🧙 The Tolkien Forum 🧝

Welcome to our forum! Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox! Plus you won't see ads ;)

Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadillo!

Úlairi

Crying in the Wilderness
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
1,965
Reaction score
6
Location
Down the rabbit hole...
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - In the House of Tom Bombadil

'Fair lady!', said Frodo again after a while. 'Tell me, if my asking does not seem foolish, who is Tom Bombadil?'
'He is,' said Goldberry, staying her swift movements and smiling.
The Letters of JRR Tolkien - #144: To Naomi Mitchison

And even in a mythical Age, there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).

Hey dol! Merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
Tom's so perplexing I cannot damn chill-o!
Yes, to the abyss he has been explored!
And because of this I know you're all bored!
But why dost Tom deserve such a stigma!
So let us now truly ponder this enigma!


I know the nature, persona, character and origin of Tolkien's greatest puzzle has been explored to the very depths of the boundless abyss left in his wake; but let us ponder, if we can, what Tom truly Is. He may be an intentional enigma; but Tolkien has nonetheless given him a place in his Legendarium and Tom thus exists as one of the creatures of Arda.

To continue the quote from above:

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - In the House of Tom Bombadil

'He is, as you have seen him,' she said in answer to his look. 'He is the Master of wood, water, and hill.'
'Then all this strange land belongs to him?'
'No indeed!' she answered, and her smile faded. 'That would indeed be a burden,' she added in a low voice, as if to herself. 'The trees and the grasses and all things growing or living in the land belong each to themselves. Tom Bombadil is the Master. No one has ever caught old Tom walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hill-tops under light and shadow. He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master.'
There are these continuous references to Tom being the Master of the Old Forest; but (so far) this is all that we know of him. He controlled the Barrow-wights and Old Man Willow; so we know he has intrinsic power over the Dark - including the One Ring:

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - In the House of Tom Bombadil

'Show me the precious Ring!' he said suddenly in the midst of the story; and Frodo, to his astonishment, drew out the chain from his pocket, and unfastening the Ring handed it at once to Tom.
It seemed to grow larger as it lay for a moment on his big brown-skinned hand. Then suddenly he put it to his eye and laughed. For a second the hobbits had a vision, both comical and alarming, of his bright blue eye gleaming through a circle of gold. Then Tom put the Ring round the end of his little finger and held it up to the candlelight. For a moment the hobbits noticed nothing strange about this. Then they gasped. There was no sign of Tom disappearing! ... then he [Frodo] slipped the Ring on.

... 'Hey there!' cried Tom, glancing towards him with a most seeing look in his shining eyes. 'Hey! Come Frodo, there! Where be you a-going? Old Tom Bombadil's not as blind as that yet. Take off your golden ring! Your hand's more fair without it! Come back!
Tom is completely unaffected by the power of the Ring. This could possibly infer that he had some level of conrol over it as the invisibility conferred by the One Ring potentially only affects those who have not the strength of will to control its power (read the implications made in Letter #246). He can also see Frodo in the realm of Spirits to which the Ring transmutes its bearer; in which we can reason that the Istari and the Elves already exist being immortal and having stronger control over their hröar. However, as Tolkien states about Tom:

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - The Council of Elrond

'... He is a strange creature, but maybe I should have summoned him to our Council.'
'He would not have come,' said Gandalf.
'Could we not still send messages to him and obtain his help?' asked Erestor. 'It seems that he has a power even over the Ring.'
'No, I should not put it so,' said Gandalf. 'Say rather that the Ring has no power over him. He is his own master. But he cannot alter the Ring itself, nor break its power over others. And now he is withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he has set, though none can see them, waiting perhaps for a change of days, and he will not step beyond them.'
'But within those bounds nothing seems to dismay him,' said Erestor. 'Would he not take the Ring and keep it there, for ever harmless?'
'No,' said Gandalf, 'not willingly. He might do so, if all the free folk of the world begged him, but he would not understand the need. And if he were given the Ring, he would soon forget it, or most likely throw it away. Such things have no hold on his mind. He would be a most unsafe guardian; and that alone is answer enough.'
'But in any case,' said Glorfindel, 'to send the Ring to him would only postpone the day of evil. He is far away. We could not now take it back to him, unguessed, unmarked by any spy. And even if we could, soon or late the Lord of the Rings would learn of its hiding place and would bend all his power towards it. Could that power be defied by Bombadil alone? I think not. I think that in the end, if all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First; and then Night will come.'
'I know little of Iarwain save the name,' said Galdor; 'but Glorfindel, I think, is right. Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself. And yet we see that Sauron can torture and destroy the very hills. ...'
The Ring has no power over Bombadil; but Tom has no power over the Ring either. What is interesting in delving into the nature of Tom from the above quote is that he has not the power to withstand Sauron in his own land and he therefore must not be one of the Valar, or even an incarnation of Eru. Tom also says that he "is not master of Riders from the Black Land far beyond this country". I have heard many theories that he is Oromë which is ludicrous for various reasons (no Nahar being one of them). There is also the complicated concept of exactly when he came into Arda.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - In the House of Tom Bombadil

