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Old 10-30-2015, 08:48 PM   #41
littlemanpoet
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Aaron, that seems somewhat selective to me. In the story Tolkien wrote, the Hobbits do not experience Bombadil as a menace during the night; rather, their fears of the Ringwraiths are calmed by Tom and Goldberry. Menace is there aplenty in the Downs.

I'm all for people's perceptions to be at variance with each other, but it seems to me that there's such a thing as mis-perception, such that it misses some of what's actually there, and projects onto it what is not.
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Old 10-31-2015, 09:28 PM   #42
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Perhaps the literary function of Bombadil was, in fact, entirely dependant on the reader's own perceptions of him - and, by extension, nature.
Readers with a romanticised view of the natural elements, and the simplicity of it all, would see a benevolent fellow peacefully removed from the materialism of the other world. But, for people like myself, raised on dark stories of ghosts and Witches and evil spirits, he could be perceived as a malignant entity - representative of nature's bitterness at the world of humanity, and its careless whimsy in the face of human order and structure.
I do not see how someone with even the wildest imagination (or one driven by the bitterest cynicism, for that matter) could view Bombadil as malignant. Tolkien does not portray Tom in an evil light. Unconventional? Certainly. Mischievous? Perhaps. But far from being evil, he was a delight from his first appearance when I originally read the book as a child....ummm....some time far back in the last century.

There is precedent for Tolkien coloring a noble character with ill-intent when he introduced Aragorn in the Prancing Pony, he who seemed foul but was fair. We meet Aragorn as a sinister and hooded shadow in the corner of the common room, seemingly spying on Frodo and his friends, and even Barliman Butterbur viewed the Ranger with trepidation -- heightening the unease of the reader.

Bombadil? He is animated, dancing, jovial, brightly colored, rhyming, and saving the Hobbits from Old Man Willow when he first arrives. He is the polar opposite of the deadly serious black Wraiths who chase the Hobbits.

I am sorry, but I just don't see how his character can be so misconstrued.
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Old 11-01-2015, 02:21 AM   #43
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Readers with a romanticised view of the natural elements, and the simplicity of it all, would see a benevolent fellow peacefully removed from the materialism of the other world. But, for people like myself, raised on dark stories of ghosts and Witches and evil spirits, he could be perceived as a malignant entity - representative of nature's bitterness at the world of humanity, and its careless whimsy in the face of human order and structure.
I think this is definitely evident in the case of Willow-Man, but Bombadil has never struck me as a bitter character, or careless. Certainly he seems to have not acted to prevent the ruination of Eriador which has gone on around him, but it was not necessarily in his power to do so; he is Master of his own domain, and no other.

I think it's worth noting that Bombadil wears clothes and lives in a house. He is not presented as a wholly "natural" figure, in my view, but rather as one, as Professor Tolkien seemed fond of representing, who lives in a "civilised" fashion but in harmony with nature, which is seen to varying degrees with Bombadil, different Elvish societies and even among Men.
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Old 11-01-2015, 02:35 AM   #44
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I do not see how someone with even the wildest imagination (or one driven by the bitterest cynicism, for that matter) could view Bombadil as malignant. Tolkien does not portray Tom in an evil light. Unconventional? Certainly. Mischievous? Perhaps. But far from being evil, he was a delight from his first appearance when I originally read the book as a child....ummm....some time far back in the last century.

There is precedent for Tolkien coloring a noble character with ill-intent when he introduced Aragorn in the Prancing Pony, he who seemed foul but was fair. We meet Aragorn as a sinister and hooded shadow in the corner of the common room, seemingly spying on Frodo and his friends, and even Barliman Butterbur viewed the Ranger with trepidation -- heightening the unease of the reader.

Bombadil? He is animated, dancing, jovial, brightly colored, rhyming, and saving the Hobbits from Old Man Willow when he first arrives. He is the polar opposite of the deadly serious black Wraiths who chase the Hobbits.

