Sam Wakes Up in Bed at The Field of Cormallen

I have many favourite moments in The Lord of the Rings and two of the very best are when Frodo wakes up in bed in Rivendell after the flight to the Fords of Bruinen and this scene at The Field of Cormallen.

“When Sam awoke, he found that he was lying on some soft bed, but over him gently swayed wide beechen boughs, and through their young leaves sunlight glimmered, green and gold. All the air was full of a sweet mingled scent.”

Tolkien mixes some beautiful images, springtime after winter, light after darkness, rich verdant plenty after a wasteland and my own particular favourite, waking up in a comfortable bed after a hard journey.

As a young man I spent six years as a teacher in a secondary school (high school) in Africa. I loved to travel and soon learned that every journey was in itself an adventure to a degree that in the West we have tried to eliminate. We have “more important” things to do with our time such as being on time for meetings and other apparently essential things than we have for adventure. Adventure, after all, is always an interruption to our plans. It is exciting to watch the adventures of others but, on the whole, most of us are hobbits and we find adventures to be “nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things” that “make you late for dinner”.

My African experience was that dinner and a bed for the night when travelling was always a triumph and usually depended upon an act of kind hospitality on the part of someone else. What this certainly taught me was to value the gift of a comfortable bed. It was certainly better than the hard ground although I learned to sleep on that too.

But I think that my love for the scene of Sam waking up in bed links to an earlier and deeper experience and that is of the profound feeling of being safe, and everything being alright, that I felt from time to time in childhood. Childhood has many insecurities even in the happiest ones. Dark corners hide possible dangers while the fear of an encounter with a bigger boy with whom you have some unresolved matter can occupy the imagination for a long time. Waking up in bed feeling safe with the sun streaming through the curtains and the prospect of a day of delight ahead is a simple pleasure that is rarely surpassed through life and the likelihood is that the day of delight belongs to the holidays and those who know their C.S Lewis know what a joy the holiday is. He links it closely to the joy of heaven.

As always, Tolkien is a little more reticent about making such links openly than is Lewis. But surely heaven is, at least in part, that sense of waking up and knowing, knowing at the depths of one’s being, that everything is alright. As a serious grown-up I usually awake with the knowledge that there is work to do. But I remember the childhood experience and it has a ring of truth to it that makes all my adult awakenings seem pallid by comparison. I may catch glimpses of joy but that was the real thing.

This is Sam’s experience. It is one of “bewilderment and great joy”, of being “glad to wake”, and his great cry of joy, of praise, “is everything sad going to come untrue?”

This is truly one of those glimpses of “the world made new”. Gandalf’s response to Sam’s cry of praise is not to point out that there will be struggles ahead. We all know that there will be. Gandalf joins Sam’s hymn of praise to “the dearest freshness deep down things” by laughing and his laughter is a “sound like music, or like water in a parched land.”

Like Sam we sometimes catch glimpses of this reality although for for few, if for any, are they so hard won. My enjoyment of the triumph of finding a good meal and a bed for the night in my journeys in Africa point me to the deeper authenticity of Sam’s experience on the Field of Cormallen but for both of us the fulfilment of that joy lies ahead at the fulfilment of all things, the great conclusion of the Music of the Ainur.

15 thoughts on “Sam Wakes Up in Bed at The Field of Cormallen

  1. I love the way he says, not ‘a soft bed’, but ‘some soft bed’, gently reinforcing how unusually soft the bed is, which of course emphasizes that sense of well-being you are talking about.

    • And the care that is rightly lavished upon him and upon Frodo. I like to think of an events organiser from Minas Tirith pulling out all the stops to get the ambience just right, supervised by Aragorn and Gandalf together. Anyone who has seen pictures of or read descriptions of the meeting of Henry VIII and Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520 will know that such people existed in the medieval world.
      Many thanks for the comment, Tom.

  2. I love this episode so much. It feels so peaceful and when the worst is over, it brings a beautiful contrast to what their reality was only some time ago. Makes you indeed appreciate the comforts of your bed more.

    • I have found that as I have been accompanying Frodo and Sam on their journey through Mordor to the mountain and the great climax in the Cracks of Doom that I have almost been drawn into their experience. It is still a moment of wonder to wake up in bed afterwards. And, as you say, it makes me appreciate the gift of my own bed just a little more. And that is no bad thing!
      Thank you so much for your comment, Olga.

  3. Interesting to see safety and bliss associated with a bed outdoors in a beech-grove. I always think of the expression “safe as houses” – but this description emphasizes the lack of roof and potential exposure to the elements, doesn’t it? Wide beechen boughs swaying overhead, with sunlight filtering through the leaves. Perhaps the clement weather, too, is a sign of grace.

    • Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving a comment. I hope you will do it again 😊
      I really like your reference to “safe as houses”, a sentiment of which hobbits would strongly approve, although they would prefer hobbit holes! But we are in Ithilien and Tolkien loved his trees.
      I like your reference to the weather too. When rain comes it will be as a blessing but not today! Today the sun must shine as the reeks of Mordor pass away. Today is truly a day of grace.

  4. Interesting to see safety and bliss associated with a bed outdoors in a beech-grove. I always think of the expression “safe as houses” – but this description emphasizes the lack of roof and potential exposure to the elements, doesn’t it? Wide beechen boughs swaying overhead, with sunlight filtering through the leaves. Perhaps the clement weather, too, is a sign of grace.

  5. I have just been struck by the dichotomy of the two “wake-up” scenes: the first belongs to Frodo, but the last to Sam, perhaps as an inkling of the end of the story, when Frodo gives all his Middle-earth legacy to Sam. It’s as if Frodo has already passed away spiritually, and has remained merely to bring his hobbit companions safely back to the Shire, which they left for love of him.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. It had never struck me before this reading that it is Sam’s awakening in Ithilien that Tolkien describes and, of course, in Jackson’s films it is Frodo’s awakening that takes central place with Sam arriving shyly after all the other friends. I will think a lot about what you say here. I think that you may well be right in saying that there is a sense in which Frodo did die on Mount Doom although he has a journey still to make and a healing still to find.
      Once again, thank you so much 😊

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