had diminished since he and the mighty warrior Tulkas had lead the charge against him in the first days of the coming of the Elves.
In just moments now, Mandos would be coming over the crest of the hill, bringing Melkor with him. Manwë turned his face around the ring of thrones, upon which sat his companions in the ruling of Arda. He met the eyes of each of them as his gaze passed; there was Yavannah, who had crafted the trees and plants, and her husband Aulë, lord of the Earth and its' metals; there was Ulmo, the solitary lord of the Sea, and all the waters on the face of the earth; Oromë the hunter and swift runner; his sister, who was wed to Tulkas, the great warrior; Vairë, the wife of Mandos; Irmo, brother of Mandos, and his wife Estë; and her sister Nienna, the maiden of tears shed for all the world.
Each of these had remained with him faithfully sicnce the beginning of Arda, and each had served in the crafting of Ilúvatar's world. Now each of them would stand by him as he decided theh fate of their oldest enemy.
Steeling himself with a deep breath, Manwë lifted his gaze to face the figure that came into view against the horizo:  

Melkor, the mightiest of the Ainur, and betrayer of Arda.
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Melkor carefully schooled his facial features, keeping his expression practically unreadable; they could not read any weakness in his face, nor would they find any hostility. Now was the time that hehad been anticipating for years, and he was wise enough to know that he must not ruin his chances.
As Manwë had done, Melkor let his gaze pass over each of his fellow ainur, or Valar, as the Elves called them now. He wanted each of them to know that he acknowledged their presence, and that he knew they acknowledged him. Slowly, at the silent bidding of Mandos, Melkor knelt in the center of the Ring of Doom.

“Melkor,” Manwë said, gravely addressing his long-time adversary, “ you know the crimes for which you have been imprisoned. Defiling every good work of Ilúvatar and destroyying every thing that we, the Valar, have endeavored to create for this world. Since the bginning, you have sought to work your own will into the world Ilúvatar has created, and you have let your pride corrupt your very soul. In thinking yourself worthy to take the place of our Creator, your have set yourself up in a place of rebellion against all that is good. Yet, in the manner of our great Father, Ilúvatar, we have spared you, and have given you time to contemplate the reality of your dark deeds. Tell us now, what do you have to say for your actions?”

Melkor, bowed his head for a moment, gathering his thoughts. Now was the time when he could put his plan to the test.
When he lifted his head, he found that he could not quite meet the eyes of Manwë, his king. Gazing intently at the ground, he began, slowly, and quietly at first, then gradually growing in volume.

“I know the wrongs that I have done,” he said, “and I know the depth of the destruction that I have caused. I know the reasons the for which I did it were malicious, corrupted beyond your comprehension. You are right; my pride and vanity consumed me, and I became a loathsome, dark being, filled with hatred for all that was good and wholesome.; I rebelled against Ilúvatar, indeed, I should have been cast into eternal darkness; that thing which I so maliciously conceived” And I know-”

Melkor's voice broke suddenly, and he closed his eyes for a moment before raising them up to stare directly, pleadingly into Manwë's own, deep blue eyes. “I know that I can never right the wrongs I have wrought upon this world; nor heal they anguish that my betrayal has caused you. I have assaulted each of you in a way so terrible that no amount of time, no amount of repentance can every redeem me.”

The Valar were silent, staring at the once mighty prince of the Ainur. Manwë pressed his finger tips together and raised them to his lips, waiting for Melkor to continue.

Melkor, seeing their silence, took a shuddering breath and spoke again. “And yet... I know that I cold not live with myself if I did not try.”

Once again, he raised his eyes pleadingly to Manwë. “My lord Manwë, I beg you, please give me a second chance in this world. Though we of the Ainur were not born by blood, but by the thought of Ilúvatar, you and I were brothers in his mind. We were princes of equal power and potential. If I have spoiled my power on wicked things, give me a chance now to turn back. For it was within my nature to do the things that I did; the desire to create was put with in me, just as Ilúvatar bestowed each of you with your area of talent. My pride and creativity was my downfall before; but let me now turn them to the purposes that they were originally intended by our creator- for Good.” Melkor paused for a moment, again looking each of his peers in the eye. At length, he finished. “Let me redeem myself. Please. That is all I ask.”

With that, he fell sielent, and waited for his doom.

