Sunday, November 15, 2015

Arwen Undómiel

*This essay is a part of my 'Tolkien and Gender' series. You must read my Intro before reading this essay.*

Arwen is my favorite character, and I identify with her strongly. In fact, I became a Tolkien fan because of her. Yes, you read that right. Arwen is an amazing character, and I find the way a lot of people frequently interpret her incredibly problematic.

Most people say that 'she doesn't do anything' and that she is 'passive' or 'submissive'. Passive means “accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.” Submit means “to yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another.” They mean that Arwen does nothing to assert herself, influence events around her, or change her place in life. That she is, in short, a trophy bride.

Nothing could be further from the truth. With as little page time as Arwen has, she has quite an active role and an enormous effect on the plot.



Let's turn to the text.

We start with Appendix B.
TA 109: Elrond weds Celebrían, daughter of Celeborn. 
TA 130: Birth of Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond. 
TA 241: Birth of Arwen Undómiel.
This tells us that Elladan and Elrohir were fully grown when Arwen was born (Morgoth's Ring tells us that all elves are fully grown by their 100th birthday). Still being quite young, they were probably very involved in Arwen's childhood. We also know that Galadriel and Celeborn dwelt for awhile in Imladris, before taking up rule of Lothlórien in TA 1981 (when Arwen was 1740 years old) (Unfinished Tales). As we will see, Arwen seems to be very close to her family.
In 2509 Celebrían wife of Elrond was journeying to Lórien when she was waylaid in the Redhorn Pass, and her escort being scattered by the sudden assault of the Orcs, she was seized and carried off. She was perused and rescued by Elladan and Elrohir, but not before she had suffered torment and had received a poisoned wound. She was brought back to Imladris, and though healed in body by Elrond, lost all delight in Middle-earth, and the next year went to the Havens and passed over Sea. - Appendix A
Arwen was 2268 years old when her mother was captured and tormented. What happened to Celebrían must have been very traumatic for Arwen and her entire family. We know that Elladan and Elrohir were hardly ever home after this; filled with hatred and vengeance. We don't know where Arwen dwelt after this, but I suspect it was in Lothlórien with her grandparents (due to other clues in the text, which we will go over).

Note that Arwen has the brightest and most powerful Elves in Middle-earth as her family. She would have had an education beyond that of any other living being.
TA 2951: Arwen, newly returned from Lórien, meets Aragorn in the woods of Imladris. - Appendix B 
The next day at the hour of sunset Aragorn walked alone in the woods, and his heart was high within him; and he sang, for he was full of hope and the world was fair. And suddenly even as he sang he saw a maiden walking on a greensward among the white stems of the birches; and he halted amazed, thinking that he had strayed into a dream, or else that he had received the gift of the Elf-minstrels, who can make the things of which they sing appear before the eyes of those that listen.
It is important to note that Aragorn's reaction to learning his heritage is hope and joy. This is not a man, grown and mature. This is a boy with a fairytale version of his heritage.

The symbolism here is crucial to note as well – Arwen and Aragorn meet “at the hour of sunset”, the beginning of twilight. We will see later why this symbolism is important.
For Aragorn had been singing a part of the Lay of Lúthien which tells of the meeting of Lúthien and Beren in the forest of Neldoreth. And behold! there Lúthien walked before his eyes in Rivendell, clad in a mantle of silver and blue, fair as the twilight in Elven-home; her dark hair strayed in a sudden wind, and her brows were bound with gems like stars. 
For a moment Aragorn gazed in silence, but fearing that she would pass away and never be seen again, he called to her crying, Tinúviel, Tinúviel! even as Beren had done in the Elder Days long ago.
The sight of Arwen moves Aragorn greatly. First he halts in amazement, and wonders if she is real. Then he calls out to her, fearing that she will disappear. He is very taken by her appearance.
Then the maiden turned to him and smiled, and she said: “Who are you? And why do you call me by that name?”
Arwen is curious and good-natured. She is not offended by being called Lúthien's epithet.
And he answered: “Because I believed you to be indeed Lúthien Tinúviel, of whom I was singing. But if you are not she, then you walk in her likeness.” 
“So many have said,” she answered gravely. “Yet her name is not mine. Though maybe my doom will be not unlike hers. But who are you?”
When Aragorn says that she looks like Lúthien, Arwen turns grave. Grave means “serious and solemn.” Arwen has clearly thought much about her similarity to Lúthien, and wondered about her own fate. Also, all elves have some degree of foresight, and Arwen comes from a family in which it is strong.

She also stays polite yet direct, asking who Aragorn is for a second time.
“Estel I was called,” he said; “but I am Aragorn, Arathorn's son, Isildur's Heir, Lord of the Dúnedain”; yet even in the saying he felt that this high lineage, in which his heart had rejoiced, was now of little worth, and as nothing compared to her dignity and loveliness.
Rejoice means “to feel joyful; be delighted.” Aragorn tells us that he has been feeling proud of his lineage and titles. It is essential to note the change he goes through here.

Dignity means “inherent nobility and worth.” Nobility means “the state or quality of being morally or spiritually good.” Loveliness means “having beauty that appeals to the emotions as well as to the eye.”

At first, Aragorn was amazed by her physical beauty. Now, he starts to see her personality, and realizes that his titles are nothing in comparison.
But she laughed merrily and said; “Then we are akin from afar. For I am Arwen Elrond's daughter, and am named also Undómiel.”
Merry means “full of cheerfulness, liveliness, and good feelings.”

Arwen is not impressed with Aragorn's lineage, but amused and happy to find out that this stranger is distant kin. She also tells us that she is named the “twilight star” (see here for the source of the translation for Undómiel).
“Often it is seen,” said Aragorn, “that in dangerous days men hide their chief treasure. Yet I marvel at Elrond and your brothers; for though I have dwelt in this house from childhood, I have heard no word of you. How comes it that we have never met before? Surely your father has not kept you locked in his hoard?”
Some 'feminists' that this is sexist; that 'it shows that Aragorn sees Arwen as an object possessed by her family, and thinks it unfathomable that she could have an independent life of her own'.

That opinion is not only not supported by the text, it is contradicted. Aragorn is young. He is still, in many ways, a boy ignorant of the world around him. By simple childlike thinking, if Arwen is Elrond's child, and Imladris is the home of Elrond's family, then she should have been there. And since he had never met her before, he wonders incredulously if she has been locked away.

Also, treasure means “any thing or person greatly valued.” Value means “to regard highly.” Aragorn is not calling Arwen an object, but a much loved daughter.
“No,” she said, and looked up at the Mountains that rose in the east. “I have dwelt for a time in the land of my mother's kin, in far Lothlórien. I have but lately returned to visit my father again. It is many years since I walked in Imladris.”
Arwen is contemplative of her past, explaining that she has dwelt with her grandparents for a long time. The fact that it has been so long makes me think that being in Imladris is too painful for her, after what happened to her mother (there is more, later, that supports this).
Then Aragorn wondered, for she had seemed of no greater age than he, who had lived yet no more than a score of years in Middle-earth. But Arwen looked in his eyes and said: “Do not wonder! For the children of Elrond have the life of the Eldar.”
Wonder means “a feeling of puzzlement or doubt.” This backs up what I said, about Aragorn being young and ignorant. He is confused, because surely Arwen cannot be much older than him!

It is revealing that Aragorn didn't already know this about Elrond's children. We know that Elladan and Elrohir taught Aragorn about the wild and battle, and we know that they “rode often far afield with the Rangers of the North, forgetting never their mother's torment in the dens of orcs.” It is very possible that Aragorn had little of a relationship with them, outside that of teacher and student.

Arwen, for her part, sees clearly the cause of Aragorn's confusion, and enlightens him to the truth of the matter.
Then Aragorn was abashed, for he saw the elven-light in her eyes and the wisdom of many days; yet from that hour he loved Arwen Undómiel daughter of Elrond. - Appendix A
Abashed means “ill at ease, embarrassed, or confused.” Aragorn is embarrassed by his mistake, and sees the knowledge and wisdom shining from Arwen's eyes.

Yet means “and despite this; nevertheless.” Despite his embarrassment, Aragorn's transformation is complete, as he finally perceives Arwen fully and falls in love.
Gilraen: “For this lady is the noblest and fairest that now walks the earth.” - Appendix A 
“No indeed,” said Elrond. “Your own eyes have betrayed you. But I do not speak of my daughter alone. You shall be betrothed to no man's child as yet. But as for Arwen the Fair, Lady of Imladris and of Lórien, Evenstar of her people, she is of lineage greater than yours, and she has lived in the world already so long that to her you are but as a yearling shoot beside a young birch of many summers. She is too far above you. And so, I think, it may well seem to her. But even if it were not so, and her heart turned towards you, I should still be grieved because of the doom that is laid on us.” 
“What is that doom?” said Aragorn. 
“That so long as I abide here, she shall live with the youth of the Eldar,” answered Elrond, “and when I depart, she shall go with me, if she so chooses.” 
“I see,” said Aragorn, “that I have turned my eyes to a treasure no less dear than the treasure of Thingol that Beren once desired. Such is my fate.” Then suddenly the foresight of his kindred came to him, and he said: “But lo! Master Elrond, the years of your abiding run short at last, and the choice must soon be laid on your children, to part either with you or with Middle-earth.” 
“Truly,” said Elrond. “Soon, as we account it, though many years of Men must still pass. But there will be no choice before Arwen, my beloved, unless you, Aragorn, Arathorn's son, came between us and bring one of us, you or me, to a bitter parting beyond the end of the world.” - Appendix A
Noble means “having or showing qualities of high moral character, such as courage, generosity, or honor.” Now, with Tolkien “fair” is usually connected to inner beauty and goodness as well as outer beauty – remember that Frodo thought that Aragorn looked foul and felt fair when they met (see more here). Beloved means “greatly loved.”

