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Old 06-07-2017, 10:16 PM   #1
Balfrog
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Bombadil’s Green Girdle

Ms. Seth’s last part on Color Symbolism & Tom Bombadil discusses his ownership of a ‘Green Girdle’. It seems that this particular piece of information (buried in poetry) has not had any attention paid to it by scholars or forum posters. Indeed perhaps not everything’s been caught by Tolkien scholars interested in this subject!

https://priyasethtolkienfan.wordpres...lorful-pair-5/

However those interested in medieval literature will certainly be fully aware of the implications – especially as Tolkien was a leading authority when it came to the ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ tale.

The green girdle was supposed to provide Gawain protection from the Green Knight’s axe blows – being a magical object of great power. Ms. Seth’s essay discusses how Tom may have acquired it and whether it also made him invulnerable. Also discussed is how the addition of a completely new line in the 1962 version of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil cannot possibly be viewed as an editorial slip.
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Old 06-09-2017, 11:08 PM   #2
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I'll post, for courtesy, but the angle on the leading post, personally, is too analytical and too focussed on Academic emphasis, without enough fun and 'Bombadil' as he was sent to us via Tolkien, so I'll morph the emphasis, and happy to continue if you apply the KISS test (keep it simple stupid) or even if technical, make it weirder, or funner. Personal opinion only.

1. Tom Bobadil's apparent immunity to the Ring's invisibility effects imply hierarchy of Maia in terms of power and I see him as a Maia. It is implied that Galadriel and Gandalf, possibly Elrond would have the same capacity, as is anyone who could wrest the Ring off Sauron. Gandalf states in prose as does Galadriel that they could supplant Sauron with their own person, and become Sauronic over time in mood, emphasis of greed to dominate, and in all things sadistic and enslaving.

2. In Bombadil's proximity, Frodo has the Tol Erresea dream, implying, again 'line of Sight' of Bombadil with the Western Straight Road.

3. The term 'girdle' likens itself to the Girdle of Melian, with Bombadil's capacities about Forests as well, and

4. We know that he is 'Eldest' without clear implications about what that means, except that his housing of the Ring would not solve the 'Sauron' problem.

5. It is suggested tacitly in the prose that the Old Forest (might) have had unity with Fangorn's prior to the Numenoreans culling the treeline between Tharbad, up the Greenway to the Old Forest. I have long wondered if the Entwives went North, and if Bombadil knows their fate. There's some tantalising hints in the books of sightings of walking trees North.
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Old 06-09-2017, 11:54 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ivriniel View Post
I'll post, for courtesy, but the angle on the leading post, personally, is too analytical and too focussed on Academic emphasis, without enough fun and 'Bombadil' as he was sent to us via Tolkien, so I'll morph the emphasis, and happy to continue if you apply the KISS test (keep it simple stupid) or even if technical, make it weirder, or funner. Personal opinion only.

1. Tom Bobadil's apparent immunity to the Ring's invisibility effects imply hierarchy of Maia in terms of power and I see him as a Maia. It is implied that Galadriel and Gandalf, possibly Elrond would have the same capacity, as is anyone who could wrest the Ring off Sauron. Gandalf states in prose as does Galadriel that they could supplant Sauron with their own person, and become Sauronic over time in mood, emphasis of greed to dominate, and in all things sadistic and enslaving.

2. In Bombadil's proximity, Frodo has the Tol Erresea dream, implying, again 'line of Sight' of Bombadil with the Western Straight Road.

3. The term 'girdle' likens itself to the Girdle of Melian, with Bombadil's capacities about Forests as well, and

4. We know that he is 'Eldest' without clear implications about what that means, except that his housing of the Ring would not solve the 'Sauron' problem.

5. It is suggested tacitly in the prose that the Old Forest (might) have had unity with Fangorn's prior to the Numenoreans culling the treeline between Tharbad, up the Greenway to the Old Forest. I have long wondered if the Entwives went North, and if Bombadil knows their fate. There's some tantalising hints in the books of sightings of walking trees North.
And all this passes the KISS test...how, exactly?
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Old 06-10-2017, 12:53 AM   #4
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And all this passes the KISS test...how, exactly?
Hello Nerwen hahahah

I didn't say it passed its own KISS test - perhaps it's polite to be welcoming of the opening poster....by mirroring (what I could - I don't have their training) of his/her gifted scholarship.

