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Liriodendron 10-04-2002 08:04 AM

I feel like you, Mark. (Helen!) Though I appreciate the charming "Englishness" of the Shire and all, I don't need "England" to find the Shire. Never did! That's the magic spell The Hobbit and LoTRs cast upon me at first readings! Any temperate zone forest with a good mix of deciduous trees and evergreens, mossy stumps and stones, gnarley old tree roots, mysterious piles of brush with shadowed holes and depressions in the middleground, will do it for me. I think more of the "feel of the moment", and the ability to take joy in "magic" for magic's sake, as the appeal of the Shire, Old Forest, Bombadil and all. That's the fairy thing (in my mind). Obviously, I've never been to England! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

[ October 04, 2002: Message edited by: Liriodendron ]

Child of the 7th Age 10-04-2002 08:44 AM


And so, pictures of England and Scotland look like the Shire to me, and as much as they do, I love them. No offense intended to anybody; but I do not love England for its own sake. I love it when (and if) it reminds me of hobbits, or Eriador, or Weathertop, or The Tower Hills.

I think Tolkien himself would have agreed with you.

The Shire which Tolkien depicts is an admittedly idealized portrait. On at least one level, it's the author's view of what England ideally could have, or rather, should have been, not what it actually was.

In reality, Tolkien found many (perhaps most?) aspects of modern England unappealing and even distasteful. These didn't attract him in the slightest. He probably felt that this blight, scenic or otherwise, arose from values that had been ignored or even willfully abused. He found these things depressing, since they represented, at best, an England which had failed to live up to its potential and, at worst, an England which had been corrupted by evil. But he loved his country well enough to keep hunting in the nooks and crannies for those sparks of the "real" England.

Although the Shire represented the best parts of England, I would add that JRRT did not the deny the reality of evil even here. The Shire is idealized only in a relative sense. It is still part of Arda Marred. Small evils like gossip, possessiveness, sticking one's head in the sand, blindness to the desirability of spiritual or mental awakening--all these are evident in Hobbits, and these evils come from within, not from outside, the Shire.

But even with these shortcomings, the Shire still seems to many people as if it would be a pleasant place to live. That's one of the reasons that the ending at Grey Havens is so poignant. If the Shire had been a nasty place, we would have been cheering for Frodo to get on the boat and leave. But we aren't cheering. Our hearts are split; we can see that Frodo is going towards good, but he's also leaving good behind. This makes us sad, yet it's also realistic.

There's something that Lewis wrote which I think relates to this whole question of England and how the Shire represents the heart of England. Many years ago, I remember reading something in his sci fi trilogy about "Logres". For Lewis, every country had a true soul and a true name. Lewis called the true soul of England "Logres". And Tolkien's Shire embodies a little bit of Logres, I think.

There's an interesting difference between Tolkien and Lewis on this quest for the true soul of England. Lewis was always taking part in vigorous cross-country walks, way off the beaten track, searching for scenic hideouts. He'd take a backpack and go off with his friends on long hikes, sometimes staying overnight and stopping at country pubs.

JRRT didn't do much of this. But then, with four children, it's no wonder. His style was to find little hidden plces near his own home. Clyde Klby mentions that, in 1965, he was going with JRRT in a motor car on the main road between Oxford and London. I was on that same road several times in 1967-68, and I can tell you that, even then, it was very busy. Scenically, it really wasn't anything "special" by most people's standards (not like driving through the highlands of Scotland or the dales of Yorkshire!) Yet, on that short, bland trip, Tolkien "pointed out little hills to the north of us that, he said, were just right for Hobbit territory."

I, like many, am doomed to live in an urban area. With husband and children, my life experience is closer to that of Tolkien than Lewis. So I really do appreciate Tolkien's ability to find the hidden pieces of the real England (and by implication parts of Middle-earth) by driving down a main road and just fixing his gaze a little way off on the horizon. That is a rare gift of true seeing!


[ October 04, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]

littlemanpoet 10-04-2002 02:42 PM

Thank you, Helen aka Mark 14-20 for helping me figure out what it was that was bugging me about the direction we've been going with the Englishness thing. For a more filled out explanation, see my most recent post in "Losing sight of the basics".


The Shire which Tolkien depicts is an admittedly idealized portrait. On at least one level, it's the author's view of what England ideally could have, or rather, should have been, not what it actually was.
Thank you, Sharon, for providing further evidence for my latest hypothesis. What we all love is only Englishness because we are English speakers. It is the way, par excellence, for us to receive that Something we all crave from the deepest tap root of mythic story.

You describe, Sharon, the evil (pettiness) woven through the Shire. My concern is primarily with those places near the Shire: the Old Forest and the House of Tom Bombadil. These are Faerie as can only be communicated to English speakers.


For Lewis, every country had a true soul and a true name. Lewis called the true soul of England "Logres". And Tolkien's Shire embodies a little bit of Logres, I think.
I called it Perelandra as a "perhaps", in the other thread, but you are right: Logres is nearer the mark. The Shire, however, is not. The Shire is enjoyable, but let us be reminded of that great quote (Bethberry?) that said the Hobbits are merely suburban unless deepened by that touch of Faerie that is Bombadil and Goldberry - and the Elves, I grant you, but they just don't quite do it for this English speaker, not like Tom and Goldberry and Old Man Willow.

I recognize Tolkien's comment regarding hills off in the distance being like Hobbiton or the Shire. There are all kinds of places near where I live that have made it into my story. In Tolkien's case, just as in mine, these are not Faerie; they are one remove from it.

If I seem especially hard-hitting on this point, it is because I am excited with having rediscovered the truth behind it all that I had once known and forgotten. Thanks, Helen!

littlemanpoet 10-06-2002 08:03 PM

I think one aspect of what makes Tom and Goldberry - and Old Man Willow so beautiful - special - fascinating to me, is that they seem to hark back to Arda unmarred, to borrow a phrase.

Steering clear of allegory, Tom and Goldberry remind me of C.S. Lewis's Perelandra AFTER the story is over; only Tom and Goldberry are better because Tolkien doesn't have the screwed up notion still stuck in Lewis at this time that men are creationally superior to women.

I think this is why I see the House of Tom and Goldberry, and their haunts of the Old Forest and the Downs and the Withywindle as a kind of Eden (as applicatory, still steering clear of allegory). Tom and Goldberry, Tolkien has reflected, are the spirit of the vanishing Oxfordshire countryside. I think it is at least as true that T & G are epitome's of what an unfallen humanity would look like, in harmony with nature and each other, having a house full of music, safe and cozy, and familiar and comfortable and packed full of archetype. It has been discussed elsewhere on this board that Frodo's attraction to Goldberry is hobbit man to lovely woman. I'd like to suggest that whereas this element may be there, it is at least, and maybe more so, that Frodo instinctively recognizes Goldberry's "mother of all"-ness. Yes, Tolkien calls her "river-daughter" over and over again, which might be construed as evidence against my assertion, but that title could speak simply to where Tom found her, which is itself tantamount to legend the way JRRT writes it. So I guess I'm saying that Frodo's attraction to Goldberry is akin to her being an Eve of Middle Earth, and Tom a kind of Adam.

