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Old 09-27-2015, 02:11 PM   #1
Aaron
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Boots How do you perceive Tom Bombadil?

I know a great many topics have been made on the subject of Tom's purpose in the narrative, and his origins. But I felt, for a change of pace, that we might talk about how we - as readers - see him, and our feelings towards such an unusual character?

In truth, I must confess that from my first reading of the books, to even the present day, Bombadil has unnerved me. His caprice and neutrality, even in the face of so much bloody war. His tale of Old Man Willow, which unnerved the Hobbits upon hearing it. And, more than that, the feeling that he is something inhuman trying to look human, and something chaotic, trying to seem "good".
To me, there is something intentionally misleading about that. And something frightening about so many outward pretensions of decency. It has always suggested some malignancy to me, something not quite right lurking beneath the surface.

But how do you read him? How do you feel about the character?
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Old 09-27-2015, 03:29 PM   #2
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Now that's indeed a new and interesting take on the matter of Tom, nice thread idea!

How do I percieve Tom Bombadil? Seeing as some fellow Downers have a habit of likening me to him, that may turn out to be quite a self-searching question.

I do find him a bit unnerving in the sense of annoying at times with his "hey dol, ding-a-dong", even though the poetry of his songs doesn't ring nearly as atrociously in my ears as it apparently does in many others - it's a bit silly, but that's OK, there's also beauty therein. But all these merry nonsense-rhymes are just a surface phenomenon, we soon get hints that there's much more to Tom - not that the jolly, um, Tomfoolery is deceptive, mind you, it does express an aspect of his true being in my opinion, but don't ever think for a moment that's all. It's just like bubbles on the surface of a deep, deep stream. (Weird metaphor, seems more fitting for Goldberry, but that's how it came out of my keyboard.)

"Something inhuman trying to look human", I agree with that, but not to deceive, I think, rather to accomodate: he takes a form that won't scare the hobbits, a form they'll feel comfortable with, while still preserving some of his alienness (note that he doesn't quite look like a hobbit nor quite like one of the Big Folk to them!). It's an act of courtesy. No doubt he looked quite different to Gandalf, and Goldberry too.

"Chaotic trying to seem good"? Nah, don't think so. He's living by laws of his own choosing, but those laws he abides by, such as not leaving his circumscribed realm. If anything, he might be neutral good, but ultimately good or evil seem to have no more meaning with regard to him than a hill or a brook or grass can be called good or evil. What he doesn't seem to be is hostile to any living thing as long as it minds its own business and leaves other living things alone - he tolerates Old Man Willow in his realm - , but if it does overstep its bounds he knows how to deal with it on its own terms (q.e.d. Old Man Willow again). He actually reminds me a lot of these words of Frodo's, even though they were made referring to Gandalf:

with bird on bough and beast in den
in their own secret tongue he spoke.

Pretending, misleading, malignant? No. Tom Bombadil is who he is, always - or as much of himself as the other person is able to grasp.
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Old 09-27-2015, 04:26 PM   #3
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My first reading of LOTR was too long ago for me to recall how I felt about Bombadil then.
Now, however, he comes across as an enigma, yes, but a comforting one nonetheless.
It's obvious his concerns are different from any other character we meet; he's doing something that feels important, but it's a mystery to all but himself (and maybe Gandalf).
I see Tom in fact as the anti-Gandalf. The wizard is totally wrapped up in the fate of Middle-earth: he's focused on Sauron, and all that he does is a reflection of that.
Tom is apparently more of a "big picture" guy. He's got his own agenda to take care of, but it's so diffuse that he has a lot of leeway in how he can accomplish it.
Gandalf himself made the "opposites" observation when he called himself a rolling stone, and Tom a moss-gatherer.
Although the reader is given only the bare-bones about Tom and his nature, I never get any feeling of ill-will from him. Like Pitch said, he even treats Old Man Willow with respect, allowing him his own part in the Forest, but merely bringing him to heel when he crosses the line.
Same thing for the Barrow-wights. Tom banishes the one that had taken the Hobbits, but he doesn't turn all of them out. He recognizes that helping Frodo is something he's meant to do, and does it. He's obviously Good; his means of doing good works are just more obscure.
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Old 09-28-2015, 12:52 AM   #4
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Boots Tom is what he is, and what he is needs no excuses

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He's obviously Good; his means of doing good works are just more obscure.
I'd say he's good in the sense of being helpful, benign, tolerant, but not Good if that means being a party in the war of Good vs Evil. In my eyes he's the only true pacifist in the story. I can't imagine him ever wielding a weapon, unlike Gandalf - nor does he need one, "for his songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster." This aversion to violence distinguishes him from Treebeard and the other Ents, who are otherwise the only characters remotely comparable to him in that they have their own agenda and feel that nobody's quite on their side.

I like that you call him "the anti-Gandalf" - I see them both as polar opposites, extrovert Gandalf and introvert Tom, and as very much akin in the respect and friendliness they show all living things; two sides of a coin, in a way.
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Old 09-28-2015, 07:37 PM   #5
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I'd say he's good in the sense of being helpful, benign, tolerant, but not Good if that means being a party in the war of Good vs Evil. In my eyes he's the only true pacifist in the story. I can't imagine him ever wielding a weapon, unlike Gandalf - nor does he need one, "for his songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster." This aversion to violence distinguishes him from Treebeard and the other Ents, who are otherwise the only characters remotely comparable to him in that they have their own agenda and feel that nobody's quite on their side.

I like that you call him "the anti-Gandalf" - I see them both as polar opposites, extrovert Gandalf and introvert Tom, and as very much akin in the respect and friendliness they show all living things; two sides of a coin, in a way.
I think you are both right about the concept of Tom Bombadil. His character is described in that way. But there's one thing I find curious about his role in the story. Which is that he has a role in in the story.

There's sort of a clash between the idea, or concept, of Tom Bombadil at its core and the very basic necessity for him to take part in the story after all. On the one Hand he is described as this passive, neutral and jolly fellow who refrains from the use of power over beings and things all together. I always figured that this is why the Ring has no power over him, because he himself has truly rejected the notion of power. But on the other Hand he has to (from a literary point of view) interact with the Hobbits and the ongoing storyline. And he does so in rather counterintuitive (in regards to the idea of his character) ways, in my opinion. He uses force and power to help the Hobbits in crucial situations. He may be very cautious and gentle about it, i. e. mostly just singing some funky tunes, but he does dominate the will and mind of other (more or less) conscious beings if necessary. He does take a stand and a clear side. Obviously, he does so for a good and justified reason but I feel like that this does undermine the idea behind his character in some way. And to be clear, I don't fault Tolkien for that. He handled this discrepancy rather elegantly.

I think it's more of a structural problem, if that makes sense. It's kind of a conundrum.

