*Lore nazi warning - it's gonna be a big one guys!*
Why did Tony and I say you might like to skip past Mr B? It's mainly to do with the interlude in the Old Forest being the first major piece of heavy-handed repetition in the storyline and also, because of the OTT potty poetry and 'whimsicality' in general it stands out like a sore thumb in amongst the spooky and violent bits that start to come in after the 4 hobbits leave the Shire borders. If you've only seen the films then Tom Bombadil is a major shock to the system as you can probably guess because it's so at odds with the rest of the book that follows. It's like thinking you're about to see a movie about the Earp v Clanton showdown at the OK Corral and then finding it's actually a Rocky-Horror meets The Village People spoof starring Graham Norton and The Rock...
Pip's right more or less, but to come back to what I was saying about repetition, for a new reader, especially a young one (I was 10 when I first read it and fell in love, but foundered badly in the Old Forest and nearly didn't go on) it's truly annoying to find that Frodo and Co, having already got frightened a bit, befriended by an unexpected rescue party and then lost in the Woody End and in the Marish, not once but twice (by Gildor and the Elves and then by Farmer Maggot and Merry) are once again going through the same old rigaramole yet again.
LotR was my first adult book and I was completely enthralled from the outset, but when they got to the Old Forest all ready for adventure and excitingly dastardly Black Riders right on their heels, they get into this big old wood and get hot and bothered and keep stopping for food and I'm like - why are they doing this again
? As you've met Tom I can say that the tree eating bit was great but the big rescue bit - singing
them out of the bloody thing? WTF?!
The callousness of youth - such gems of literature are wasted on us and it took me a very long time to appreciate Tom's better qualities, but the argument still stands by and large - the story doesn't need him in there particularly (aside from being an early warning system for what lies ahead in Fangorn) and cinematically he's a Big Bird of a Turkey so far as the genre side of it goes. So much for Pop Culture
However from a lore perspective *goes into goosestep mode
* he's actually really
important to the storyline in relation to the nature of The One Ring. Nothing to do with Old Man Willow, although that's an indication of his own powers, but Frodo's experience with him does involve a bit of a spoiler for the action from Bree onwards and if you haven't already got to it I won't say very much but I did recommend you went back in for the Fog on the Barrow Downs chapter as that's where the action really starts to hammer home and is the point where most people are finally well and truly hooked as the tension starts to wind up really thoroughly (and why there's all the faffing about and not taking things too seriously in these early misadventures so it highlights the really scary stuff to come). You just have to hang in there and trust in Tolkien's storytelling skills if you're not the sort of person who enjoys kitchen sink dramas alongside the epic stuff.
If you get into the Middle Earth milieu thoroughly and go on to conquer The Silmarillion
a barmy Genesis and Exodus for you!
) then Tom gets progressively more and more interesting because he defies definition in the supernatural side of things but Goldberry we do know for sure is one of the Ainur (daughter of Uinen, the River Queen and Osse the sailors guardian angel for anyone who's interested still
). Mushrooms I think did indeed come into it when Tolkien was writing Tom and, in the late 60s when the book was released for the 1st time in one huge paperback, it proved very popular with the psychodelia brigade because of that dreamy trippy atmos that it gave the tale. From that PoV it proves the timeless appeal of the book, as underlined in this century by the success of Jackson's Trilogy, because in some respects LotR is hopelessly old-fashioned, from a different era almost sometimes, but it such a classic book it doesn't matter because of Tolkien's versatility as a storyteller which ranges around almost seamlessly in this book. He really was a remarkable writer who was, like Terry, able to use humour, pathos, drama, introspection and satire too to weave the magic, even though when you come down to it there's precious little of that so far as the mechanics go in the story itself.
Lecture over. If you ever want to talk Tolkien seriously click my sig and we can jaw at (even more) length