'Eh, what?' said Tom sitting up, and his eyes glinting in the gloom. 'Don't you know my name yet? That's the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless? But you are young and I am old. Eldest, that's what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. He made paths before the Big People, and saw the little People arriving. He was here before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from the Outside.'
The extract: "the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from the Outside" is perhaps where the origin of Tom Bombadil can be possibly derived from the text. CT also commented on this particular excerpt:

The History of Middle-earth VI: The Return of the Shadow - VI: Tom Bombadil

Tom Bombadil was 'there' during the Ages of the Stars, before Morgoth came back to Middle-earth after the destruction of the Trees; is it to this event that he referred in his words (retained in FR [The Fellowship of the Ring]) 'He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from Outside'? It must be said that it seems unlikely that Bombadil would refer to Valinor across the Great Sea as 'Outside', especially since this was long ages 'before the seas were bent', when NĂșmenor was drowned; it would seem much more natural to interpret the word as meaning 'the Outer Dark', 'the Void' beyond the Walls of the World. But in the mythology as it was when my father began The Lord of the Rings Melkor entered 'the World' with the other Valar, and never left it until his final defeat. It was only with his return to The Silmarillion after The Lord of the Rings was completed that there entered the account found in the published work (pp. 35-37) of the First War, in which Melkor was defeated by Tulkas and driven into the Outer Dark, from which he returned in secret while the Valar were resting from their labours on the Isle of Almaren, and overthrew the Lamps, ending the Spring of Arda. It seems then that either Bombadil must in fact refer to Morgoth's return from Valinor to Middle-earth, in company with Ungoliant and bearing the Silmarils, or else my father had already at this date developed a new conception of the earliest history of Melkor.
CT appears to have concluded that TB was referring to the Darkening of Valinor. However, there is a quote from The Silmarillion that I personally contend is the actual time of the Coming of Bombadil to Arda.

...continued below...
 

Úlairi

Crying in the Wilderness
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
1,965
Reaction score
6
Location
Down the rabbit hole...
...continued...

The Silmarillion: Ainulindalë - The Music of the Ainur

And then the Valar drew unto themselves many companions, some less, some well nigh as great as themselves, and they laboured together in the ordering of the Earth and the curbing of its tumults. The Melkor saw what was done, and that the Valar walked on Earth as powers visible, clad in the raiment of the World, and were lovely and glorious to see, and blissful, and that the Earth was becoming a garden for their delight, for its turmoils were subdued. His envy then grew the greater within him; and he also took visible form, but because of his mood and the malice that burned in him that form was dark and terrible. And he descended upon Arda in power and majesty greater than any other of the Valar, as a mountain that wades in the sea and has its head above the clouds and is clad in ice and crowned with smoke and fire...
The phrase "And he descended upon Arda" infers that at that time he was somehow extrinsic of it; Outside it. There is also references to Morgoth being beyond the arrows of the Sun in another of the Ainulindali - which is the version of the Sun and Moon being the primary sources of light - where this is concordant with the version in The Silmarillion where it refers to him going to other regions. It seems as though that it is then conceivable that Tom was one of the companions that the Valar drew to themselves. These were quite obviously the Maiar; and I contend and conclude that Bombadil must therefore be a Maiar, most likely of Yavanna (or possibly Oromë). I believe there may be some affiliation to Yavanna based on the following passage:

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Homeward Bound

'As well as ever, you may be sure,' said Gandalf. 'Quite untroubled; and I should guess, not much interested in anything that we have done or seen, unless perhaps in our visits to the Ents.
There is the inherent issue, however, of Tom being is own master - of being masterless. Is he thus subject to any Vala? Is being a companion necessarily being subjagated to the will of the Valar? He is an Ă«alar but were all other Ă«alar servants and helpers of the Valar? No, Ungoliant was initially in the service of Melkor but had the freedom to reject him; could this not thus be the same for Bombadil?

However, the most perplexing aspect of this derivation from the text is that all Maiar seemed to have an affinity to the power of the Ring and were corruptable by this attraction. This is shown quite explicitly through Gandalf's temptation. Saruman fell prey to its lust. We see no other creature in Middle-earth capable of truly resisting the Ring. There is a reference in the aforementioned quote of some of the Maiar being as close to the power of the Valar but if Bombadil were say, like Eonwë, in inherent will and being, he would be able to resist Sauron if he came himself to the Old Forest to contest Bombadil for the Ring. Tom's connection to the earth seems to be his weakness, and his strength; just as the Ring is Sauron's. It the earth also Bombadil's Ring; like Morgoth's? Is Bombadil, in a sense, an Anti-Morgoth?

Gandalf also says something quite astonishing about Bombadil (and I am unsure if it was actually used in the final publication of The Lord of the Rings as I cannot find it):

The History of Middle-earth VI - XII: At Rivendell

Why did I not think of Bombadil before! If only he was not so far away, I would go straight back now and consult him.We have never had much to do with one another up till now. I don't think he quite approves of me somehow. He belongs to a much older generation, and my ways are not his.
An older generation than Gandalf who, assumably, was also there at the beginning of Arda also? Or did Gandalf arrive later?

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Now, this thread isn't just simply about the discernment of what Tom Bombadil is; but who he is and how he relates not just to the story; but to us, the reader. This is why I placed the thread in the Annals of the Eldanyårë.