Do you think Bombadil's "Girdle" around the old forest likens itself to the Girdle of Melian?
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Old 06-10-2017, 03:30 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Ivriniel View Post
Hello Nerwen hahahah

I didn't say it passed its own KISS test - perhaps it's polite to be welcoming of the opening poster....by mirroring (what I could - I don't have their training) of his/her gifted scholarship.

Do you think Bombadil's "Girdle" around the old forest likens itself to the Girdle of Melian?
Well, you could say "Bombadil is to the Old Forest as Melian is to Doriath", certainly- but I'm not sure whether his physical girdle (not mentioned in "Lord of the Rings" IIRC) should be seen as a reference to that.
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Old 06-10-2017, 06:42 AM   #6
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Do you think Bombadil's "Girdle" around the old forest likens itself to the Girdle of Melian?
It doesn't seem that Bombadil himself affects those wondering into the Old Forest.

When Frodo and his friends enter the Forest with a direction in mind, it appears that it is the collective will of the wood (ultimately, the Willow-man?) that decides they should be forced toward the Withywindle.
When they are saved by Bombadil, he tells the hobbits that event was "no plan of his". If his aiding them was something he had not directed, then neither was their being in the position to be rescued.
Also, the placing of a 'girdle' ala Melian would imply his claim of the Forest as a realm, and that was something contrary to his nature.
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Old 06-10-2017, 10:28 AM   #7
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Rather than pull stray words out of a hat and put context where there is none, Tolkien the scholar would know the significance of Gawaine's green girdle is not its invincibility, but is rather symbolic of Gawaine's failure against the Green Knight.

Gawaine accepts the girdle from Lady Bertilak, and although he readily, almost fearfully, takes it, valuing survival over virtue (and surviving without honour is unchivalrous). Gawaine refers to the girdle as “falssyng" (which roughly equates to "treachery").

Thus, after the Green Knight forgives him for his treachery, Gawaine nobly wears the girdle ever after as the symbol of his loss of honour, evincing the quote "a man may hide his misdeed, but never erase it."

So for Tolkien to equate Bombadil's green girdle with Gawaine's green girdle is rather farcical, since neither match contextually except they are green and a girdle. Rather than pulling appalling parallels from one's appendages, take the line

"bright blue his jacket was and his boots were yellow, green were his girdle..."

as simply a metaphor for sky, grass and flowers.
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Old 06-10-2017, 11:50 PM   #8
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@Morthoron

I thought Balrogs took ski holidays in the Misty Mountains when travelling in subterreanean vaults to place a Silmaril (Arkestone) in The Lonely Mountain.

@ reader - more responding to prior post....

I posted to the thread because I don't like seeing '0' posts on a lonely topic. So, in the syncretic tradition (the attempt to juxtapose on terms), let's see how much agreement we have so far. Hello Mmorthoron, great to see you.

Okay, merely using the word, 'girdle' implies presence by absence. Girdle is not appreciably central in Tolkienian casting of Bombadil, as has been rightly pointed out, the lunacy of the attempt to 'make it work' is nonetheless likened to 'a blue moon' where 'luna' and 'madness or otherwise - rarity' can be a term to apply to the analysis.

So, whilst the Arthurian Sir what's his name, of Morgan Le Fay's feminine manipulations was a ploy in two then Folklore Traditions (Exchange and Winnings), do we see those in Bombadil? I argue YES

yes when drawing a log bow, but one like in the hands of an Elf, Legolas. Bombadil's Withywindle is a Girdle - whether or not it is 'territorially disposed TO Bombadil', nonetheless, Bombadil evidences immunity to it (if it is not his Territory) or alternatively, it is Goldberry's or else, some mischief of prose and mendacity that Bombadil feigns to disown legacy and ownership of it.

We see Gawain and treachery interspersed in the Green Night, with Morgan Le Fay as master manipulator, although concurrently, the Green Knight bears connotations to a Chrisitian and almost Christ like sensibility in self sacrifice (he did lose his head from Gawain's bow, then, did naught but humiliate Gawain in non-equivalence of blow in the climax).

