Tom Bombadil

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Postby AgProv » Sat Aug 20, 2011 11:18 pm

Bombadil is there to...

give the hobbits a safe place to hole up for a few days and put the Black Riders (uncomfortably close) off the trail, or for them to back off in the face of real power? He leads them to Bree's outkirts, as I recall, where they meet Aragorn for the first time.

to save them from the Barrow-wights, to act as the agency through which they gain the swords which will in one case be vital later - without his Barrow-sword, Merry cannot slay the Lord of the Nazgul (and the Pellenor would go the other way, and Eowyn almost certainly dead). He recognises the value of the swords where the hobbits would not, maybe even recognises what one will bring about. And Frodo's Barrow-sword lasts just long enough to delay the Nazgul at he ford - they recognise them too.

He reminds them, or awakens them, to being part of a far larger story yet - he sings to them of the history of the world, right back to its creation. He and his missus, it is implied, have been there since the very start - implying they are Valar/Maiar who have gone native? (In Unfinished Tales, an alternative version of the Valar story introduces other male-female pairings who entered ME but dropped out of the later version of of the story without trace. In one case for good reason - a male/female Valar of War would have gone over to the Melkor side quite quickly? - but others do not carry over tothe Silmarillion story.)

Gandalf gives him serious respect, implying kinship or equality - and Gandalf himself is a Maia.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sat Aug 20, 2011 11:51 pm

Always nice to see another Tolkien fan AgProv :D

Tom and Goldberry are pretty interesting as a couple away from the LotR storyline and Goldberry is almost certainly a Maia, being the 'River Daughter' who in the Valinor hierarchy was Uinen, wife to Osse and both of them Maiar to Ulmo the Poseidon-a-like Vala - Uinen for calm seas and freshwater (so rivers of course) and Osse for the deep ocean and sea storms.

Tom's officially not Eru Iluvatar the creator god or any of the Ainur who descended into Arda as he was there before anything other living thing - someone on here had a very good theory that he was representative of Tolkien himself, since he was the fount of everything in Arda (if you ignore the Scandinavian myths links etc :wink: ) His importance to LotR itself is as you say with the Barrow Wight and also Old Man Willow as a nod to the Ents and Huorns in Fangorn later in the Two Towers, but his greatest significance is in his mastery or resistance to the One Ring as he quite happily handles it without disappearing and gives it back to Frodo without any repercussions or indeed that much interest - he simply wasn't affected by it at all and this is why Elrond rules him out later as a candidate to help them keep the Ring out of Sauron's clutches as a possible guardian, because it held no power or meaning for him.

Interesting that you mentioned Gandalf there because it was in Bombadil's house that Frodo (with the assistance of the magic mushies) dreamt about Gandalf's escape from imprisonment in Isengard which was actually a 'real-time' vision and signified the concerted beginnings of his own 'possession' by the Ring as it began to subordinate him to it's own compulsions and bonding. This directly led to his wounding on Weathertop when he put the Ring on, thinking to escape the Nazgul, but in fact revealing himself to them in the wraithworld. The whole episode with Bombadil is actually pretty sifgnificant, but there's an awful lot of camp feyness to dig about in to get to it :lol:
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Postby Antiq » Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:54 pm

I found him the most irritating character in the whole book. Godsakes, shut up singing jingles already! Imagine living with someone like that, he'd drive you insane :lol: No offence to Bombadil fans, just not my cuppa. Goldberry was sweet, but didn't say much. Hardly surprising.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Tue Sep 06, 2011 12:01 am

:lol: I'm not what you'd call a fan of the singing either, but in Arda that's how big magic is worked mainly. :wink:

Possibly why he kept the merry-dols to Bombadil in LotR - if Gandalf had tried it I think the Fellowship would have got the giggles :lol:
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Postby Will of Lancre » Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:20 pm

I was 13 when I first read LotR, and enjoyed the early parts of the book as if it was a kind of Hobbit II (which of course Tolkien originally intended it to be). A hippy forest spirit who can tame wild trees with his song seemed fine in that context. Certainly no worse than a were-bear, and quite a lot better than Cockney trolls. :roll:

Reading it again, it is clear that JRRT didn't have much idea when he wrote the Old Forest chapter of where the story was going, or of the level of seriousness that the book would aim at later on.