I am NOT trying to draw one to one relationshps and fall into the trap of allegorizing, but I do see the applicability.

I hope I'm not just talking to myself here.

[ October 06, 2002: Message edited by: littlemanpoet ]

Nar 10-07-2002 11:13 AM

'Talking to yourself'? 'Course not! I think I don't see 'Faerie' in LotR --or here in our minds-- quite the same way you do, but I can't currently articulate any more about what I do see, except that it's both dangerous and endangered.

I think Milton's Paradise Lost is the source for that feeling of Ransom's for the Perelandra Eve, and for her character-- If you haven't read book 9 you should (books 1-2 are also good, but in more of a grand, dark 'halls of Morgoth' way). Perelandra seems to be Paradise Lost with the poet-narrator-reader figure included in the action-- something of a 'fan-fic' for Paradise Lost (please understand I mean that in a good way) -- a working out of the 'oh! If only I'd been there!' reaction, which can be very powerful.

My favorite part of Perelandra was Ransom's first awakening on that floating island (I found the idea of it fascinating) --the way the land moved, his piebald state-- I loved that-- and his thoughts on the berries --'the desire to repeat a pleasurable experience is the root of all evil'. His awe and love for 'Eva' was wonderfully done, like courtly love without the arch mannerisms and self-interest-- courtly love as it should be (I could never stand the idea as it is). She's a great character. She, Lucy and Psyche's 'ugly' sister (I've forgotten her name-- O-something-- been too long since I read 'Til We have Faces') are the only female characters Lewis created and never, in any corner of his imagination, betrayed. All the others some buried part of him hates despite himself and his best intentions.

As to Tom and Goldberry being representations of unfallen 'man and woman' --possibly, but they are also 'other' -- they are also male-land and female-land, as ents are male-forest and entwives are female-forest.

In an unfallen state, are man and male-land the same; are woman and female-land the same? Do you become the world, is that what 'having dominion over all things' really means outside of the influence of sin?

So do you define 'unfallen' as:
man's being one with nature
-- in the image of:
God's being one with all creation, both cherishing all things, and containing all things?

then yes. I think. Maybe. But I'm now wandering far afield from the way I naturally thing about such things!

Child of the 7th Age 10-07-2002 12:57 PM

Nar --

The woman's name is Orual. It is no coincidence that this book was dedicated to Joy Davidman. She obviously had a profound affect on how he perceived women. Lewis does something with Orual that Tolkien does not even attempt. He creates a central character who is ugly on the outside and who must struggle to right herself on the inside as well.

Littlemanpoet-- You certainly were not speaking into a void. I also read and enjoyed your post, although I had nothing to add at that particular moment.


Bęthberry 10-07-2002 01:44 PM

I'm not sure how relevant this is to your observation about Tom and Goldberry, lmp, but here is something from a character in a nineteenth century novel. Two young women are outside church, deciding to watch the sunset rather than attend evening service. They begin to discuss the first woman and Milton's Paradise Lost.


'Milton tried to see the first woman; but, Cary, he saw her not.'
'You are bold to say so, Shirley.'
'Not more bold than faithful. It was his cook that he saw; or it was Mrs Gill [the housekeeper], as I have seen her, making custards, in the heat of the summer, in the cool dairy, with rose-trees and nasturtiums about the latticed window ...
I always think of this conversation whenever I read of Goldberry. (And to be fair, I have truncated it.)


Reginald Hill 10-07-2002 04:03 PM

I think that the part of the book that takes place in the Shire might have felt different because Tolkien was writing it after World War II (I think that that is what he said in the foreword of the edition that I have). He might have written it as a light-hearted tale because of the sad environment around him in the aftermath of the war. The image of the Shire in all its perfection sure is a good anti-depressant (spelling?)

littlemanpoet 10-09-2002 07:35 AM


So do you define
'unfallen' as:
man's being one with nature
-- in the image of:
God's being one with all creation, both cherishing all things, and containing all things?
Yes. Thank you. That was a very succinct, and accurate, summary.


In an unfallen state, are man and male-land the same; are woman and female-land the same? Do you become the world, is that what 'having dominion over all things' really means outside of the influence of sin?
Again, yes. I think Tolkien's description of Tom's (and perhaps Goldberry's) dominion over all things in his domain is as close to the Edenic archetype, and the purpose of 'having dominion', as I've ever seen depicted. He can even shoo the Barrow-wight! (shh! don't let you-know-who know that I said that! [img]smilies/eek.gif[/img] )

littlemanpoet 10-09-2002 09:57 AM

Bethberry: The discussion you relate in that 19th century book refers to an archetype, of the Homemaker or Serving Woman, or some such name (Nar probably can identify the precise archetype). Goldberry does indeed draw from this archetype, but it is not the only one from which she draws. For me, she draws from the Homemaker, the Faerie-maiden (Riverdaughter), AND the Honored Matron/Mother-of-all. Tolkien has indeed packed a lot into her.

Reginald Hall: Actually, I think Tolkien wrote the Shire section quite early, such as in the late 30's or early 40's. It was only later, when he was writing the scene of Weathertop, that the story took on the powerful and deep mythic and epic tone. For more on this you might want to check out Christopher Tolkien's publications, entitled something like "History of the War of the Ring," or something.

davem 10-10-2002 06:59 AM

I've just finished a remarkable book - The Uncharted Realms of Tolkien, by Alex Lewis & Elizabeth Currie, published by Medea in the UK(available via Amazon UK) which deals with a lot of this. There's a long essay on Bombadil.
You have to keep in mind, I think, that the Bombadil/Old Forest episode goes right back to the original drafts of LotR, when it was only a sequel to the Hobbit. The Whole Middle Earth aspect - ie the links bsck to the Silmarillion were to be no stronger than they were in the Hobbit. That seems to be why the Fellowship has a more 'fairytale feel to it. Even the name Bombadil has no 'Elvish' elements - unless as Lewis/Currie suggest- you take the -'dil' ending into consideration. But they connect Bombadil to various figures from Celtic myth & legend.
I think basically Tolkien wasn't starting LotR as a part of the Legendarium, & by the time he'd decided to incorporate it, he'd already created too much of the 'world' of Middle Earth in the 3rd age to discard all of it. So Bombadil & the Old Forest remained.
Lets face it, Bk 1 especially fits rather awkwardly with the rest of the book. Maybe that's relevent to Frodo's saying his return felt 'like falling asleep again'.