So, back to the Barrow Downs: the Exchange and Winnings adaptation of a Medieval motif (rather not squarely onto Tolkienian mythology), what do we have.

Carn Dum violating Barrows within Bombadil's Girdle, that he leaves alone. It's all very odd. He lets the Northern Line of Numenor falter, and fails to cleanse the Mounts, yet, overruns one after Tom puts on the Ring. He grants passage to Frodo with the Ring, which of course is Master power to the Nine and of the linked 'energy' to the Witchking.

Girdle of Melian to Girdle of Witchking (I suspect the Witchking was a cross dresser?) to Girdle of Bombadil, and thus in honour of the Syncretic tradition, we have a delightful reconciliation of the Opening Post. with No deviations or areas of concern.



I'm checking myself into therapy after writing the post
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Old 06-11-2017, 01:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ivriniel View Post
@Morthoron

I thought Balrogs took ski holidays in the Misty Mountains when travelling in subterreanean vaults to place a Silmaril (Arkestone) in The Lonely Mountain.

@ reader - more responding to prior post....

I posted to the thread because I don't like seeing '0' posts on a lonely topic. So, in the syncretic tradition (the attempt to juxtapose on terms), let's see how much agreement we have so far. Hello Mmorthoron, great to see you.

Okay, merely using the word, 'girdle' implies presence by absence. Girdle is not appreciably central in Tolkienian casting of Bombadil, as has been rightly pointed out, the lunacy of the attempt to 'make it work' is nonetheless likened to 'a blue moon' where 'luna' and 'madness or otherwise - rarity' can be a term to apply to the analysis.

So, whilst the Arthurian Sir what's his name, of Morgan Le Fay's feminine manipulations was a ploy in two then Folklore Traditions (Exchange and Winnings), do we see those in Bombadil? I argue YES

yes when drawing a log bow, but one like in the hands of an Elf, Legolas. Bombadil's Withywindle is a Girdle - whether or not it is 'territorially disposed TO Bombadil', nonetheless, Bombadil evidences immunity to it (if it is not his Territory) or alternatively, it is Goldberry's or else, some mischief of prose and mendacity that Bombadil feigns to disown legacy and ownership of it.

We see Gawain and treachery interspersed in the Green Night, with Morgan Le Fay as master manipulator, although concurrently, the Green Knight bears connotations to a Chrisitian and almost Christ like sensibility in self sacrifice (he did lose his head from Gawain's bow, then, did naught but humiliate Gawain in non-equivalence of blow in the climax).

So, back to the Barrow Downs: the Exchange and Winnings adaptation of a Medieval motif (rather not squarely onto Tolkienian mythology), what do we have.

Carn Dum violating Barrows within Bombadil's Girdle, that he leaves alone. It's all very odd. He lets the Northern Line of Numenor falter, and fails to cleanse the Mounts, yet, overruns one after Tom puts on the Ring. He grants passage to Frodo with the Ring, which of course is Master power to the Nine and of the linked 'energy' to the Witchking.

Girdle of Melian to Girdle of Witchking (I suspect the Witchking was a cross dresser?) to Girdle of Bombadil, and thus in honour of the Syncretic tradition, we have a delightful reconciliation of the Opening Post. with No deviations or areas of concern.



I'm checking myself into therapy after writing the post
As am I, after reading it.

In answer to all of you: could the green girdle be a reference to "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"? I think it is possible. Must it, then, necessarily bear the entire weight of symbolism ascribed to it by a.) Priya Seth, b.) Morth or c.) Ivriniel?
I think not. It is only a girdle, after all, and I fear it would snap under so tremendous a strain!

Btw, Ivrin, do come back to the "Password" thread. Pervinca and I have no-one to play with.
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Old 06-11-2017, 01:26 AM   #10
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As am I, after reading it.

In answer to all of you: could the green girdle be a reference to "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"? I think it is possible. Must it, then, necessarily bear the entire weight of symbolism ascribed to it by a.) Priya Seth, b.) Morth or c.) Ivriniel?
I think not. It is only a girdle, after all, and I fear it would snap under so tremendous a strain!