Manwë drew in a deep breath. This was so much more than he had hoped. When he had ordered Melklor brought before him for his hearing, he had expected to find his brother filled with malice, just as he had been for the past several ages since the beginning of Arda. Yet he saw here before him one who was broken, one who realized the depth of iniquity he had fallen too, and was desperate to prove himself once again.
Manwë could feel the eyes of his fellows fixed upon him, and he furrowed his brow in thought. Melkor's deeds seemed unforgivable; and yet unforgiving was not in his nature; nor any of their natures. Deep within his heart, Manwë missed his brother, and wished just as desperately as he that they could share that fellowship once again, as it had been intended.

“You have spoken well, Melkor. If your desire is truly to turn back from your evil ways, then who am I to deny you that privilege? As you said, Ilúvatar has given each of us a gift, and desired that each of us use it for His glory.”

He looked around toward his fellow Valar. “And what say you, my friends?”

“I object!” Tulkas blurted out, unable to contain his passion. “I know that I may not be very wise in council, but if there is one thing I know it is War, and Battle, and all that goes with them. I am of no mind to trust Melkor, after the extent of his treachery. We have all of us seen the damage wrought upon this fair world by his evil, and we will not forget it easily!”

From his place, Ulmo rubbed his chin and nodded. “I am inclined to agree with Tulkas. For myself I would not readily pardon Melkor again. Since before the beginning of this world, he has conspired to twist what was in Eru Ilúvatar's will. My heart tells me that if we loose Melkor the lands will come to much grief because of it. I strongly advise that he be kept in Mandos until the end of Arda and we return to our homeland.”

Tulkas shook his head vehemently in agreement. “Ulmo says more elequently what I cannot express in my own words. I would far rather see Melkor securely away, and these lands safe, than risk his treachery at the cost of Arda!”

Manwë nodded. “I hear your words, Ulmo and Tulkas, and I see the wisdom in them. What have the rest of the Valar to say?”

From her place next to Aulë, Yavannah spoke, her soft dulcet voice like a soothing rain on brittle ground.

“I have felt the deeds of Melkor most harshly; for it was mostly upon my own creations that he wrought his destruction. My trees, and flowers, grasses and shrubs, have all felt his wrath and suffered for it. All my time here has been spent building, and tending, then watching it all be torn down. No matter how many times I repaired the damage, there was always some other cruelty awaiting the new plant life. In Middle Earth there is not a patch of ground that has not been defiled at some point.”

Yavannah lifted her hand and gently brushed away the tears that had sprung up in her eyes. Aulë moved his hand and rested it over hers to comfort her. Giving him a grateful smile, Yavannah continued.
“And yet, despite all this, I do not wish to hold back mercy. I have never held a grudge, and if Melkor truly desires to change, then I give him my blessing! Many a time I have nursed a poisoned, weakened sapling back to health. Just as they have come back from what seemed to be death itself, surely Melkor can return from his evil? The love of life and growth has been with me since my creation. I will not withhold it from anyone, not even he.”

Aulë spoke. “All of you know that Melkor and I are alike in our ambition; both of us wished to create something of our own design, completely original. I can understand him in that way. And while I have not, and would not stoop to go in the way that he has, still my heart does harbor some small pity for him. I want justice done, but I also wish to be merciful and bountiful, just as Ilúvatar was to me, when I crafted the dwarves contrary to his plan.”

Around the circle, there were many slow and solemn nods, save from Ulmo and Tulkas. The majority of the Valar seemed to be in agreement; that Melkor should be given another chance.
Letting this revelation sink in, Manwë spoke again. “All who wish Melkor to be set free, let them raise their right hand to show their support.”
One by one, the Valar lifted their hands. When at last it came down to Tulkas and Ulmo, they exchanged grim glances and bowed their heads.

“Very well,” said Ulmo, “I will constent to this. But let it be remembered that I do so against my better judgment.”

“And I as well.” Tulkas conceded.

Manwë turned to Mandos. “Námo of Mandos, pronounce your doom.”

Mandos nodded solemnly and spoke out, his deep, smooth voice echoed out across the mountains.
“Thus, according to the will of the Valar, Melkor shall be released from his prison, since he has repented of his evil. Under the supervision of the Valar, he will be permitted to turn his talents toward goodness; but he shall not be allowed to leave our sight until such time as he has proven himself worthy to be free once more.”

As soon as these words were spoken, Melkor felled the bonds that suppressed his power loosed completely, and he breathed a deep sigh of relief. Bowing low to the ground, the thanked his brethren.

