The Reluctant King

I apologize for the recent lack of blog posts, but I hope this one can make it up to you. I’ve been spending the past two weeks hanging out with my four-year-old niece watching a lot of Disney movies, and it got me thinking: The story of the reluctant king or the unknown princess resonates deeply within us as a culture. Why?

Just look at Simba in The Lion King. Nala says, “Why can’t he be the king I know he is? The king I see inside?” His father tells him to “remember who you are.” He has forgotten his royal heritage.

My other favorite example is Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. You know, some people were upset with Peter Jackson’s interpretation of this scroungy ranger who seemed like he’d much rather be hiding away in the woods than leading the kingdom of his birthright. Tolkien’s character always knew his identity — and he acted like it. He was strong and confident, prepared to step into his destiny from the moment we meet him in Bree to the day he’s crowned king in the citadel; he was just waiting for the proper time.

I love Aragorn, he’s one of my favorite characters, and yet Jackson’s (and might I add the beautiful Viggo Mortenson’s) interpretation draws my attention and my sympathy more so than the Aragorn in the books. In fact, I remember feeling sad after reading and realizing that there was no “put aside the ranger, become who you were born to be” plot for my favorite hero.

Because I love plots like that, don’t you? Stories where the hero doesn’t want to be a hero, where the king would rather help in secret and quiet because he doesn’t think he could ever be a great king. I feel much closer to those kinds of characters than I do to the one who knew all along who he was and what he was going to do, and that he would do it greatly because it was his destiny to do so.

The truth is, though, that we too have a royal destiny, and we need to be acting more like the book Aragorn than the movie version. We are sons and daughters of the King of Kings, and yet we are reluctant to claim our inheritance.That is why these characters like Simba, the runaway prince thrust into kingship, or Aragorn, the ranger afraid to embrace his destiny, call out to us from the cinema screens — and even the Bible. Just look at Esther, the orphan girl who suddenly held the weight of a nation on her queenly shoulders.

We want to believe that we could be kings and queens, that we could have some royal, important destiny, but we know we could never achieve it — that’s only for characters in stories to do. So we watch these characters struggle with fear and doubt because we hold those same fears and doubts so close to our hearts.

The difference is — Simba does become king, a great one. Aragorn regains his throne and Gondor’s rightful king returns to restore life to his people. Esther embraces her royal purpose and understands that she was brought into the palace for such a time as this. And that’s what we love about those characters, they can do what we think we can’t. They seem so ordinary, so flawed, like us, but by the end of the story, they step into kingship and save the day.

But so can we. Our God, the King of Kings, made us to be His royal children, and He “invites [us] now out of the shadows to unveil [our] glory” (John Eldredge, Waking the Dead). The world needs us to embrace our Heavenly heritage and shine like the princes and princesses we are. While looking up articles about Aragorn, I found this one quote that really hit me: “In the books, Aragorn spends his life in steadfast preparation to reclaim his heritage.” (from this site) Shouldn’t our lives be like that too?

I don’t want to hide in the shadows anymore, I don’t want to shy away from the chance to be a true princess. I have a royal destiny, a grand inheritance, and I want to claim it.

Do you?