Btw, Ivrin, do come back to the "Password" thread. Pervinca and I have no-one to play with.
hahaha well said
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Old 07-07-2017, 04:27 PM   #11
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So here we have a situation where the good Professor decides to alter an existing published piece of work just for kicks? Just so he can put in a random piece of colored clothing for the hell of it?

Doesn’t make any sense to me. Particularly when an admitted objective for the 1962 booklet was to better integrate T.B. into the world of The Lord of the Rings and where numerous bits of pseudo-concealed poetry are provided linking back to England and its early documented history. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude there’s a strong possibility of a medieval English originating ‘green girdle’ being slipped in for much the same reason.

I don’t believe that there is a reputable Tolkien scholar alive who honestly believes that a ‘green girdle’ would have held no particular importance to Tolkien. Nor that Tolkien was lax or casual in his choice of words for material to be published. He was undoubtedly a very careful pedant – and a self-admitted one.

When it comes to the choices behind including a waistband of a particular color – it is the combination of the two that arouses most curiosity. After all if he had written ‘orange were his girdle’ or ‘green were his cummerbund’ the impact would be far less. As I am sure you well know, there are several alternates available for the word ‘girdle’. For example he could have described the article as a ‘belt’ or ‘sash’ or many other ways. As for hue – he could have given the waistband any number of the myriad of colors within his vocabulary. Yet he didn’t.

Statistically if we limit ourselves to just considering the number of poetic choices of waistband to three – namely: girdle, belt & sash; and if we conservatively limit color choice to the seven of the traditionally described rainbow (R,O,Y,G,B,I,V), there is only a one in twenty one chance of the green/girdle combination being arrived at on a purely random basis. Roughly that’s 5%.

So yes there is a chance that Tolkien momentarily suffered acute memory loss (and forgot all about SGGK) and decided that for some inexplicable reason that he would change his prior published poetry to include a randomly chosen article of clothing of random coloring – whose significance was entirely overlooked. But the odds of such a coincidence are extremely small.

At the very best I think that one might argue that it boils down to Tolkien either did it by accident or he didn’t. Still a 50% probability – and one high enough not to be dismissed at a whim. In reality the odds of deliberate contrivance are much higher. There is after all only one 'green girdle' of any known significance in this world.





Morthoron


Your last post is not particularly well thought out and lacks balance. I don't see the “stray words out of a hat” comment as at all appropriate. Just like any medievalist would react, if one were to air out the phrase 'green girdle' there is, certainly to my mind, only one possible way Tolkien would have connected it. Unless you can prove otherwise?

As for its significance – much scholarly work has been published on the matter. Significance has been conjectured to exist on multiple fronts. So when it comes to Tolkien's own translation:

“For whoever goes girdled with this green riband,
while he keeps it well clasped closely about him,
there is none so hardy under heaven that to hew him were able;
for he could not be killed by any cunning of hand.”

it's this 'invincibility' significance that Ms. Seth has focused on as a parallel – which you seem to want to ignore. I don’t recall the Professor ever called Lady Bertilak a liar? Nor to my knowledge did he ever imply the poet lied? Nor did he doubt whether it truly possessed magical qualities. Do you?
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Old 07-08-2017, 09:53 AM   #12
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Morthoron


Your last post is not particularly well thought out and lacks balance. I don't see the “stray words out of a hat” comment as at all appropriate. Just like any medievalist would react, if one were to air out the phrase 'green girdle' there is, certainly to my mind, only one possible way Tolkien would have connected it. Unless you can prove otherwise?

As for its significance – much scholarly work has been published on the matter. Significance has been conjectured to exist on multiple fronts. So when it comes to Tolkien's own translation:

“For whoever goes girdled with this green riband,
while he keeps it well clasped closely about him,
there is none so hardy under heaven that to hew him were able;
for he could not be killed by any cunning of hand.”

it's this 'invincibility' significance that Ms. Seth has focused on as a parallel – which you seem to want to ignore. I don’t recall the Professor ever called Lady Bertilak a liar? Nor to my knowledge did he ever imply the poet lied? Nor did he doubt whether it truly possessed magical qualities. Do you?
Saying my "last post was not particularly well thought out and lacks balance" is as laughable as the premise you started with. Because I am not required to do public relations work for a semi-pseudo-Tolkien scholar, I simply use common sense, and do not need to grasp at straws to get the gullible to read tripe and increase a site's click count.