Tom is (supposedly) Tolkien's only extant intentional Allegory in The Lord of the Rings and he is an Allegory of the vanishing English countryside:

The Letters of JRR Tolkien - #19: To Stanley Unwin

Do you think Tom Bombadil, the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside, could be made into a hero of the story? Or is he, as I suspect, fully enshrined in the enclosed verses? Still I could enlarge the portrait.
There are many quotes in Letters about old Tom; but it is here where I wish to leave it as open as possible for the rest of you; so that we all may enlarge the portrait. Tolkien considered Bombadil to be the country that he loved; and the embodiment of natural science in Arda. There are a myriad of other interpretations to Tom. I, for one, consider Tom Bombadil to be an embodiment of the Author himself - portraying and perpetuating his character through his invention. The texture of Tom Bombadil is almost removed and extrinsic of the text. He too, seems to be from the Outside - from beyond the Void where Tolkien's own imagination lay.

So, what do you personally believe Tom represents in The Legendarium? What is Your Allegory?


We admire the courage and sacrifice of Frodo; the love and friendship of Samwise Gamgee; the wisdom of Gandalf and Elrond; the beauty of Arwen and Galadriel; the charismatic lordliness of Aragorn and even the fall and redemption of Boromir. There is therefore also the other important question in which we can place Tom in the context of our own lives:

Who is Tom Bombadil to you? Does he encapsulate anything within your life?



Cheers,

Úlairi.
 

Prince of Cats

Among the Trees
Joined
Nov 27, 2007
Messages
787
Reaction score
11
Location
Forests of the Great Lakes
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

Ring-a-Ding, Dillo! There's a good way to get my attention :D

I see one of the biggest barriers to understanding the nature of Tom is our sources of what information we do have. Tom is, by what information we have, older than all the people who give us information about him. And much of what was said at Elrond's was given as speculation (at least that's how I read it). While I do understand that these are our only sources for information and we must work with what we have, I can't agree with you that:

LOTR said:
'I know little of Iarwain save the name,' said Galdor; 'but Glorfindel, I think, is right. Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself. And yet we see that Sauron can torture and destroy the very hills. ...'
means
Úlairi said:
What is interesting in delving into the nature of Tom from the above quote is that he has not the power to withstand Sauron in his own land and he therefore must not be one of the Valar, or even an incarnation of Eru.
When Galdor just said he "know little of [Tom Bombadill] save the name."

That said, I really love Tom and appreciate you brought this thread forward. It's something I'd kind of like to remain a mystery but if we can figure it out that sounds great too


As for what Tom represents, both to the story and myself, ... that's something I'd love to be able to answer because there are many emotions there but not too many words yet. I'll try to work on it :D

Thanks again for starting this topic, Úlairi
 

Úlairi

Crying in the Wilderness
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
1,965
Reaction score
6
Location
Down the rabbit hole...
The Tom Bombadil Thread and Fan Club!

Ring-a-Ding, Dillo! There's a good way to get my attention :D
I thought so; I just found it to be such an appropriate title. Glad you like it! ;)

I see one of the biggest barriers to understanding the nature of Tom is our sources of what information we do have.
Absolutely correct. The reason I posted the quote from Letter #144 at the beginning of the thread was, essentially, to get past that barrier that many have about Tom being "The Enigma" or "The Unanswerable Question". Tom is beyond enigma; he is beyond question.

"He is"...

And we're here to find out what.

Tom is, by what information we have, older than all the people who give us information about him. And much of what was said at Elrond's was given as speculation (at least that's how I read it).
Yes, but then again, so is Treebeard. ;)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - The White Rider

'... Treebeard is Fangorn, the guardian of the forest; he is the oldest living thing that still walks beneath the Sun upon this Middle-earth.
While I do understand that these are our only sources for information and we must work with what we have, I can't agree with you that:

means
When Galdor just said he "know little of [Tom Bombadill] save the name."


Yes, I would agree with that if it weren't for the words of Glorfindel preceding it. These words were actually, in the creative process of Tolkien, initially spoken by Gandalf on a couple of occasions:

The History of Middle-earth VI: The Return of the Shadow - XXIII: In the House of Elrond

'He would, perhaps, if all the free folk of the world begged him to do so,' said Gandalf. 'But he would not do so willingly. For it would only postpone the evil day. In time the Lord of the Ring would find out its hiding-place, and in the end he would come in person. I doubt whether Tom Bombadil, even on his own ground, could withstand that power...
The initial narrative saw Gandalf asserting this contention. Whether Tolkien changed it to Glorfindel and Galdor commenting upon the futility of Bombadil's possession of the Ring for conducive narrative purposes or not; the texture of the conversation in its development as a whole infers that Bombadil could not withstand Sauron. This contention is again repeated by Gandalf below in another version; however, it is indeed changed to his mastery being over his own ground.

The History of Middle-earth VII: The Treason of Isengard - The Council of Elrond (2)

'That is not quite the way of it,' said Gandalf. 'The Ring has no power over him, or for him: it cannot either cheat or serve him. He is his own master. But he has no power over it, and he cannot alter the Ring itself, nor break its power over others. And I think that the mastery of Bombadil is seen only on his own ground, from which he has never stepped within my memory.
Let's not forget though that in the completed product, Glorfindel has the poignant view of the destructive force of evil against nature and how that would affect Bombadil.