Gilraen says that Arwen is both noble and fair. Her “fair” reads as if talking about physical beauty – Gilraen used the word noble to indicate Arwen's moral goodness. Elrond's “Arwen the Fair” is a title Arwen has; considering the fact that Arwen said she is often compared to Lúthien, it probably refers to physical beauty.

Elrond mentions the important political position Arwen holds, as well. She is a lady of rank in both Imladris and Lothlórien; and she is the Twilight Star, a bright light to her people in the time of their fading.

Aragorn's ignorance again stands out, as (after Arwen's comment) he assumed she was a regular elf. Here he learns that she has the choice of mortality.

Aragorn again uses the word “treasure” to mean a much loved daughter. This entire passage revolves around both Elrond and Aragorn recognizing Arwen's agency and the fact that she is the only one who can decide her own fate (for more on this scene, and the relationship between Elrond and Aragorn, see here).
Then Aragorn took leave lovingly of Elrond; and the next day he said farewell to his mother, and to the house of Elrond, and to Arwen, and he went out into the wild. - Appendix A
Aragorn says farewell to Arwen before he leaves. We have no indication as to their thoughts or feelings here.
Thus he became at last the most hardy of living Men, skilled in their crafts and lore, and was yet more than they; for he was elven-wise, and there was a light in his eyes that when they were kindled few could endure. - Appendix A
Aragorn has become wise, with both the knowledge of Elves and Men. Greater than just a mortal king of Men, he has come into his own and reached a new level. The light in his eyes is the same elven-light that he saw in Arwen's. No mortal woman could be his equal, but Arwen could. And she is.
He did not know it, but Arwen Undómiel was also there, dwelling again for a time with the kin of her mother. She was little changed, for the mortal years had passed her by; yet her face was more grave, and her laughter now seldom was heard.
Arwen is once again with her grandparents, having spent little time in Imladris. Grave means “serious and solemn.” As the years have darkened, she has lost hope and faith in the light's ability to triumph. Her sense of joy has almost disappeared, in her depression.
But Aragorn was grown to full stature of body and mind, and Galadriel bade him cast aside his wayworn raiment, and she clothed him in silver and white, with a cloak of elven-grey and a bright gem on his brow. Then more than any king he appeared, and seemed rather an Elf-lord form the Isles of the West. And thus it was that Arwen first beheld him again after their long parting; and as he came walking towards her under the trees of Caras Galadhon laden with flowers of gold, her choice was made and her doom appointed.
Thus means “therefore; consequently.” Behold means “to see, look upon, or gaze at.”

To understand what happens here, we must understand that elves (and some men, like Aragorn) have the ability to read the hearts and souls of others. They are not easily deceived. Arwen sees Aragorn as he is now, twenty-nine years later; not a boy with a fairytale view of his heritage, but a man who has grown and become her equal. She perceives him, and all that he is. And seeing him, she understands.
Then for a season they wandered together in the glades of Lothlórien, until it was time for him to depart. And on the evening of Midsummer Aragorn, Arathorn's son, and Arwen daughter of Elrond went to the fair hill, Cerin Amroth, in the midst of the land, and they walked unshod on the undying grass with elanor and niphredil about their feet. And there upon that hill they looked east to the Shadow and west to the Twilight, and they plighted their troth and were glad.
Arwen and Aragorn spend a season together, deepening their love. They trothplight on the evening before Midsummer. Midsummer is very symbolically important for them, as we'll see later. They have not reached their Midsummer yet, though.

Walking barefoot on Cerin Amroth, they first look east, where Sauron and the possibility for the end of hope lies; they then look west, where the ships in the Havens await to take the elves to Valinor. Two possibilities, two futures.

After this reflection, they take joy in their love and plight their troth.
And Arwen said: “Dark is the Shadow, and yet my heart rejoices; for you, Estel, shall be among the great whose valour will destroy it.”
Rejoice means “feel or show great joy or delight.” Arwen says, 'Sauron's power is strong, but at the same time I feel great joy, because you will help bring about his defeat.' This is quite a change from before, when she was losing hope and faith. Now she knows, without a doubt, what is meant to happen. She feels how right it is.

(This is backed up by a note in the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth:
Actually the Elves believed that the 'lightening of the heart' or the 'stirring of joy' (to which they often refer), which may accompany the hearing of a proposition or an argument, is not an indication of its falsity but of the recognition by the fëa that it is on the path of truth. - Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, Author's Note 8)
It is also important to note that both Arwen and Gilraen continue to call Aragorn Estel for the rest of their lives. Aragorn is the Chieftain, Strider the Ranger, Thorongil the Captain, and Elessar the King. Estel? He is the man, inherently elvish. We know that he is above any other mortal, but I don't think we ponder the consequence of that enough. There is a large part of himself that no mortal will ever understand.
But Aragorn answered: “Alas! I cannot foresee it, and how it may come to pass is hidden from me. Yet with your hope I will hope. And the Shadow I utterly reject. But neither, lady, is the Twilight for me; for I am mortal, and if you will cleave to me, Evenstar, then the Twilight you must also renounce.”
Alas means “used as an exclamation to express sorrow, pity, concern, apprehension, etc.” Aragorn doubts himself, and doubts the light's ability to triumph. Arwen's hope gives him strength, and he holds onto it.

Aragorn then rejects one of the two possibilities, for working with Sauron is no option. But Aragorn knows that the other possibility has never been an option for him, either. And if Arwen wishes to stay with him, she too must renounce the West. Aragorn stresses this, for his own sake. He needs her to be absolutely certain of her choice. There is also a hint of guilt here – Aragorn doubts his worth, and he knows that this will sunder Arwen from her family forever.
And she stood then as still as a white tree, looking into the West, and at last she said: “I will cleave to you, Dúnedain, and turn from the Twilight. Yet there lies the land of my people and the long home of all my kin.” She loved her father dearly. - Appendix A
Arwen looks at the West, where her mother is, and where all of her family belongs. She looks, and she thinks. Arwen knows that no other path could bring her greater joy. Because of this, she tells Aragorn she will renounce the Twilight. It is a bittersweet decision, because though it is her destiny, her path, she loves her family deeply.

The symbolism is strong here, as well. Arwen is compared to a white tree – and the White Tree of Gondor is the symbol of the line of Kings.
TA 2980: Aragorn enters Lórien, and there meets again Arwen Undómiel. Aragorn gives her the ring of Barahir, and they plight their troth upon the hill of Cerin Amroth. - Appendix B
So Aragorn gives Arwen the ring of Barahir, symbolizing how she holds the fate of his line. He is 49, and she 2739.
TA 3009: Elrond sends for Arwen, and she returns to Imladris; the Mountains and all lands eastward are becoming dangerous. - Appendix B
Arwen and Aragorn do not marry immediately, because of Elrond (see link above). They could, of course, disregard his wishes and marry then anyway – there is no question of Arwen's agency; if it was up to Elrond, they wouldn't be together at all. However, both Arwen and Aragorn love and respect Elrond too much to defy him.

This is connected to elven custom – respecting families and kinship is very important. Laws and Customs of the Eldar says,
But these ceremonies were not rites necessary to marriage; they were only a gracious mode by which the love of the parents was manifested,(8) and the union was recognized which would join not only the betrothed but their two houses together. [cut] In happy days and times of peace it was held ungracious and contemptuous of kin to forgo the ceremonies, but it was at all times lawful for any of the Eldar, both being unwed, to marry thus of free consent one to another without ceremony or witness (save blessings exchanged and the naming of the Name); and the union so joined was alike indissoluble.
Likewise, The Silmarillion, Of Maeglin says,
Then Curufin looked darkly upon Eöl. “Do not flaunt the title of your wife before me,” he said. “For those who steal the daughters of the Noldor and wed them without gift or leave do not gain kinship with their kin.”
After another 29 years in Lothlórien, Arwen returns to Imladris. I am sure they did not go all those years without seeing each other, as Aragorn does not leave the North. However, it is implied slightly, during the Fellowship's time in Lothlórien, that Aragorn has not been back in all 38 years. We have no way of knowing for sure.