Does Bombadil have a girdle of invincibility? No. As Glorfindel noted, "I think that in the end, if all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First, and then Night will come." Tolkien never implied Bombadil was invincible, that is not the character's raison d'être.

Does Bombadil need a girdle of invincibility? No. Upon whom exactly does he wish to exert his invincibility, since a girdle of invincibility implies a martial stance that Bombadil in no way has an interest in. He is not bellicose; in fact, he allows Old Man Willow his space, and does not even attack the Barrow Wights in a conventional sense.

Does Bombadil wear a girdle of invincibility? Oh, of course, right along with his yellow boots of uber trajectory and his ever-expanding blue jacket of excessive caloric-intake. Because Goldberry sews nuclear-powered clothes.

The more realistic, less specious consideration is that the colors of Bombadil's clothing match his environment. He is, after all, a metaphor for the old Oxfordshire countryside. And Tolkien's love of alliteration would certainly allow for a green girdle in much the same way as a "great green dragon".

Again, you've missed the symbolism of the green girdle in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" completely (not surprising, considering the Snark hunts you engage in).

Does the original author ever have Gawain actually use the green girdle of invincibility in battle against the Green Knight? No, because it is a badge of shame for Gawain to seek to cheat in order to defeat the Green Knight. He dons the girdle out of fear. In essence, the minute he puts it on he loses the valour and honour that were quintessential to the code of a chivalrous knight (and the tale itself is invested with that code of chivalry). Gawain wears it ever afterward as an act of atonement for his deceit.

Why would the scholar Tolkien equate a badge of shame to Bombadil, who neither cares for invincibility nor wants dominion over others? The symbolism does not in any way equate. Your house of cards is blown over by your own flatulence.
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Old 08-07-2017, 11:26 PM   #13
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It's probably worthwhile you taking a look or re-look at Tolkien's essay: Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, and his book with E.V. Gordon. It would also be useful for you to peruse H&S Chronology and understand how often Tolkien taught the subject. Once digested, you'll understand that a balanced view would have been something like:

'Wow – Tolkien really had a great deal of expertise on this medieval text. There's a good chance a 'green girdle' would have meant a great deal to him.'

You're argument that it's just two words puts a fallacious spin on the matter: So 'One Ring' or an 'Otter's whiskers' would have meant nothing to him either, eh?

Slinking into a corner and being unable to admit the above is disappointing – yet not unexpected. As usual you side-step most of my responses. Sure you can keep kidding yourself … randomly chosen color, associated to a random piece of clothing, all inserted into an existing text in a moment of amnesia, huh. However if you were truly honest with yourself - using your own words:

“The more realistic, less specious consideration is”

Ms. Seth's viewpoint. Funny how you only want to use that argument when it suits you!


I simply use common sense
On this matter – I'm still waiting!


Does Bombadil have a girdle of invincibility? No. As Glorfindel noted, "I think that in the end, if all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First, and then Night will come." Tolkien never implied Bombadil was invincible, that is not the character's raison d'être.

Oh dear – you've failed to perceive magical items can have their limitations. Within the only specified bounds we know:
“For whoever goes girdled with this green riband, while he keeps it well clasped closely about him, there is none so hardy under heaven that to hew him were able; for he could not be killed by any cunning of hand.”
Tolkien's translation of SGGK
even wearing a green girdle Tom may be slain. One way which does not involve 'hands' could be through song. Perhaps Sauron's songs of power might be more powerful than Tom's. And there again – I'm sure Sauron would have had evil creatures at his command capable of slaying fleshly folk that needn't employ, or indeed didn't have, 'hands'.

Again, you've missed the symbolism of the green girdle in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" completely (not surprising, considering the Snark hunts you engage in).
Regardless of what your own perception is of the symbolic significance of the 'green girdle' in Sir Gawain & The Green Knight, let's be clear it is not the only one in the world. Or do you deem yourself to be an expert on SGGK? Sorry – I don't agree with 'it's my way or the highway' approach.