I am sorry, but I just don't see how his character can be so misconstrued.
No need to be sorry! This whole thread is about the perception of the individual. Friendly disagreements are par the course

But as to how I came to my own perception of old Tom?
Childish caprice, and too many outward shows of being - as you say - animated, dancing, jovial, brightly colored, rhyming.
Any being with power enough to fight evil, who does not use that power, are themselves morally suspect in my book. I have little cocnept of 'neutrality', and even less so in such a dire situation as the one Frodo and his friends found themselves in.
More, his infantile behaviour leads me to believe that there were a great many travellers he could have saved from Old Man Willow, but didn't. And that, ultimately, the Hobbits were merely the beneficiaries of his passing curiosity, as opposed to any genuine benevolence on Bombadil's part.
And, as master of his own domain, I tend to view a lot of the hostility of the Old Forest as elements of his own personality shining through, a bitterness he hides behind a smiling face.

I just don't see how anyone could take this wandering spirit at face value. A spirit who lives in a forest rife with danger and active malevolence, a spirit who can control these malevolent entities, but refuses to outright destroy them*. And a spirit who seemingly does all he can to wear a disguise which is pleasing and vaguely familiar, who actively attempts to disarm you with rhyme and nonsense.
I stand by my opinion. I genuinely believe that Bombadil is a monstrous, vindictive spirit - and from my first reading I had a real sense that something with him was completely wrong.

*Control in the sense of being able to drive them away with mere words. Tom is master of his land, but I believe the books also state that every tree is also "master of itself", or some such.
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Old 11-01-2015, 08:51 AM   #45
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Any being with power enough to fight evil, who does not use that power, are themselves morally suspect in my book. I have little cocnept of 'neutrality', and even less so in such a dire situation as the one Frodo and his friends found themselves in.
The Old Forest certainly is hostile to outsiders, but does that make it "evil"? I would say no.

It seems obvious to me that many of the trees in the Forest are "aware" in the manner of sleepy Huorns or Ents; the Willow-man himself would seem to have no other classification.

Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin that there are parts of Fangorn that are dark and filled with malice, but he, as Bombadil, takes no action against the "rotten" trees. Treebeard clearly aids the Good side in the books, so does he get a condemnation as well?

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More, his infantile behaviour leads me to believe that there were a great many travellers he could have saved from Old Man Willow, but didn't. And that, ultimately, the Hobbits were merely the beneficiaries of his passing curiosity, as opposed to any genuine benevolence on Bombadil's part.
And, as master of his own domain, I tend to view a lot of the hostility of the Old Forest as elements of his own personality shining through, a bitterness he hides behind a smiling face.
Bombadil saved the Hobbits because he knew he should. He saw himself as a pawn, as he explained to Frodo.

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'Did I hear you calling? Nay, I did not hear: I was busy singing. Just chance brought me, if chance you call it. It was no plan of mine, though I was waiting for you'.
Tom was not caught off guard: he was expecting to see the Hobbits.
I think that on its own his acceptance of the part he has to play is an indication of his "goodness".

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I just don't see how anyone could take this wandering spirit at face value. A spirit who lives in a forest rife with danger and active malevolence, a spirit who can control these malevolent entities, but refuses to outright destroy them.
That he doesn't destroy the Willow and similar trees is what sets him apart in the books. He does not "control", nor does he wish to. Nothing controls him, but the price of that is that he must confine himself in boundaries, not seeking out contact with Middle-earth's denizens. He understands that not all creatures are friendly toward one another, but that they still have their part to play in the world. Unless he is given a pressing need, he does not interfere.
That said, I do not think he would have allowed anyone who stayed into his boundaries to be killed. It's merest conjecture, but I don't believe any Hobbits had been lost, or even attacked in the Forest before, else Frodo and Co. might have avoided it, or at least discussed the matter more deeply.
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Old 11-05-2015, 09:21 AM   #46
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Question Hobbits' knowledge of the Old Forest

Inziladun, I liked your comment here:

It's merest conjecture, but I don't believe any Hobbits had been lost, or even attacked in the Forest before, else Frodo and Co. might have avoided it, or at least discussed the matter more deeply.

We have Merry, who is not only a Bucklander but also the son and heir of the Master of Buckland, therefore a person with the best local knowledge. He is clear that the Old Forest is a strange place, which he and other hobbits have so far only gone into for short periods and in the daytime. He also mentions (without saying when exactly) that there was an attack by some of the trees there on Buckland, which hobbits stopped by burning some of them in a bonfire, the glade where this happened still being visible.