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Old 09-28-2015, 08:12 PM   #6
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There's sort of a clash between the idea, or concept, of Tom Bombadil at its core and the very basic necessity for him to take part in the story after all.
Tolkien addressed that in Letters #144:

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Tom Bombadil is not an important person-to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a 'comment'...I would not...have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function. I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom against compulsion that has long lost any desire save mere power, and so on; but both sides...want a measure of control. But if you have, as it were taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless.
So what you say about the Ring not affecting Tom because he has no desire for power is right. That aligns with Gandalf's remarks to the Council, that Bombadil "is his own master"; that is, power and domination, the Ring's powers and its tools, are unable to gain a foothold in his mind because there is no means of connecting to kindred thoughts within him.

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He does take a stand and a clear side. Obviously, he does so for a good and justified reason but I feel like that this does undermine the idea behind his character in some way. And to be clear, I don't fault Tolkien for that. I think it's more of a structural problem, if that makes sense. It's kind of a conundrum.
Being in the story, for whatever metaphysical reason, he must either aid Frodo or thwart him. Ignoring the plight of the Hobbits would have been a choice as well: a choice against the Good that Frodo served. I think Bombadil had existed in Middle-earth completely out of the histories, unknown even to most of the Elves. The few who knew of him didn't know what he was, or his purpose. Gandalf apparently did know, and his knowledge had to have come with him from the West. Tom, I think, knew that one day he would have his part to play in the greater history, but he only stepped into the story for as brief a time as was absolutely necessary.\, just long enough to get Frodo out of the Old Forest and the Downs.
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Old 09-28-2015, 08:53 PM   #7
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Thanks for that quote!


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Being in the story, for whatever metaphysical reason, he must either aid Frodo or thwart him. Ignoring the plight of the Hobbits would have been a choice as well: a choice against the Good that Frodo served.
That is very true for the logic within the given situation of the story. But Tolkien constructed this situation in that way. Without Old Man Willow or a mean Barrow-Wight, there would be no need for Bombadil to make this call.

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Tom, I think, knew that one day he would have his part to play in the greater history, but he only stepped into the story for as brief a time as was absolutely necessary.\, just long enough to get Frodo out of the Old Forest and the Downs.
So it seems to me that even if you have "renounced control [...] and the means of power" (as Tolkien puts it) there comes a time when this concept (or philosophy) reaches its limit.
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Old 09-29-2015, 01:32 PM   #8
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To me, at least, the entire "Bombadil chapters" sound like Gandalf put some bad weed to Tom and Goldberry In any case, the chapters about Bombadil, Old Man Willow and the Barrow-wights seem to me like a very elaborate LSD trip.

Not that I don't like that.
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Old 09-29-2015, 01:38 PM   #9
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To me, at least, the entire "Bombadil chapters" sound like Gandalf put some bad weed to Tom and Goldberry In any case, the chapters about Bombadil, Old Man Willow and the Barrow-wights seem to me like a very elaborate LSD trip.
The Sixties beat you to that idea.
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Old 09-30-2015, 03:31 PM   #10
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Without Old Man Willow or a mean Barrow-Wight, there would be no need for Bombadil to make this call.
Yep, and Tolkien had to construct the situation in that way because he was writing this kind of story. Without obstacles on the way there would be no adventure. And since he was writing this kind of story, this was probably the only way he could bring Bombadil into it at all - as a helper in danger.

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So it seems to me that even if you have "renounced control [...] and the means of power" (as Tolkien puts it) there comes a time when this concept (or philosophy) reaches its limit.
Yes. Being neutral, pacifist, non-combatant doesn't mean being a jerk and abandoning people in distress who need your help.

But I'd like to take a look at the kind of 'power' Tom uses at need. Here's what he says to Old Man Willow:
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'You let them out again, Old Man Willow!' he said. 'What be you a-thinking of? You should not be waking. Eat earth! Dig deep! Drink water! Go to sleep! Bombadil is talking!'
Basically, he reminds the willow that it's a tree and admonishes it to behave as behoves a tree instead of waylaying innocent wanderers - and because "Bombadil is talking", the willow obeys. So, is Tom's superpower ontologic authority? Because he is who he is, can he make other things be what they are?
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Old 09-30-2015, 04:03 PM   #11
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Basically, he reminds the willow that it's a tree and admonishes it to behave as behoves a tree instead of waylaying innocent wanderers - and because "Bombadil is talking", the willow obeys. So, is Tom's superpower ontologic authority? Because he is who he is, can he make other things be what they are?
The Willow is clearly more than a mere tree, though. He's described as having a "grey thirsty spirit" that seems in line with Ents, or more closely, Huorns.
It obeys Bombadil because, at least in "the bounds that he has set" (to quote Gandalf), he is Master. I think he is allowed such power because he himself has set a limit on his influence. Tom wants to be left alone to pursue his own ends; he has no desire to extend his power to cover the "Free Peoples".
It's interesting that Tom tells the Hobbits:

Quote:
'Tom is not master of Riders from the Black Land far beyond his country.'
(emphasis mine)

That suggests again that Tom is only so powerful in his own small place, and that was the way he wanted it.
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Old 10-01-2015, 06:19 AM   #12
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The Sixties beat you to that idea.
Alas! that I missed the sixties.

Turning to the three chapters dealing with Tom in the FOTR, I enjoyed them very much (unlike many others who did not find them as pleasant as I did) and their air and otherworldly feeling was a delight to myself.
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Old 10-01-2015, 04:28 PM   #13
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Boots You beat me to it

You beat me to the Bored of the Rings reference, Inziladun!

I've been thinking back to when I first read LotR, and who or what I thought Tom Bombadil and Goldberry were. Trying to recollect, I wasn't sure then who or what they were, and didn't mind at the time, having met in that book all kinds of strange beings.

Soon after, I read Robert Foster's Complete Guide to Middle Earth, with its suggestion that Bombadil was a Maia 'gone native', like Radagast. While I thought it interesting, I didn't accept it, on the grounds that while Gandalf, a Maia, was terrified of having anything to do with the One Ring due to the temptations it would offer him, that ring appeared to have no power over Bombadil.
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Old 10-02-2015, 04:38 AM   #14
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Concerning the notion that the Ring has no power over Tom, I think many are mistaken in that view. Tom is neutral. He desires nothing. He is like a walking, talking, singing personification of Switzerland. The Ring simply cannot find anything that would affect him, anything that would lure him into a Gollum-like possessiveness.

And the fact that the Ring did not make him invisible is, to me at least, not that great a wonder. You have to remember that the Ring puts its wearer into the wraith world. And you also have to remember that the Elves, for example, live in both worlds - the visible and the invisible (wraith-like, for lack of a better word). So it is my opinion that if, say, an Elf put on the Ring he would not become invisible.