Having said that, the Bombadil episode would have been fine in the completed book if only Tolkien had stopped him talking in that dreadful rhythmic prose. :evil: Reminds me too much of the camp Elves in "The Hobbit" *shudder*
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:06 pm

LotR was my 1st intro to Tolkien - I read The Hobbit afterwards, about 18 months later. Having read both books many times since (I've lost count but it's at least a dozen times in both cases and far more for LotR), together with the Silmarillion and gradually working my way belatedly through Lost/Unfinished Tales that form a part of the 12 volumes of The History of Middle Earth by Christopher Tolkien - so far I've read Vols 1, 10 & 12 :roll: ) Bombadil's part in LotR is at once superfluous and contextual in that he and Goldberry are in there to represent 'old Middle Earth' and tie the later story into the beginnings of the legendarium.

Having said that, at 10 years old I skipped through the Old Forest and 'House' after my 1st reading for the following several rereadings because it's of little or no importance to the action storyline at all. For Tolkien scholars however, Tom Bombadil is Russia. In other words he
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as that whole section is to show very, very subtly the larger preternatural and rather sinister world surrounding the Shire and to underline the sentience of the Ring in that it starts giving Frodo visions at that point (after the magic mushrooms) of Gandalf imprisoned in Isengard and in Bombadil's cavalier handling of it that there are creatures abroad in addition to the Elves and the Black Riders who have a very different relationship with the Ring and, in passing of the existence of Ents as the Old Forest is a relict outlier of the ancient forests that once included Fangorn and spread farther west of the Grey Havens to where the drowned lands of Middle Earth lay before the Ring was even forged. :P

When you read LotR having knowledge of all that background then Bombadil's chapters assume a depth and breadth that is mind-boggling with complexity and woven myth and you realise exactly why Tolkien fandoms have more than their fair share of lore nazis and why people like one Terry Pratchett have been able to mine Tolkien's creation so consistently for motifs and 'takes' on faux mythology for all kinds of twists and turns in re-spinning fantasy. So yeah - it's camp and it's silly but it's also kind of spooky don't you think that some weird guy dressed in day-glo can actually spring 2 hobbits swallowed by a tree or drive off a barrow-wight about to steal some souls just by singing a load of old toot? :wink:

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Tales of the Perilous Realm also have Tom Bombadil in them - I haven't read them as I'm sure he's still just as annoying but he's more than just a distraction in there and Goldberry is one of the Ainur - the angel-like creatures placed on the Earth to care for it and it's inhabitants. Regrettably, Ainur like Sauron and his own master Morgoth (formerly known as Melkor) weren't quite so eccentric in their duties and their rebellion causes it all to go badly wrong. Bombadil in essence and in tandem with Goldberry is therefore a guardian figure who 'preserves' places like the Old Forest in a semblance of what they should have been and through their combined magic are one of the main protectors of the Shire through their aegis over the Withywindle and then the Brandywine. This in part explains why Hobbitland is so relatively untouched by all the nastiness that other places all around experience as Sauron's power grows in his search to regain his lost Ring.

So - I see where you're coming from for sure Will, but for me Bombadil's kind of grown of on me, not least because of the appallingly bad taste songs :lol:
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Re: Tom Bombadil

Postby Dally Tig » Mon Nov 28, 2011 1:00 pm

I've been re--reading LOTR, and I have to say on a shallow level I'm on board with the 'pointless' crew, however, as the above poster said, he does add depth to the world, Tolkein created an entire world, history, language and several cultures and no-one bats an eyelash- so why do we feel so conflicted about Tom Bombadil? He does, after all, encompass just another depth of understanding to the book. Perhaps because he is, as far as anyone is in Middle Earth, a fun-loving character, a little more frivolous on first appearance basis. For a usually serious book he adds a nice bit of frivvle, and while he may seem a little out of keeping with the tone, he is integral to the world creation.

Maybe.
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Re: Tom Bombadil

Postby DaveC » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:07 pm

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Re: Tom Bombadil

Postby MongoGutman » Sat Dec 17, 2011 12:38 am

Tom seems out of place within the context of the stye of the rest of the story, being somewhat frivolous and fanciful, more like some of Dunsany, or from the age of poetry, whereas the main story is one of great drama and sweeping changes to the world, war and so on.