Arwen only returns to Imladris when Elrond sends for her – this is another sign that she prefers Lothlórien.
And while the world darkened and fear fell on Middle-earth, as the power of Sauron grew and Barad-dûr rose ever taller and stronger, Arwen remained in Rivendell, and when Aragorn was abroad, from afar she watched over him in thought; and in hope she made for him a great and kingly standard, such as only one might display who claimed the lordship of the Númenóreans and the inheritance of Elendil. - Appendix A
Arwen has returned from Lothlórien, making the year TA 3009. “When he was abroad” is confirmation that Aragorn was not always away. When he is away, Arwen “watched over him in thought.” To watch over means “to protect and feel responsible for the care of someone or something.” This makes it clear Arwen is not just sitting and hoping he's alright, but that she can actually see him with her thoughts – and probably lend him support and strength in dire moments.

We know Arwen starts making Aragorn's standard now, as well. She does so “in hope” - she is steadfast in her surety of the future and the Free People's triumph. No matter how much the world darkens, Arwen's hope and faith does not waver. She has found her destiny, and knows that she is on the path of truth.

Arwen is not naïve, she knows that many will have to be convinced of Aragorn's lineage. Arwen plans to ensure that happens.
“I have,” said Strider. “I dwelt there once, and still I return when I may. There my heart is; but it is not my fate to sit in peace, even in the fair house of Elrond.” - Flight to the Ford
Aragorn says his heart is in Rivendell, where Arwen is.
In the middle of the table, against the woven cloths upon the wall, there was a chair under a canopy, and there sat a lady fair to look upon, and so like was she in form of womanhood to Elrond that Frodo guessed that she was one of his close kindred. Young she was and yet not so. The braids of her dark hair were touched by no frost; her white arms and clear face were flawless and smooth, and the light of stars was in her bright eyes, grey as a cloudless night; yet queenly she looked, and thought and knowledge were in her glance, as of one who has known many things the years bring. Above her brow her head was covered with a cap of silver lace netted with small gems, glittering white; but her soft grey raiment had no ornament save a girdle of leaves wrought in silver. 
So it was that Frodo saw her whom few mortals had yet seen; Arwen, daughter of Elrond, in whom it was said that the likeness of Lúthien had come on earth again; and she was called Undómiel, for she was the Evenstar of her people. Long she had been in the land of her mother's kin, in Lórien beyond the mountains, and was but lately returned to Rivendell to her father's house. But her brothers, Elladan and Elrohir, were out upon errantry; for they rode often far afield with the Rangers of the North, forgetting never their mother's torment in the dens of the orcs. 
Such loveliness in living thing Frodo had never seen before nor imagined in his mind; and he was both surprised and abashed to find that he had a seat at Elrond's table among all these folk so high and fair. - Many Meetings
Arwen's seat is distinct – she is the lady of the household, after all. Frodo sees not just her beauty, but also the elven-light in her eyes. She is regal, knowledgable, and wise. It is implied she has a more serious personality – Glorfindel is described as having a face “full of joy,” and Sam says some elves are as “merry as children.” Arwen is also unpretentious, being simply dressed. She is, in short, “queenly” - the queen to Aragorn's king.

Once again, it is mentioned that she is the Twilight Star, a bright light to her people in the time of their fading. This is also our fourth reference to Arwen dwelling long in Lothlórien, instead of Rivendell.
Elrond and Arwen rose and went down the hall, and the company followed them in due order. - Many Meetings
Arwen co-leads their movement from the dining hall to the Hall of Fire. This is another subtle sign of her status and leadership.
Elrond was in his chair and the fire was on his face like summer-light upon the trees. Near him sat the Lady Arwen. To his surprise Frodo saw that Aragorn stood beside her; his dark cloak was thrown back, and he seemed to be clad in elven-mail, and a star shone on his breast. They spoke together, and then suddenly it seemed to Frodo that Arwen turned towards him, and the light of her eyes fell on him from afar and pierced his heart. - Many Meetings
Arwen and Aragorn are close together, speaking – probably of Frodo, as she turns to look at him. Arwen turns, and with her elven ability, she reads Frodo's heart and soul (just like she did Aragorn, when they met in Lothlórien).

We also get a visual metaphor on Aragorn's state of being. His “dark cloak” has been thrown off, he is dressed like an elf, and he shines with the light of a star. Arwen brings out the best in him, and he is a great and noble figure, free of darkness. He is also inherently elvish.
At the hill's foot Frodo found Aragorn, standing still and silent as a tree; but in his hand was a small golden bloom of elanor, and a light was in his eyes. He was wrapped in some fair memory: and as Frodo looked at him he knew that he beheld things as they once had been in this same place. For the grim years were removed from the face of Aragorn, and he seemed clothed in white, a young lord tall and fair; and he spoke words in the Elvish tongue to one whom Frodo could not see. Arwen vanimelda, namárië! he said, and then he drew a breath, and returning out of his thought he looked at Frodo and smiled. 
Here is the heart of Elvendom on earth,” he said, “and here my heart dwells ever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we still must tread, you and I. Come with me!” And taking Frodo's hand in his, he left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as living man. - Lothlórien
Aragorn's eyes are once again shining with the elven-light. Tolkien again uses the word fair to mean good – Aragorn is wrapped up in the memory of his betrothal to Arwen. In doing so, the darkness is removed from him.

He says, “Arwen, beautiful and beloved/movingly lovely, farewell!” (translation – it is clear it is not just talking about physical beauty). Pulling out of his memory, Aragorn then says to Frodo that this is both the heart of elvendom, and where his heart resides; unless the light triumphs, and he and Arwen get their midsummer. Aragorn shows doubt about their ability to do so.
Here is the gift of Celeborn and Galadriel to the leader of your Company,” she said to Aragorn, and she gave him a sheath that had been made to fit his sword. It was overlaid with a tracery of flowers and leaves wrought of silver and gold, and on it were set in elven-runes formed of many gems the name Andúril and the lineage of the sword. 
The blade that is drawn from this sheath shall not be stained or broken even in defeat,” she said. “But is there aught else that you desire of me at our parting? For darkness will flow between us, and it may be that we shall not meet again, unless it be far hence upon a road that had no returning.” 
And Aragorn answered: “Lady, you know all my desire, and long held in keeping the only treasure that 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 to 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 Celebrían my daughter, and she to hers; 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!” 
Then Aragorn 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 had fallen from his shoulders. “For the gifts that you have given me I thank you,” he said, “O Lady of Lórien of whom were sprung Celebrían and Arwen Evenstar. What praise could I say more?” 
The Lady bowed her head, [cut]. - Farewell to Lórien
Some have said that, 'Aragorn shows Galadriel no reverence or thank her for her help; again refers to Arwen as an object incapable of controlling her own life; and that the best thing he can say about Galadriel is that she has a pretty granddaughter, dismissing all her feats!'

This is extremely sexist, and again, completely contradicted by the text.

Reverence means “a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe.”

They say Aragorn has no respect for, or acknowledges, Galadriel's powers. However, Aragorn quite clearly does, as shown in his response to Boromir:
Speak no evil of the Lady Galadriel!” said Aragorn sternly. “You know not what you say. There is in her and in this land no evil, unless a man bring it hither himself. Then let him beware! But tonight I shall sleep without fear for the first time since I left Rivendell.” - The Mirror of Galadriel
Galadriel gives Aragorn the sheath, and asks if she can give him anything else. She does not give him any time to thank her, before asking. Aragorn's response is crucial, so let's go through it.

Lady, you know all my desire,

Aragorn respectfully calls Galadriel lady, and says she knows all of his desires and wants.

and long held in keeping the only treasure that I seek.

Hold means “to bear, sustain, or support, as with the hands or arms, or by any other means.” Keeping means “
the act of a person or thing that keeps; observance, custody, or care.” Galadriel has supported and cared for Arwen. Rightly so, as she is Arwen's grandmother.

Aragorn once again says Arwen is beloved. The text never implies that Arwen is an object that needs to be controlled.

Yet it is not yours to give me, even if you would;

'It' is not Arwen herself. He already has Arwen's love; it is Elrond's blessing he still needs. Seek means “to try to obtain or acquire.” Aragorn is trying to obtain permission to be with Arwen fully and freely. A subtle difference, but crucial.

and only through darkness shall I come to it.

Facing Sauron and becoming king is the only way Elrond will ever give his blessing.

Again, Arwen's agency is never questioned by anyone. Tolkien uses an archaic and formal style of writing. We must understand that, or we will never understand the text.

Galadriel responds,

Yet maybe this will lighten your heart,

Galadriel perceives Aragorn's doubt and worry.

for it was left in my care to be given to you, should you pass through this land.

Arwen left the Elessar with Galadriel. She did not send it, but left it. That is a crucial difference. Arwen has not been in Lothlórien for nine years. She foresaw that Aragorn would pass through Lothlórien, when it was time for him to claim his birthright.

This stone I gave to Celebrían my daughter, and she to hers; and now it comes to you as a token of hope.

Arwen is having the Elessar come to Aragorn as a symbol of her hope and faith.

In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the House of Elendil!