And the conclusion to all of this is that Tom Bombadil lives in both worlds, like the Elves, the Maiar, and the Valar (which doesn't necessarily mean that he belongs to any of those that I named).
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Old 10-02-2015, 07:29 AM   #15
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And the fact that the Ring did not make him invisible is, to me at least, not that great a wonder. You have to remember that the Ring puts its wearer into the wraith world. And you also have to remember that the Elves, for example, live in both worlds - the visible and the invisible (wraith-like, for lack of a better word). So it is my opinion that if, say, an Elf put on the Ring he would not become invisible.
To split hairs, it's important to note that the Elves who existed in both worlds simultaneously were only those who had been in the Blessed Realm: Glorfindel qualified, but the majority of the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood and Lórien likely wouldn't.

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And the conclusion to all of this is that Tom Bombadil lives in both worlds, like the Elves, the Maiar, and the Valar (which doesn't necessarily mean that he belongs to any of those that I named).
My view is that he was an Ainu who, like Ungoliant, came into Arda apart from the Valar and their attendant Maiar, having his own purpose.
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Old 10-02-2015, 05:24 PM   #16
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It obeys Bombadil because, at least in "the bounds that he has set" (to quote Gandalf), he is Master. I think he is allowed such power because he himself has set a limit on his influence. Tom wants to be left alone to pursue his own ends;[...]
What ends are those though?

It seems to me that his agenda resolves mostly around having a swell day in the forest, dancing, singing and picking up some lilies for his beautiful wife on his way home, when it's time for supper. And this is a fine lifestyle, don't get me wrong, but given his immortal and powerful nature one might call him an underachiever, of sorts.

Joking aside, that's the thing that separates Tom Bombadil from mythological beings, for example Ents or Wizards. And I like that theme because it subverts human expectations:

Usually those inherently powerful, immortal and supreme beings (especially in a mythological context, e.g. Homer's Odyssey) of course have nothing better to do than meddling with the matters of the mortals, shaking up their lives in the process. To conceive that there could be a supremely powerful being that doesn't want to expand it's authority and boss you around is, in a way, a narcissistic injury.

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Old 10-03-2015, 12:50 PM   #17
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And the fact that the Ring did not make him invisible is, to me at least, not that great a wonder. You have to remember that the Ring puts its wearer into the wraith world. And you also have to remember that the Elves, for example, live in both worlds - the visible and the invisible (wraith-like, for lack of a better word). So it is my opinion that if, say, an Elf put on the Ring he would not become invisible.
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To split hairs, it's important to note that the Elves who existed in both worlds simultaneously were only those who had been in the Blessed Realm: Glorfindel qualified, but the majority of the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood and Lórien likely wouldn't.
This discussion reminds me of discussions that occurred before 1981 as to Galadriel not being rendered invisible by wearing Nenya. In my memory the obvious solution was that Elves would be understood by Tolkien to have power over the invisibility that the Rings imposed and could be visible or invisible at will. Then in 1981 Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien was published and Tolkien’s solution, published in Letter 131 to Milton Waldman, first appeared (italics mine):
The Elves of Eregion made Three supremely beautiful and powerful rings, almost solely of their own imagination, and directed towards the preservation of beauty: they did not confer invisibility.
Suddenly a solution had been given that none, in my memory, had ever thought of before.

What would happen if an Elf or Maia or Vala put on one of the 17 Great Rings of Power? Would that Elf or Maia or Vala become invisible or gain the power to become invisible at will? Maybe. Or maybe not. Since Tolkien has written nothing, so far as I am aware, on this matter, others cannot know. Tolkien has not written even whether when Sauron put on the One Ring he automatically became invisible or whether he didn’t.

Dwarves, it is known, did not become invisible or eventually fade when they put on a Ring of Power which granted invisibility to Men and Hobbits. This might suggest to some that the same might be true of Elves. And what of beasts? What immediate effect would the Ring have on its possessor if the raven Röac son of Carc had learned of Bilbo’s Ring and seized it? Or if Treebeard had seized it. Or if the Ring had been placed around the branch of a tree. The only answer, I think, is: Who knows?

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Usually those inherently powerful, immortal and supreme beings (especially in a mythological context, e.g. Homer's Odyssey) of course have nothing better to do than meddling with the matters of the mortals, shaking up their lives in the process. To conceive that there could be a supremely powerful being that doesn't want to expand it's authority and boss you around is, in a way, a narcissistic injury.
Very, very true. Yet Tom has often been compared to mythological beings like Nereus, the Norse satyr Miming in Saxo Grammaticus, the rural god Pan, and so forth. Such beings are pictured generally as living on their own or with their family and not interacting with mortals except when mortals force themselves upon them. They are not shown to want to boss any outsiders around.

Compare the cave of the nymphs in the thirteenth book of the Odyssey. These nymphs play no part in the tale of the Odyssey and are seemingly uninterested in what mortals or others are doing around then, save, I presume, when what others are doing affects themselves.

Then they might do something like afflict the countryside with a sea monster.

But what would happen if Farmer Maggot found his farm seized by trickery by someone like the Sackville-Baggins and asked Tom Bombadil for help? Would Tom do anything? Presumably Maggot’s farm is within the area of land beyond which Tom will not go, as he visits the farm in the poem The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Would Tom have helped the Hobbits during the Scouring of the Shire if asked by Maggot, especially since part of the Shire and probably Buckland are within Tom’s territory? If Tom did help, nothing is said of it in The Lord of the Rings.

Some of the Bucklanders know of Tom in the poem The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Yet Meriadoc Brandybuck seems to know nothing of him. Or perhaps Merry had heard tales of Tom before actually meeting him, but until then they were among the tales he had heard about the Old Forest which he did not believe.

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Old 10-03-2015, 04:27 PM   #18
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Narya About the Ring and Tom Bombadil

Thank you for replying to my post, Arvegil145.

You said this about the Ring and Tom Bombadil:

Concerning the notion that the Ring has no power over Tom, I think many are mistaken in that view. Tom is neutral. He desires nothing. He is like a walking, talking, singing personification of Switzerland. The Ring simply cannot find anything that would affect him, anything that would lure him into a Gollum-like possessiveness.

I don't agree with you here; because it was explicitly stated by Gandalf at the Council of Elrond that the Ring had no power over Bombadil. He is sufficiently acquainted with the latter that he can call on him, which he later said he would be doing when he said goodbye to the returning hobbits, near the end of the book.

The context was when Elrond was talking about that person, saying that he had 'forgotten' him, if he was the same person 'that walked the woods and hills long ago, and even then was older than the old'. He said he was then called by many other different names, and finished by calling him 'a strange creature'. When someone like Elrond, whose memories go back to the First Age, calls someone strange, that person must be strange indeed.

Erestor then asked if Bombadil's help could be sought, commenting, 'It seems that he has a power even over the Ring', referring to Frodo's story.