“My lords... I can never repay you for your great mercy. I will do my best to be worthy of your trust. Thank you, my Lords.”

And deep in his heart, he laughed, for all had gone as he had intended. Manwë, in his desire to redeem his brother, neglected the fact that he himself could never comprehend evil. No, Melkor was not truly in desire to return to the goodness once again. It was only a matter of time until he found a way to have his revenge, once and for all.
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Manwë's Palace, Tanequetil
Melkor stood, staring out the window over the vast lands of Valinor beyond. Presently, Manwë came to stand beside him.

“Such beauty, and I never took the time to see it for what it is.” Melkor said, feigning wistfullness. He gave his brother a sidelong glance.

“Yes,” Manwë agreed, smiling with a hint of regret behind his eyes. “But all that is about to change, if you truly meant what you said.”

“Oh, I do, brother!” Melkor lied, his eyes wide. “I do. I feared I would never get the chance to tell you that I was sorry, but I should have known you. I should have known that you would never give up on me. Now, thanks to you, I have my life back again.”

Manwë smiled again, his the ache in his heart subsiding a bit. They turned back to look out the window, moments of companionable silence passing between them.
Far below, in the gentle rolling hills and lush forest, the small, graceful figures of the elves could be seen mingling happily with one another. A light entered Melkor's eyes when he beheld them.

“Are those... is it them? The Children of Ilúvatar?” he asked, a hint of excitement in his voice.

 Manwë nodded.  “Yes. They are the elves. Beautiful, are they not?”

“More beautiful than I had imagined.” Melkor breathed. “So different than what I had expected. I see now why you wanted so desperately to protect them. They are more precious than the rest of the world put together.”

“Yes, we have waited long for them. They appeared in Middle Earth, across the sea, but we brought them here to be closer to us. They have so much to learn, and we have so much to teach them about the world that they live in.”

“May I see them? I mean, meet them, speak with them... see what they are like?” Melkor asked, looking to Manwë.

Manwë nodded. “In time. In time, you will earn the right to walk among them. When they are ready to meet you, we will present you to them as our brother.”

Melkor smiled. “I look forward to it! And I shall wait patiently until that day.”

Yes, I shall wait patiently indeed. For no one knows better than I that revenge is sweet in the end. Beware, oh Children of Ilúvatar, cause of my destruction. Your doom will come.
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I apologize for the length of this post.  There aren't many convenient stopping points in this story.  Ah well.  Let me know what you think!

Rayne Speryll

(Second DISCLAIMER:  I do not own the image in this post.  all credit goes to Kimberly80 on DeviantArt.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Lessons to Be Learned from The Lord of the Rings | Part I |

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(WARNING:  Spoilers for Lord of the Rings)

A while ago, I posted about the lessons that could be learned from The Avengers, which is full of great examples of how a Christian should live their life.  Another great movie series for that is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  Inn this post I will mention a few lessons that stand out to me.  Now mind you, I could probably do a whole series about this... and another one specifically for the book trilogy.  And I probably will do a separate one for The Hobbit as it continues to be released in parts.  :)
So, without further ado, let us begin!

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Frodo Baggins:  With Great Power Comes  Great Responsibilty

Young Frodo is a fairly average hobbit, though perhaps he is a bit more accepting of the eccentric and adventurous sort than others in the Shire.  Yet this ordinary young hobbit has the distinction of being the nephew and ward of the infamous Bilbo Baggins, and because of his relationship of our dear old traveler, Frodo inherits a highly extraordinary gift: the One Ring.
This ring was created by the dark lord Sauron, who has long been thought dead, ever since he was defeated during the Last Alliance.  He poured all of his will and malice into the gold of the Ring, and now it is yoked with his spirit forever.  Thus as long as the Ring survives, so does Sauron;  and should it ever fall into his hands again, he would be able to assume his physical form and wage war on Middle Earth once more.
The Ring holds great power, and great danger.  Most people in Frodo's shoes would have either tried to use it for their own gain, or tossed it away wanting nothing to do with it.
Yet Frodo knows that the Ring his come to him for a reason, and that it is his responsibility now.  So he sets off on a dangerous quest, willing to give up everything that he has, and knowing that he will likely lose his life, if not more.
Frodo has many chances to forsake his quest, whether by shirking his responsibilities and throwing them on someone else, or by giving in to the Ring's temptations and becoming as evil as Sauron's servants.  Yet he stands strong, and does not waver in his path.
Through perils and horrors unnumbered, Frodo steadily carries on, and though his resolve wavers several times, he does not give up; he perseveres until the very end.