Through her grandmother, Arwen is encouraging Aragorn to embrace his destiny. She knows of the prophecies regarding him.

There is another layer of meaning to this, as well. By consenting to give Aragorn the Elessar, Galadriel is fulfilling a Noldorian marriage custom (see Laws and Customs of the Eldar). She is publicly showing her support for Arwen and Aragorn.

Then Aragorn 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 had fallen from his shoulders.

Once again, Arwen is the reason Aragorn loses the darkness, and shines brightly. She is ever supporting him, and he is ever holding on to her strength.

For the gifts that you have given me I thank you,” he said, “O Lady of Lórien of whom were sprung Celebrían and Arwen Evenstar. What praise could I say more?”

This quote is one of my favorites in all of LotR. Aragorn thanks Galadriel for the gifts, and says, 'What higher praise can I give you, than to acknowledge that you nurtured and shaped two amazing, loving, kind, beings?'

He can't. As F&M shows, those feminine traits are what makes us healthy human beings. They are what forms and heals the world.

The comments above damn the feminine. They say that masculine and worldly worth is all that matters – that destroying Dol Guldur is far more important than helping shape two beings. Two amazing, kind, brave, loving, honorable, humble, compassionate beings.

Those comments are the true sexism, which idolizes toxic masculinity (see F&M).

The Lady bowed her head, [cut].

Galadriel bows her head in acknowledgement to Aragorn's praise.
[Elrohir] “I bring word to you from my father: The days are now short. If thou art in haste, remember the Paths of the Dead. 
Always my days have seemed to me too short to achieve my desire,” answered Aragorn. “But great indeed will be my haste ere I take that road.” 
That will soon be seen,” said Elrohir. “But let us speak no more of these things upon the open road!” 
And Aragorn said to Halbarad: “What is that that you bear, kinsman?” For he saw that instead of a spear he bore a tall staff, as it were a standard, but it was close-furled in a black cloth bound about with many thongs. 
It is a gift that I bring you from the Lady of Rivendell,” answered Halbarad. “She wrought it in secret, and long was the making. But she also sends word to you: The days now are short. Either our hope cometh, or all hope's end. Therefore I send thee what I have made for thee. Fare well, Elfstone! 
And Aragorn said: “Now I know what you bear. Bear it still for me a while!” And he turned and looked away to the North under the great stars, and then he fell silent and spoke no more while the night's journey lasted. - The Passing of the Grey Company
Aragorn's self doubt is at the forefront again; he says that he has never truly believed that he can rise above and receive Elrond's blessing to be Arwen.

Also, Aragorn clearly has no plans for following the Paths of the Dead. He then turns to Halbarad, and finds out about the standard.

The timeline in Appendix B tells us that Arwen returned to Rivendell in 3009. Aragorn receives the standard in March 3019. That is ten years. Arwen spent ten years secretly making Aragorn's standard. It is obviously much more than a piece of cloth.

Hope. Estel. Aragorn. Arwen's message is all about hope, in it's many forms. Either our hope cometh, or all hope's end. Either their shared hope that Sauron falls and Aragorn becomes the rightful king, or Sauron wins and all the hopes of the Free People ends.

Knowing that, knowing this is a gamble and that the crux is about to happen, she then says, Therefore I send thee what I have made for thee. Fare well, Elfstone! 'For that reason, I send you, my love, what I have made for you. I hope you succeed, King Elessar!'

How do we know that is what Arwen is saying? Therefore means, “for that reason,” which is simple enough.

Appendix F, II On Translation says,
In one or two places an attempt has been made to hint at these distinctions by an inconsistent use of thou. Since this pronoun is now unusual and archaic it is employed mainly to represent the use of ceremonious language; but a change from you to thou, thee is sometimes meant to show, there being no other means of doing this, a significant change from the deferential, or between men and women normal, forms to the familiar.
And HME 12 says,
Where thou, thee, thy, appears it is used mainly to mark a use of the familiar form where that was no usual. For instance its use by Denethor in his last madness to Gandalf, and by the Messenger of Sauron, was in both cases intended to be contemptuous. But elsewhere it is occasionally used to indicate a deliberate change to a form of affection or endearment.
(For more on this, see this essay)

This tells us that Arwen is deliberately using the word thee as a form of affection, essentially calling Aragorn 'my love.' To 'fare well' means to succeed, and Elfstone is obvious – she's referring to his heritage, his place as the rightful king.

Aragorn obviously knows about the standard, and I cannot see any reason Arwen would keep it from him. From others, yes. It would be extremely dangerous if word got out that Arwen was making an enchanted standard for Isildur's heir. Aragorn, on the other hand, is perhaps the only person who needs to know (although I can't imagine Elrond not knowing as well).

Aragorn's two different reactions are significant. He dismisses the Paths of the Dead when Elrohir mentions it, but after finding out about the standard, he starts contemplating it deeply. He continues to do so for the rest of the night.

It is also notable that Arwen entrusted the standard and her message to Halbarad, instead of her brothers. It is never implied that Aragorn has a close relationship with Elladan and Elrohir.
In a high chamber of the Burg,” said Legolas. “He has neither rested nor slept, I think. He went hither some hours ago, saying that he must take thought, and only his kinsman, Halbarad, went with him; but some dark doubt or care sits on him.” - The Passing of the Grey Company
Aragorn continues to contemplate the matter, even after they arrive at the Hornburg. It is a serious decision, and not one he can easily make.
Their horses were strong and of proud bearing, but rough-haired; and one stood there without a rider, Aragorn's own horse that they had brought from the North, Roheryn was his name. - The Passing of the Grey Company
It is implied that Arwen gave Aragorn his horse, Roheryn. The elves have a connection to nature and animals (see here), and she probably trained him, as his name means “Steed of the Lady”. Having your own horse that you have a connection with is essential, both on the battlefield and off. On the battlefield you have to be able to read each other and move as one. Off the battlefield, well, you'll see.
But Merry had eyes only for Aragorn, so startling was the change that he saw in him, as if in one night many years had fallen on his head. Grim was his face, grey-hued and weary. 
I am troubled in mind, Lord,” he said, standing by the king's horse. “I have heard strange words, and I see new perils far off. I have laboured long in thought, and now I fear I must change my purpose. Tell me, Théoden, you ride now to Dunharrow, how long will it be ere you come there?” 
It is now a full hour past noon,” said Éomer. “Before the night of the third day from now we should come to the Hold. The Moon will then be one night past his full, and the muster that the king commanded will be held the day after. More speed we cannot make, if the strength of Rohan is to be gathered.” 
Aragorn was silent for a moment. “Three days,” he murmured, “and the muster of Rohan will only be begun. But I see that it cannot now be hastened.” He looked up, and it seemed that he had made some decision; his face was less troubled. “Then, by your leave, lord, I must take new counsel for myself and my kindred. We must ride our own road, and no longer in secret. For me the time of stealth has passed. I will ride east by the swiftest way, and I will take the Paths of the Dead.” - The Passing of the Grey Company
Aragorn finally makes his decision – he will take the Paths of the Dead. Now he just has to convince the dead that he really is Isildur's heir.
Because I must,” he said. “Only so can I see any hope of doing my part in the war against Sauron. I do not choose paths of peril, Éowyn. Were I to go where my heart dwells, far in the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell.” - The Passing of the Grey Company
Aragorn again refers to Arwen as his heart.
Then Aragorn led the way, and such was the strength of his will in that hour that all the Dúnedain and their horses followed him. And indeed the love that that the horses of the Rangers bore for their riders was so great that they were willing to face even the terror of the Door, if their masters' hearts were steady as they walked beside them. - The Passing of the Grey Company
The texts states that the horses only went through the Door of the Dead because of their masters. This shows that there is a great bond of love between Aragorn and Roheryn, as he followed Aragorn without hesitation. Their bond could never have formed without Arwen.
Then Aragorn said: “The hour is come at last. Now I go to Pelargir upon Anduin, and ye shall come after me. And when all this land is clean of the servants of Sauron, I will hold the oath fulfilled, and ye shall have peace and depart for ever. For I am Elessar, Isildur's heir of Gondor.” 
And with that he bade Halbarad unfurl the great standard which he had brought; and behold! it was black, and if there was any device upon it, it was hidden in the darkness. Then there was silence, and not a whisper nor a sigh was heard again all the long night. - The Passing of the Grey Company
No one (at least no one whose alive) can see anything on the standard. And yet, it convinces the dead that Aragorn is truly Isildur's heir, as they decide to follow him.
And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold. 
Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isildur's heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor; and the mirth of the Rohirrim was a torrent of laughter and a flashing of swords, and the joy and wonder of the City was a music of trumpets and a ringing of bells. - The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
Even in the middle of the night, light should have reflected the banner, with those descriptions. We know that Mordor's shadow was not over them yet, since it says “the dawn came, cold and pale.” So an enchantment must have been at work, that night with the dead. There is no need for an enchantment to convince the living, as any help will be celebrated in the midst of a battle.