Gandalf, who would know about Bombadil if anyone did, made this reply:

'No, I should not put it so', said Gandalf. 'Say rather that the Ring has no power over him. He is his own master. But he cannot alter the Ring itself, nor break its power over others. And now he is withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he has set, though none can see him, waiting perhaps for a change of days, and he will not step beyond them'. (My emphasis)

When Gandalf himself made it clear that the Ring had no power over Bombadil, how can you then say that I and others are 'mistaken in that view'? I agree completely that Tom is neutral; but this neutrality is combined with a power that can resist the Ring's blandishments. His neutrality on its own would not, I believe, have been sufficient to do so.
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Old 10-04-2015, 07:34 PM   #19
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I felt, for a change of pace, that we might talk about how we - as readers - see him, and our feelings towards such an unusual character?
An exquisite question.

For me, Tom Bombadil was a natural extension of the wonder and mystery of a world where the trees themselves were aware of one's passing. Go into the forest some time and imagine that the trees you pass are aware of you, and might, at any moment, reach a branch down to grab you or your hat. Or worse, pull you into a fold in its wood and make you fall asleep or drown.

Or next time there's fog, go out somewhere in the denseness of it and imagine that there are mounds that house entities that should be at rest, but are not at all restful, and envy you your life, and would enslave you.

And then imagine that there is someone who has the power, and the right to that power, to command these entities, or these trees, to free you.

I remember the seemingly silly but audacious Tom Bombadil as I first saw him (in my mind's eye), with wonder, gratitude, and total enjoyment. He was just right. And Goldberry was just as much just right, and just as natural with her washing of the hills and glades.

There was a rightness about how they interacted with the Hobbits and each other and with the land and things within their borders. I think that it is one of Tolkien's crowning achievements that he evoked this strange, mysterious, wondrous pair of characters and their home.
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Old 10-04-2015, 07:55 PM   #20
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:
Originally Posted by Aaron
I felt, for a change of pace, that we might talk about how we - as readers - see him, and our feelings towards such an unusual character?
An exquisite question.
My feelings: well, lately I ponder at length on Bombadil' s rhymes and songs, and find them amusing, and soothing, and comforting: reminding me about that moment at dinner in Bombadil' s house when the hobbits realize that they had been singing with as much ease as speaking. A good space to be in. Goldberry comforts me: nothing passes these doors but moonlight and Starlight. I envy the table they set. I enjoy Tom's sweeping daylong narrative, and Goldberry' s washing songs, and her waterlilies. And I wish I and my house were more like that: safe, nourishing, healing, freeing, with power to halt the dark spirits and banish them.

Get out, you old Wight. Vanish in the sunlight.

Fear nothing! For tonight you are in the house of Tom Bombadil.
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Old 10-05-2015, 02:42 PM   #21
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I think you misunderstood me, or at least I have not made my position clear on the matter.

My thought was that, although Tom was not "effectively" influenced by the Ring, he was still somehow influenced by it.

Remember, the Ring plays on the desires of the one who holds it or is near to it - even the Valar, in my opinion, would not WHOLLY escape the influence of the Ring. Although they would have probably, even likely, overcome the said influence, the Ring would nonetheless "speak" to their minds, luring them into an attempt of the realization of their deepest desires.

When I said that the Ring DID have power of over Tom, I think that I was thinking in the same manner as did Gandalf during the Council of Elrond - although the Ring did have "power" over Tom, it was not a really effective one, due to Tom's inherent nature.


You also have to remember that the Ring was a LIVING THING! It was a part of Sauron's fëa (soul) incarnated into this one object. So...whenever you deal with the Ring, you deal with the foulest aspect of Sauron himself.
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Old 10-05-2015, 04:05 PM   #22
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Very, very true. Yet Tom has often been compared to mythological beings like Nereus, the Norse satyr Miming in Saxo Grammaticus, the rural god Pan, and so forth. Such beings are pictured generally as living on their own or with their family and not interacting with mortals except when mortals force themselves upon them. They are not shown to want to boss any outsiders around.

Compare the cave of the nymphs in the thirteenth book of the Odyssey. These nymphs play no part in the tale of the Odyssey and are seemingly uninterested in what mortals or others are doing around then, save, I presume, when what others are doing affects themselves.

Then they might do something like afflict the countryside with a sea monster.
Thanks for those wonderful examples and your general input. You're right, those are typical mythological beings which can be compared to Tom Bombadil, in regards to their wish to be left alone by the outside world.

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But what would happen if Farmer Maggot found his farm seized by trickery by someone like the Sackville-Baggins and asked Tom Bombadil for help? Would Tom do anything? Presumably Maggot’s farm is within the area of land beyond which Tom will not go, as he visits the farm in the poem The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Would Tom have helped the Hobbits during the Scouring of the Shire if asked by Maggot, especially since part of the Shire and probably Buckland are within Tom’s territory? If Tom did help, nothing is said of it in The Lord of the Rings.
I don't want to take a guess on those hypothetical scenarios, but would rather like to point out that Tom, seemingly, didn't interfere in the conflict between the Old Forest and the Buckland-Hobbits. The Hobbits planted the "High Hay" as a safeguard from the Old Forest and the eastern lands. The trees "attacked" (i.e. they grew closer) the "High Hay" and the Buckland-Hobbits subsequently cut down and burned many trees in a great bonfire. As far as I can tell Tom didn't choose a side in that strange conflict. He did not try to restrain the trees in the first place, nor did he care for response of the Hobbit and the loss, as Treebeard would think about it, of many trees.

So, either the western borders of the Old Forest aren't identical with the borders of Tom's territory, or Tom is flexible about the borders of his realm and his appreciation for trees, or the Old Forest in general. What is the Old Forest to Tom? Is it a thing in itself that Tom wants to protect, akin to the agenda of the Ents, or is just a part of his domain that soley bears a functional meaning (providing his livelihood, lilies etc.) to him?

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Old 10-06-2015, 08:24 AM   #23
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Thanks for your last reply, Arvegil.

You said you think I 'misunderstood' you, or that 'at least I have not made my position clear on the matter'. Thank you for clearly stating it below:

My thought was that, although Tom was not "effectively" influenced by the Ring, he was still somehow influenced by it.

Remember, the Ring plays on the desires of the one who holds it or is near to it - even the Valar, in my opinion, would not WHOLLY escape the influence of the Ring. Although they would have probably, even likely, overcome the said influence, the Ring would nonetheless "speak" to their minds, luring them into an attempt of the realization of their deepest desires.

When I said that the Ring DID have power of over Tom, I think that I was thinking in the same manner as did Gandalf during the Council of Elrond - although the Ring did have "power" over Tom, it was not a really effective one, due to Tom's inherent nature.


From the description of what happened in Bombadil's house, I agree that the Ring tried to tempt him. Certainly his attention was probably attracted by the Ring, at least in terms of wanting to look at it and confronting it; but due to his inherent nature it had no effect on him, due to the fact that it couldn't offer him anything he wanted that he didn't already have.

There's also the issue that the Ring appears to discriminate in terms of who it tries to tempt. For example, Elrond doesn't appear to have been tested at all by it, nor was Glorfindel, despite both of them being close to Frodo.