However, he can't give any real information about what happens in the middle of the Old Forest, for the reason that there appears to be no record of any hobbits having gone into the middle of it, whether they came back or not. Due to this lack of information, it was agreed that they would chance quickly going through that forest, in the daytime, as the best way to avoid the Black Riders. As you said, if more information was available, perhaps another decision would have resulted, or there would have at least been a longer debate.
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Old 11-05-2015, 12:01 PM   #47
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Well, better the devil you know and all that. The Road was patrolled by Black Riders and watched by their spies; it was reasonable (and in fact correct) to assume that the Forest would be unwatched, whatever local risks it might contain. And of course Merry, who would know the most about it of the five, was cheerfully unworried.

Moreover, if there had been complete intelligence on the Forest then it would have boiled down to "easy to get lost, stay away from that willow tree, and the singing nutbar who lives there is a helpful, hospitable sort."
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Old 11-06-2015, 09:03 AM   #48
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Leaf A look at LotR and AoTB

I was looking again at The Lord of the Rings, particularly the episode 'A Conspiracy Unmasked' and at The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, particularly the Preface and the first poem.

In that chapter of LotR, Merry called Farmer Maggot 'a shrewd fellow', saying, 'I've heard that he used to go into the Old Forest at one time'. (From later remarks by Tom Bombadil about Maggot this information appears to be correct.)

When Frodo decided to go through the Old Forest, Merry said, 'It sounds very desperate, but I believe Frodo is right. It is the only way of getting off without being followed at once. With luck we might get a considerable start'. (My italics)

In talking about the Old Forest, Merry said,

The Brandybucks go in - occasionally when the fit takes them. We have a private entrance. Frodo went in once, long ago. I have been in several times; Usually in daylight, of course, when the trees are sleepy and fairly quiet.

He then called the Forest 'queer'. Everything there is 'much more alive, more aware of what is going on' than in the Shire. The trees 'do not like strangers. They watch you'.

Usually this is all that happens in daylight. At night, 'things can be most alarming, or so I am told'. (My italics) He has, once or twice, been there after dark and near the hedge.

Merry finished by saying that there were 'various queer things' in the forest, or so he was told. But 'I have never seen any of them'. He admitted that 'something makes paths' there.

In terms of the title poem in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Tolkien in the Preface says that it and the second poem in the collection, 'Bombadil Goes Boating', 'evidently come from the Buckland'. Both 'show that the Bucklanders knew Bombadil'. That name, added on to all his other ones, was 'Bucklandish in form'; but they had 'as little understanding of his powers', as the Shire-folk had of Gandalf's. The first poem is 'made up of various hobbit-versions of legends concerning Bombadil'.

From what we are given here, while some hobbits have gone into the Forest, it's usually been during the daytime, keeping an eye on the trees. However, most haven't gone in that far, owing to the lack of information about a willow tree and about what William called a 'singing nutbar'. While something is known about Bombadil, there's not enough information to coherently say who he is, otherwise Merry would have said more.

Any hobbits who knew more as a result of going far into the Forest, such as Maggot, weren't telling; so more information, and the second poem, had to wait for the account of the four hobbits' stay with Bombadil being known in the Red Book.
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Old 11-06-2015, 06:59 PM   #49
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It's also worth observing that the hobbits' planned route wouldn't have taken them through the heart of the Forest; their intention was to cut across its northwest corner and come out on the Road some miles from the Bridge..... not down to the Withywindle and then out on the eastern, Barrow-downs side.
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Old 11-07-2015, 09:09 PM   #50
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Personally, I never found Bombadil moving or compelling as I found the famous Noldor such as Celebrimbor. Strangely distancing of the core mythology is how he leaves a footprint upon me.

An interpretation we've seen about him is Deus Ex Machina, which cheapens the magic when getting as mechanical and concrete about it as that.
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Old 11-08-2015, 07:46 AM   #51
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Leaf How far through the Forest?

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It's also worth observing that the hobbits' planned route wouldn't have taken them through the heart of the Forest; their intention was to cut across its northwest corner and come out on the Road some miles from the Bridge..... not down to the Withywindle and then out on the eastern, Barrow-downs side.
I'd agree with you here, William. Once Frodo spoke about his plan, Merry, who had a lot of local knowledge, supported it as worth the risk.
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Old 11-25-2015, 10:46 AM   #52
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I just reread this chapter and I perceive Tom like a formidable rural Irishman. Very self-assured but he doesn't take much too seriously. If there were pubs around I'd suspect he'd be there quite a lot, telling tales, singing and joking with the locals. He'd avoid political discussions and drink quite a lot but would never lose that sharpness of mind or body even after plenty of pints. Certainly a good fellow who'd help out friend at any time but not one to save the world, he'd be content to stay in his little country pub and the little world that surrounds it.