Likewise we, as Christians, cannot bend to the world's constant temptations and evils.  While the world is a beautiful place, and life is a gift for us to live to the fullest, it is also filled with corruption.  Jesus has commanded us to follow Him and stay true to his ways, but the people of the world, not to mention Satan himself, will not rest until we have forsaken God and succumbed to our sinful natures.  But like Frodo, we must resist all temptations and stay on the straight and narrow way, persevering until the end of all things.

Samwise Gamgee:  Of Love and Loyalty

As a simple gardner to Bilbo, and later Frodo Baggins, Sam was never very grand or pretentious.  He was perfectly content to do a good, hard day's work and be with his family and friends.  He never had much to boast about, and even when he did, he was very quiet about it.  Thus he learned the value of humility from a very young age.  This, along with his loyalty, were his very finest traits.
So when his best friend Frodo sets out on a quest to save the world, Samwise knows he must go with him no matter what the dangers may be.  Though he is daunted by the gravity of the task, Sam bravely declares that wherever his master goes, he will follow.
Sam stays with Frodo throughout his entire journey.  Whatever trials Frodo endured, Sam endured also. Whatever horrors Frodo beheld, Sam saw too.  When Frodo had to concentrate on resisting the Ring and moving forward, Sam managed the simple but necessary things like food, supplies, and pathways.  When the Ring had exhausted Frodo's strength so that he could no longer walk, Sam carried him on his shoulders.  Sam even bore the Ring itself for a time without crumbling under its influence!
Even when Frodo lost his patience with his friend, and treats him poorly, Sam bears it all, and stands by Frodo through thick and thin.  Even when Frodo is blind to the threat that Gollum poses, Sam handles the situation beautifully by both obeying Frodo's wishes that the creature remain with them, all the while keeping a watchful eye on him.

Sam is the perfect example of a true friend, and more than that- a brother.  He is, arguably, an even greater hero than Frodo.
If we mirror his loyal, courageous attitude, and trade our pride for humble servant's hearts, then who could ever question our character?  Samwise Gamgee is indeed a person of unquestionable, honorable character.

Aragorn:  The True Leader

Aragorn is the heir to the greatest kingdom of men  on the face of Middle Earth, yet he has lived all of his life in exile, along with his father, and grandfather before him.  In fact, for generations, ever since the Last Alliance, the heirs of Isildur have wandered in the wilderness, waiting for the day when they can regain their strength and claim the throne of Gondor once more.
So instead of being called king, Aragorn is known as Strider, the Ranger, and regarded with suspicion by the very people he protects.
Like Sam, Aragorn is very humble, and when he joins Frodo and his group, his companions do not even learn of his heritage until they are informed by Bilbo in Rivendell.
But when his leadership is called for, Aragorn does not hesitate to 'take the wheel', so to speak.  He doesn't do it by forcing his authority on everyone, or insisting that his way is best.  He does it with great gentleness and humility.  He doesn't sit on a great throne, or ride a tremendous war horse as he surveys the battle from afar, rather, he gets down in the mud with the rest of his troops, coming alongside them and aiding them in their hour of need.
But for all his gentleness, Aragorn doesn't sugarcoat things.  He is honest and frank with his friends and soldiers, making sure that they know the gravity of all their situations.  And, when someone gets out of line, Aragorn does not compromise- not on moral matters.  He knows what is right and wrong, and his is unwilling that any of his people should fall to the wrong.  He will fight to the death for even the most insignificant of his soldiers.

Aragorn treats his people much like a shepherd treats his flocks.  In this matter, he is much like Jesus, who was often compared with "the Good Shepherd".  Now, Aragorn has his short-commings, but he rises above them in order to lead his people to victory.  He is willing to put aside his pride and ask for council in both matters of warfare, and personal conduct.  He is willing both to follow, and lead, which is a rare quality among men.  This is why Aragorn is the True Leader, and I believe, the greatest king that Gondor has ever known.

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Part II is coming soon.  :)

-Rayne Speryll

(DISCLAIMER:  I do not own Middle Earth, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, nor any of the characters, places, or plots therein.  Credit for these belongs to the copyrights holder(s).  
Images used in the post do not belong to me, but are pulled from the web and may be subject to copyright.)