In terms of what the Ring could have done to one of the Valar, I don't think we've any evidence to say what might have happened. As I mentioned, it appears that the Ring discriminated in terms of who it tried to tempt; so it might have tried with one Vala and not another.

In terms of what you said about the Ring:

You also have to remember that the Ring was a LIVING THING! It was a part of Sauron's fëa (soul) incarnated into this one object. So...whenever you deal with the Ring, you deal with the foulest aspect of Sauron himself.

Where in any of Tolkien's works is this explicitly said? Could you please give me the reference?

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Old 10-06-2015, 08:56 AM   #24
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In terms of what you said about the Ring:

You also have to remember that the Ring was a LIVING THING! It was a part of Sauron's fëa (soul) incarnated into this one object. So...whenever you deal with the Ring, you deal with the foulest aspect of Sauron himself.

Where in any of Tolkien's works this is explicitly said? Could you please give me the reference?
Personally I don't think the Ring was a "living thing" either. I'm fairly sure it was a mindless object. It contained much of Sauron's potency, but that is not exactly the same thing as his soul (which as far as I'm aware includes will/consciousness/even identity, perhaps). I know I've mentioned this a few times lately, but my interpretation is that the Ring had the effect on people that it did not because it had a will of its own (or even a facsimile of Sauron's will) but rather because it was made with evil intent, because its very functioning was to commit evil (dominating the wills of others is objectively evil according to the natural moral laws of Arda) and perhaps it took its power from an individual whose own power had become an "evil" power.

I feel as if there is actually a remark from Professor Tolkien that the Ring had no mind or will of its own but I cannot remember where I think I read such a remark.

Personally I see Bombadil as a fundamentally "good" character. Apathetic, perhaps, but he cared about nature and about mastery rather than dominion. He even acted in small ways to oppose the will of Sauron by aiding the Hobbits, and to oppose "evil" as a general force by reversing the mischief of Old Man Willow and destroying the Barrow-wights (at least the ones that captured the Hobbits).

Incidentally, one of the reasons I think Tom functions as he does is because he does not fit into the "scheme" of Ainur/Eruhíni/etc. He is Something Else, I think, perhaps even something "unclassifiable". He is himself, and challenges efforts to make the world fully comprehensible by fitting everything into "scientific" categories. Such limits to our knowledge seem to fit with themes of Professor Tolkien's writing: we cannot live forever, we cannot be all-powerful, we cannot know everything.
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Old 10-06-2015, 07:17 PM   #25
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Something I've always found striking is the way Tom seems to make light of Sauron's desire for power, and maybe Sauron's very nature, by putting his own blue eye up to the Ring and peering through it at the hobbits. It almost as if he's saying he's really the anti-Sauron; uninterested in having dominion over Middle-earth.
Tom clearly does not want to "own" anything but himself, and that is an obvious contrast to Sauron, who wants all Middle-earth and its denizens under his control.
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Old 10-07-2015, 08:38 AM   #26
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The Ring BETRAYED Isildur...then it BETRAYED Déagol...then it BETRAYED Gollum...

Remember the Two Watchers guarding the entrance into the tower of Cirith Ungol - although they are clearly statues, they are nonetheless INHABITED by spirits.

Or in the story of The Faithful Stone where the Drúadan Aghan fills the statue he had made for the protection of his friend Barach and his family from the Orcs, with his own SPIRIT, or at least part of his spirit.

In other words, in my view at least, The One Ring is sort of an "avatar" of Sauron.

One more point of interest are Gandalf's words to Frodo in the chapter "The Shadow of the Past" in "The Fellowship of the Ring" - where Gandalf tells Frodo that the Ring abandoned Gollum when it saw its chance to escape from Gollum's cave - seeing that Gollum was too weak and that it would remain with him there forever if it didn't find a way of escaping from the cave - thus ensnaring Bilbo.
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Old 10-07-2015, 10:06 AM   #27
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Narya About betrayal and other matters

You had some interesting comments in your last post, Arvegil.

The Ring BETRAYED Isildur...then it BETRAYED Déagol...then it BETRAYED Gollum...

Is 'betrayed' an appropriate word to use in those circumstances? According to one online OED definition, the original verb 'betray' is 'To be or prove false to (a trust or him who trusts one); to be disloyal to; to disappoint the hopes or expectations of'. (http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/18343#eid21851033)

How can the Ring be disloyal or false to any person wearing it if it never had any loyalty to him or her in the first place?

Remember the Two Watchers guarding the entrance into the tower of Cirith Ungol - although they are clearly statues, they are nonetheless INHABITED by spirits.

Or in the story of The Faithful Stone where the Drúadan Aghan fills the statue he had made for the protection of his friend Barach and his family from the Orcs, with his own SPIRIT, or at least part of his spirit.

In other words, in my view at least, The One Ring is sort of an "avatar" of Sauron.


The first two examples you gave don't necessarily prove the third. It's best, I think, to first look at what Tolkien himself said in LotR about the Ring to see if you're correct.

One more point of interest are Gandalf's words to Frodo in the chapter "The Shadow of the Past" in "The Fellowship of the Ring" - where Gandalf tells Frodo that the Ring abandoned Gollum when it saw its chance to escape from Gollum's cave - seeing that Gollum was too weak and that it would remain with him there forever if it didn't find a way of escaping from the cave - thus ensnaring Bilbo.

I believe the word used by Gandalf was that the Ring 'left' him, to be picked up by Bilbo. Again, the Ring had no loyalty to Gollum or any other wearer, except Sauron; so it can't be accused of breaking any loyalty to a person it never had.
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Old 10-09-2015, 05:56 AM   #28
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Personally I don't think the Ring was a "living thing" either. I'm fairly sure it was a mindless object. It contained much of Sauron's potency, but that is not exactly the same thing as his soul (which as far as I'm aware includes will/consciousness/even identity, perhaps). I know I've mentioned this a few times lately, but my interpretation is that the Ring had the effect on people that it did not because it had a will of its own (or even a facsimile of Sauron's will) but rather because it was made with evil intent, because its very functioning was to commit evil (dominating the wills of others is objectively evil according to the natural moral laws of Arda) and perhaps it took its power from an individual whose own power had become an "evil" power.

I feel as if there is actually a remark from Professor Tolkien that the Ring had no mind or will of its own but I cannot remember where I think I read such a remark.

Try these quotes for size:

Gandalf says, "The ring wants to be found. It wants to return to its Master," and also "The Ring was trying to get back to its Master. It had slipped from Isildur's hand and betrayed him..."

"It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the Ring itself that decided things. The Ring left him..."

which would all indicate that the Ring DID have a will of its own. Quotes are from Fellowship, Chapter 2, The Shadow of The Past.

As for Bombadil - since he is essentially a neutral in terms of Middle-Earth "politics" (like Treebeard, as has been pointed out) his helping Frodo is clearly an indication to me that Frodo's purpose is truly good.
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Old 10-09-2015, 07:06 AM   #29
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Try these quotes for size:
Erm... okay.
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which would all indicate that the Ring DID have a will of its own.
Yes I suppose it did have "will" in a sense, but I don't think it necessarily had "consciousness" or "identity" as it would conventionally be understood. Some very basic malevolent impulses evidently operated within it but I don't think this is the same as it being "alive" (which was my original argument).

