Frodo Gets Ready for The Feast at the Field of Cormallen

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.”

Strider the Ranger Has Come Back!

As Gandalf takes Theoden and his company to see Treebeard, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli remain at the gates of Isengard with Merry and Pippin. They share a meal together and then the hobbits produce the finest tobacco from the Shire, a spoil of battle, so that they can smoke.

“‘Now let us take our ease here for a little!” said Aragorn.’…I feel a weariness such as I have seldom felt before.’ He wrapped his grey cloak about him, hiding his mail-shirt, and stretched out his long legs. Then he lay back and sent from his lips a thin stream of smoke.

‘Look!’ said Pippin. ‘Strider the Ranger has come back!’

‘He has never been away,’ said Aragorn. ‘I am Strider and Dunadan too, and I belong to Gondor and the North.'”

As I have written before, I love the moments of rest in The Lord of the Rings. In the early part of the story these moments are expansive and gracious in character whether they take place in Farmer Maggot’s kitchen or Tom Bombadil’s house or the halls of Elrond in Rivendell. Now when the tale gathers pace, as it begins to move towards its climax, the taking of ease must be “for a little”. It is in the wrapping around him of a cloak that Aragorn now finds a semblance of shelter and in the smoking of his pipe that he finds a moment’s peace. Pippin is reminded of the travel-stained traveller that he first met at The Prancing Pony in Bree and who he got to know and trust on the journey in the wild to Rivendell and in that memory the young hobbit who has been dragged into a world that is far too big for him feels at ease once again. “Strider the Ranger has come back!”

But Aragorn is not a divided man who is a king at one moment, a warrior at another and a friend at yet another; he is truly himself at all times. The temptation to inhabit a role and to switch that role from circumstance to circumstance comes from the need to please and to be accepted by another person. We may have been enjoying a conversation with someone when an important person enters the room. Suddenly we see the face of the person to whom we had been speaking change as he prepares to speak to the one who has just arrived. We may even find that we are now being ignored. What we thought was a conversation between friendly acquaintances was in fact merely a filling of time before the main event.

When we meet someone who is interested in us no matter who else is present then we know we have received a special gift. We also know that we must return that gift and not hold onto it in order to give it to someone that we might consider more important. Aragorn is the same person whether he is with Elrond or Theoden or Pippin the hobbit. And not only is he attentive to all but he will lay down his life for them too. That is why all who follow him love him. That is why they will give their lives for him. It may be that the stages on which we live our lives are smaller than this but when we have a leader a little like Aragorn we know we have received something very special indeed and that we should treasure it.