That said, I really love Tom and appreciate you brought this thread forward. It's something I'd kind of like to remain a mystery but if we can figure it out that sounds great too
I have great hope for this thread as I love Tom too; he has ever frolicked on the corners of my imagination whenever I immerse myself in Middle-earth. It is likely that he will remain a mystery - The Mystery. However, to discover the Origin of Bombadil is not the sole point of this thread; as you have already delineated above:

I want this thread not just to be about Discovering Tom - I want it also to be about Discovering the "Tom" in us. What is he to Tolkien? Is he just the Oxford countryside, a personification of nature, or is he more? If he is a Maia, why is he unaffected by the lust of the Ring? But the greatest of all questions is: what is Tom to us???

And here is a comic interpretation of Tom Bombadil. :D

I want this to be The Tom Bombadil Thread; and more. I want it to be about Tom, his Origins, his Allegory, his unification and embodiment of nature, science and even morality. I want this to be The Official TTF Bombadil Fan Club without the unnecessary and infuriating pubescent Legolas-loving colloquial exchange...

Tom "Is"...

...What?

What "Is" he? And not in the sense of just his being (Ă«alar); but what is his purpose? Why is he there in one of the greatest pieces of literature as a puzzle, a mystery, an enigma?

I would be confoundedly astounded if someone posted an amazingly insightful theory into Tom's Origins; but I would be equally dumbfounded by a beautiful illustration of who Tom is to that person and how it relates to The Legendarium.

As for what Tom represents, both to the story and myself, ... that's something I'd love to be able to answer because there are many emotions there but not too many words yet. I'll try to work on it :D

Thanks again for starting this topic, Úlairi
I'm looking forward to your reply. I too, am finding words not to be enough for Tom as well; which is quite frustrating.

It's my pleasure to begin this topic with the freshest of starts that I believe I could give it; Tom, after all, deserves it, doesn't he? ;)

Cheers,

Úlairi.
 
Last edited:

chrysophalax

Dragon of Note
Joined
Feb 12, 2002
Messages
1,948
Reaction score
4
Location
Prowling the Withered Heath
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

I'm glad you've framed this thread in this way, Ulairi, as it allows both the scholars among us and we ordinary mortals to participate.

For me, Tom and his territory have always represented that perfect place, a Shangri-la, if you will. He can come and go as he pleases, could give a toss about fashion, has an ambiguous relationship with the lovely daughter of a god, has great power and yet is satisfied with his cosy cottage. He's got it good!

This is not to say his little piece of paradise isn't fraught with danger. On the contrary, Old Man Willow and the Barrow Downs just on the edge of his self-imposed border, show us that even paradise has its pitfalls for the unwary and unheeding.

Of all the places in Middle Earth, the Old Forest has been the most intriguing for me. It has the very Lorien-like qualities of restfulness and timelessness, while at the same time Tom provides for his guests not only food and lodging, but entertainment and freely given advice, a perfect host.

There is also the hint of danger about his persona as Iarwain Ben-Adar as he saves the errant hobbits from the clutches of the barrow-wight. Just a hint more of his power comes peeking out, which only served to make me wonder what he might really be capable of should, say, the Black Riders attempt to pass his borders.

His carelessness with the Ring was just what I would have expected from a nature spirit, one not tied to possessions or caught up with normal earthly concerns. He almost seems a bit druidic in his lifestyle...the singing, chanting, walking among the trees and talking with the ponies are like glimpses into a time when people found nothing odd in such behaviour.

This is one creation of JRRT's I'd love to meet!
 

The Tall Hobbit

Registered User
Joined
Jan 11, 2002
Messages
84
Reaction score
0
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

I have heard many theories that he is Oromë which is ludicrous for various reasons (no Nahar being one of them).
Perhaps, if Oromë is Tom, Nahar is Fatty Lumpkin.

:D
 

Úlairi

Crying in the Wilderness
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
1,965
Reaction score
6
Location
Down the rabbit hole...
'Behold your Music!'

Perhaps, if Oromë is Tom, Nahar is Fatty Lumpkin.

:D
Nahar, the silver-shining majestic horse of the Vala Oromë, Fatty Lumpkin? I'll leave that one with you to figure out. ;)

I'm glad you've framed this thread in this way, Úlairi, as it allows both the scholars among us and we ordinary mortals to participate.
That was indeed what I was hoping for. There are simply some concepts and enigmas within the paper world between the lines where it is more interesting to listen to what scholars of life have to say; instead of the scholars imprisoned inside the letters.

Perhaps, with time, we can forge another thread worthy of the five stars! The Five Stars of Bombadil! :D

For me, Tom and his territory have always represented that perfect place, a Shangri-la, if you will.
Tom being a Shangri-La? What a thought-provoking rationalization. I would have to agree that the world which Tom created for himself - the land within his boundaries - is indeed an earthly paradise, to a point, as you say below.

