Crying in the Wilderness
- Jan 13, 2002
- Reaction score
- 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:
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
'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.'
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 - 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!
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 - 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 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 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.'
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.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 Númenor 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.