Friday, March 4, 2011

Tom Bombadil

Tolkien invented Tom Bombadil in honor of his children's Dutch doll, and wrote light-hearted children's poems about him, imagining him as a nature-spirit evocative of the English countryside, which in Tolkien's time had begun to disappear.

Old Merry Tom

Tolkien's 1934 poem "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" depicts Bombadil as a "merry fellow" living in a dingle close to the Withywindle river, where he wanders, exploring nature at his leisure. Several of the dingle's mysterious residents, including the River-spirit Goldberry (also known as the "River-woman's daughter"), the malevolent tree-spirit Old Man Willow, the Badger-folk and a Barrow-wight all attempt to capture Bombadil for their own ends, but quail at the power of Tom's voice, which defeats their enchantments and commands them to return to their natural existence. At the end of the poem, Bombadil captures and marries Goldberry. Throughout the poem, Bombadil is unconcerned by the attempts to capture him and brushes them off with an inherent power in his words.
Tom Bombadil and Goldberry

The later poem "Bombadil Goes Boating" anchors Bombadil in Middle-earth, featuring a journey down the Withywindle to the Brandywine river, where Hobbits ("Little Folk I know there") live at Hays-End. Bombadil is challenged by various river-residents on his journey, including birds, otters, and hobbits, but charms them all with his voice, ending his journey at the farm of Farmer Maggot, where he drinks ale and dances with the family. At the end of the poem, the charmed birds and otters work together to bring Bombadil's boat home. The poem includes a reference to the Norse lay of Ótr, when Bombadil threatens to give the hide of a disrespectful otter to the Barrow-wights, who he says will cover it with gold apart from a single whisker. The poem mentions a number of Middle-earth locations, including Hays-End, Bree and the Tower Hills, and hints at the events of the end of the Third Age, speaking of "Tall Watchers by the Ford, Shadows on the Marches".
The poems were published in the collections The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and later in Tales from the Perilous Realm.

Within The Lord of the Rings, Tom Bombadil is a mysterious character who aids Frodo and his companions on their journey. He and his wife Goldberry, the "Daughter of the River," still live in their house on the Withywindle, and some of the characters and situations from the original poem are recycled into story-elements for The Lord of the Rings. In the book, he is described as "Master of wood, water and hill", and nearly always speaks or sings in stress-timed metre: 7-beat lines broken into groups of 4 and 3. He appears in three chapters, "The Old Forest", "In the House of Tom Bombadil", and "Fog on the Barrow-downs". He is also mentioned briefly in the chapter "The Council of Elrond" as a possible keeper and protector of the One Ring. He is also spoken of at the end of the story in "Homeward Bound" and "The Grey Havens". Behind Bombadil's simple façade are hints of great knowledge and power, though limited to his own domain.

Tom rescuing the hobbits from Old Man Willow
Tom first appears within the story after Merry and Pippin are trapped by Old Man Willow and Frodo and Sam cry for help. Tom commands Old Man Willow to release them, singing him to sleep, and shelters the hobbits in his house for two nights. Here it is revealed that the One Ring has no power over Bombadil. Frodo wearing the Ring can be seen by him, and Tom wearing the Ring does not turn him invisible. He even tosses the Ring in the air and makes it disappear, but then produces it from his other hand and returns it to Frodo. While this seems to demonstrate that he has unique and mysterious power over the Ring, the idea of giving him the Ring for safekeeping is rejected within Book Two's second chapter, "The Council of Elrond." Gandalf says, rather, that "the Ring has no power over him", and believes that Tom would not find the Ring to be very important and so might simply misplace it.

Frodo spends two nights in Tom Bombadil's house, each night dreaming a different dream, which are implied to be either clairvoyant or prophetic. The first night he dreams of fearful things, including Gandalf's imprisonment atop Orthanc in Isengard. The second night he dreams of a song that "seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise." Whether he derives these visions from Bombadil's numinous presence or is simply the only hobbit to display oracular foresight is never addressed.

Gathering Lillie's for Goldberry
Before sending the hobbits on their way, Tom teaches them a rhyme to summon him if they fall into danger inside his borders again. This proves fortunate, as the four encounter Barrow-wights during "Fog on the Barrow-downs," the eighth chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring. After saving them from the Barrow-wights, Tom gives each hobbit a long dagger taken from the treasure in the barrows. As the hobbits leave the Old Forest, he refuses to pass the borders of his own land, but before he goes he directs them to The Prancing Pony Inn at Bree.

Towards the end of The Return of the King, when Frodo and Gandalf take their leave, Gandalf mentions that he wants to have a long talk with Bombadil, calling him a "moss-gatherer". Gandalf also says, in response to Frodo's query of how well Bombadil is getting along, that Bombadil is "as well as ever" and "quite untroubled". Gandalf also states that Bombadil is "not much interested in anything that we have done and seen," save their visits to the Ents. At the very end of The Lord of the Rings, as Frodo sails into the West and leaves Middle-earth, he has what seems to him the very experience that appeared to him in the house of Bombadil in the second night of his dream.

54 comments:

  1. Cool story, im following love this!

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  2. Frodo is my favorite of all time!

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  3. I understood why they didn't include him, but I did miss seeing Tom in the films.

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  4. Tom Bombadil was a mysterious character to me. Shame they left him out of the movies, but I can somehow imagine how he wouldn't quite fit with the main plot. He'd be some kind of Jar Jar Binks.

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  5. He sounds like someone I'd like to be friends with :)

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  6. interesting stuff, is this not in the new releases?

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  7. i wish tom was in the films. :(

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  8. interesting character but i can see why he wasnt in the films, good read :)

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  9. I never imagined that there was so much to Tom. I only read the first book in the series, though.

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  10. I can't believe how deep the thought behind the characters is. They might aswell be real people!

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  11. Could never get into Tolkien books, his writing style hurt my head.

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  12. Very interesting, looking forward to more!

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  13. I remember wishing they had included him in the film, but I can see why that chunk of the story would've slowed it down.

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  14. this is actually a really cool thread. why did they leave him out of the movies??

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  15. That's a whole lot of backstory I didn't know! Cool post.

    +Follower! =D

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  16. Cool backstory info. Following for sure.

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  17. Neat little post, love LOTR!

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  18. Nice topic to write about :)
    very interesting since i've never really read any

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  19. I read this entire thing and I'm glad to say I did.

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  20. Tom Bombadil is a straight up boss. Following.
    appellatesky.blogspot.com

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  21. I hate that they excluded Tom from the Movies. (

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  22. There would be no place for him in the films

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  23. Nice pome the guy looks creepy indeed

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  24. I would have liked to see tom rescue frodo and the rest from old man willow, It would have been cool to know that there is someone that the ring cannot affect in the film but I think that might downplay the power of the ring which all three films work to fixate in the moviegoer's mind.

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  25. The films needed Tom imo. awesome stuff keep it up!

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  26. Very kewl. I look forward to more.

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  27. Wow I had almost completely forgotten about this character and I didn't know that Tolken had written anything more about him. Thanks for the informative post!

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  28. I missed Tom from the films - following

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  29. Tom Bombadil is easily the coolest LOTR character, amirite?

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  30. Nice post! Followed!
    alphabetalife.blogspot.com

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  31. Really interesting read you've got here.

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  32. Woah, there's more to lord of the rings... nice post

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  33. Thank you for all the background information on Frodo. This helped me string a few things together.

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  34. Tom was always one of my favorite characters in the books. Very interesting stuff!

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  35. This is an awesome blog! Its a shame they left Tom out of the movies, he was one of my favorite characters. p.s sorry if this posts twice, its not showing up though.

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