Also, my point about the nature of its evil is more to do with the effect it had on people, ie making them suspicious and mistrustful, giving them delusions of grandeur, etc. The power within it "speaks" to something in the human heart without literally being conscious communication, in my view.
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Old 10-11-2015, 01:51 AM   #30
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Tolkien describes the Rings as machines, though I don’t think he meant of the cog-and-wheel (or steampunk) variety: they seem more like computers on steroids. (Phones, cars, televisions, and nearly all lmodern appliances are computerized machines of this sort.)

I understand the US government has sponsored research into implantable computer chips, leading to a chip that has undone some of the memory loss of Alzheimer’s patients.

This idea lends itself immediately to the Rings of Power. Offsetting memory loss, alleviating the pain of PTSD, or allowing immediate access to massive database and computing power are all tremendous boons. Of course, there is no such thing as an unhackable computer. Moreover, anyone with a chip implant is vulnerable to (1) EMP, corresponding roughly to what happened to the Nazgûl when the One Ring was destroyed (and to a lesser extent to the Guardians of the Three: that’s probably why Elrond left Middle-earth: his phenomenal memory began to fail); and (2) “hacking” by Sauron via the One Ring, to whom the mind of anyone with a Great Ring was open as long as Sauron possessed the One.

Nor do I believe the Great Rings made the Noldor of Eregion invisible. One of the principal incentives to the Elves in making the Rings was arresting the process of fading, which caused their bodies (hröa) to be “consumed” by their spirits (fëar). Had the Rings made their Elven makers invisible, it would negate one of their most important reasons for making them! The effect on Men, however, could be quite different, since their hröa and fëar stood in a different relationship than those of Elves - the hröa of Men died and their fëar always left Arda, while the fëar of Elves could never leave Arda regardless of the condition or life of their hröa. There was no effect on Dwarves.

As for Bombadil, in Letters of JRR Tolkien #19, Tolkien says he is “the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside”; and in Letter #144, he calls Bombadil an “intentional” enigma. In a footnote to Letter 153 regarding Goldberry’s description, "He is," Tolkien remarks, "I can say ‘he is’ of Winston Churchill as well as of Tom Bombadil, surely?" in other words, Bombadil is not Eru. In Letter 237, Tolkien tells Rayner Unwin that Bombadil was "inserted" into the Lord of the Rings: the character existed before LotR, even before The Hobbit.

Going back to Letter 144, Tolkien continues,
Quote:
… Bombadil is not an important person – to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a “comment”. [H]e is just an invention … and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function. I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, … and so on; … both sides in some degree … want a measure of control. But if you have … taken “a vow of poverty”, renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, … then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless. It is a natural pacifist view... [T]he view of Rivendell [is] that it is an excellent thing to have represented, but that there are in fact things with which it cannot cope, upon which its existence nonetheless depends. Ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive. Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron.
What is this mysterious “comment” to which Tolkien refers? What function does Bombadil serve for Tolkien? Is it so obvious we miss it?
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Old 10-11-2015, 05:23 AM   #31
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What is this mysterious “comment” to which Tolkien refers? What function does Bombadil serve for Tolkien? Is it so obvious we miss it?
Perhaps. However, these are not the things asked for in this thread. The original post asked, what is Tom Bombadil to you?
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Old 10-23-2015, 08:14 PM   #32
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I don't take this seriously, but there are some who suggest Tom is Eru. If this is the case, he wanted a companion, and that in order to have Goldberry he had to create Middle Earth. Just a silly notion, but...

He's the loner that needs friends, but who chooses them carefully. He will do anything for those he befriends, but mostly leaves everyone alone. He and Goldberry have an ideal life, and just want to live it, but will make enough room for others who happen to wander through.

He has so much power that it is unimportant to him. He has enough that he need not hoard it or covet it. The games of power are trivial. He was born with a winning hand so why would he want to play the game? Still, even with all that power he cannot right every wrong in the world and doesn't see it as his role to try. He has his place, his lady, and his life to live, and he'll live it with simple joy.

I see Tom and Goldberry as an example of what could have been had Morgoth not poisoned the Song. What if the two trees had lived? What if the desire for power had not tainted creation? This was obviously not the case, but Tom could wish it so and make it so.
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Old 10-26-2015, 06:06 PM   #33
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On the web-site, thstudioexec.com, it's reported that PJ is to direct a Tom Bombadil movie with Jeff Bribdges in the lead role. I have a feeling that even how scholars perceive TB may end up being influenced by the movie - eventually and subconsciously that is!
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Old 10-26-2015, 07:12 PM   #34
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I hope it's not true. That would be awful. Something new to assign to Mordor, even.
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Old 10-26-2015, 07:32 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet View Post
I hope it's not true. That would be awful. Something new to assign to Mordor, even.
I would have agreed to you a year or two ago. But ever since the third TH movie (which I still didn't watch ) I've stopped seeing all the ridiculous stuff PJ as negative and started seeing it as hilarious. It might be the fact that I got to enjoy all the laughs about the stupid stuff without having to sit through it facepalming myself in the last movie, though. I just can't take it seriously anymore. It looks more and more like a homemade parody - just a very bad one, because in general homemade parodies have some genuinely good stuff.
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Old 10-26-2015, 07:45 PM   #36
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On the web-site, thstudioexec.com, it's reported that PJ is to direct a Tom Bombadil movie with Jeff Bribdges in the lead role. I have a feeling that even how scholars perceive TB may end up being influenced by the movie - eventually and subconsciously that is!
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I hope it's not true. That would be awful. Something new to assign to Mordor, even.
I very seriously doubt that it is true, given that a quick Google search reveals it stated on exactly that website alone and nowhere else. But, to be honest, I didn't need to Google it to know an unsubstantiated rumour when I see one. Such an announcement would be all over social media. This? Not a peep.

I even checked TORN to see if the film-worshippers were losing their minds over the idea. Nothing I could see. I'm fairly sure it's well-established that Peter Jackson has no further interest in "Tolkien films".

The point stands, however. Whenever I tell fellow academics at conferences that I study Professor Tolkien's works, they immediately ask me about my opinion of the films. They have coloured all manner of discourse.
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Old 10-26-2015, 07:59 PM   #37
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A Bombadil movie is about as likely as a Best Director Oscar for Michael Bay.
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Old 10-27-2015, 04:57 PM   #38
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Journeys with Tom Bombadil

It's only now that I realise how long it's been since I posted on Books. I suppose it's only fitting that a Tom Bombadil would get me back here.