Bęthberry 10-10-2002 07:27 AM



Tolkien has indeed packed a lot into her.
Yes, you are right, and I do admit that there is much in the Old Forest that is germane to LOTR, in attenuated ways which require active work on the part of the reader. However, I remain wistfully disappointed that, when the interesting discussion starts with Tom and the hobbits, Goldberry always retires for the night. Only the cigars are missing.


littlemanpoet 10-10-2002 07:45 AM


I remain wistfully disappointed that, when the interesting discussion starts with Tom and the hobbits, Goldberry always retires for the night. Only the cigars are missing.
That is a tad Edwardian, isn't it? [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] Thank goodness Goldberry didn't turn into Joy Davidman and start smoking cigars with the men! That would have busted all the archetypes all to smithereens. Ack! I just had a vision of Joy Davidman as Goldberry doing the cigar thing in the House of Tom Bombadil. Nightmarish. [img]smilies/eek.gif[/img]


they connect Bombadil to various figures from Celtic myth & legend.
Whoa! Child needs to read this. It contends with her assertion (well documented as well) that Bombadil is the epitome of Oxfordshire Englishness. In fact, davem, I wonder if you couldn't go into a little more detail as to which Celtic figures the authors connect with Bombadil?

On your other points, I would agree that Fellowship has the more fairy-tale feel, and I agree with the reasons you state. I don't, however, find that

Bk 1 especially fits rather awkwardly with the rest of the book.
Care to elucidate your point?

davem 10-10-2002 08:32 AM

Sorry, can't give any details of the celtic figures, welsh I think, which the authors put forward, as I'm writing this at work, rebel that I am, & don't have the book with me. You'll have to buy it - which you should as the authors are really nice people. I met them at the Tolkien Society's Oxonmoot this year, where I got the chance to visit Tolkien's grave. I knelt & placed my hand on the earth of the grave & it was a moment that I'll remember forever, but I digress.
There is, though, a strong resemblence, though not exact, to figures like Myrddin Wellt & Lailoken, the wild prophets inspired to verse & mad capering dances.
Ok, I was wrong in putting it as strongly as I did that Bk 1 is out of place with the rest of the work. I should just have said it
it has, as you said, a stranger feel, less hard & 'real'. Tolkien himself, I think, said the same in one of his letters.

Bęthberry 10-10-2002 08:46 AM


Thank goodness Goldberry didn't turn into Joy Davidman and start smoking cigars with the men! That would have busted all the archetypes all to smithereens.
I don't know your reference to Joy Davidman--I watch virtually no television and am happily ignorant of much pop culture.

However, that you joke about the limitations of Goldberry's character suggests to me that you have never been denied admittance to any of the forums where true, substantive discussion occur. You would understand my deep regret and anguish over her characterization if you had.


Nar 10-10-2002 09:21 AM

Bethberry, I'm sorry to hear you've been denied from a forum of argument for being female-- I keep hoping the human race will be over and done with such things (obviously it hasn't happened everywhere yet). Joy Davidman (sp?) was not a pop culture figure, she was C.S. Lewis' wife, who singlehandedly switched him from his earlier simpleminded theories about the superiority of men to women (as Child has informed me in another thread, and I can see the effect in Lewis' later novels) to a better view not founded on hysteria, a couple of bad experiences (I believe his landlady Minna was somewhat of a hysteric when he was a young impressionable man and there's some suggestion they had a hysteric co-dependant sort of romance-- I forget which biography that was, I don't usually read them), and near-total ignorance (he lost his mother as a boy). Pre-Joy, Lewis was against having 'gurlz' around when men discussed serious scholarly stuff and, I think, somewhat insufferable about Tolkien's inexplicable insistence on going home to his wife and family; post-Joy, Lewis wanted her included in everything. That's why LMP thought of her in conjunction with the Inklings discussions with Lewis, Tolkien and others.

Re: cigar horror, LMP, you're probably being haunted by Miss Hardcastle (the villainess from That Hideous Strength by Lewis), not Joy. I HATED everything connected with her (Miss H.) but she does tend to lodge in the brain-- thanks, C.S.-- I wish you'd kept your fevered nightmares to yourself! Ah, I forgive you, I liked everything before and after that blasted book. Just wish I could vacuum the inimitable Miss H. out of my subconscious!

As to Goldberry, she should have stayed. I'm sure she had much to say, and Frodo would have liked to hear it. I wonder who those dreams came from-- Bombadil, the house, the Shire, or Goldberry?

Bombadil and Celtic figures-- how about the Green Man?

davem 10-10-2002 09:55 AM

Nar, I'm not sure of the connection between Bombadil & the Green Man, can you enlighten me? As far as I'm aware the G.M. isn't specifically Celtic, but pre-Celtic if anything. If you accept the identification of the Green Man with Robin Hood, then there's possible a link with Bombadil via a figure like Herne/Cernunos, but this is to get very mixed up, I feel. And Herne & Robin are Saxon, not Celtic. Robin Hood certainly manifests aspects of both the G.M. & Herne, or at least has been linked to both, even though one is the Lord/Spirit of the flora, the other of the Fauna. But these figures seem to have a different relationship to the land/animals to the one Bombadil displays. They display Control - see the giant in the Mabinogion, or the giant in Gilgamesh. They seem too primal & 'chaotic' to be analogous to Bombadil.
Don't know if you agree?

Bęthberry 10-10-2002 10:11 AM

Hello Nar,

Not so much denied access, really, as come face to face with lingering assumptions and culural habits. Bear with a little tale of autobiography, if you will.

The day I defended my dissertation was the first day I developed morning sickness with my first pregnancy. This is the most formal, rigorous examination in academe and can make or break the entire career process. 'Morning' is a misnomer; it can occur any time.

My advisor knew and graciously told me to leave at any time should I need to, without explanation, and also gave me leave to nibble on dry crackers. Yet not all the examination committee knew this. One in particular, after I had left the room for the committee's deliberations, objected to my "eating" during the exam. My advisor, after the vote, explained why I was nibbling on the crackers.

The committee exited the examination room, walked passed me without saying a word--not even telling if I had passed--to shake my husband's hand, who had been allowed to attend the defense (as I had been allowed to attend his).

The behaviour of these examiners is all the more ironic given their support of me in the defense. I had been challenged by one who questioned how I could discuss a female author in the same breath as Augustine and Coleridge. My reply of "Why not?" was met with hostility and I was told that it was not my place to pose the questions. These same men who rushed to congratulate my husband--not even me--on our impending family had supported my querilous reply by deflecting his retort.

Every time I read Carpenter on Tolkien's love of his club discussions and every time I read of Goldberry's discrete withdrawal, I think of the loss of 'her' contribution to that scene with Tom and the hobbits and I wish that Tolkien had been able to see his way through to extending the archetypes just a little farther.


TolkienGurl 10-10-2002 11:03 AM

You people are too smart for your own good! [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] Thanks for some great information. I'm not really that much of a Tolkien veteran, I mean I just started reading The Silmarillion! seesh... newbies... [img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img]

Another of Tolkien's books that has the Faerie feel to it - Roverandom.

[ October 10, 2002: Message edited by: TolkienGurl ]

Nar 10-10-2002 12:55 PM

Bethberry: That is terrible! Very rude... they shook your husband's hand and not yours-- who was having this baby, anyway? Who just won her doctorate, anyway? Maybe there was some stupid tradition/ superstition-- handshaking too soon thought to bring bad luck on the prospects of scholarship-- oh, never mind, they were under-socialized and possibly feeling defensive and guilty for mistaking you, and they buckled under pressure. I say again, very rude! I would very much like to know who the 'female author' you were comparing to Augustine and Coleridge was and, if it can be summarized, what the points of comparison were.

