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Theory on why the Ring has no effect on Bombadil

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This is actually a pretty solid theory. If the Ring is to be used to get someone what they wanted, whether just invisibility like in the cases of Smeagol and Bilbo, to gold (in the case of dwarves), to power and strength (in the case of men and perhaps wizards), then, to somebody who was totally content the way they were and without a care in the world, the Ring would have NO effect whatsoever on them.

Granted, I think the first time Bilbo put the Ring on, he wasn't intending to make himself invisible, so it's not a solid argument that if you don't intend to use the Ring to do something, that it won't still do something to you. However, to be fair, on that one, now that I think of it, Bilbo WAS intending to NOT be found by Gollum, and the Ring obliged. As for Isildur, from what I can tell when he wore the Ring, he was intending NOT to be found by the Orcs (and the Ring obliged for a while, then betrayed him.) Had Bilbo found the Ring and not intended to hide from anyway or be invisible, perhaps it wouldn't have made him invisible.

Of course, on the other hand, I don't think Frodo was intending to be invisible at The Prancing Pony, but perhaps he'd had too much to drink and in his drunken mode, actually DID intend to disappear as a childish prank.


Anyway, as Bombadil doesn't seem too bothered that Sauron is on the loose or that he has evil Hourons on one side of his house and Barrow Wights on the other, I'd say he's totally happy the way he is.

As such, perhaps for that reason, the Ring is useless against him. Ironically, for that reason, it would indeed make him a very poor guardian of it. Either he would get bored of it and toss it away or caring for it enough to destroy it would get him to actually desire something he doesn't have (the destruction of the Ring). Hence, the Ring would try to tempt him to use it to make it easier to get to Mordor so that he could destroy it (which, would, of course, in time, end up backfiring by revealing him to Sauron, which would have been what the Ring really wanted.). Also, for that matter, it's also likely why Galadriel and Glorfindel didn't take the Ring. Even if they had the sense to know that keeping it as a weapon to defeat Sauron, rather than destroying it, was a foolish idea, the Ring could have gotten to them to use their powers to blast through foes in their way to Mordor in their quest to destroy the Ring, which would alert Sauron, who might even end up coming himself to waylay them.

Anyway, because Bombadil doesn't desire anything from the Ring and is content the way he is, the Ring doesn't affect him. As for how he was able to vanish it, I have no idea.


BTW, I think even Gandalf confirms my theory when he says "say not that he has power over the Ring, rather, that the Ring has no power over him."
 

Ron Simpson

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Anyway, as Bombadil doesn't seem too bothered that Sauron is on the loose or that he has evil Hourons on one side of his house and Barrow Wights on the other, I'd say he's totally happy the way he is. "
I used to spend alot of time trying to ‘think through’ Tom Bombadil’s (TB) situation until really smart people in this forum provided really good reasons why, maybe, I shouldn’t bother at all.
Letter 153 / JRRT:
I don't think Tom needs philosophizing about, and is not improved by it.
TB was more like a point of view, I think, which the author did not want any reader to forget. In my own personal opinion (with invited discussion most pleased) TB was:
  1. his personification of pacifist views from people impressed by the horrors of war and notions of right and wrong fading after dreadful cruelty/losses on both sides of a war and progressively understood by intellectuals like JRRT in the horrific battlefields of those times.
  2. a statement of mind, rather than an actor in his story.
Any further opinions, greatly welcome!
If we accept TB as an enigmatic non-actor in the narrative, then our worries are over. But as soon as we attempt to attach any logic to his actions and behaviours, then down the rabbit-hole we go. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

-Assistance in Wars: Tom helped out in none of them (Wars of Beleriand, War of Wrath, Conflicts with Angmar, The Last Alliance, War of the Ring, Invasion of the Shire (and wasn't Farmer Maggot his friend?) From a logical perspective, this behaviour is at odds with what you'd expect from the 'good guys' in the narrative. It makes no sense given that he had everything to lose had evil won the day
-Barrow Wights: why would TB allow them to exist in his domain into which he withdrew, and where he had complete mastery? Given that he had the power to freely cast them out, why indulge them?
-there’s more, but why bother ?

Isn’t it easier to just read through the 3 TB chapters, then forget him altogether and just keep going?
 
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Barliman

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Ummm...Bree, where else?
-Assistance in Wars: Tom helped out in none of them (Wars of Beleriand, War of Wrath, Conflicts with Angmar, The Last Alliance, War of the Ring, Invasion of the Shire (and wasn't Farmer Maggot his friend?) From a logical perspective, this behaviour is at odds with what you'd expect from the 'good guys' in the narrative. It makes no sense given that he had everything to lose had evil won the day
-Barrow Wights: why would TB allow them to exist in his domain into which he withdrew, and where he had complete mastery? Given that he had the power to freely cast them out, why indulge them?
-there’s more, but why bother ?
I just took him to be totally unconcerned about the wider world. Provided you didn't bother him he wouldn't bother you. If you were friendly, he'd befriend you, when it suited him. Maybe he liked Maggot's mushrooms as much as hobbits did. :)
 

Merroe

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... and maybe there is a second good reason:

It was a good brew, and Pippin found himself more than compensated for missing the Golden Perch.