Does Bombadil need a girdle of invincibility? No.
Nonsense – how do you know what he does or does not need? Has M-e been free of danger throughout Tom's existence in Arda? Answer yes or no? Bet you won't be able to bring yourself to say no.

Upon whom exactly does he wish to exert his invincibility, since a girdle of invincibility implies a martial stance that Bombadil in no way has an interest in. He is not bellicose; in fact, he allows Old Man Willow his space, and does not even attack the Barrow Wights in a conventional sense.
More nonsense – in the space of a few days he deals with OMW and obliterates the Wight. How do you know what evil threats TB has had to deal with over the Ages. It's not as if there have been no wars on his borders.


Does Bombadil wear a girdle of invincibility? Oh, of course, right along with his yellow boots of uber trajectory and his ever-expanding blue jacket of excessive caloric-intake. Because Goldberry sews nuclear-powered clothes.

Adds nothing. You've yet to realize how much involvement Tolkien had with classic fairy tale. Try reading and digesting Tolkien On Fairy-stories by Flieger and Anderson, and then the light bulb might go on.


Does the original author ever have Gawain actually use the green girdle of invincibility in battle against the Green Knight?
This statement makes no sense. There was no battle. There was a beheading match agreed to in an oral contract. Are you questioning why the author didn't include a battle? You might try asking him, but you won't get an answer.

Why would the scholar Tolkien equate a badge of shame to Bombadil, who neither cares for invincibility nor wants dominion over others?
Yes, yes – we all know the 'badge of shame' thing. But what was the girdle's significance before it came to Gawain? Did Lady Bertilak wear it as a 'badge of shame'? And who had it before Lady Bertilak? What would have been more important to Tolkien – what the green girdle started out as or ended up as? Neither you or I can say for sure. So my suggestion is keep an open mind.

And Morthoron – please keep your objections coming. I look forward to opening your mind up to other vistas, and correcting you - always.
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Old 08-14-2017, 07:46 PM   #14
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While I am very much taken with the idea of Tom Bombadil using an ultra-powerful magical item simply to hold up his trousers, I can see some problems with identifying his belt with the girdle of Bertilak.

Firstly there is the question of description. The girdle that the lady of Hautdesert bestows on Gawain is made of silk, embroidered with gold:
Quote:
Gered hit watʒ with grene silk and with golde schaped,
Noʒt bot arounde brayden, beten with fyngreʒ
(Tolkien & Gordon, ll. 1832-3)

Fashioned it was of green silk, and with gold finished,
though only braided round about, embroidered by hand
(Translation by JRRT)
Although Tolkien's poem says little about Tom's belt beyond its colour, the green trousers that he wears with it are made of leather. Tom's sartorial choices are unconventional, but his otherwise homely clothes would seem all the more outlandish for the addition of a gold-edged silk belt, particularly as pendants are mentioned in Gawain's exchange with Bertilak at the Green Chapel. It is also possible to read "Green were his girdle and his breeches all of leather" to mean not only that both Tom's trousers and his belt are green, but also that they are both made of leather. I note that Tolkien's poem makes no mention of Tom's belt being woven with gold.

More significant is that the article suggests that the girdle originally came from Goldberry. The description of Tom's clothes in the first stanza includes his swan-wing feather because one of the outcomes of the story is his acquisition of the blue feather that he wears in his hat in LR. Therefore we can presume that this description is intended as a portrait of its protagonist before the events of the poem. Tom's apparent first meeting with Goldberry is described in the third stanza, and their encounter is not one much conducive to gift-giving.

Is Tom invulnerable because of a magic belt? I doubt it, and I think that a more interesting question is whether or not Gawain is invulnerable wearing his, since the entire episode of his being offered it, accepting the gift and using it to protect himself against Bertilak's strokes has been planned in advance by Bertilak, his lady and Morgan Le Fay (the crone who accompanies the lady of the castle and is unflatteringly described in ll. 948-69). Bertilak's stroke cuts Gawain's neck, and Bertilak confidently announces that he could have done Gawain more harm had his failure been greater. We only have the word of Bertilak's lady that the belt is one that grants invulnerability against cuts from weapons, and she has become ever more desperate in her temptations throughout her last encounter with Gawain, and could simply be lying. I find the hunting scenes very significant in their juxtaposition with Gawain's temptations, and the wily fox Reynard is the last victim of Bertilak's wildlife holocaust, dying possibly the most gruesome death.
Given the strong Christian message of Gawain and the Green Knight and the Pearl manuscript in general, it is possible that faith alone would have been a greater protection against the Green Knight's axe than a fancy belt.

