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What IS Tom Bombadil?

What do you think Tom Bombadil was?

  • Vala..

    Votes: 25 13.4%
  • Maia..

    Votes: 41 21.9%
  • Nature/Earth Spirit..

    Votes: 83 44.4%
  • Other.. (Post your view below)

    Votes: 38 20.3%

  • Total voters
    187

Peeping-Tom

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Hmm, I don't know what to say...

"Help, my world is collapsing, the stars are falling down...Tom's Evil!"


Nice twist though...:*up

Now he can be both, Sauron and the witch-King....at the same time...:*D

Mind-buggling....
 

Rendi

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Here, I think.
Maybe Tom is an irreducible enigma. No rules seem to apply to him. No danger threatens him. He hasn't the slightest concern for the fate of the world. Maybe Tolkien himself did not know (or try to define) what Bombadil was about. Perhaps he was a trickster/earth spirit. Maybe he is Pan, the Jack-o-the-green, the springtime fool, that which cannot be understood or defined. Maybe he is Eru in the world or some avatar of Eru. Who knows? If Tolkien himself did not know, how can we?
 

Pink Fealinde

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^I agree with this. Tom Bombadil strikes me somewhat as Tolkien's "Exception to prove the rule". Either that, or some kind of toned-down incarnation of God... I'll have to read through this thread, methinks.
 

SharkeyPurist

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Ol' Tom Bombadil breaks the fourth wall. He was invented by Tolkien prior to Middle-Earth, yet was included as is in LOTR. This makes him, from a real world perspective, the oldest member of ME.

He was the character who came about first in the real world of Tolkien's writing process. I think that's what Tolkien meant to convey, an inside joke about Tom being older than ME because he pre-dated Tolkien's ME writings, and is included in them.
 

OfRhosgobel

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Re: Tom Bombadil

Tolkien never said exactly who it was but he gave a few hints, and that has caused many theories on what he is.. So, what do you think he is?

This thread is now merged with 'What Was Tom Bombadil' originally in The History of Middle-Earth section Ancalagon.

This thread is now merged with numerous Tom Bombadil threads scattered hap hazardly over the forum in the last two days from Stuff and Bother and the Movie Forum Grond

This thread now merged with other Tom B threads.
Now his elven name reveals a bit about old Tom; Iarwain Ben-adar is his name in Quenya and it means both "oldest" and "fatherless". Glorfindel says at the council of Elrond that if Bombadil was given the ring to protect, and Sauron bent all his will and power on him to take the ring back, then "Bombadil would fall, Last as he was the First". So I think that Tom was the first spirit to descend to Arda from the "Void" even before the Valar! But he is no god. He is perhaps the most powerful nature spirit in the writings of Tolkien. That is how I would classify Tom, as a nature spirit. Simply because he is so strange to us, in the ways he speaks and sings seemingly nonsensicle words, and his attitude towards the world and what goes on in it. Gandalf says in the Council of Elrond when asked by Erestor if Tom would take the ring to protect it: "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." For Tom to have such a poor grasp and concept of such important matters shows his mind to be very queer to our own, and puts him in congruency with a nature spirit I beleive, like the Huorns. Goldberry, however, I think is a Maiar of Ulmo. She was said to be the daughter of the river-woman of the Withywindle River and did not speak strangley as Tom did.
 

Eledhwen

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I find Talierin's post, near the beginning of this thread, to be the most convincing argument. It matches character traits, history and relationships; with reasons for rejecting alternatives, to arrive at a superb conclusion for the identity of the character Tolkien called "the spirit of the vanishing landscapes of Oxfordshire and Berkshire." (Carpenter, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, No. 19.). It's a long post (three separate replies to fit it all in), but well worth reading in its entirety.
 

Bucky

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It never fails to amaze me how folks interject their opinions above what Tolkien SAYS.

A third of the folks vote one form of Ainur or the other.

Ainur are not 'inigmas' or 'the spirit of the vanishing countryside' (whatever, paraphrase)

But let us not have the author's words get in the way of our opinions on HIS work, lol. :*rolleyes:
 

Eledhwen

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There are no minimum entry requirements, as regards debating and arguing skills, for this forum; and I'm glad of it. So long as any criticism is constructive and polite, those whose opinions are based on a shallower depth of knowledge can learn and develop, and become like some of the great debaters who have graced these boards. I work in a school for 11-16 year olds where the question "What is Tom Bombadil?" would be met with blank stares, "Dunno!" or cocky answers like "Is he that new kid in Year 8?"
 

Arvedui

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It never fails to amaze me how folks interject their opinions above what Tolkien SAYS.

A third of the folks vote one form of Ainur or the other.

Ainur are not 'inigmas' or 'the spirit of the vanishing countryside' (whatever, paraphrase)

But let us not have the author's words get in the way of our opinions on HIS work, lol. :*rolleyes:
Ah, but it is always such a nuisance when someone ruins a good discussion with facts...
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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Dang -- here's another one:


I haven't compared them, to see if parts of that one were incorporated into the first.
raise_thread.jpg
 

Erestor Arcamen

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Dang -- here's another one:


I haven't compared them, to see if parts of that one were incorporated into the first.
View attachment 6478
To be fair, there's probably enough threads on both Tom Bombadil and also the Entwives that each could have their own subforums on TTF
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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Since I dragged this thread from its grave, I suppose I should add something for future intrepid explorers of the catacombs.

Someone in the early pages here likened TB to the Ents, which sounds odd, but the connection isn't as outlandish as it seems.