That a guy like Barliman would overlook this fine detail...! :D
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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Ah, but did old Tom even drink beer?

The drink in their drinking-bowls seemed to be clear cold water, yet it went to their hearts like wine and set free their voices. The guests became suddenly aware that they were singing merrily, as if it were more natural than talking.

Which raises the question: what was in that stuff?! :eek:

Of course, Tom does quaff a few in "Bombadil Goes Boating", so it appears he wasn't a teetotaler, either.

Maybe Goldberry disapproved? ;)
 
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Celebrimbors bane

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Tolkien pretty much tells us why the ring doesn't have an effect on bombadil, due to pretty much being a pure pacifist, he hinself is a watcher not a doer and I think he accepts things (even evil things ) for what they are, he allows a huorn to reside near him, the witch king at some point rouses the spirits at the barrow downs which no doubt bombadil knew about yet doesn't intervene. He plays no part in the war of the rings because he's not looking for any form of control, hence the ring has nothing to play on with him.
 

Miguel

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Tolkien pretty much tells us why the ring doesn't have an effect on bombadil, due to pretty much being a pure pacifist, he hinself is a watcher not a doer and I think he accepts things (even evil things ) for what they are, he allows a huorn to reside near him, the witch king at some point rouses the spirits at the barrow downs which no doubt bombadil knew about yet doesn't intervene. He plays no part in the war of the rings because he's not looking for any form of control, hence the ring has nothing to play on with him.
A happy hippy?.

 
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Aramarien

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Frodo asked Goldberry, "Who is Tom Bombidil?" and she answered, "He is." " He is Master of wood, water, and hill....He has no fear..... he is Master." Goldberry says no one has caught him.

One thing I noticed, is that Tolkien capitalized "Master". No one has control over him.
There are many theories that Tom may be a Maiar. The Maiar that we do know, like Sauron, Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast and Melion seemed to have personalities, foibles, strengths and weaknesses. They had powers, some like Sauron more powerful.
Tom is master of wood, water, and hill and was in Middle Earth before even the first acorn. Tom seems to let nature be nature, but things like Old Man Willow, who seems to have become sentient like a Huorn, or even the Barrow Wights that are trying to use their own power for ill purposes, he has power over also.

I wonder, also, would the Ring make the Istari, or other Maia invisible? Perhaps if they weren't as strong as Sauron. Gandalf was afraid to wield it. He never said that he would become invisible.

Gandalf probably said it the most simply, " The Ring has no power over him. He is his own master", so that in itself is why Tom did not become invisible when wearing the Ring.
 

Gilgaearel

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The case of Tom Bombadil is quite simple.
TB was the master of himself. Someone who is master of him/her self can't be controlled by someone or something else and doesn't want to control anyone else not even his environment.
He doesn't need anything, doesn't miss anyone, can't be obsessed with other persons or objects alike.
He is what he is, as it is. The/any ring, person, object, situation, environment or whatever can't affect him.

I think that it would needless to say that TB is one of my favourite characters.
 

khorne

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i'm prob wrong but i get the impression that TB is an avatar of the creator/creation, enjoying his creation… there for the whole "He is" and master of water woods hills etc.( that's basically a description of the world)
Arda was created by a pure and perfect song and TB is a pure and perfect being.
an omnipotent being would prob live in the woods as an old man...just enjoying life.
showing off, dominating , violence etc. are the actions of insecure, fearfull and generally unhappy individuals.
 

Miguel

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i'm prob wrong but i get the impression that TB is an avatar of the creator/creation, enjoying his creation… there for the whole "He is" and master of water woods hills etc.( that's basically a description of the world)
Arda was created by a pure and perfect song and TB is a pure and perfect being.
an omnipotent being would prob live in the woods as an old man...just enjoying life.
showing off, dominating , violence etc. are the actions of insecure, fearfull and generally unhappy individuals.

"Fool, you have learned the lessons of your masters by rote, but such childish lore shall not help you"
 

Jordan

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Anyway, because Bombadil doesn't desire anything from the Ring and is content the way he is, the Ring doesn't affect him.
Like the Mirror of Erised!

I love this idea, that the Ring knows the bearer's innermost desires and can grant them, or the illusion of them. It's like the Ring is testing them to see how they deal with power, and only Tom Bombadil is unaffected because he sees it for what it is. Check out "The Lure of the Ring: Power, Addiction and Transcendence in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings," it's a really good analysis of Bombadil and the Ring.
 