Elves have the ability to put their power and intent into the things they make (see more here). Arwen spent ten years making and imbuing it with her power, using priceless materials.
And it came to pass that in the hour of defeat Aragorn came up from the sea and unfurled the standard of Arwen in the battle of the Fields of Pelennor, and in that day he was first hailed as king. - Appendix A 
TA March 15, 3019: Aragorn raises the standard of Arwen. - Appendix B
The standard is twice referred to as “the standard of Arwen”. Her power and achievement is clear.
At the doors of the Houses many were already gathered to see Aragorn, and they followed after him; and when at last he had supped, men came and prayed that he would heal their kinsmen or their friends whose lives were in peril through hurt or wound, or who lay under the Black Shadow. And Aragorn arose and went out, and he sent for the sons of Elrond, and together they laboured far into the night. And word went through the City: “The King is come again indeed.” And they named him Elfstone, because of the green stone that he wore, and so the name which it was foretold at his birth that he should bear was chosen for him by his own people. - The Houses of Healing
Rumor has already spread throughout the city, that the King has returned. Aragorn proudly displayed both his standard and Andúril on the battlefield. Ioreth tells us that, “For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known.”

Two times we are told that there is a prophecy stating that when Aragorn becomes king, he will bear the name Elessar, meaning Elfstone. The prophecy seems to have been made at his birth, and Arwen clearly knows about it. She knows that this Quest is where Aragorn will claim his heritage, where he will finally stand forth as the rightful heir to the throne.

She also must know the lore that says, “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer”. Her gift of the Elfstone has a clear purpose – Aragorn fulfills the lore that says the true king is a great healer; which in turn causes his people to not only recognize him as the king for certain, but to ask for his help in healing their loved ones; which by healing their loved ones causes Aragorn to become beloved by his people; and that prompts them give Aragorn the name Elessar/Elfstone, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

In short, by giving Aragorn the Elessar, Arwen insures that not only the prophecy becomes fulfilled, but also that the people are on Aragorn's side, as the Elessar gives them something to latch on to and idealize Aragorn with. I'm sure we can all imagine what would have happened if Denethor had lived, and Aragorn had had no connection to the people. It would not have been pretty. This way, even if Denethor had lived (and they had no reason to think otherwise), his political power would have been much less – Aragorn already had the favor of the people.

So. Between the standard and the Elessar, Arwen gives Aragorn the tools he needs to convince men (both dead and alive) that he is the rightful king. That is on top of training his horse, so he has a trusted mount in battle. Her political acumen is great. It is clear – Aragorn could not have become King without Arwen.
Aragorn: “A day draws near that I have looked for in all the years of my manhood, [cut].” 
[cut] 
But I shall die,” said Aragorn. “For I am a mortal man, and though being what I am and of the race of the West unmingled, I shall have life far longer than other men, yet that is but a little while; and when those who are now in the wombs of women are born and have grown old, I too shall grow old. And who then shall govern Gondor and those who look to this City as to their queen, if my desire be not granted? The Tree in the Court of the Fountain is still withered and barren. When shall I see a sign that it will ever be otherwise?” - The Steward and the King
It does not matter that he is king, the only thing Aragorn has yearned for throughout the years is to be with Arwen fully and freely.

Even though Sauron has been vanquished and himself made king, Aragorn still worries and doubts. Even though they have been betrothed for 38 years, he still questions if he is good enough for her. And he will only ever marry Arwen, even if that means the line of Kings dies.
May 1, 3019: Crowning of King Elessar; Elrond and Arwen set out from Rivendell. 
May 20, 3019: Elrond and Arwen come to Lórien. 
May 27, 3019: The escort of Arwen leaves Lórien. 
June 14, 3019: The sons of Elrond meet the escort and bring Arwen to Edoras. 
June 16, 3019: They set out for Gondor. - Appendix B
It is notable that Arwen and her escort do not meet Éomer when they stop at Edoras (see below). She surely met Éowyn.
1 Lithe, 3019: Arwen comes to the City. 
Mid-year's Day, 3019: Wedding of Elessar and Arwen. - Appendix B 
Upon the very Eve of Midsummer, when the sky was blue as sapphire and white stars opened in the East, but the West was still golden, and the air was cool and fragrant, the riders came down the North-way to the gates of Minas Tirith. First rode Elrohir and Elladan with a banner of silver, and then came Glorfindel and Erestor and all the household of Rivendell, and after them came the Lady Galadriel and Celeborn, Lord of Lothlórien, riding upon white steeds and with them many fair folk of their land, grey-cloaked with white gems in their hair, and last came Master Elrond, mighty among Elves and Men, bearing the sceptre of Annúminas, and beside him upon a grey palfrey rode Arwen his daughter, Evenstar of her people. 
And Frodo when he saw her come glimmering in the evening, with stars on her brow and a sweet fragrance about her, was moved with great wonder, and he said to Gandalf: “At last I understand why we have waited! This is the ending. Now not day only shall be beloved, but night too shall be beautiful and blessed and all its fear pass away!” 
Then the King welcomed his guests, and they alighted; and Elrond surrendered the sceptre, and laid the hand of his daughter in the hand of the King, and together they went up into the High City, and all the stars flowered in the sky. And Aragorn the King Elessar wedded Arwen Undómiel in the City of the Kings upon the day of Midsummer, and the tale of their long waiting and labours was come to fulfillment. - The Steward and the King 
And at last when all was done he entered into the inheritance of his fathers and received the crown of Gondor and sceptre of Arnor; and at Midsummer in the year of the Fall of Sauron he took the hand of Arwen Undómiel, and they were wedded in the city of the Kings. - Appendix A
You can feel the pure joy that radiates from this passage. Note the wording: their. Their long waiting and labors. Not just Aragorn's. Aragorn's and Arwen's.

Elrond places Arwen's hand in Aragorn's to show that he is finally accepting them and giving them his blessing. It is a gesture filled with meaning.

It is also no accident that Aragorn and Arwen marry on Midsummer's Day. It is the longest day of the year – a time for great joy, for the crops were planted and summer had come; but it is also a time to recognize that the days will now begin to shorten, and winters return is inevitable. (For more on the history of Midsummer, see this page). We will talk more on how this relates to Aragorn and Arwen in a little bit.
But Arwen became as a mortal woman, and yet it was not her lot to die until all that she had gained was lost. - Appendix A
Lot means “one's fortune in life; fate.” What Arwen gained was a chance for a life with Aragorn. This tells us that Arwen's fate was to live until Aragorn had passed.

Arwen's wisdom, and her ability to see deep into the hearts of others, is not restricted to Aragorn. She plays one more vital role before the end of Return of the King.
When the days of rejoicing were over at last the Companions thought of returning to their own homes. And Frodo went to the King as he was sitting with the Queen Arwen by the fountain, and she sang a song of Valinor, while the Tree grew and blossomed. They welcomed Frodo and rose to greet him; and Aragorn said: 
[cut] 
Do you wonder at that, Ring-bearer?” said Arwen. “For you know the power of that thing which is now destroyed; and all that was done by that power is now passing away. But your kinsman possessed this thing longer than you. He is ancient in years now, according to his kind; and he awaits you, for he will not again make any long journey save one.” 
[cut] 
But the Queen Arwen said: “A gift I will give you. For I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Lúthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter. But in my stead you shall go, Ring-bearer, when the time comes, and if you then desire it. If your hurts grieve you still and the memory of your burden is heavy, then you may pass into the West, until all your wounds and weariness are healed. But wear this now in memory of Elfstone and Evenstar with whom your life has been woven!” 
And she took a white gem like a star that upon her breast hanging from 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
Arwen's song caused the White Tree to grow and blossom, thus showing the power of the elves.

Arwen is singing of Valinor – the one place she will never be able to go. She knows what she has given up, to have a happy and fulfilled life with Aragorn. She knows she has chosen “both the sweet and the bitter.” This is the connection to Midsummer – she will have her summer, she will live a joyous and fulfilled life; but she knows that her winter – death – is inevitable.

This brings us to her connection with Frodo.

Think about it, think of how busy things would have been for her. Aragorn was still trying to put everything in order, and adjust to being King. Arwen was having to adjust to not only being a wife, but also being Queen in a country where she had no connection to her people. I do not think most people, especially the nobles, would just accept an unfamiliar elf as their Queen. It would take time for both people and Queen to become comfortable with one another. Arwen must be thinking that no matter how strange and alien these people and their culture are, she's with Aragorn, so it's worth it. That doesn't make the strange and alien people and culture easy to deal with!

Where does Frodo come into this? During all of this chaos, Arwen picks up on the fact his wounds have not really healed, especially on the Unseen plane. No one else has noticed this, but Arwen has. As the text says, she arranges a gift for Frodo. He will be able to sail to Valinor, and find healing.

Sail to Valinor. No mortal has ever had permission to come to Valinor. It would not be easy for Arwen to get permission for Frodo, but she could try. She almost certainly went to Gandalf, as he is the only emissary of the Valar that she knows. Arwen tells us that she used her own choice of choosing not to sail as leverage. As this essay shows, both Arwen's and Frodo's choices were entwined. Arwen's choice to become mortal helped restore the Age of Men, and Frodo's choice to go beyond the point where healing would be possible saved the world he loved. Frodo's choice also gave Arwen the chance to make her choice – no end of Sauron, no life with Aragorn.