I would have to say that Tom is a literary representation also of nirvana; a being at perfect peace in the world; and it is interesting that he is portrayed as such through Nature. There are many excerpts in The Return of the Shadow and The Treason of Isengard where Tom is referred to as an "Ab-Origine". Being from Australia there are a plethora of descriptions of the metaphysical connection that Aboriginals have with the land; which was recognized in Native Title disputes over ten years ago. Tom is the indigenous of Middle-earth and it is through his connection to the land from which he draws his power. Perhaps one of the purposes of the enigma of Tom is to contrast Tom with the Enemy. The Enemy being inherently mechanistic and destructive; seeking to destroy and eradicate Nature or at the very least to warp, twist, mar and pervert it to its own designs.

Why then, in the context of this discussion, was Tom able to overpower the Barrow-wights and Old Man Willow?

I also believe that Tom may also be a device used by Tolkien to enamour the reader and incite a passionate love for the Middle-earth of his imagination. A Middle-earth that, at this point of the story, may be lost in the triumph of the Dark.

This is not to say his little piece of paradise isn't fraught with danger. On the contrary, Old Man Willow and the Barrow Downs just on the edge of his self-imposed border, show us that even paradise has its pitfalls for the unwary and unheeding.
Perhaps then it is not Paradise; but Tom's Paradise. A mirage to the rest of us sinners. ;)

Of all the places in Middle Earth, the Old Forest has been the most intriguing for me. It has the very Lorien-like qualities of restfulness and timelessness, while at the same time Tom provides for his guests not only food and lodging, but entertainment and freely given advice, a perfect host.
Yes, intrigue! But Tom also has knowledge of the outside world. He knows Barliman Butterbur, the Kingdom of Arnor before it fell to the Witch-king and the Coming of the Elves from Aman. Tom could also be that desire in all of us to carve out our own Paradise amidst a world of turmoil.

There is also the hint of danger about his persona as Iarwain Ben-Adar as he saves the errant hobbits from the clutches of the barrow-wight. Just a hint more of his power comes peeking out, which only served to make me wonder what he might really be capable of should, say, the Black Riders attempt to pass his borders.
And this aspect of Bombadil I find myself being the most fascinating of all of them. His Power. I truly wish to investigate with all the scholars of the lines and the scholars outside them about the intrinsic power that resides within Music. Yavanna created the Trees; Arda was wrought into Being; LĂșthien casted spells over the Enemy; Finrod contested Sauron and Tom rescued the Hobbits using the power of Music. Tom continually states that he is the greater singer. Let's all make some Music together. Ëa! Let these things Be!

His carelessness with the Ring was just what I would have expected from a nature spirit, one not tied to possessions or caught up with normal earthly concerns. He almost seems a bit druidic in his lifestyle...the singing, chanting, walking among the trees and talking with the ponies are like glimpses into a time when people found nothing odd in such behaviour.

This is one creation of JRRT's I'd love to meet!
Me too, but he makes me want to pull my hair out! Perhaps he really is JRRT enshrined within the story itself. Perhaps Tolkien is looking to create Music of his own...

Cheers,

Úlairi.
 
Last edited:

The Tall Hobbit

Registered User
Joined
Jan 11, 2002
Messages
84
Reaction score
0
Re: 'Behold your Music!'

Nahar, the silver-shining majestic horse of the Vala Oromë, Fatty Lumpkin? I'll leave that one with you to figure out. ;)
Well, 10,000+ years is a long time to maintain one's physique.

:)

Joking aside, I've always assumed that Tom (and Goldberry too) was some kind of nature spirit.

Perhaps he is a holdover from the earlier forms of Tolkien's mythology when it still included:

(from the Book of Lost Tales Part 1 Chapter 3)
"a great host who are the sprites of trees and woods, of dale and forest and mountain-side, or those that sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve. These are the Nermir and the Tavari, Nandini and Orossi, brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns, and what else are they not called, for their number is very great: yet must they not be confused with the Eldar, for they were born before the world and are older than its oldest, and are not of it, but laugh at it much, for had they not somewhat to do with its making, so that it is for the most part a play for them;
 

Úlairi

Crying in the Wilderness
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
1,965
Reaction score
6
Location
Down the rabbit hole...
Re: 'Behold your Music!'

Perhaps he is a holdover from the earlier forms of Tolkien's mythology when it still included:

(from the Book of Lost Tales Part 1 Chapter 3)
"a great host who are the sprites of trees and woods, of dale and forest and mountain-side, or those that sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve. These are the Nermir and the Tavari, Nandini and Orossi, brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns, and what else are they not called, for their number is very great: yet must they not be confused with the Eldar, for they were born before the world and are older than its oldest, and are not of it, but laugh at it much, for had they not somewhat to do with its making, so that it is for the most part a play for them;
A magnificent find, The Tall Hobbit! I'm awestruck at the similarities between Tom and the spirits described in the above quote. I should read The Book of Lost Tales but I can never bring myself to get too far through it. :rolleyes:

The most ambiguous (and thus intriguing) part of the passage is that these nature spirits are not of the world, like the Valar; and must also be Ă«alar. Curious. It's very late so I'll have to ponder over this discovery; I believe there may be nexus here to Tulkas.

Cheers,

Úlairi.
 

ltnjmy

Registered User
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
93
Reaction score
3
Location
West from Imladris
Re: 'Behold your Music!'