Yes, those 'no gurlz' theories were based on a large dash of ignorance about girls and women, combined with the effects of undereducating a population -- well, they're not going to seem thoughtful if you under-educate them, are they? Thus the neatly sealed prejudices become self-fulfilling.

Davem-- I would not compare Bombadil to Herne, as you say, there's nothing of Lord of the Fauna in him. Lord of the Flora, yes, I think so. And he does say 'Tom he is the master,' while neatly turning that phrase around to mean 'nothing has caught him (Tom)...' not what we mean by 'master' at all! So who's wrong about what 'mastery' means? Bombadil or us? Suppose 'mastery' means yielding and elusiveness so that nothing catches us? To have dominion -- is it the same as domination? Or is it something Ghandi or Martin Luther King would understand?

Joy, jokes, elusiveness -- isn't that the definiton of a trickster? Robin Hood's an example, or Brer rabbit, -- myself, I like Bugs Bunny. Call Bombadil a trickster, master of flora. I see the Green Man the same way, but what's modern new-age projection onto the Green Man, and what's (I'll take your word for it, although I don't know that we know enough to distinguish such things) 'pre-Celtic' Green man, I don't know. I do see Bombadil as a Green Man figure. I don't see him as a Herne the Hunter figure. I can't imagine him hunting anything other than mushrooms, if that. Now Beorn, him I could see as a Herne the Hunter figure (vegetarian pony-lover though he be). Bombadil's not a force for chaos or evil, true, but he's pre-law, and I'm not talking about a college program! My intuition (although I think you know more on the subject) says that the evil, overtly disordered aspect of those giants comes from them being pre-law figures carried over into a time they no longer belong in. Bombadil, like Galadriel, comes from an earlier time held over in an island of almost unstained past time and space --Galadriel's domain is of the first age and the Noldor when they were vital and young and Bombadil's and Goldberry's is of the time before the arrival of the Noldor ... it holds in memory the time before even the entry of Morgoth and the Valar and the passing of Arda from stillness into story ... the time when the dark was fearless.

Another question ... in honor of Bethberry's worries about Goldberry. I would say that as clever and elusive and bright-spirited as Tom is, he would not have been able to maintain his little world if he hadn't found Goldberry. Think of how Joyce's wife (Nora, was that her name? blast, I'm forgetting everything. What's my name again?) was his 'Ireland' wherever he was, or --back to Tolkien! -- how Sam was Frodo's Shire wherever HE was. (And Sam's pans were HIS Shire!) Tom might not have been able to maintain his island of the 'old no-rule rule' without Goldberry -- then he'd have been a pre-law figure wandering in a time that requires, depends and insists on laws-- he'd have been lawless and disordered instead of the master that slips by laws, that nothing has caught under stars, sky ... like those giants, he'd have been a 'rogue male' as with elephants --oh, I mean oliphaunts.

'Tom has his house to mind, and Goldberry is waiting.' He is time and she is place and together they are a holdover from the fearless dark and the new earth.

Oh, TolkienGurl, we're glad you're with us. Thanks for the compliments, but don't neglect to post with us! And keep reading the Sil! Now I've got to remember which is Roverandom -- is that in the Tolkien reader? Or did I miss it? What's in it?

[ October 10, 2002: Message edited by: Nar ]

TolkienGurl 10-10-2002 01:31 PM

Roverandom is a book about a dog who is rude to a wizard, and he gets turned into a toy dog as a punishment. Then the story tells of his adventures (on the Moon and with the merpeople, I believe) and all the while he is trying to get back to his owner. It's been a while, so that may not be totally accurate but close enough. I know this book is definitely a 'Faerie Tale.'

Nar 10-10-2002 05:17 PM

Thanks, TolkienGurl! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] I have definitely not read it. I'll keep an eye out.

davem 10-11-2002 03:36 AM

Nar & Bethberry, perhaps its wrong to think of Bombadil & Goldberry as individuals, in the sense of hobbits, Elves, humans, etc. Aren't they more 'manifestations' of the land, & the river. The land & river become conscious, in a way like the Ents are trees become conscious?. There's so much more of this in the book I mentioned in a previous posting, The Uncharted Realms of Tolkien, which also has a fantastic discussion on Tolkien & feminism. One of the best Tolkien books published in years as far as I'm concerned. What they do show is how far ahead of his time Tolkien was in his representation of women. You always have to keep in mind, Bethberry, that Tolkien was the product of the Victorian period, & was creating his Legendarium during the first half of the 20th century. Find ANY female characters in any book from that, pre-feminist period who are as well developed & strong as Eowyn, Galadriel, Luthien. They don't exist. You can only judge him in relation to the other writers around at the time & previously. Also, its important to remember that he was writing an 'epic romance' along the lines of Morte D'Arthur, or the Faerie Queene, which has its own rules & forms.

Bęthberry 10-11-2002 07:42 AM

I must begin with apologies to lmp, for taking this discussion so far away from the faerie elements around the Shire, but, if you bear with me, I hope to bring it 'round eventually.


*curtsies a polite greeting on a first meeting*

I appreciate your wish to defend Tolkien against what could be perceived as feminist criticism (a defense I would be in sympathy with) but let me take a look at some specifics of your argument.


Find ANY female characters in any book from that, pre-feminist period who are as well developed & strong as Eowyn, Galadriel, Luthien. They don't exist. You can only judge him in relation to the other writers around at the time & previously. Also, its important to remember that he was writing an 'epic romance' along the lines of Morte D'Arthur, or the Faerie Queene, which has its own rules & forms.
Actually, that list is quite long: Clarissa Harlowe, Moll Flanders, Roxana, Anne Eliot, Emma, Lady Castlewood, Becky Sharpe, Shirley Keeldar, Lucy Snowe, Maggie Tulliver, Dorothea Brooke, Gwendolyn Harleth, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, ... limiting the list to just English novels of the 'realism' the 18th and 19th centuries and omitting Dickens and some interesting lesser novelists.

It is, to my mind, quite a mistake to think that feminists of the twentieth century have an exclusive voice in speaking of and for female characters or that modern and post-modern literature alone has created strong female characters. I am not, speaking philosophically, a feminist and in fact I despise their (alleged) logic.

Then, in consideration of medieval literature, there is Cryseyde and the Wife of Bath; the Morte d'Arthur, with its elevation of adultery into an idealised literary form, is not, I would think, germaine to Tolkien's interests. And The Faerie Queene raises some interesting points, both because it is an allegory, which Tolkien averts, and because of the difficulties with the historical references to Elizabeth I, Mary of Scotland, the Spanish defeat etc. That one-on-one link between symbol and historical referent can be a problem.

