The Day of Praisegiving at the Field of Cormallen comes to an end with a great feast and the reuniting of friends as Frodo and Sam, and Merry and Pippin, and Legolas and Gimli greet one another and delight in the joy of being alive after great tribulation.
It is in preparation for the feast that Gandalf adopts the role of squire to the knights of the West who are Frodo and Sam.
“Gandalf, as if he were their esquire, knelt and girt the sword-belts about them, and then arising he set circlets of silver upon their heads. And when they were arrayed they went to the great feast; and they sat at the king’s table”
At first, when Gandalf presents a sword to Frodo, Frodo refuses to wear it. “I do not wish for any sword,” he says. For Frodo the days of battle are at an end. He fought with all the strength that he could muster and he was bested at the last by a power too great for him. If it had not been for his enemy he would have failed at the last and all the struggle would have been in vain. It was Gollum who took the Ring to the Fire, albeit by accident as it were, and not the one appointed to bear the Ring.
In part Frodo’s refusal to carry a sword is a recognition of his own sense of failure. In another it is a desire on his part to have no more to do with war. Frodo has seen at first hand the horror of war, the malice and hatred that Sauron sought to unleash upon the earth, and he hates it.
But Gandalf knows that the feast is not for Frodo alone nor is the magnificent raiment with which he is arrayed. When a great gift is received with grace it is not just the one who receives who is honoured but the one who gives as well. The circlet of silver with which Frodo is crowned, the sword with which he is girt, the mithril coat and the Elven cloak in which he is arrayed, are all an act of doing honour to those who gather at the feast. Some are great knights of Gondor, or of the Dunedain, or of the guard of the King of Rohan. Others are simple farming folk in valleys of Gondor far from Minas Tirith or in the fields of the Westfold of Rohan and when Frodo is arrayed as a fellow warrior and sits to eat with them he does them honour. He declares that their deeds in the war, their hopeless march to the Black Gate, perhaps achieved by overcoming great fear, are all worthy of honour. He names them brothers by sitting among them. And it is not just the warriors who are gathered at the feast who are honoured thus but every village, every family from which they have come.
The Ring was not destroyed by warfare, indeed the war was not won by strength of arms. If the War of the Ring had been a matter of besting the enemy by arms and superior power then it would have been necessary to use the Ring. That would have been as great a catastrophe as Sauron’s victory would have been. But the battles at Helm’s Deep, at Pelargir, at the Pelennor Fields and finally before the Black Gate, were not thereby of no account in comparison to the deeds of the Ringbearer. Without their courage, without their willingness to lay down their lives there would have been no journey through Mordor to the Mountain. And so it is not to seek the praise of others that Frodo must wear a sword at the feast but to honour all who fought. As Shakespeare puts in the mouth of King Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt:
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”
6 thoughts on “Frodo Gets Ready for The Feast at the Field of Cormallen”
Thank you for another thoughtful post that brings out some of the most profound messages of the tale.
Frodo’s refusal at first to carry a sword conveyed so much of what he had gone through, and his development as a character. How eloquent that short scene is!
Thank you for your thoughtful comment once again. How much Tolkien is able to say through just a few words. Frodo has learnt so much and yet he must set this aside for just a moment in order to honour those who have given so much. It reminds me of Faramir who spoke to Frodo and Sam about the need to bear arms in time of direst necessity but never to glory in them.
Yes, that’s a good connection, thank you for drawing my attention to it. As a side point, the conversations between Faramir and Frodo and Sam produce some of the most noble and dignified speech in the whole book.
I agree with you entirely about those conversations and their greatness is so hard won because neither Frodo nor Faramir know whether they can trust the other.
That’s a wonderful post! These small details reveal so much, so many feelings and thoughts, ideas and beliefs. Thank you for pointing them out so well!
Thank you so much for your encouragement once again, Olga. As I read this scene I suddenly found myself looking at it from the perspective of the simple folk who have been fighting for their homes and families and who have known nothing about the Ring. They deserve to share the honour and they need a story to go home with to share with the people they have fought for. Frodo has to honour them even as he is praised.