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i'm prob wrong but i get the impression that TB is an avatar of the creator/creation, enjoying his creation… there for the whole "He is" and master of water woods hills etc.( that's basically a description of the world)
Arda was created by a pure and perfect song and TB is a pure and perfect being.
an omnipotent being would prob live in the woods as an old man...just enjoying life.
showing off, dominating , violence etc. are the actions of insecure, fearfull and generally unhappy individuals.
Possibly the creation. I don't think he could be Eru. Eru is stronger than the Valar and Sauron couldn't hope to beat a Vala so the idea that he could fall, albeit last, seems odd. I wonder if that's a clue to Bombadil's identity, that he'd be the LAST one to fall if Sauron conquered all else. Another thing I'm curious about is how close Morgoth came to conquering all before the War of Wrath (he pretty much had all of Beleriand under his control but the Shire and the area near it where Bombadil lived were east of Beleriand and so I'm not sure if Morgoth was near there or how well he'd have held out against him.

Like the Mirror of Erised!

I love this idea, that the Ring knows the bearer's innermost desires and can grant them, or the illusion of them. It's like the Ring is testing them to see how they deal with power, and only Tom Bombadil is unaffected because he sees it for what it is. Check out "The Lure of the Ring: Power, Addiction and Transcendence in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings," it's a really good analysis of Bombadil and the Ring.
I don't think that he'd see it for what it really was in the sense Gandalf did (which is why he wouldn't let Frodo give it to him.) Rather, I think he's happy the way he is (like Dumbledore said that the happiest man on earth would see himself exactly the way he is in the Mirror of Erised.)
 

Grond

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I'll look in the archives. ancalagon and I argued this in 2000. I argued Tom was a Maia. Anc argued he was an enigma placed in ME by Eru. I'll see if I can dig it up. It was well referenced from the Letters as well as Sil, UT and HoME.
 

Gothmog

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i'm prob wrong but i get the impression that TB is an avatar of the creator/creation, enjoying his creation… there for the whole "He is" and master of water woods hills etc.( that's basically a description of the world)
Arda was created by a pure and perfect song and TB is a pure and perfect being.
an omnipotent being would prob live in the woods as an old man...just enjoying life.
showing off, dominating , violence etc. are the actions of insecure, fearfull and generally unhappy individuals.
Arda was not created from a pure and perfect song but from a song marred by the discord of Melkor.

My view of TB is that he is one result of the battle in song between the Ainur following Melkor and those aligned with Manwe. It is for this reason he is an enigma to all in ME and a puzzle to all of us looking in :)
 

Iarwain Ben-edar

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I am perhaps a Avatar of Eru Illuvatar.
Maybe I am the creator in the former of a man, an immortal man!
That explains why nothing has control over me.
I am my master for it was me who created all (as Eru Illuvatar! )
It perhaps explains how I am oldest and first and the Fartherless.

P.S = You might be confused why I refer "I" all the time. That's because I am Tom Bombadil, for Iarwain Benedar means Oldest and Fatherless.

P.P.S = I wonder what happened to Bombadil after the war of the ring?
 

Olorgando

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Well, from external „evidence“, JRRT was still muddling his way through a “New Hobbit” at this time. And as Tom Shippey pointed out, Frodo had to be “dug out” of no less than five “homely houses” (Bag End, Crickhollow, Tom’s house, the Prancing Pony, and finally the original, Rivendell) before the action really gets under way – after the totally unfilmable chapter “The Council of Elrond”. And Tom had nothing to do with the mythology before LoTR – it was the name of a (Dutch) toy doll that Michael, JRRT’s second son (and child) once owned.

While the theory of Tom being a Maia is widespread, I have read some things that call this into question. There are vague references to other beings, neither Valar or Maiar, nor Elves or Men, in the Sil (and in HoMe). One that is definitely part of the Sil “canon” but at least as much of an enigma as Tom is Ungoliant. No explanation of any sort for her existence that I can recall (but I await correction by people with better memories and sources). But she did manage to grow in power to such a degree that even Morgoth, having returned to Middle-earth, needed the help of the Balrogs (how many?) still lurking there to get away from her. Tom as a sort of anti-Ungoliant? (Yes, my imagination can sometimes get away from me and run riot – ya gotta get used to it! ;) )
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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the totally unfilmable chapter “The Council of Elrond”.
You've clearly read Shippey's analysis of the chapter! I'd agree with you, except that, with some cutting, I believe it would be filmable. One way would be to cut to the scenes being narrated; to show what was being described. IIRC, PJ didn't do much of this, mainly, I suppose, because he tended to anticipate the action, dispelling much of the mystery and tension leading up to the Council.

At any rate, a sequence was possible, better than the hash that was made out of it.
 

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