Edit. Btw the Old Forest chapter, though quite unattached and different to the rest of the novel, is probably where the best writing in LotR is found. Tolkien does a great job in describing the scenes, building up the atmosphere and conveying the emotional roller-coaster the hobbits are experiencing.
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Old 11-25-2015, 12:36 PM   #53
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skip, I like your rural Irish Tom!

I'd also like to underline something that Lmp said on page one: that Tom is "just right", "a natural extension of the wonder and mystery". He's only an enigma with hindsight, when we see the big picture of rings and kings and wizards and the struggle for Middle-earth. In these days of the internet and Peter Jackson's movies, I'm afraid many readers may come to the book knowing too much of what lies ahead, and are therefore confused by Tom. But try to imagine reading LotR with no foreknowledge except maybe having read The Hobbit, and Tom is no odder than Gollum or talking Eagles or Beorn with his goats or the Elves of Mirkwood. If he doesn't seem to fit in, maybe it's because we have been spoilt like Saruman by thinking too much in terms of plots and power and caring too little for good food and good cheer and nature's wondrous beauty.
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Old 11-25-2015, 03:34 PM   #54
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He's only an enigma with hindsight, when we see the big picture of rings and kings and wizards and the struggle for Middle-earth. In these days of the internet and Peter Jackson's movies, I'm afraid many readers may come to the book knowing too much of what lies ahead, and are therefore confused by Tom. But try to imagine reading LotR with no foreknowledge except maybe having read The Hobbit, and Tom is no odder than Gollum or talking Eagles or Beorn with his goats or the Elves of Mirkwood. If he doesn't seem to fit in, maybe it's because we have been spoilt like Saruman by thinking too much in terms of plots and power and caring too little for good food and good cheer and nature's wondrous beauty.
You know, that's a very good thought. Throughout TH and LOTR, we see things appearing out of nowhere all the time. Boom! Gollum. Boom! Ents. Boom! Friends and foes and magic creatures. The difference, as you allude, is that most of these creatures are later explained, or at least given some sort of history, either in LOTR/TH itself or in the First Age books. But Tom is never explained this way. So reading the book forward, he is no different than anyone else. It's only when we get to the end that we can even think, who the hell IS Tom Bombadil?

Great point.
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Old 06-20-2017, 01:49 PM   #55
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He then called the Forest 'queer'. Everything there is 'much more alive, more aware of what is going on' than in the Shire. The trees 'do not like strangers. They watch you'.
That right there is a big part of why I am so skeptical of Tom's nature. I mean, isn't the Old Forest his land? He has some degree of mastery over it, enough so that his incantations can lull the trees to sleep.
But as master of the Forest, why are the trees so bitter and angry, when Tom is so happy and carefree? I think that really helped shape my own perceptions of the character, as those chapters in the Forest and the Barrow Downs held an overwhelming sense of unease, and Tom only exacerbated that feeling because of how disarmingly jovial he was.
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Old 06-20-2017, 03:15 PM   #56
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I mean, isn't the Old Forest his land? He has some degree of mastery over it, enough so that his incantations can lull the trees to sleep.
Well, the Forest doesn't 'belong' to Bombadil. Goldberry seems distressed at the notion.
He is 'master', but of himself. And as he tells the hobbits, explaining his saving them from the Willow, he had an 'errand that [the Willow] dared not hinder.' The ability to affect the trees did not have to equal any possession of the Forest. As a matter of fact, we don't have any evidence he ever did exercise any power over the trees, apart from saving Frodo. Tom told Frodo that event was even 'no plan of his'. He saw himself as being in the right place at the right time, serving some other purpose.

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But as master of the Forest, why are the trees so bitter and angry, when Tom is so happy and carefree?
Gandalf explained to the Council of Elrond that Bombadil was 'withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he has set (my emphasis)". It wasn't that Tom had laid any claim on the Forest; just that he had chosen it as his dwelling place. The sentient trees apparently recognized his true nature, and responded appropriately.
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