In all fairness, however, my comments here were limited to Goldberry alone; I have made no reference to Galadriel, Arwen, or Eowyn. And those comments about Goldberry were really to point to a problem in constructing the character. They are probably related to other posters' frustrations with Tom's nonsensical verse: how to allude to the more symbolic elements of both Tom and Goldberry without falling into the trap of allegory. (Letter 153 identifies Tolkien's intention to give Tom a ridiculous name and particulars as a way of fending off allegory.)

I think Tolkien was brilliantly original in his handling of the Persephone myth in Goldberry and I wish the particular nature of his 'rewriting' were more generally respected and admired, for it can suggest much, IMHO, about his legendarium. It is the grounding of the character in the homey domestic routines which are circumscribed by Tolkien's own culture, time and place, that cause me regret.

I'm a greedy reader; I would have wanted more, because for other characters Tolkien does give us more. Perhaps I need to constrain my appetite. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

lmp, I hope these last comments provide a way of bringing the discussion back to the Shire: there is mythology in the Old Forest which characterizes it in a way uniquely different from the Shire or other geographical places in LOTR.

Regards to all,

[ October 11, 2002: Message edited by: Bethberry ]

littlemanpoet 10-11-2002 09:44 AM

Bethberry: Please accept my apology for stomping lightheartedly over a raw place for you. Please believe that I intended no offense. And thanks for your kind apology. I have indeed had my share of barriers in life, though obviously not the female in a man's world type; so I do sympathize. Since the barriers I face have absolutely nothing to do with this thread, I'll leave it alone. PM me if your curious.

In a very real sense, what you may consider a digression is not at all one, because Goldberry's exit from the scene does indeed render her archetypical effectiveness weaker than it might otherwise have been. I can imagine that Tolkien may have used his own family life as a kind of template for this scene in the House of Tom Bombadil, and Edith probably made herself scarce out of both choice and frustration (not to mention olfactory reasons) when "the men" sat down to puff on their pipes and bandy words about.

Nar: Actually, I've read a good deal biographically about Lewis and Davidman. Hardcastle may have been way deep down in my subconscious, but Davidman in her own right was known to "play the man" among men, in a skirt, using what was then considered man's language and indulging in what was at that time considered man's vices. Lewis' friends found her quite obnoxious, above and beyond being "insufferable" for being an educated woman who stood up to educated men and their stupid ideas about women. So say the biographers.

Tolkiengurl: You have it right about Roverandum. But you did forget to mention the dragon on the moon....... The book was published only in the last couple years. Good libraries and bookstores should have it. Not my personal favorite; it was early and feels more like the Father Christmas writings than his more mature Niggle and Smith stories.

Nar: That's a wonderful insight into "mastery". It seems like a very deep well that very few have dropped their buckets down....

So Bombadil's a Harlequin with different kinds of funny clothes, eh?


'Tom has his house to mind, and Goldberry is waiting.' He is time and she is place and together they are a holdover from the fearless dark and the new earth.
Wow! Simply profound. Is he time, though? I can see her as place...

davem 10-11-2002 10:13 AM

Bethberry, 'Elen sila ...'
I take your point, up to a point. I was being too subjective in my statement. Actually, I don't know all the characters you cite, but most of the ones I do I find annoying or twee. They strike me as unconvincing, as do most of the stories . I'm not a great fan of the 18th- 19th century novel. Besides, those women strike me as too typical of their millieu (should that be 1 L or 2?). I don't find them interesting. I don't find any of those characters as convincing as Eowyn, or Galadriel, for example, so I stand by my point. In other words, you haven't convinced me for all the long list of names! [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]
None of them strike me as being as vivid or real.
Any way, this is getting way off this particular thread!

Bęthberry 10-11-2002 11:54 AM

davem, but all you asked for was a list. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

The question gets into defining criteria for plausible or believable characters and also recognizing historical determinants in narrative--that is, if we are to raise the discussion above simple opinion. JMHO, but your observations about "annoying" and "twee", in the face of massive critical commentary to the contrary, present a weak defense. Not that they are wrong, but that they limit discussion to personal preference alone.

lmp, no problem. Of course I realize you could not have known. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] The withdrawal is, I think, not limited solely to the nature of the Tolkien household, for the 19th had well-established codes of etiquette for the withdrawal of the ladies after dinner and before the cigars, so having Goldberry withdraw reinforces that social code. I think you are right that it limits the possibilities for her.

Nar, I like the idea of seeing Tom and Goldberry as time and place, but I would have to think, as lmp does, how exactly does Tom represent time. This is not a demand for you to elucidate so much as my statement that I must mull the idea over. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]


[ October 11, 2002: Message edited by: Bethberry ]

Nar 10-11-2002 01:02 PM

All excellent points! Not to digress too much, Davem, but many of the female characters on Bethberry's list are complicated and rich (and to me heart-rending, Dorothea or Maggie in Elliot's work -- I wrote a LOT on Clarissa in my undergrad days-- masochistic, spiritually ambitious, lousy taste in men, yes, twee, no -- man, that was a disturbing book I had to do a thesis to exorcise it) --however, what these women are not is able to choose the field on which they do battle-- they cannot choose their opponent or determine the prize they try for or the goal they pursue-- they fight as they can for what they find to be good, but they have (it appears to me) little or no control over the terms of that fight and very circumscribed control over what sorts of things they can choose to fight for. Some real women of the period had more control -- I've always thought any woman going by 'George' had much more scope for altering the rules and upending the assumptions than your 'Clarissa' or your 'Dorothea'. In that sense, an Eowyn or Galadriel is much more satisfying, having SOME influence over the terms, goals and game to be played.

'He is time and she is space' -- yikes! That line slid straight from the back of my mind through my fingers and appeared on screen in front of me -- what? I thought Bombadil was 'the spirit of the land' so where did 'time' pop up from? What, you're asking ME? I think it was the songs he sings -- song is a linear form, it made me think of time, and Goldberry's changing with the weather made me think of the land.

Let's review. In deliberate descriptions by Tolkien, Goldberry's discussed in terms of the river and riverbanks and the life it gives to the land, with a connection to the life giving rain. She appears among a pool of water lilies, she's in green with flowers when it's sunny and silver when it's cloudy, Frodo thinks of the river whenever they meet. Goldberry's appearance clearly matches what the river would look like under the weather, and the notion of a river from its spring in the mountains all the way down to the sea pops into Frodo's head while he's with her. And I have the strong feeling she's the land surrounding the river, made life-giving and fertile by it, as well as the river and the rain that falls on it.

However, in Goldberry I think Tolkien also tapped his idea of water as the element with the most lingering influence of the song of Arda -- at the beginning of the Sil he linked the echoes of the song to the sound of the ocean and by this it is linked to the special status of England as a green (because misty and rainy) and pleasant land and as an island surrounded by ocean and channels. In that sense Goldberry's the heart of England, the element that makes England English.