Well, 10,000+ years is a long time to maintain one's physique.

:)

Joking aside, I've always assumed that Tom (and Goldberry too) was some kind of nature spirit.

Perhaps he is a holdover from the earlier forms of Tolkien's mythology when it still included:

(from the Book of Lost Tales Part 1 Chapter 3)
"a great host who are the sprites of trees and woods, of dale and forest and mountain-side, or those that sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve. These are the Nermir and the Tavari, Nandini and Orossi, brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns, and what else are they not called, for their number is very great: yet must they not be confused with the Eldar, for they were born before the world and are older than its oldest, and are not of it, but laugh at it much, for had they not somewhat to do with its making, so that it is for the most part a play for them;
Dear Tall Hobbit,
You may have hit it right on the mark - the mystique about Tom Bombadill. Thanks for your posting !
very sincerely, ltnjmy
 

The Tall Hobbit

Registered User
Joined
Jan 11, 2002
Messages
84
Reaction score
0
Re: 'Behold your Music!'

I believe there may be nexus here to Tulkas.
The same passage which I quoted from above indicates that this "host" of spirits came into the world in the company of Aule and Palurien (an early name for Yavanna).

The very next paragraph names Tulkas as being among those who came later.
 

The Tall Hobbit

Registered User
Joined
Jan 11, 2002
Messages
84
Reaction score
0
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

The Book of Lost Tales also makes reference to another group of nature spirits associated with water: "the troops of the Oarni and Falmarini and the long-tressed Wingildi, and these are the spirits of the foam and the surf of ocean."

So far as I am aware, neither of these hosts of nature spirits is ever mentioned again after the Book of Lost Tales, but neither is there any place where Tolkien specifically rejects their existance.

Could it be that they are still a real and legitimate (but unmentioned) part of the final form of the mythology?

If so, and if Tom belongs to the first host (the sprites of trees and woods, of dale and forest and mountain-side), could Goldberry (or, at least, her mother - the River Woman) belong to this second host (the spirits of the foam and the surf)?
 
Last edited:

Úlairi

Crying in the Wilderness
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
1,965
Reaction score
6
Location
Down the rabbit hole...
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

The Book of Lost Tales also makes reference to another group of nature spirits associated with water: "the troops of the Oarni and Falmarini and the long-tressed Wingildi, and these are the spirits of the foam and the surf of ocean."
There may be the issue of the literal connection between foam and surf and River-daughter; but I believe that you've made quite the discovery, TTH. So much so that it is without question the best theory I've yet seen about TB and Goldberry; one that I plan to adopt.

So far as I am aware, neither of these hosts of nature spirits is ever mentioned again after the Book of Lost Tales, but neither is there any place where Tolkien specifically rejects their existance.
I've looked and looked and I too can find no further references to the spirits mentioned in the above passage.

In my index of The Book of Lost Tales - Volume I I have minor descriptions of what they are:

Nermir: Fays of the meads.
Tavari: Fays of the woods.
Nandini: Fays of the valleys.
Orossi: Fays of the mountains.

Oarni: Spirits of the sea.
FalmarĂ­ni: Spirits of the sea-foam.
Wingildi (long-tressed): Spiritis of the sea-foam.

Now, if I had to choose which category Tom derived from I would have to say that he was Tavari (however Nandini or Nermir may be equally valid).

Could it be that they are still a real and legitimate (but unmentioned) part of the final form of the mythology?
I too, am wondering this myself. Has this passage truly been discredited in its entirety for other subsequent preferences?

There are subsequent mentions of the Oarni further on in The Book of Lost Tales - Volume I:

The Book of Lost Tales - Volume I: III - The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor

Then Ossë, for Ulmo was not there, gathered to him the Oarni, and putting forth their might they dragged that island whereon stood the Valar westward from the waters till they came to Eruman, whose high shores held the angry flood - and that was the first tide. ...

OssĂ« too had a great house, and dwelt therein whenso a conclave of the Valar was held or did he grow weary of the noise of the waves upon his seas. Ónen and the Oarni brought thousands of pearls for its building ...

The Book of Lost Tales - Volume I: V - The Coming of the Elves and the Making of KĂŽr

Then Falman-Ossë's heart melted towards them and he would have released them, save for the new joy and pride he had that their beauty dwelt thus amidmost of his realm, so that their pipes gave perpetual pleasure to his ear, and Uinen and the Oarni and all the spirits of the waves were enamoured of them. ...

Now is Ossë very fain of those Solosimpi, the shoreland pipers, and if Ulmo be not nigh he sits upon a reef at sea and many of the Oarni are by him ...

For lo! the Teleri and the Noldoli complain much to Manwë of the separation of the Solosimpi, and the Gods desire them to be drawn to Valinor; but Ulmo cannot yet think of any device save by help of Ossë and the Oarni, and will not be humbled to this.
It may very well be that we cannot assume the authenticity of the spirits mentioned as, based on the passages above, JRRT obviously abandoned them for later concepts. The Oarni are quite intricate creations and appear to be Ainur of lesser degree in the service of Ossë. Would we thus be able to assume that the Nermir, Tavari, Nandini and Orossi are also Ainur? This would still then possibly entail that Tom was indeed Maia.