Added to these problems, we have the far simpler explanation offered by Morthoron that green completes a palate of colours that represent the natural world of which Tom Bombadil is the spirit, and that girdle simply works better in the poem's structure than does its humble synonym belt. If we apply Occam's razor (another historical Bill, incidentally), that symbolism wins out. I should add the further note that there is a certain hubris implicit in assuming that one has spotted something in Tolkien that nobody has ever pointed out before, given the number of medievalists who have applied themselves to Tolkien's sources. Gawain is a pretty obvious place to start looking, given JRRT's history with the poem and its dialect, and Tom Shippey at least can probably quote the original line for line. It might not be well known to the general public, but in the field of medieval English studies, Gawain is a staple piece.
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Old 09-08-2017, 12:15 AM   #15
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“It is also possible to read "Green were his girdle and his breeches all of leather" to mean not only that both Tom's trousers and his belt are green, but also that they are both made of leather.”

Within the confines of the English language – I find such an interpretation as just about impossible. One might argue the leather breeches were green - but I can't see your suggestion at all. In any case, I'm glad you mentioned Occam's razor because a simple and direct interpretation of the verse – meaning the girdle is green and the breeches are leather – would be aligned with Occam's principle best.

As to the sequence of events in the 1962 The Adventures of Tom Bombadil poem – please read and take note of Tolkien's remarks in the preface of the associated booklet. Sequences of events cannot be determined precisely when the poetry has been made up from various legends and from different hobbit authors especially when transmitted orally.


Talking further about Occam's razor if you want to try and use it to pit a 'Nature' inspired green girdle versus a 'Mythological' green girdle – I believe the latter wins hands down. Thus I wholly disagree with:

“If we apply Occam's razor … symbolism wins out.”

Tolkien only ever wrote about one green girdle – and that's the 'default' mythological SGGK variety. There are no others ever documented that were specifically green and nature-inspired. 'O. r.' requires us to take the simplest and most straightforward path. Because no records of a nature version girdle exist – the default SGGK belt emerges as the front-runner.

We must not forget that 'green' as a color had a special meaning to Tolkien beyond 'nature':

“green was a fairy colour”
-SGGK, Tolkien & E.V. Gordon

I have no doubt green as a nature color was also important to Tolkien. So in this case, both possibilities are evenly matched in applying 'O.r'.

In this study, one should also weigh the reason behind the insertion of a new line in the 1962 The Adventures of Tom Bombadil poem. For a nature inspired green girdle – there are none given – but for a mythological one, Tolkien admits the new Bombadil poetry has specifically been formulated with linkage to our world. Given such an admission there is every reason to believe the poem's green girdle was yet another example. So again - advantage SGGK green girdle.

I could go further and throw in other factors to weigh – such as Tolkien's degree of pedantry, the state of his mental faculties at the time of composing the new verse, opportunities for correction, etc. etc. - but these would not help the 'nature' inspired green girdle case at all.

You are welcome to disagree – but overall the SGGK girdle wins out!

As far as the SGGK poem itself is concerned and whether the girdle is truly magical – I do not want to get into that debate. Whether we like it or not we are forced to take the unknown poet's words as transmitted by Lady Bertilak to be truthful. Again – as I communicated to Morthoron – Tolkien never called Lady Bertilak a liar.

When it comes to Goldberry's role in all of this – there is yet more evidence to come. Ms. Seth has has slowly built a case for a deep and hidden insertion of fairy tale and localized mythology within TLotR text. Gradually more and more information is coming out – that yes is entirely new. I know there will come a time when she pulls the threads together and explains how this all meshes. In the meantime she has just released how she believes an element of the fairy tale Childe Rowland was subtly incorporated into the Barrow-downs episode.
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