In the thread 'Did Galadriel have a Palantir' I suggested that the vibrations from the song, containing the entire story of history, remained in and were sustained by all water, and that Galadriel's mirror (water from her fountain in a broad basin) might work to produce past, present and future images of the history of Middle Earth by responding to these vibrations with surface ripples that a receptive mind might form into pictures from the song: images of past, present and future. Like the concentric bands in the trunk of a tree, which reflect the life of the tree from the heart to the edge.

Is it an accident that in the house of Goldberry, whose nature springs from the river and who is intimately connected to the rain, the hobbits have prophetic and awesome dreams? It is always Goldberry explaining and reassuring --warning, almost --'heed no nightly terrors' -- she is of water and water tunes and vibrates to the song of Arda, beginning to end of time, tuned and reverberating through all space. So she is of the element most receptive to the song of Arda -- that made the world and sung of all history. She's the medium for the song.

Who's the song? Well, we do have a singing yellow-booted sprite around, that would be Tom. I am saying that Tom is the incarnation of the song of Arda, the song that defines the history of this land and therefore is the original form of time in Arda, from before the moment of creation. A song is harmonics, vibrations, they need a medium and the medium that retains them, remembers them, is the waters of the earth. Thus, Tom can only live as a stable embodied presence because he has bound (but not bound) himself in happy marriage (but free in love) to his medium, Goldberry, the river and riverbank, which runs from mountain meadow through pleasant shire down to the gentle shore where time ends, and song and river are absorbed in the boundless ocean.

So is Tom still the spirit of the land? yes. The embodied song of Arda is the spirit of Arda. My intuition is that Tom is the song sprung from the mind of Illuvatar, not the song as sung by the Valar -- the song as it was meant to be, so while all that happens is included, the ending theme of Arda remade and healed is also in him.

[ October 11, 2002: Message edited by: Nar ]

Gandalf_theGrey 10-11-2002 10:51 PM

* a grey-cloaked figure encircled by rising smoke of a matching shade enters through the mist *

Hail and Well Met, Nar.

* bows a friendly greeting *

Firstly, the summation and conclusion that you reach about Old Tom (quoted below) is just wonderful! I can hope to add naught more than applause. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]


My intuition is that Tom is the song sprung from the mind of Illuvatar, not the song as sung by the Valar -- the song as it was meant to be, so while all that happens is included, the ending theme of Arda remade and healed is also in him.
On another note, your intuitive insight regarding Galadriel's Mirror strikes me as remarkable, because it serendipitously resembles part of a post I made ... fittingly enough, in Bethberry's "Picnic at the Bonfire Glade" RPG. (Which by the way ended all too soon by my reckoning, alas, as pass all such dearly precious moments. * waves wistfully and appreciatively to Bethberry [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] *

Here is the pertinent quote documenting that which occurred on Bombadil land:


* Except for these two, the path was now empty, tread smooth by earlier arrivals. Gandalf thought he sensed something. A strange melding of disjointed almost-memories, mingling with a cacaphony of voices, voices high and shrill with merry laughter, deep and low with hidden whispers. It was as though the throng around the feasting tables were every single one of them looking together into Galadriel's mirror simultaneously, swirling the water into a hundred shades of blue and green, sweeping around to create a whirlpool of alternate pasts, presents, and futures. Guests of a myriad of races converged on the Bonfire Glade Picnic. The whole of Time Itself converged as well ... now bent, now straightening, now a flickering chimera, now solid reality. *
Thirdly, I share your outlook regarding Tom being representative of Time. His title of "The Eldest" is graciously granted even by the Eldar, in their tongue rendered as "Iarwain."

Additionally, when Goldberry is asked by Frodo to name Tom's essence, she replies "He is." Words evocative of an ongoing continuous existence/state of being in time.

Gandalf the Grey

davem 10-12-2002 03:42 AM

Bethberry, Just a short response, because this is, as you said, getting too far off subject. Yes, as I said, i should really have said originally that I was stating my opinion, but its too easy when you feel something strongly, & it seems obvious to you, to treat it as a fact. Besides, to what extent is an 'objective' opinion on the arts just a collection of subjective opinions?I've never come across an 18th/19th century novel which I didn't have to force myself through. I just can't get into anything between the renaissance & Dunsany, Eddison, et al. I'm the same with music, Hildegard to Dowland, then Vaughn-Williams, Elgar. I exclude folk tales & folk music. Anyway. this is REALLY too far off subject. Blessed Be.

Bęthberry 10-12-2002 06:35 AM

Haunted by Clarissa indeed. We do need to find our way to chat, Nar. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

This can be a fruitful distinction between the earlier characters and moderns ones, yet, to me, the interesting thing is to watch the negotiations of those who do not have this control, because I think the issue of control is personal rather than political or social. But fascinating how you have introduced 'control'in discussion of Tom and Goldberry.

Your explication of "Tom as time and Goldberry place' is wonderful. *applause* It deserves to be quoted here again, even though Gandalf the Grey has already quoted it.


My intuition is that Tom is the song sprung from the mind of Illuvatar, not the song as sung by the Valar -- the song as it was meant to be, so while all that happens is included, the ending theme of Arda remade and healed is also in him.
In agreement with your argument, let me offer these two bits from my character "Bethberry"'s past in a previous RPG. I conceived of her as the daughter of Tom and Goldberry, in search throughout Middle Earth for her mother's lost voice. (The "Beth" comes from Sindarin for 'word'.) I think this will definitely show how an RPG can provide commentary and interpretation of Tolkien as meaningful as that in any discussion. This first quotation here comes from a battle scene with the Black Riders:


posted 02-05-2002 04:48 PM *Bethberry, seeing the difficulty all had in escaping, and worried particularly about the disappearance of Kailash, who was ill and would have a harder time fighting off the Riders, decided to take her own strategic offensive.*

*Riding hard off the path, she retraced the direction of several dwarves when they had first appeared, to be rewarded by finding a small cave, which could barely accomodate her small mare. Hurrying in, she dismounted, quieted Riverdance with a whisper, and explored the cave. She found what she was hoping for.*

*Kneeling close to a crevice, she began to sing a song of hope and encouragement, of succour and strength. By itself, the song could not repel the Riders, but it would give heart to those who fought with faith and valour ....*

*Echoing out of the mountain rocks as if it were a Great Music of the Flame Imperishable, the song went forth, bounding and rebounding and multiplying as each faithful heart heard it, until it created interchanging melodies, sometimes soft and sweet, sometimes terrible and awe-inspiring, blending out the clamorous brays of the attackers and revealing a sure theme to all, hope.
The second post comes from an episode in which Bethberry is critically injured during a seastorm:


posted 06-09-2002 12:04 PM *Bethberry lay insensible and motionless upon the thin mattress and wooden berth where Aglod and Arcon had left her. Yet her mind was in dream, far from stilled.*

Mother, Mother, the coracle spins and sways so wildly I cannot control or guide it. Sing me a song to quell the waters. I fear it will be torn to shreds. [NB a reference to a previous ride down the Withywindle in the character's past.]