I think that Tom Bombadil is one of the characters whose perception by the reader is most affected by the reader's own views and experiences. One thing I've noticed is that of the people I know IRL who have read LOTR as children tend to have more favourable views towards him than those that read it as adults. As a child (at least in my case), I think the first reaction is 'Whoa, he can do all that just by singing? And the ring doesn't even affect him? Cool!', whereas as an older, more jaded and cynical adult, it's more like 'Who's this weird man? And does he really always have to sing? Are we really not going to find out what he is? And if he's so good and powerful, why doesn't he do something to help?' (or at least a few of those). And while I can understand and appreciate the latter view, I still can't really abandon the first, which was how I first saw him.

I also think (and maybe it's connected), that the whole Tom Bombadil part is strongly connected to Faerie (in the way Tolkien describes it in On Fairy Stories). In fact, I'd say it's probably the most Faerie part of LOTR, in the sense that it is almost like a Secondary World within the Secondary World of LOTR. The laws of nature seem different and everything seems magical, as if they've set foot into a magical land. And I think to some extent, part of enjoying the Bombadil chapters is giving into this and allowing yourself to get into this further level of fantasy, which is no doubt harder as an adult.



--------------------------


I also remembered that some of the first stuff I posted on this forum (which was actually only a few years after first reading LOTR) was about Tom Bombadil, so I thought it'd be interesting to see how my thoughts have changed.

My thoughts, age 13:
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Originally Posted by Eönwë View Post
I think that Tom and Goldberry are the perfect couple, just as Tolkien wished lifewould be. They work together and understand each other. I think that Tom is meant to be the the perfect man and Goldberry the perfect woman. Tom has power, but he does not use it unless he needs to. He does not abuse it. He canget anywhere and help anyone, if they just ask. He is perfect. Goldberry is Tolkien's perfect woman. She is kind, and loving, and beautiful, but powerful, not a helpless person like so many women in the past.

I think that they are meant to be perfect, how nature made us, comparable to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Free of care, happy, together.

I think that Tom is not a nature spirit, rather, he is nature. He is part of the Music of the Ainur, which created the world. I think that is why he sings. Because he is part of the music, he can tap into it, reach into th music beyond the normal amount and use its power. He is very powerful. He is like the trunk of a tree from which power spreads out. He knows that the barrow wights are evil (maybe he made his land there to protect people, but then, why not just make his home in Mordor), so he Uses the Music.

I don't think he is more or less powerful than Sauron or Morgoth, I think he is on a different level. He can go onto Sauron's plane but he can just go to any dimension in his realm.

Tom Bombadil is a guardian of his realm, just as Melian was, but in a different way. Tom did not need to use enchantments, he just was. He did everything himself, and didn't just leave it to enchantments like the Maiar and Valar.

That is why Tom and Goldberry are Nature. If you look at the description of Goldberry (mentioned above numerous times so I will not repeat it here), you find out she is not like an elf. She is not like one of the Valar, or Maiar, or even Eldar. She is not a celestial being of other worlds. She is more mortal, yet immortal in a natural everlasting way, the way the cycles of he world happen: Spring, summer, autumn, winter, spring , summer, autumn, winter and so on, however she is not immortal in the way of a Valar, of a something unmovable and untouching, or immortal like, Eru, floating, creating, unmoving yet all- powerful. i think this is what Tolkien is trying to get across.


Tm Bombadil is the spirit of Arda and actually of Tolkien himself.

Some interesing (unanswered questions) about this chapter:

1. Is Tom the Guardian of the flame imperishable

2. Why are the vegetarian? (only eating cream and honey and such things (maybe they asked the animals to make these for them?)

3. Is Sam special? (Why doesn't he get a dream?)
Ignoring the final question 1 (I had seen this theory somewhere online at the time) and 3 (relevant to the chapter, but so much to this topic), I still actually agree with a surprising amount of this (though perhaps maybe less intensely). While perhaps I'm not so keen on using perfect (even if it is in relation to an author's perspective) to describe a character, I do think that the Adam and Eve comparison is still relatively sound.

They are living a carefree life in a position of power, in tune with nature. Having read Paradise Lost since then, Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are quite reminiscent to Adam and Eve there. There doesn't really seem to be any sort of good/evil distinction in their land. It's more a case of peace/kindness vs violence/malice. And I may be mistaken here, but as far as a remember pre-fall Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost are never described as eating meat, which parallels Tom Bombadil and Goldberry.

And I still agree with the earthy rather than celestial view. Despite being clearly magical and the whole environment being very dreamlike and surreal, they still both characters grounded in the natural physical world, rather than the spiritual. At the time I actually made the case that Tom Bombadil is kind of an anti-Ungoliant, in that neither is an Ainu (which I still hold to), where she is kind of the essence (or personification) of darkness, greedy and terrifying, and he is the essence of light, generous and comforting. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this now, but I think I now see him more as a spirit of (Preservation and nurturing of) Nature to Ungoliant's Destruction of Nature.



Back on the topic, 2 years later (age 15):
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Originally Posted by Eönwë View Post
Lately I have had a new thought about Tom Bombadil.

Instead of the carefree man who cares nothing about the world around him, I now see him as an example of near perfect self-discipline (at least, but the time of LOTR. He seems a little more "uncouth", shall we say, in AoTB).

First of all, look at his surroundings. He lives in a quiet place in the edge of the world, where no-one passes. Out of the way, you might say. There, he lives a quiet existence, within his own land, not impinging upon anybody else's land. His land is a land where nobody likes to go. For instance, it has the Old Forest, which has become dark and evil because of Old Man Willow's influence, and hates people, especially hobbits, particularly after they burnt some of the forest. More importantly, his land includes the Barrow Downs. This dark, damp, misty place is a traveller's nightmare, and people try to avoid it as much as they can. There is a dread about the place, and people for miles around had probably heard rumours about the Barrow Wights and their foul deeds. Most people would be intimidated to have such a place near their home, or even within many miles of their home. But Tom Bombadil doesn't mind. He walks in the forest, with wicked trees, and in the Barrow Downs, among the wights, yet no harm comes to him.

The usage of his power is also interesting. We hear that "Tom is master", yet we don't see him bending others' wills to his own. Unlike Sauron, we don't see him trying to control anyone or take over any more land. He has an immense power, yet we see that unlike most others, he is not corrupted by it. He doesn't try to dominate. He is the master, and only intervenes when he has to (for example, saving the hobbits). But generally, he lets everything get on with its own existence. Bombadil also wanders around his land, never getting tired of it,, never seeking any more. Instead of trying to have more, like everyone else in Middle-Earth, he is content with what he has. More than that, he is happy with what he has. The fact is, within his lands, he can do whatever he wants, but he never goes out of the borders he sets himself.

