How could Aragorn be 88 years old while he looks relatively young?
In the extended version of The Two Towers, Aragorn says to Eowyn that he is 88 years old. He said it was due to his royal lineage or something like that.
I did not remember that fact from the books, but it's been a while since I last read them. Anyway, how is it that being the heir of Isildur grants him such a long life?
One tiny bit of trivia: at that point in the books, he's actually **88** years old. His birthday was the day that they met Gandalf the White in Fangorn forest.
@Earendil best way to know is to ask : http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/32876/how-do-we-know-aragorns-birthday
Aragorn is a Dúnadan.
This is mentioned in the above link:
Direct descendants of the Dúnedain are known to live longer than normal Men. A good example is Aragorn who, in the movies, tells Éowyn he is 87 years old, although he appears to be relatively young. (It is said that Dunedain live three times longer than normal Men; that would translate into 240 to 250 years of average lifespan, given normal human lifespan of 80 years. It is possible with the blood of the Dúnedain renewed by Aragorn and Arwen's marriage that some generations thereafter would experience lifetimes similar to that of the generations following Elros-between 400 and 500 years of life).
He is a pure blooded Númenorean. Their long lives were a reward for their fathers' assistance in the fight against Morgoth. From Appendix F:
The Westron was a Mannish speech, though enriched and softened under Elvish influence. It was in origin the language of those whom the Eldar called the Atani or Edain, ‘Fathers of Men’, being especially the people of the Three Houses of the Elf-friends who came west into Beleriand in the First Age, and aided the Eldar in the War of the Great Jewels against the Dark Power of the North.
After the overthrow of the Dark Power, in which Beleriand was for the most part drowned or broken, it was granted as a reward to the Elf-friends that they also, as the Eldar, might pass west over Sea. But since the Undying Realm was forbidden to them, a great isle was set apart for them, most westerly of all mortal lands. The name of that isle was Númenor (Westernesse). Most of the Elf-friends, therefore, departed and dwelt in Númenor, and there they became great and powerful, mariners of renown and lords of many ships. They were fair of face and tall, and the span of their lives was thrice that of the Men of Middle-earth. These were the Númenoreans, the Kings of Men, whom the Elves called the Dúnedain.
Elros, the first High King of Númenor, was the brother of Elrond. Unlike Elrond, Elros chose a mortal life. However his maternal great grandmother was Melian the Maia, mother of Lúthien. Elrond and Elros's father is Eärendil the Mariner who plies the skies with the sole remaining Silmaril on his brow as the morning and evening star.
So as a direct descendant of the line of kings from Númenor, Aragorn will have a very long life span. He was 210 when he died.
So does this mean that by marrying Arwen who is Elrond's daughter, Aragorn is actually marrying his own great great grandfather's niece?
Aragorn's people are Dúnedain [Men of the West, Númenórean in Quenya] which means they have different sinews than other men. They're stronger, taller, longer-lived, and hold onto their vitality late in life. Aragorn is directly descended from the male line through Isildur and from the female line from Anarion through Fíriel [who married Arvedui, last King of Arthedain], daughter of King Ondoher. Generally the line of Elros were the longer lived of the Dúnedain and during the final third of the 3rd Age Aragorn's descendants generally lived between 155-160 years of age. They held the title of Chieftains, but before their lands were overrun by Angmar his line ruled Arthedain and before that all of Arnor.
There was a time during the Rebellion on their homeland of Númenor that the King's Men who were made up of the majority of the Númenóreans rebelled against the Valar. The ruling Kings and Queens had a drastic drop in their lifespans and their other gifts so that there was no distinction between them and any other Dúnedain. This distinction is mentioned in Aldarion and Erendis as such:
this rule of "royal marriage" was never a matter of law, but it became a custom of pride: "a symptom of the growth of the Shadow, since it only became rigid when the distinction between the Line of Elros and other families, in life-span, vigour, or ability, had diminished or altogether disappeared."
However, other members of the Line of Elros, such as the Lords of Andúnië, did not have such a drastic drop in their lifespans even though the shadow touched their hearts as well. For example, Elendil, Isildur's father died when he was 322 at the hands of Sauron during the Siege of Mordor. The Last King of Númenor, who was his cousin, "felt the shadow of death approach" when he was "besotted, and walking under the shadow of death" [Akallabêth] when has was barely 200 years old. Ar-Pharazôn's father had died when he was 198.
In Middle-earth the diminishment of the Dúnedain continued. It
was not a normal tendency, shared by the peoples whose proper home was Middle-earth, but due to the loss of their ancient land far in he West, nearest of all mortal lands to the Undying Realm. [Disaster of the Gladden Fields; Númenórean Linear Measures]
Most of the Dúnedain had a life expectancy of around 100 or so. For the royal line in the North it was 155-160. Aragorn lived for 210 years.
There might be a small confusion about that Dúnedain had such a long lifespan;
some might think that this is due to elven-blood in their veins. However, an explicit union between the Edain of Beleriand (the ancestors of the Men of Númenor) and Elves was never mentioned by Tolkien but quite possible due to their close relationship in Beleriand. Rather, the long life-span was a result of their faithfulness to the Valar and Elves and - I assume - that Númenor was quite close to the Undying Lands in geographical terms and terms of the soul, culture and mind, thus receiving part of the Blessing of the Undying Lands.
"an explicit union between the Edain of Beleriand (the ancestors of the Men of Númenor) and Elves was never mentioned by Tolkien" - Huh? Beren and Luthien. Tuor and Idril. All ancestors of the Dunedain. But not the cause of their lifespan; that comes from "Eonwe came among them and taught them; and they were given wisdom and power and life more enduring than any others of mortal race have possessed" (Akallabeth)