Daughter, the flowing of all waters seeks its own rhythm and movement since the world was bent and the winds rounded. Each time has its own purpose and being. Ride with the waters rather than against them. Listen to the music of the current and catch its drift, for this is indeed a wild washing day.

*Slowly and wordlessly, Bethberry's mind recalled the song her mother had once sung for her and melded it to this new sea voyage.*

I grew where life had come to me, along
a reedy shore. And now I lie in foaming waves
Tossed far from known shore.
Around about us sweeps the cold,
with watery arms and stunning gale;
But through the wind I sing my song,
calling to shore and sea.
We seek a truth more noble here
Than greed or selfish passage.
A shadow spreads across the land,
which all of good would halt.
A seeing stone has fallen now into most idle hands.
It must be broke or brought to right,
as we have sworn to do.
We fain would seek your roaring swells
To guide us from the deep.

*The song seemed to reverberate not through air but through her body to the wooden rafters and beams, out the hull and thence sounded through the seas. From somewhere beyond the Outer Edge, Uinen heard the song from the daughter of one she had known and took compassion on the mariners. So Urinen turned to Ossë, saying, "For the love of the Teleri and the Falathrim, quell the torrent even though the world be bent."*

*And the waters grew calmer, but as they did, Bethberry became agitated, shaking in her small mariner's berth, wrapped in dream and soaked in brine and sweat.*
So, it would appear that you and I share remarkably similar interpretations. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Looking forward to further discussions, and with a friendly nod to Gandalf in remembrance of journeys past, [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]


[ October 12, 2002: Message edited by: Bethberry ]

littlemanpoet 10-12-2002 10:27 AM

Well, this is delightful, Bethberry. I hadn't realized the connection to Goldberry. "This is a wild washing day." What a great line! (I may have gotten it wrong). It seems that you hunger for the same FEEL that I do - no wonder you post here.

Nar, I congratulate you on a fine explication of your intuition on Tom as Time and Goldberry as Place. You ought to write a book and get royalties.

Nar 10-13-2002 08:14 PM

Thank you very much, LMP. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Davem: I can understand what bothers you about these books – I can’t say if they hold anything for you that you’re missing or not. I’ve always done my best analysis with books that triggered fear and loathing in me—I’ve NEVER written a good paper on a favorite book! Whether a character’s struggle is unwound and expanded into a fantasic landscape with scope for movement or confined explicitly to his/her own mind defines a completely different type of story.

Gandalf the Grey! * shimmers politely * Thank you kindly for the greeting and agreeable agreement! The song of Arda is a lovely idea, don’t you think? I’m not surprised we all respond to it so strongly. I like your thoughts about the mirror … it’s a wonderful idea.

sweeping around to create a whirlpool of alternate pasts, presents, and futures … The whole of Time Itself converged as well ... now bent, now straightening, now a flickering chimera, now solid reality.
I’ve always loved the whirlpool archetype, it’s very powerful in all its manifestations. I love your notion of ‘the whole of time converging’ –very nicely phrased. A wonderful image!

Luthien also used water for magic … I think it was the Lay of Lethien from HoME 3 that was the clearest. Bother. I can’t find the book to quote it, but when she grows her hair for her dark cloak that hides her and puts enemies to sleep, singing, pouring out water from a pitcher and moonlight are all involved. This seems to me to be a precurser to the magic Galadriel uses in her mirror. Water-song; it’s an interesting theme. This ‘bonfire in the glade’ thread sounds lovely. I’ve looked once at the RPG threads, there’s some lovely writing there. Alas, my persona’s completely unsuited to join in.

Before you wander on, Gandalf the Grey, I have a small request … could you possibly blow one of your smoke-galleons for me? You see, being in a lexical frame of mind when I designed this persona … well … I’m not a dwarf or an elf or a hobbit, I’m an orcish interjection (Nar! is my full name and I was spoken by Snaga –I come from quite a bad paragraph, but I’m trying to better myself) --sigh—I’m really not very good for role playing and I’m not strictly canon – I’m a sub-created word-spirit about two inches high and there’s very little I can do other than inhale the foam off ale –one of my few pleasures in life-- and shout ‘Nar!’ very loudly in my enemies’ ears, --not entirely useless to comrades, but not as good as beheading an orc, obviously-- but I do feel I could sail a smoke-galleon about, and it would break the tedium of my days, so if you wouldn’t mind … Thank you!


(The "Beth" comes from Sindarin for 'word'.)
That’s very interesting, as when I created the ‘Nar’ persona, I decided to be a word (I was very much inspired by Tolkien’s letter about the mote of dust in the beam of loving attention that was its guardian angel)


Listen to the music of the current and catch its drift, for this is indeed a wild washing day.
That’s lovely! That’s the sense of ‘mastery’ or should I say ‘mistressy’ (or perhaps ‘mistress minstrelsy’) I was thinking of.

Around about us sweeps the cold,
with watery arms and stunning gale;
But through the wind I sing my song,
calling to shore and sea.
I like those lines very much. Songs and ocean storms, how well they go together! A wave is such a strange thing, water rising/falling, propelling the image of that rise/fall forward onto fresh ocean—it’s an event, really, an event on water, an event that chains across the ocean, but it seems like a thing. If you can see your wave’s medium, as you can with water, you can see the event. If a force in motion pulses a more ephemeral medium, air say, then you can’t see it, though you may feel the wild wind on your face.

"For the love of the Teleri and the Falathrim, quell the torrent even though the world be bent."
That’s a lovely line! I agree, the RPG has certainly unleashed something in you – strange all the things that can draw understanding out of you, so many things pulled together that you don’t know quite where it came from!

[ October 13, 2002: Message edited by: Nar ]

[ October 13, 2002: Message edited by: Nar ]

Gandalf_theGrey 10-14-2002 09:22 PM


You certainly honor your Bombadil lineage. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]In keeping with our theme, one could even say you uphold your legacy and carry it forth to the world as a lithe stream current glinting with a clear voice on its course in the steady noble light of noonday sun through latticed leaves. The writings of your adventures show as much. * bows * And "For this is a wild washing day" is a remarkable turn of phrase, as has already been noticed. I would also add that your being "a woman of indeterminate age" aptly fits, as Time both reveals and conceals.


So your name is in no way related to fire, then, Nar and not Nár. * Steps closer to peer at you closely and thoughtfully. His eyes narrow just noticeably enough that the surrounding wrinkles begin to deepen. Considers your name's meaning as spoken by an Orc, but all the while, the wizard's expression never hints at unkindness. *

As for "the whole of Time converging" being a wonderful image ... such instances are best undergone in small doses. * finds himself at a loss for words * Thank you for the compliment. * bows *

Not a Dwarf or an Elf or a Hobbit, are you, you say? Well, neither am I! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] As chance would have it, I am in fact acquainted with another two-inch-tall creature ... a "wingly" named Ivie (from the Barrow Downs chat). Likes to perch atop my hat, she does. It's really very endearing.

As for your request that I provide you with a smoke-galleon for your wind-cruising, I am happy to oblige.