Knowing all of that, Arwen proposed an exchange, saying that Frodo deserved a chance of healing and peace after everything he had done. We know that Gandalf accepted her plea, and that Frodo got to sail.

This is probably why Bilbo and Sam also got to sail – Bilbo is an old friend of Gandalf's, and the Ring's effect on him clear. Arwen is aware of this. She knows that Bilbo has been given the chance to sail, as hinted by her words to Frodo.

Frodo, after learning that he got to go, probably pleaded to Gandalf for Sam to be able to one day follow, as he would never have been able to end it without Sam (who also bore the Ring for a few days).

It wasn't enough for Arwen that Frodo would eventually find peace and healing in Valinor. He would still have to suffer in the present.

To aid Frodo now, Arwen imbues a gem with healing power. It is not a permanent fix, only a temporary relief. But it is enough for now, for she has already arranged for him to take the permanent fix, if he wishes it.
He was welcomed; and when they sat all at table in Merethrond, the Great Hall of Feasts, he beheld the beauty of the ladies that he saw and was filled with great wonder. 
[cut] 
But first I will plead this excuse,” said Éomer. “Had I seen her in other company, I would have said all that you could wish. But I will put Queen Arwen Evenstar first, and I am ready to do battle on my own part with any who deny me. Shall I call for my sword?” 
Then Gimli bowed low. “Nay, you are excused for my part, lord,” he said. “You have chosen the Evening; but my love is given to the Morning. And my heart forebodes that soon it will pass away for ever.” - Many Partings
This is clearly Éomer's first time seeing Arwen and Galadriel; meaning that he was not in Edoras when they were.
Aragorn and his knights, and the people of Lórien and of Rivendell, made ready to ride; but Faramir and Imrahil remained at Edoras; and Arwen Evenstar remained also, and she said farewell to her brethren. None saw her last meeting with Elrond her father, for they went up into the hills and there spoke long together, and bitter was their parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world. - Many Partings 
The Third Age ended thus in victory and hope; and yet grievous among the sorrows of that Age was the parting of Elrond and Arwen, for they were sundered by the Sea and by a doom beyond the end of the world. - Appendix A
Arwen has been criticized by some for not going to the Grey Havens, when Elrond and Galadriel set sail; but instead saying her goodbye's here. They have the audacity to call her 'cold'.

Bitter means “resulting from or expressive of severe grief, anguish, or disappointment.”

Grievous means “very severe or painful.”

Severe means “intensely or extremely bad or unpleasant in degree or quality.”

Intense means “extreme in degree, strength, or size.”

Sorrow means “mental suffering or pain caused by injury, loss, or despair.”

We are told that out of all the events in the Third Age, one of the most intense sufferings was the parting of Arwen and Elrond. That the pain was unbearable.

Imagine it. Imagine that the one person who has raised you, who has loved you with all their heart, is never going to be able to see you again, even in death. Imagine that you will never see your beloved child again, that you will live on with the knowledge that she is gone.

No parent should have to bury their child, and that is essentially what Elrond is doing. He cannot stay in Middle-earth, his fëa (spirit) has too many wounds. If he stayed, he would die and pass into the keeping of Mandos.

I am not a parent, I do not know the deep bond between parent and child from that side. I do know that the pain of losing a parent is unbearable, and I imagine the pain of losing your child is even more so.

Arwen and Elrond set a date. They spent the entire day together, talking. They gave themselves privacy and time to say goodbye. It is agonizing, but they bring themselves to parting. I honestly do not think that Elrond would have the strength to put his affairs in order, if Arwen was going to be there, watching him get on the boat. Knowing that she is happy and truly living her life with Aragorn is probably what gave him the strength to go.

I do not think Arwen would have the strength to do it, either. She is a Queen now, and mortal. The end of the war brings about a new beginning for all of Middle-earth, and she and Aragorn are at the center of it. It is time for Arwen to start her life with Aragorn, start ruling their kingdom, and start making a future. How can she do that if she has not made a clean break from the past?

Arwen and Elrond's parting is not a sign of coldness, but a sign of unconditional love and inner strength. They are able to let go for the other one's sake.

Now I ask you: Would you? Knowing this kind of pain, would you be able to go all the way to the Havens?
On the thirteenth of that month Farmer Cotton found Frodo lying on his bed; he was clutching a white gem that hung on a chain about his neck and he seemed half in a dream. 
It is gone for ever,” he said, “and now all is dark and empty.” 
But the fit passed, and when Sam got back on the twenty-fifth, Frodo had recovered, and he said nothing about himself. 
[cut] 
[cut]; and Mr. Frodo wore always a white jewel on a chain that he often would finger. - The Grey Havens
Arwen's gem works, and we see Frodo use it several times. The text does not specifically mention the gem the next two times Frodo is sick, but I think it is reasonable to assume that Frodo used it, especially since he recovered quickly.
Elessar took it up with reverence, and when he returned to the North and took up again the full kingship of Arnor Arwen bound it upon his brow, and men were silent in amaze to see its splendour. - Unfinished Tales, The Disaster of the Gladden Fields
Arwen plays a crucial and powerful role in crowning Aragorn in Arnor ('it' is the original Elendilmir).
Fo.A. 15: King Elessar rides north, and dwells for a while by Lake Evendim. He comes to the Brandywine Bridge, and there greets his friends. He gives the Star of the Dúnedain to Master Samwise, and Elanor is made a maid of honour to Queen Arwen. - Appendix B 
One will do, one each for the King and the Queen,” said Sam. “For though it doesn't say so in the letter, Elanorellë, I think the Queen will be there. And when you've seen her, my dear, you'll know what a lady of the Elves looks like, save that none are so beautiful. And there's more to it even than that. For I shall be surprised if the King doesn't bid us to his great house by Lake Evendim. And there will be Elladan and Elrohir, who still live in Rivendell - and with them will be Elves, Elanorellë, and they will sing by the water in the twilight. That is why I said you might see them sooner than you guessed.” 
Elanor said nothing, but stood looking at the fire, and her eyes shone like stars. At last she sighed and stirred. “How long shall we stay?” she asked. “I suppose we shall have to come back?” 
Yes, and we shall want to, in a way,” said Sam. “But we might stay until hay-harvest, when I must be back here.” - Sauron Defeated, Part One: The End of the Third Age, The Epilogue
Aragorn stays close to his friends; and Arwen gives Elanor a place of honor, for the few months they are in the north.
As Queen of Elves and Men she dwelt with Aragorn for six-score years in great glory and bliss; yet at last he felt the approach of old age and knew that the span of his life-days were drawing to an end, long though it had been. Then Aragorn said to Arwen: 
At last, Lady Evenstar, fairest in this world, and most beloved, my world is fading. Lo! we have gathered, and we have spent, and now the time of payment draws near.” 
Arwen knew well what he intended, and long had foreseen it; nonetheless she was overborne by her grief. “Would you then, lord, before your time leave your people that live by your word?” she said. 
Not before my time,” he answered. “For if I will not go now, then I must soon go perforce. And Eldarion our son is a man full-ripe for kingship.” 
Then going to the House of the Kings in the Silent Street, Aragorn laid him down on the long bed that had been prepared for him. There he said farewell to Eldarion, and give into his hands the winged crown of Gondor and the sceptre of Arnor; and then all left him save Arwen, and she stood alone by his bed. And for all her wisdom and lineage she would not forbear to plead with him to stay yet for a while. She was not yet weary of her days, and thus she tasted the bitterness of the mortality that she had taken upon her. 
Lady Undómiel,” said Aragorn, “the hour is indeed hard, yet it was made even in that day when we met under the white birches in the garden of Elrond where none now walk. And on the hill of Cerin Amroth when we forsook both the Shadow and the Twilight this doom we accepted. Take counsel with yourself, beloved, and ask whether you would indeed have me wait until I wither and fall from my high seat unmanned and witless. 
Nay, lady, I am the last of the Númenóreans and the latest King of the Elder Days; and to me has been given not only a span thrice that of Men of Middle-earth, but also the grace to go at my will, and give back the gift. Now, therefore, I will sleep. 
I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. The uttermost choice is before you: to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men.” 
Nay, dear lord,” she said, “that choice is long over. There is now no ship that would bear me hence, and I must indeed abide the Doom of Men, whether I will or I nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Númenóreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive.” 
So it seems,” he said. “But let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!” 
Estel, Estel!” she cried, and with that even as he took her hand and kissed it, he fell into sleep. Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who after came there looked on him in wonder; for they saw that the grace of his youth, and the valour of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the splendour of the Kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world. - Appendix A
This part is long, and very important, so we're going to go through it piece by piece.

As Queen of Elves and Men she dwelt with Aragorn for six-score years in great glory and bliss; yet at last he felt the approach of old age and knew that the span of his life-days were drawing to an end, long though it had been. Then Aragorn said to Arwen:

At last, Lady Evenstar, fairest in this world, and most beloved, my world is fading. Lo! we have gathered, and we have spent, and now the time of payment draws near.”