Next, look at Tom himself. He is in the shape of a man, yet he is far more powerful. He is grounded to the earth, to Arda, completely, even more so than elves. You can see this by the way that he can talk to trees, and banish wights. The fact is, Arda itself is has both sides, and Tom is master of both. One is the side of the living, the normal side, and the other is the darker side, the side of spirits and Ainu and dead elves, the side that Frodo sees when he puts on the ring. The wight, for instance, is present on both sides. he is made of bones in the physical world, but his main power lies on the other side, where he is a powerful spirit capable of evil spells. Tom Bombadil gets rid of both. He sends away the wight ("banishes the spirit/demon") and as this is what is holding the physical side together, the Barrow Wight's physical manifestation is also destroyed. His power on the earth side is shown in his ability to talk to trees, and cover great distance at speed. Just as powerful as he is on the spirit side, the world of darkness, he is connected to the Earth and nature. I think that this is where his real power lies, rather than in the shadow world, and that he is so firmly grounded in the natural physical world that maybe some of this power passes onto the shadow world, and I think that that is what gives him power there. He is a figment of nature, singing, and walking among the trees who interact with him. He acts with the flow of the world, rather than trying to change it like Men, or keep it the same like elves.

This is an important aspect because he goes along with the world like water in a river. He doesn't try to do anything to hinder anything or start something new, and just accepts the way things go. The reason that I think that the ring has no power over him is that he is so manifested in the world of light that he cannot be dragged into the world of shadow, even by the power of the ring. The ring's main power is in the shadow world, the realm of Ainu and of elves, whereas Tom Bombadil's main power lies in the land of light, with living, breathing creatures and growing trees. That is why the ring has no power over him and he has no power over the ring. They are on different planes, which don't cross over. This is probably also why he can see Frodo. The border between both worlds doesn't exist for him, and because he is so manifested in the normal world his influence spreads far into the other. He sees Frodo as though he hasn't put the ring on because for Tom, Frodo hasn't left the normal world, whereas for others, Frodo has crossed the border. But I digress. The point is, Tom has incredible powers, and complete control over his realm, but he doesn't seek to dominate others.

I'm sure that Tom, if he wanted to could set his sights on all of Middle-Earth, and try to make that his land. He would probably be able to do this, and have all of Middle Earth at his beck and call. But this would go against the nature of tom himself, so this could never happen with him being the same Tom Bombadil. Failing that Tom could (with his immense power) make his land the greatest fortress in the world, and from there launch an attack on the rest of Middle-Earth, but again, that is not his character. He prefers to sit, and watch, as the rest of the world go by, and let it go forwards on his own, without his intervention.0

His singing is another vital aspect of him which seems to annoy many Tolkien fans. But this is a way of showing the way Tom's power works. It is a gentle power, not a harsh spell (contrast this to Gandalf speaking the words on the ring in the Black Speech at the Council of Elrond). It is song, and in this case it stands for happiness, peace and contentment. There is so much going in the world, but he doesn't help, because he probably knows he would just complicate matters further, and it would just be another case of external intervention. There is probably much more going on in that head of his than anyone knows, or can even guess. He is in this mindset (whether naturally or by his choice) and doesn't leave it. Also, there is a very primitive about him singing to the sentient trees (In many old myths they are spirits, but they can't be here because that would conflict with the legendarium). The singing also ties him to the music of the Ainur, and maybe shows him as a personification of that.

Tom Bombadil is generous and doesn't even show any signs of temptation. He is in a state where his mind is free from doing such things, and he probably doesn't even think about trying to take over the world. Whether he was like that from the beginning, or whether he trained himself to be like that is anyone's guess, but he definitely had many ages to perfect his outlook on the world if the truth is the latter. He allows things to pass him by, and doesn't reminisce on the past in a nostalgic way, except very rarely, and only when he has a reason to remember (for example when he finds the jewellery in the mound of the wight). The ring, a powerful object that tempted even a Maia like Gandalf, has no effect on him. He doesn't even make the hobbits obey the rules of his land, but allows them to things how they want, and only intervenes when things get dangerous. And not only does he not impose his will on them, but he invites them as guests to his house.

All in all, I think that Tom Bombadil represents an image of self discipline. He actually seems to me like a bit like an ideal Buddhist as well: Not attached to anything, allowing things to come and go, yet showing compassion to everyone (Except maybe the Barrow-Wights). In fact, he may even count as enlightened. He does exactly what is right. He prepares the hobbits for their adventure, without putting them through too much danger, and without meddling n the affairs outside his lands. Let's say he did think it through. If he had stepped in and helped, Middle Earth wouldn't be the same place it was in the Fourth Age, Just as the hobbits needed the Scouring of the Shire, the whole of Middle Earth needed the War of the Ring for the whole "coming of age" thing. And think about what would have happened if he had stepped in. What a mess it would be! The Haradrim, Easterlings and Southrons would still be at large, and still enemies with Gondor. They might not have attacked, but there would always be a small chance of that- what else could be done with a huge army now made redundant. Now that they would have had many men to spare, they might have gone on the offensive. And would Minas Tirith survive an onslaught. No-one would be ready, and Rohan would be dying. Théoden would still be slipping into Saruman's evil plots, and Rohan would probably not have come to Gondor's aid. And Saruman himself would have still be trying to place himself as master of middle-earth, and there would be no-one to stop him. And without the thought of joining Sauron stopping him, Saruman might have persuaded Gandalf to join him. And what of th hobbits? They would have just gone back to the Shire, and everything would return to normal. In my opinion Tom Bombadil purposely took the unconcerned approach.

The fact is, Tom Bombadil doesn't try to meddle with the world. He takes a small corner that no-one wants, or rather people hate, for himself. He doesn't tame it, for that would be imposing too much control on the area, but he makes i t harmless for himself and for anyone passing through. Unlike Men, he doesn't try to change things to the way he wants, and unlike Elves, he doesn't try to keep things the same. His land, even though it is a sortr of cocoon (or bubble) for him, still flows in time with the rest of the world, and is just as earthly and natural, unlike the ethereal Lórien. The world goes by, but he just has a piece of it in which he allows himself to do things his way.
I think I still agree with a lot of this as well. Tom Bombadil's power comes from him being grounded: in himself, in Nature, in the physical world. But now I think it is not so much self-discipline that is the key to his being, but rather simply self-content.
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Old 10-27-2015, 06:06 PM   #39
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Eönwë: That was a mighty interesting post, and I particularly picked up on your comment:

“but he can just go to any dimension in his realm.”

Alcuin's comment is equally perceptive:

“What function does Bombadil serve for Tolkien? Is it so obvious we miss it?”

There is a new article on Tom Bombadil – that provides a completely different explanation to any of those I have ever seen. A different “dimension” and “obvious” begins to make sense now.


https://priyasethtolkienfan.wordpress.com/[/URL]


In fact the proposed solution is so interesting, I think it deserves a thread of its own.
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Old 10-30-2015, 11:35 AM   #40
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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.

The question of 'perception' could then be said to tie into Tolkien's own love for nature, in regards to both the beauty of it, and the menace lurking beneath the surface - allowing his readers to colour Bombadil however they saw fit, in the same way that a Woodland by sunlight may be peaceful, but at night frighten the unwary traveller with far-off rustles and shrieks.
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