What the most alluring aspect, as aforementioned, is the acknowledgement that they came initially from beyond Arda with Yavanna, Ulmo and AulĂ«. I interpret this unequivocally to infer that they are Ainur-Maiar. The quote goes further on to emphasize the distinction made between these spirits and the Eldar: that the Eldar are part of the world and are thus enamoured by it. It is coterminous with the shape and hue that the Valar took upon themselves after their Vision of the Children of IlĂșvatar in the AinulindalĂ«. The language employed by Tolkien is virtually identical:

The Silmarillion: Ainulindalë - The Music of the Ainur

Moreover their [the Ainur/Valar] shape comes of their knowledge of the visible World, rather than of the World itself...
It is interesting that they consider the Unravelling of Arda to be a mere play; whereas the Valar (and many of the Maiar) take the hurts, pains, sufferings and triumphs and victories of Arda quite seriously; as they are in governance. Is it that these Ainur are not troubled by Arda because they are devoid of responsibility?

If so, and if Tom belongs to the first host (the sprites of trees and woods, of dale and forest and mountain-side), could Goldberry (or, at least, her mother - the River Woman) belong to this second host (the spirits of the foam and the surf)?
I would agree that's quite a fair derivation from the text. However, Goldberry is referred to as a River-daughter. However:

The Silmarillion: Valaquenta - Account of the Valar and Maiar according to the lore of the Eldar

But mostly Ulmo speaks to those who dwell in Middle-earth with voices that are heard only as the music of water. For all seas, lakes, rivers, fountains and springs are in his government ...
Although the Oarni, Falmaríni and Wingildi came with Ossë into Arda, as Ulmo was the Lord of Waters and of Ossë, it would be plausible that they too were in Ulmo's service and became river-spirits. Goldberry may have even been an offspring of Ossë and Uinen.

What I contend confirms that these spirits were Maiar, apart from the overwhelming evidence above, is the fact that Bombadil sings in attaining victory over his enemies. This appears to be a remnant of The Music of the Ainur in which thought was achieved as acrion through musical expression of being. The greater singer being the victor:

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - In the House of Tom Bombadil

Old grey Willow-man, he's a mighty singer; and it's hard for little folk to escape his cunning mazes. But Tom had an errand there, that he dared not hinder. ...

But none were more dangerous than the Great Willow: his heart was rotten, but his strength was green; and he was cunning, and a master of winds, and his song and thought ran through the woods on both sides of the river. ...

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Fog on the Barrow-downs

Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow,
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master.
His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.
This predominant theme of music and the inherent strength and power that derives from it permeates all of Tolkien's texts. Is it through music, the creative force of Arda that Bombadil asserts his dominion; and the connection to the Music is undeniable.

Tom, being a nature-spirit that likely descended into Arda at its making must therefore be an Ainur of some degree.

Great find, TTH. I'm also interested to see what Bombadil means to you personally; but don't let that hinder the discussion above either!!!

Cheers,

Úlairi.
 

The Tall Hobbit

Registered User
Joined
Jan 11, 2002
Messages
84
Reaction score
0
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

To me personally, Tom is one of Tolkiens most interesting (and amusing) creations.

It has often been said that Tom doesn't quite fit in LOTR; but to me, he (or rather, the hobbits' adventures with him) provides a much needed transition from the "The Hobbit" like tone of LOTR's early chapters to the more serious writing style of the rest of the book.

I am also quite fond of Tolkien's three poems about Tom: "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil", "Bombadil goes Boating", and "Once upon a time".

The first two can be found in the book: The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
The Last can be found in the book: Winter's Tales for Children

As for the connection between "River-Daughter" and "the spirits of the foam and the surf of ocean":

I would point out that river water does sometimes foam (for example: white water rapids or the foam at the base of a waterfall).
 

The Tall Hobbit

Registered User
Joined
Jan 11, 2002
Messages
84
Reaction score
0
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

Could Tom's seeming immunity to the ring have as much to do with his personality as with his powers?

That is, perhaps the ring simply can't tempt him because he does not desire the types of power which it can offer.

He is a happy carefree being who simply does not see power or dominion over others as something to be desired.
 

Úlairi

Crying in the Wilderness
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Messages
1,965
Reaction score
6
Location
Down the rabbit hole...
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

To me personally, Tom is one of Tolkiens most interesting (and amusing) creations.

It has often been said that Tom doesn't quite fit in LOTR; but to me, he (or rather, the hobbits' adventures with him) provides a much needed transition from the "The Hobbit" like tone of LOTR's early chapters to the more serious writing style of the rest of the book.
To tell you truth, I never first adhered to Tom and I also was a naysayer about his place in LoTR. However, over the years I have developed a genuine liking of him; and the purpose of his enigma, as well as his Allegory. Tom, for me, as I have said above, is a device used by Tolkien to enamour the reader with Middle-earth. He is there to propound Middle-earth to the reader, to encapsulate it, and to therefore induce the fear that this place so loved by its inhabitants (as the Hobbits are also used for this purpose) may fall unto the dominion of evil. This is why I believe Tolkien has clothed himself within his own story; as it is through his understanding of this connection between himself as a reader of his own work and the world he has created as an author that he leaves a piece of himself behind in Tom - an important piece. Tom is JRRT and Middle-earth. Tom is Imagination. Tom's interaction with the One Ring I personally believe is there to show us that there is also the concept of incorruptibility existent within Middle-earth. There is something extrinsic of evil that isn't attracted to it or corrupted by it. Tom may just be that elusive ideal of Arda Unmarred; but in Middle-earth!

