|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|
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|
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.