Arwen knew well what he intended, and long had foreseen it; nonetheless she was overborne by her grief. “Would you then, lord, before your time leave your people that live by your word?” she said.

A quick side note on inheritance; Arwen is called “Queen of Elves and Men”. Tolkien expands on this:
He wedded Arwen Undomiel daughter of Elrond and restored the majesty and blood of the Numenoreans. The Third Age ended with the departure of Elrond in 3022 [> 3021]; and the descendants of Elessar through Arwen became also heirs of the elf-realms of the westlands.

[cut]  
He wedded Arwen Undomiel, daughter of Elrond, brother of Elros first King of Numenor, and so restored the majesty and high lineage of the royal house, but their life-span was not restored and continued to wane until it became as that of other men. 
[cut]  
Aragorn II (p. 196). B has here: 'Became King Elessar of Gondor and Arthedain, aided in the overthrow of Sauron with which Third Age ended in 3019. He wedded Arwen Undomiel, daughter of Elrond. His descendants became thus heirs of the Numenorean realms, and of Luthien and the Elf-kingdoms of the West.' - Peoples of Middle-earth, Heirs of Elendil

As mentioned earlier, Arwen is of “great lineage”. She is not queen of elves in a literal sense, but in a genealogical sense. She is the direct descendant of the great Elf-kingdoms of the First Age, and she passes that inheritance down to her children.

Arwen is “overborne by her grief.” Overborne means “overpowered or overcome.” Overpower means “to affect so strongly as to make helpless or ineffective; overwhelm.” Grief means “A source of deep mental anguish.”

Overwhelmed with the anguish of losing Aragorn, she essentially says, 'Will you leave me before you have to?'

Not before my time,” he answered. “For if I will not go now, then I must soon go perforce. And Eldarion our son is a man full-ripe for kingship.”

Aragorn knows that his time has come. Perforce means “by necessity; unavoidably.” He can either choose to go now, without any pain or suffering; or rebel and wither away before dying. But he is going to die soon.

Aragorn says Eldarion is “a man full” and “ripe for kingship.” We know this takes place on March 1, FO 120; Aragorn's two hundred and tenth birthday. He and Arwen reigned for 122 years. If we say that Eldarion was born 10 years after the war (which would be a long time for the Reunited Kingdom to not have an heir), then he would be 112. At 112 Eldarion probably had grandchildren himself, making Aragorn and Arwen great-grandparents.

Full means “completely; entirely.” Ripe means “(of people) completely ready to do or undergo something.” Even if he didn't have grandchildren yet, we know Eldarion was completely grown and completely ready for becoming King. He was not a young man, new to the adult world.

Then going to the House of the Kings in the Silent Street, Aragorn laid him down on the long bed that had been prepared for him. There he said farewell to Eldarion, and give into his hands the winged crown of Gondor and the sceptre of Arnor; and then all left him save Arwen, and she stood alone by his bed. And for all her wisdom and lineage she would not forbear to plead with him to stay yet for a while. She was not yet weary of her days, and thus she tasted the bitterness of the mortality that she had taken upon her.

Forbear means “to refrain from; resist.” For all of her years and wisdom, Arwen couldn't resist pleading for Aragorn to stay, for them to continue on living. Like it says, it is not her fate to pass until Aragorn has; she has not felt death approach her. Bitter (in this context) means “difficult or distasteful to accept, admit, or bear.”

Arwen knows that not only is she losing her soulmate, but that her own death is coming, as sure as the sun sets; and it is hard for her to accept.

If you scorn her for that, ask yourself: could you do it? Could you grow up thinking that you had your whole life ahead of you; could you then meet your soulmate and know you have to choose between 'living' a long life alone, or living only for less than a year, but having that time filled with joy and true happiness? Could you choose to truly live a full life for a short time, over existing for your naturally long lifespan?

Arwen chooses that. She chooses to be parted from her family forever, to live for what is not even one elven-year (see here), in order to have utter happiness and fulfillment. She knows that no other path could bring her greater joy. (For a story that reflects this utterly, and makes me cry every time I read it, read this fanfiction).

And now, at the end, she's scared. While she theoretically knew her fate, she's feeling it for the first time. How can she not be scared?

Lady Undómiel,” said Aragorn, “the hour is indeed hard, yet it was made even in that day when we met under the white birches in the garden of Elrond where none now walk. And on the hill of Cerin Amroth when we forsook both the Shadow and the Twilight this doom we accepted. Take counsel with yourself, beloved, and ask whether you would indeed have me wait until I wither and fall from my high seat unmanned and witless. Nay, lady, I am the last of the Númenóreans and the latest King of the Elder Days; and to me has been given not only a span thrice that of Men of Middle-earth, but also the grace to go at my will, and give back the gift. Now, therefore, I will sleep.

Aragorn recognizes her fears and acknowledges that it is hard. He stands by his decision to go and asks Arwen if she would have him fade and wither before her eyes, before death claimed him.

I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. The uttermost choice is before you: to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men.”

Oh, how right Aragorn is! There truly is no comfort for death, for the pain of such a loss. Except for one thing, a thing that too many of us forget.

Aragorn says that Arwen has a choice, that she could still be with her family. He never loses his guilt over Arwen losing her family because of him, and Elrond's anguish (see here). Even on his deathbed he has himself convinced that she can still repent, and go West.

But Arwen knows better.

Nay, dear lord,” she said, “that choice is long over. There is now no ship that would bear me hence, and I must indeed abide the Doom of Men, whether I will or I nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Númenóreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive.”

'No, my love, that choice is long gone,' she says. “There is now no ship that would bear me hence.” Some people take that to mean that Arwen doesn't know of any boats that are going to Valinor (even though Legolas had planned on only staying as long as Aragorn lived). However, if that were the case, the text would say, 'there is now no ship to bear me hence.' To means “toward a point, person, place, or thing.” There is literally no boat to take her to Valinor. Would is the past tense of will. Will represents a choice. We're back to Arwen's choice to remain and be mortal. Subtle, but important.

Abide means “To put up with; tolerate.” Wicked means “morally bad in principle or practice.” Fool means “a person who lacks sense or judgement.” Scorn means “contempt or disdain felt toward a person or object considered despicable or unworthy.” Pity means “sympathy and sorrow aroused by the misfortune or suffering of another.” Sympathy means “compassion or commiseration.” Compassion means “a deep awareness of and sympathy for another's suffering.” Bitter means “difficult or distasteful to accept, admit, or bear.”

Arwen says, 'I will have to tolerate death, whether I want to or not: the loss and the silence. But I tell you, until now I haven't understood why the Númenóreans did what they did. I saw them as unworthy fools who rebelled against their fate, but now I understand and have compassion for them. For accepting death is hard to do.'

Anna Mathie says it perfectly in her essay:
For Arwen, otherwise infinitely wiser than we, death is the one unknown, a new and unexpected discovery. Aragorn knows better; he knows, as all mortals should, that comfort is impossible and even unworthy in the face of death. Yet he still holds fast to what Arwen has only known as an abstract theological tenet: that death is truly God’s gift. 
I cry whenever I reread this passage; it haunts me like no other, though it’s hard to explain why. At the heart of it is the phrase “the gift of the One to Men.” Tolkien looks unblinkingly at “the loss and the silence” of death, but remains steadfast: death is our curse, but also our blessing. 
He has hidden this particular tale away in an appendix, but the same idea of mortality permeates the whole book. The plot centers on a ring that gives immortality and corrupts its bearer. Much of the book’s character interest arises from the interactions between mortal and immortal races, who both mystify and fascinate each other. The structure of the work also echoes mortality itself. I have heard friends criticize the long and leisurely denouement (over a hundred pages), but I’ve never understood such complaints. Myself, I was grateful for every page, always vividly aware that they would run out all too soon. Those closing chapters are a portrait of mortality: however happily a story ends, it must end, and that itself is our great sorrow. All that is beautiful and beloved dies. The Fellowship of the Ring accomplishes its quest, but with the end of its troubles comes the separation of its members. Gandalf and the High Elves win the war, but their own victory banishes them from Middle Earth. With them “many fair things will fade and be forgotten.” Frodo has saved the world but now longs to leave it. This has to be one of literature’s saddest happy endings. Tolkien makes us savor the bittersweet, for he knows (like Gandalf) that “not all tears are an evil.”
So it seems,” he said. “But let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!”

Despair means “to lose all hope.” Behold means “to perceive through use of the mental faculty; comprehend.”

Aragorn says, 'It may look that way, but don't let us, we who have overcome so much, lose at the last hurdle of life. We go in sadness, but not without hope. Recognize that our souls are not bound to the world, and that beyond it is still consciousness. Goodbye!'

This is the only comfort, and the thing that too many of us forget, or don't believe. That death is not really the end, and that we will be together again. Aragorn is certain of an afterworld, of a spiritual world. And so am I.