But maybe that was part of the intention - deliberatly injecting a little lightness near the beginning of the story to contrast with the darkness to the end. For me each book gets progressively darker - the jolly pals together of the Fellowship, the desperate adventures of Merry and Pippin and the doom laden journey of Sam and Frodo in the Two Towers and the desperate battles and Sam and Frodo's practically suicidal completion of the quest in Return.
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Re: Tom Bombadil

Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:18 am

He's there because of the Ring - it holds no power over him and no real attraction for him. That's the reason but it's a very precarious involvment and has more to do with the earlier history of Middle Earth even before the times of The Silmarillion and in particular with the Lords of the West when they first came to Arda, before there even was a Middle Earth and before Morgoth marred Arda. Bombadil Tolkien tells us, was The First. But he doesn't tell us what he was... :geek:

Tolkien never really 'placed' him at all, but it's Goldberry who's the key and her antecedents are similar to Gandalf and the River Daughter is indeed the hint of what she is and so gives a clue to what Bombadil could be. She's generally regarded as being the daughter of 2 of Ulmo's Maiar servants Uinen and Osse (the Vala of the Oceans and respectively the spirits of the rivers and of waves). It's the water of the Brandywine and also the Withywindle that provide the links back into the West (Ulmo 'dwells in the waters of Arda' not just in the West) and as such never forsook the exiled Elves (like Galadriel and the big hitters like Feanor and Fingolfin) or with Men back in the First Age and presumably carried on snooping and gathering information after the other Valar kissed and made up with the Noldor and also perhaps with Gandalf and some of the other Wizards as well. Speculation only with that, but the Elves did know him and so did the Dwarves and the Men of Westernesse - they just knew him by other names, like Iarwain Ben-Adar or Forn or Orald, all of which translate as Eldest. And didn't have too much to do with him because presumably, he had little or no interest in them.

Best to do what Jackson, Bakshi and other adapters have done and forget about him in relation to the Old Forest at least - the Barrow Downs are a different matter as that's where Merry and Pippin get their Numenorean swords which are the true means by which the Witchking of Angmar/Chief Nazgul was despatched, so they definitely needed him for that. No Man could slay the nassssty Ringwraith remember - and Merry got his blow in (on the Achilles heel) before PonyGirl did the head-chopping :twisted:
Last edited by Jan Van Quirm on Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tom Bombadil

Postby Who's Wee Dug » Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:57 pm

That was an interesting post Jan,I have read The Silmarillion but that was many years ago and had forgotten quite a bit about it.
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Re: Tom Bombadil

Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:11 pm

Oooo! That's a stretch - the Silmarillion being interesting! :lol:

I always say it's like the Bible and some people like that because of the similarity, but I always used to regard it as being the cure for insomnia. As a reference book it's great though and Unfinished Tales is better in some respects except that's even more contradictory of itself and has truly frustrating annotations. Rippings reads they ain't though ;)
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Re: Tom Bombadil

Postby Who's Wee Dug » Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:54 pm

I did read Tom Bombadil as well but I was refering to your post, not The Silmarillion though it does have some interesting parts in it , Unfinished Tales I have but for some reason never got around to reading it or the Lost Tales I have the 1st two books,if I ever get around to reading LOTR again I may dip into to it. :)
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Re: Tom Bombadil

Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:42 pm

For various reasons I'm currently working my way through the History of Middle Earth of which Lost Tales are the 1st 2 volumes and they make the Sil look like something by Harold Robbins... :o Some interesting ideas in there but really I've never seen so much made out of so little with reams of iterations and analysis over a few words transposed or couched slightly differently in no less than 3 and usually more versions.... :roll:

Tolkien really was a great writer of prose, but my gods did he bloody work at making it perfect to the point where it lost all semblance of pace and character engagement. :? TH and LotR were written to make money is the bottom line and for that he sacrified thoroughness for art thank heavens as they're really (aside from stuff for the kids like the Father Christmas Letters) the only readable novels to come out of Middle Earth. There's some blistering ideas in The Sil and more elaborated in Unfinished Tales (especially interesting for Galadriel fans who had at least 2 other contenders for Mr. Galadriel in there and had kids with one of them as well as the daughter who married Elrond :lol: ) but he wrote the hell out of most of it in changing his mind about Orcs and the sun and the moons and whether they were around before during or after the Two Trees or the bloody Lamps :geek: Tolkien really was his own geek and didn't need a fandom at all really :lol:
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Re: Tom Bombadil

Postby Antiq » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:58 pm

Jan Van Quirm wrote:Oooo! That's a stretch - the Silmarillion being interesting! :lol:

I always say it's like the Bible and some people like that because of the similarity, but I always used to regard it as being the cure for insomnia. As a reference book it's great though and Unfinished Tales is better in some respects except that's even more contradictory of itself and has truly frustrating annotations. Rippings reads they ain't though ;)

I lovvvve The Silmarillion! I've read it several times. Then again, I do like that kind of prose, it's a bit like reading and dreaming at the same time.
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