Romance polarizes its characters into a good/evil opposition, for the most part, but Northrop Frye, in his Anatomy of Criticism, after exploring this, examines another class of character:

The characters who elude the moral antithesis of heroism and villainy generally are or suggest spirits of nature. They represent partly the moral neutrality of the intermediate world of nature and partly a world of mystery which is glimpsed but never seen, and which retreats when approached. Among female characters of this type are the shy nymphs of Classical legends and the elusive half-wild creatures who might be called daughter-figures, and include Spencer's Florimell, Hawthorne's Pearl, Wagner's Kundry, and Hudson's Rima. Their male counterparts have a little more variety. Kipling's Mowgli is the best known of the wild boys; a green man lurked in the forests of medieval England, appearing as Robin Hood and as the knight of Gawain's adventure; the "salvage man", represented in Spenser by Satyrane, is a Renaissance favorite, and the awkward but faithful giant with unkempt hair has shambled amiably through romance for centuries.

Such characters are, more or less, children of nature, who can be brought to serve the hero, like Crusoe's Friday, but retain the inscrutability of their origin. As servants or friends of the hero, they impart the mysterious rapport with nature that so often marks the central figure of romance. The paradox that many of these children of nature are "supernatural" beings is not as distressing in romance as in logic. The helpful fairy, the grateful dead man, the wonderful servant who has just the abilities the hero needs in a crisis, are all folk tale commonplaces.
We can see from this how many otherwise mysterious or incongruous characters fit into the story; not only Tom and Goldberry, but the Ents, Ghan-buri-Ghan, and the "Deadmen"; they are all part of long tradition.
 
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vnocito

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Tom Bombadil

Tolkien never said exactly who it was but he gave a few hints, and that has caused many theories on what he is.. So, what do you think he is?

This thread is now merged with 'What Was Tom Bombadil' originally in The History of Middle-Earth section Ancalagon.

This thread is now merged with numerous Tom Bombadil threads scattered hap hazardly over the forum in the last two days from Stuff and Bother and the Movie Forum Grond

[color=008000]This thread now merged with other Tom B threads.[/color]
Based upon my extensive knowledge of British folklore, and Celtic / pagan mythology, it seems wildly obvious to me that Tom Bombadil represents the "Green Man" the god of nature and fertility akin to Dionysus - He is the "Master" of beasts and wild things so extensively discussed in the writings of Anthropologist Margaret Murray. His Wife Goldberry, the "river daughter" is obviously a type of river goddess, or Lady of the Lake / goddess of the well, so prevalent in British folklore. She represents the Earth Mother Goddess who is forever linked with the Green Man / God of nature.

Based upon my extensive knowledge of British folklore, and Celtic / pagan mythology, it seems wildly obvious to me that Tom Bombadil represents the "Green Man" the god of nature and fertility akin to Dionysus - He is the "Master" of beasts and wild things so extensively discussed in the writings of Anthropologist Margaret Murray. His Wife Goldberry, the "river daughter" is obviously a type of river goddess, or Lady of the Lake / goddess of the well, so prevalent in British folklore. She represents the Earth Mother Goddess who is forever linked with the Green Man / God of nature. ... The Reason Bombadil is immune to the Ring, and according to accounts has existed fro the dawn of time, is precisely because he is the God of Nature / Fertility - he is immortal, just like the Great Mother goddess / Goldberry. Sauron with all his evil, is just another foolish mortal being living in the world that belongs to tom Bombadil and Goldberry... his magic is irrelevant to them.
 

Olorgando

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Sauron with all his evil, is just another foolish mortal being living in the world that belongs to tom Bombadil and Goldberry... his magic is irrelevant to them.
As Sauron is clearly a Maia (and was present in whatever participatory function of the Music of the Ainur of The Sil), calling him mortal "seems" to me to be going beyond JRRT "canon" as badly as PJ often did in his six films. And while JRRT may not have entirely ignored Celtic mythology, it certainly takes a back seat (and I'm not thinking of cars here, more long-distance buses like the Greyhound in the US) to Norse mythology. For "Sauron is mortal" you had better dig up some quotes by JRRT himself … 🤨
 

vnocito

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As Sauron is clearly a Maia (and was present in whatever participatory function of the Music of the Ainur of The Sil), calling him mortal "seems" to me to be going beyond JRRT "canon" as badly as PJ often did in his six films. And while JRRT may not have entirely ignored Celtic mythology, it certainly takes a back seat (and I'm not thinking of cars here, more long-distance buses like the Greyhound in the US) to Norse mythology. For "Sauron is mortal" you had better dig up some quotes by JRRT himself … 🤨
I confess that my statement on Sauron may be hyperbole, however I stick to my assessment of Celtic / British folkloric influences in JRRT: anyone familiar with British folklore surrounding the Green Man and Goddesses of wells/ springs/ rivers, cannot help but see the link to Bombadil & Goldberry. Even though JRRT may not have explicitly stated the fact (or even been conscious of it) himself, his creation of the character Bombadil would have been influenced by the mere fact of his being British, and having the cultural background in which Green Man / horned god of the wilds folklore is a part. Even today, English villages host traditional seasonal celebrations surrounding these mythic figures - this would’ve been even more prevalent and part of British cultural assumptions in JRRT’s day. As for Norse myths- I agree they’re a big part of JRRT’s sources- However, much of what survives of Norse Mythology bears strong evidence of blending with both Christian, and earlier Celtic ideas. Truth be told, it’s hard to say what of Norse Mythology is truly original, and what of it is a hybrid with later additions. By the time the Norsemen & Vikings came on the scene, Christianity and Celtic myth were already established in Britain, and as we know from anthropology- premodern people had a habit of adopting and admixing mythologies together.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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Frye addresses the Green Man, and other manifestations, in the passage I quoted above.

And welcome to the forum, vnocito! :)
 
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