Estel, Estel!” she cried, and with that even as he took her hand and kissed it, he fell into sleep. Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who after came there looked on him in wonder; for they saw that the grace of his youth, and the valour of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the splendour of the Kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.

Cry means “to beg for; implore.” 'Hope, Hope!' Arwen begs, but with a final kiss, Aragorn is gone. She begs not only for Aragorn, but also for the steadfast hope of life after death that he has. It is now Arwen's turn to face her death, and the possibility of life, of consciousness, afterwards.
But Arwen went forth from the House, and the light of her eyes was quenched, and it seemed to her people that she had become cold and grey as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Then she said farewell to Eldarion, and to her daughters, and to all whom she had loved; and she went out from the city of Minas Tirith and passed away to the land of Lórien, and dwelt there alone under the fading trees until winter came. Galadriel had passed away and Celeborn also was gone, and the land was silent. 
There at last when the mallorn-leaves were falling, but spring had not come, she laid herself to rest on Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea. - Appendix A
Many have criticized Arwen for 'abandoning' her children. This idea, that Arwen should continue to live for her children, is very unhealthy. One psychology article says,
The attachment aspect of love is even more valuable in our relationship with our spouse than in that with our children, because marriage, at least in principle, is forever. My children have moved on, and I had to be prepared for that right from their beginning; but my wife and I will be together until death do us part. It is not unseemly to speak of my wife as my “better half,” but it would be unseemly to speak of my child in such terms. Our children do not and should not see themselves as part of us; their job is to move on, beyond us, into a future that we will never know. And if we see them as part of us, we will be torn apart when they leave.
And now I want to quote another Arwen essay, by WindSinger. I cannot say it better than she does:
Arwen was an immortal elf who chose to stay in Middle Earth with a mortal man. Her people, who she had spent several thousand years with, left her behind. I have no doubt she loved her children as much as anyone could. However, when her anchor, her only reason for staying in such a foreign environment, died she must have felt totally abandoned. NO ONE could have possibly understood who she was. How could they? How could beings who lived for just a short smattering of years possibly understand someone who had lived thousands of years? The whole rhythm of their lives would be totally different. No matter how well she had adjusted to the world of men, it could never be hers. My goodness, just one fairly glaring example is that in LOTR the elves seemed to be content to wait a thousand or more years before marrying (which is just as well, Middle Earth would have been overpopulated long before the Third Age if they had the same drive to procreate as mankind does!) While Arwen loved her children, they only knew her as their mother. They also were born into, and grew up in, a very different world. They could not understand or know her as did those who had left to travel over the sea.

 
In my very humble opinion, Arwen really did not have any reason to stay in Middle Earth after Aragorn died (whether or not such an option was available to her). I have no doubt she would have stayed if her children still needed her, but then Aragorn would not have chosen to die until he was sure they were able to take up the threads of their lives. All of which makes Arwen's decision to stay in Middle Earth with Aragorn even more poignant. It boggles my mind to contemplate how radical the change was for Arwen, going from living in a society where everyone could expect to live till the end of time to one where they lived only for about - what, maybe 100 years (her husband was, thank goodness, the exception and lived over 200 years - still a smidge of time compared to the life span of an elf). The very fabric and rhythm of everyday life had to have been different between these two extremes. Arwen must have been very brave, confident, wise and very much in love to have chosen to live just a smattering of years with Aragorn, among people who were not part of her world view.
It is not her place to live for her children. They are grown, they have their own lives. Arwen loves them, and they love her, but they don't need her. It is time for all of them to let go.

Do not forget that both Lothlórien and Imladris are abandoned; Celeborn, Elladan, and Elrohir are gone, and Legolas is about to sail. Arwen lost not only her soulmate, but also the last person who truly understood her.

As for why Arwen leaves to die alone, it is a personal choice. I have known of many people who pass alone, even when they have family staying with them. And I have known of a few people who pass with their family around them.

Arwen goes to Lórien, and stays there for almost a year, almost certainly contemplating everything. Living in the faded and abandoned land that had once been so glorious; the echoes of her past ever-present.

As Gimli says, Galadriel is the Morning and Arwen is the Evening. Galadriel has eternal daylight, eternal life. Arwen chooses mortality, she chooses to let the day slip by into night. Her very name, Undómiel, Twilight Star, symbolizes the role she plays, and her choice of mortality. For while all other elves will continue in the Twilight, the last light of day, never entering the night, it isn't so for Arwen. Arwen is the Twilight Star, she shines brightly in the passing of day to night, passing along with it.

The symbolism of Arwen choosing to pass on the cusp of winter and spring is significant. Her winter has come, she has no light, Aragorn has passed. But spring is also on the way, a renewal of life after death. To me, the fact that she passes on the cusp of spring, shows that she found hope again. Hope for a continuing consciousness, for life after death. She will not find renewal in this world, only in the spiritual world. And so, when the world takes the chance to renew, so does she.

Arwen lays herself down on Cerin Amroth, the very spot she and Aragorn trothplighted themselves. This is another sign of her hope, that she and Aragorn will be together again. And Tolkien implies that they are reunited, for he said that Aragorn “... came there never again as living man.”

So he did come. He came to welcome her to the spiritual world.

I want to quote one last Arwen essay:
In Rath Dínen Aragorn, speaking to Arwen, makes reference to a hope. And the way it is stated implies previous discussion on the subject. Even so, in Aragorn and Arwen’s case it would be too simplistic to say that they understand they would live happily ever after in heaven with Ilúvatar after dying. There is doubt. Tolkien stated what he thought was one of the more important issues of the story in Letter 181. 
Here I am only concerned with Death as part of the nature, physical and spiritual, of Man, and with Hope without guarantees. That is why I regard the tale of Arwen and Aragorn as the most important of the Appendices;.... 
Hope without guarantees. 
The Silmarillion is written from an Elvish perspective, and from it we gain a certain understanding of them; they admit not understanding men well, or their fate. Arwen, coming from an Elvish background, has an Elvish view of reality (vague on the fate of men). Though she has joined herself to Aragorn, and entered into the world of men, and presumably shares Aragorn’s hope, nevertheless...it is quite a leap to give up immortality within the world for something else, even if that something else is guaranteed eternal life in “heaven.” But it’s not guaranteed, despite Aragorn’s last words. She has to make a leap of faith. 
So there she is, in a barren and ghostly Lorien, all alone, and it’s so sad. But she goes through with it. And Tolkien words it as if it actually were sad. And it is sad, on a psychological plane. But on the spiritual plane it is triumphant. And I can’t help feeling the tone of the passage is written consciously in counterpoint to the real “feeling” (in spiritual terms) of joy involved.
Hope without guarantees. It is a leap of faith we will all have to make, someday. When our own time comes. And Arwen makes it.

~*~

Oh, my beloved Arwen. I am constantly amazed by you. The strength it takes to make the choice you did... it blows me away.

I have had many conversations about Arwen, and there are some things I want to go over here. Two criticisms of film!Arwen shine a light on what people think of book!Arwen.

The first one is that people scorn her for holding a sword; derogatorily calling her a 'warrior-princess', and saying it 'is completely out-of-character'. No, it is not, and it is sexist to say so. We are not all feminine or all masculine, they don't contradict one another, and femininity is not bad (see F&M).

The Silmarillion and Laws and Customs of the Eldar tell us that elves are naturally peaceful, only going to war “at need” (or Morgoth induced corruption); that there is very little, if any, difference in physical strength between males and females; and that they are in all things equal. The only member of Arwen's family that we don't have any information of fighting in battle is Celebrían, and after what happened to her, Arwen surely would've been taught physical defense (if she hadn't already). She continued to spend many years going between Rivendell and Lothlórien.

Therefore, it is highly likely that Arwen knows how to wield a blade.

The second one people say is that Arwen 'has a much greater influence and presence' in the films, than in the book. Just – really people? In the book, the standard does the same exact thing the sword does in the film. Except when it's a sword, people take notice; when it's a standard, people dismiss it as 'she made him a banner'. No, she didn't. She made an extremely powerful magical object that has the ability to sway the dead. The only difference is that a sword is traditionally masculine and a standard is traditionally feminine. Hello again, sexism (see F&M).

Another sexist criticism about Arwen is that she 'is nothing beyond her obsessive love for Aragorn'. There is nothing obsessive or unhealthy about love (see F&M). Arwen is a supporting character, unlike Aragorn.

Let's switch it for a minute. Let's say Arwen is the one in the Fellowship, fighting to reclaim her birthright; and Aragorn is doing his duties to his people at Rivendell. We get to know Arwen very well, she's compassionate, wise, and a great leader; and we learn that Aragorn made/gave several powerful objects to her to manipulate the people to her side, giving her nothing but his love and support.

Would we say that he's nothing beyond his love for her? No, because it's assumed he has a personality we didn't get a chance to see. He's a man, he has a sense of self beyond his lover. We're back to the sexism.

Also, Arwen has a clear personality in the text. It is sexist to say otherwise.

~*~

I hope my essay has helped you see the amazing character that is Arwen.

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