As for the connection between "River-Daughter" and "the spirits of the foam and the surf of ocean":

I would point out that river water does somtimes foam (for example: white water rapids or the foam at the base of a waterfall).
Yes, but conversely I would point out that they all were spirits of sea-foam. For the sake of semantics though perhaps I could concede on tributaries. ;)

Cheers,

Úlairi.
 

Tyelkormo

Registered User
Joined
Jan 11, 2009
Messages
60
Reaction score
2
Location
Germany
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

Tolkien writes in letter 144 "Tom Bombadil is not an important person - to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a 'comment'. I mean, I do not really write like that: He is just an invention (...) and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyse the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in if he did not have some kind of function."

So it could be said that Tolkien himself realises that Bombadil is not that important for this specific story, but is more of a side comment, albeit one that Tolkien, for some reasons that seem diffuse to himself, considers essential to make.

Earlier in the same letter, he wrote:
"And even in a mythical Age, there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally)."

In letter 19, Tolkien asked his publisher "Do you think Tom Bombadil, the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside, could be made into the hero of a story?"

I think we have to be careful not to seek more meaning than there is. Tolkien states that Bombadil, while fulfilling a function, is not truly important to the narrative. He describes Bombadil as the spirit of English countryside - which makes him kind of a stranger to the Middle-Earth stories, especially inasmuch as they do not represent the stage of his mythology being a "mythology for England" anymore. Tom had a history outside LotR, and as such, he's an autonomous element dropped into Middle Earth, sharing the events there for a while, without really being part of them, even if he were to be a protagonist (which he is not), much like Alice has adventures in Wonderland, but is not really more than a visitor. And that's also the reason why the Ring doesn't affect him, in my eyes: As much as the Ring may try to tell him what to do, it's nothing more than the Queen of Hearts berating Alice "Hold your tongue!", on which she says "you're nothing but a pack of cards! Who cares for you?"

I'm not really sure there should be more seen in him than that. Since Tolkien sees him as the spirit of the Oxford and Berkshire countryside, why not leave it at that? Tolkien states he is an enigma intentionally, and if I were to speculate, then the reason why Tolkien doesn't want to state more than that or analyze the feeling why he wants to leave him in the story, is that the result might seem to him something not really flattering if widely known, such as a kind of sentimentality and nostalgia. Being (in my eyes) a late-late-late romantic writer, Tolkien definitely had such feelings. But, much like he disliked sledgehammer type allegories, I think he wouldn't make such feelings too blatantly explicit.
 

Illuin

Fire On The Mountain
Joined
May 7, 2008
Messages
1,016
Reaction score
4
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

Originally posted by Tyelkormo
I think we have to be careful not to seek more meaning than there is. Tolkien states that Bombadil, while fulfilling a function, is not truly important to the narrative.


We all know how Tolkien felt when it came to "philosophizing" over Tom Bombadil. But I was hoping to see some fun, far out, newfangled ideas regardless. That would be a lot of fun if people jumped on board. Anyway, here’s a crazy one that popped into my head while reading Úlairi’s post:

Originally posted by Úlairi
I truly wish to investigate with all the scholars of the lines and the scholars outside them about the intrinsic power that resides within Music. Yavanna created the Trees; Arda was wrought into Being; LĂșthien casted spells over the Enemy; Finrod contested Sauron and Tom rescued the Hobbits using the power of Music. Tom continually states that he is the greater singer.
Interesting thought. If Tom can be thought of as a nature spirit, couldn’t we take it a bit further and say that Tom was a spirit of "The Music" of The Ainur (a spirit of The Music ascribed to the material creation of Arda). This is in essence the same as a nature spirit, because Ëa/Arda (nature) is simply a physical manifestation of The Music (a realization of The Music in time and matter). Maybe Tom’s singing is an echo of the actual Music of the Ainur, which has power over that which is unnatural (a reminder of how things were meant to be according to the original "template" of The Music). Old Man Willow was returned to his "proper" state after Tom’s song. The song lyrics themselves simply describe how a tree "should behave" according to the natural order of things (i.e. keeping things "in sync" with The Music ;)).

The Lord of The Rings - The Old Forest

'What be you a-thinking of? You should not be waking. Eat earth! Did deep! Drink water! Go to sleep! Bombadil is talking!'
Come on people, live a little :p.
 

Illuin

Fire On The Mountain
Joined
May 7, 2008
Messages
1,016
Reaction score
4
Re: Hey dol! Merry dol! a ring a dong dillo! The greatest enigma of all! Tom Bombadil

Wasn't it Treebeard who said that? :p
Only in the EE as well; I think. I never bothered with the theatrical version, so I’m not sure :cool:.

Hey, 700 posts. I'm in the 700 club now. Where's Jim and Tammy Faye?
 

Thread suggestions

Top