* Indraws a breathful of Old Toby. Exhales a fine ship with timbers of lilac-purple smoke, sailes of muted blue smoke, wafting about on a smokey cloud of misty sea-green. *

At your Service,

Gandalf the Grey

[ October 14, 2002: Message edited by: Gandalf_theGrey ]

davem 10-15-2002 03:36 AM

I have to say I'm not really connecting with these ideas of Tom as Time & Goldberry as Space. For me Middle Earth is 'real', as real as this world, & I tend to think of the inhabitants as 'beings', not 'characters'. There's something RJ Stewart says in The Underworld Initiation, along the lines of , The inhasbitants of the Inner worlds are REAL within their own dimension, & not figments of your imagination - if you treat them as such, they will respond as such. OK, not entirely relevant to a work of literature. But I do experience Middle Earth as a true, valid, inner reality. I think the danger of pushing allegory & analogy too far is that you 'break a thing, to find out what it is made of'. I can see similarities between Tom & Merlin, etc, but for me, Tom & Goldberry are 'real' beings, within their own world, & if you push interpretations too far, the whole thing is likely to unravel for you.

littlemanpoet 10-15-2002 10:33 AM

Goldberry is, perhaps not "space", but "Place". After all, a sense of Place is a very strong element in good fantasy.

Nar 10-15-2002 11:15 AM

*sailing around the room on this most glorious smokeship* 'Wheeeeeee! Thank you, Gandalf the Grey! Hoist the Jib! Belay the haubards!' (Um, what is that thing you belay as I think it's not haubards!)

We'll have to agree to disagree, Davem. But let me clarify, since I misquoted myself in my second post with 'space'. What I originally said was 'He is time and she is place' and I'm much happier with that, Goldberry as 'place' --'space' introduces a cosmic-Einstein-sci-fi quality that wasn't in my mind at all when I wrote that line. Mentally, I was within Arda, with a humming in my mind from something I'd never grasped before.

In my discussion of Tom I was speaking of the spirit of time in Arda, and it is the song of Arda that created and contains the land and its history-- well, I won't repeat my whole argument! In my discussion of Goldberry I was speaking of the spirit of a place in Arda that sums up what the land is meant to be.

There's no need for you to agree, Davem! I'd like to make sure, though, that you're disagreeing with my thought and not a more abstract interpretation that I didn't intend. I was seeing Goldberry as the spirit of the river with its riverbanks, not as the spirit of 'Space, the final frontier...' aiee, no!

This first sequence from the Shire through the Barrrowdowns has alway felt to me like a 'microcosmos' rehersal of the whole of the book -- the author trying out all the elements that will later reappear in a grander, larger way. Gildor and the starlight feast a precursor to Elrond and the Council, Old Man Willow a precursor to the ents, the Barrow a precursor to the the blasted lands around and in Mordor and the way through Sammath Naur to the cavern where the world, and souls, are won or lost.

I must say that Tom and Goldberry feel to me like they have something more in them (put there by Tolkien's mind and indeed by the back of Tolkien's mind, his mythic unconsciousness) in a way that Merry or Pippin or Frodo do not, that even Elrond or Galadriel do not. The psychology of Goldberry and Tom is elusive, their sayings are cryptic, self interest is never a part of their thoughts or the slightest temptation --as it is for Galadriel for all her wisdom and resonance as a character. Goldberry and Tom just do not talk or track like members of any of the races of Middle Earth.

Because I see this first section of the book through Barrowdowns as the writer's working his way into the themes of the book, playing with the elements that will later appear, as a microcosm of the whole of the book and the whole of the land, and because Tom and Goldberry DO feel different from all other characters, I'm very comfortable with viewing them on multiple levels: as specific characters, as mysterious and mythic beings intimately connected with the Shire, the old forest, the Brandywine, and the Withywindle, and as the heart of Arda and Arda as a world and creation myth for England.

You are correct, Tolkien did hate allegory (Saruman = appeasing politician, etc.). However, he accepted the idea of applicability. I don't think that this is a case of 'applicability', however. I think that Goldberry and Tom are quite literally spirits in Arda, and I'm discussing which spirits they are. Tolkien himself called Tom 'the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside' (Letters, #19). I think that a deeper interpretation of what the 'spirit of the land' is becomes possible when the creation-story of Arda enters the picture, because this land is created with a song, and all its history comes from that song. The song of creation is taken from the beginning of the Silmarillion and it is there stated that echoes from the song linger on in the ocean. Tolkien's ambition to create an English myth I took from Letters, #51 and I believe that's the letter reprinted as the preface of the Silmarillion.

davem 10-16-2002 03:50 AM

Nar, Yes, I can see what you mean, & I did misquote you - ~I was writing it at work, & didn't have a lot of time. I do wonder how much weight we can give to Tolkien's statement/interpretation of Bombadil being the spirit of the Berkshire countryside. There's definitely something of the spirit of that place in the Old Forest - more so as it appears in the Bombadil poems- the first of which preceded Toms appearance in LotR by some years, but I get the feeling that a great deal of Tolkien's own interpretation of characters was done 'after thee event'. There are very strong Pagan thems in the stories, which Tolkien himself became very uncomfortable with in later years - the Gods/Valar thing, etc. Tom Is a very Pagan figure. I'm wondering how much 'explaining away' Tolkien did, in order to keep the Legendarium (in his own mind) sufficiently 'orthodox.
All that said, The Hobbits weren't rescued by 'the spirit of the Oxfordshire/Berkshire countryside'. They were rescued by Tom Bombadil. You can end up with metaphors interacting with metaphors, & the whole thing & falls apart.

mark12_30 10-16-2002 05:09 AM

Bethberry: singing, smiling, dancing, light-hearted lass, you've quite blown my mind with the idea of "Bag End to Barrow" being a preview of the whole epic. This is going to take quite some time to think through. I love it. *Yeowza*.

[ October 16, 2002: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]

Nar 10-16-2002 11:09 AM

I believe you're referring to my post, not Bethberry's, and I thank you kindly, Helen. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] Bethberry's is the one with the excellent poetry and 'most wild washing day' and I had the 'Bag End to Barrow' sequence as a microcosm of the whole quest. (You put that much better than I did, by the way).

Ah, Davem, yes, I heartily agree that Tom's Tom. I'm not surprised if Tolkien was uncomfortable with the extreme intensity his nature themes took on --there certainly are pagan elements in Tom (which I think consistent with the 'spirit of the countryside' idea). I think that that idea of Tom and the 'countryside' was always there, though. I think Tolkien's feelings about the landscape he moved to were always a motivating force for the creation of Tom. As far as I know, these feelings date to his boyhood, so they would have been available when he created Tom. I don't suppose we can ever determine this for certain. As to the issue of whether Tom's singing does connect to the role of the creation-song in Arda -- well, we can't determine that. All I can say is that the idea doesn't disturb Tom's presence in my mind when I think of the story. I have long felt that Tom was a whole of some kind connected with Arda. I hope my arguments are not interfering with your vision of Tom. Let me re-affirm: Tom is Tom!

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