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Old 03-27-2018, 03:13 AM   #1
Huinesoron
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Boots Tom Bombadil and Luthien Tinuviel

It's hard to imagine two more different characters than Jolly Tom and Luthien the Nightingale. But, on thinking about Tom for Mithadan's thread, I realised something that's either profound or blindingly obvious.

Tom Bombadil uses magic a few times during his appearance in LotR, including:
  • Putting Old Man Willow to sleep.
  • Being summoned from afar by Frodo.
  • Using song to break the Barrow, specifically citing that 'his songs are stronger songs'.
  • Recalling the Hobbits from the grey land, again through song.

Luthien Tinuviel also makes repeated use of magic, including:
  • Using song to weave a cloak with the power to put people to sleep (strong enough to take out Morgoth).
  • Knowing from afar that Beren was in dire trouble.
  • Breaking Tol-in-Gaurhoth by 'declar[ing] her power'.
  • Recalling Beren, when 'his spirit wandered upon the dark borders of death'.

Is it coincidence, that these lists line up so neatly? The only ones I've missed out are Tom's mucking about with the Ring, and Luthien's use of healing arts; but even there, Luthien is famous for wearing a magical item from the Enemy (the bat-fell), and Tom's house, if not healing, is definitely a place of rest.

Thinking about other Good magic users, we have Melian, who possesses the power of prophecy, can see things at a distance (that's one correlation), and throws up a protective spell around Doriath; Galadriel, who can see the past, present (there it is again), and future; and Gandalf, who mostly focuses on pyrotechnics and manipulating people.

It does feel like the correlation between Bombadil and Tinuviel's magic is very strong, but there's no obvious reason. Singing aside, there's not a whole lot to link the two of them! But can it really be a coincidence that Tolkien wrote their magic as so similar to each other?

hS
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Old 03-27-2018, 07:33 PM   #2
Eldorion
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
But can it really be a coincidence that Tolkien wrote their magic as so similar to each other?
Yes, in that I don't think there's any particular connection between the two, but no in that I think the reason they are similar is because that's how "magic" often works in Arda. As you point out, being able to know things despite distance in time and/or space is a common trait insofar as mystical abilities are concerned, not just for Bombadil and Tinuviel. Power expressed through song is likewise a common motif. Besides the fact that the universe itself was created through song, we see (for example) that Felagund "strove with Sauron in songs of power" while imprisoned on Tol-in-Gaurhoth (TS, Of Beren and Lúthien), in LOTR Gandalf "softly sang" just before unveiling himself with magical theatrics like rolling thunder and blotting out the sunlight (TTT, III 6), and Sam invoked the powers of the Phial of Galadriel by singing a portion of A Elbereth Gilthoniel, the words of which came to him despite not knowing Sindarin (TTT, IV 10).

That's my take, anyway.

Last edited by Eldorion; 03-27-2018 at 09:25 PM. Reason: fixed citation
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Old 03-27-2018, 08:32 PM   #3
Galadriel55
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Originally Posted by Eldorion View Post
Yes, in that I don't think there's any particular connection between the two, but no in that I think the reason they are similar is because that's how "magic" often works in Arda. As you point out, being able to know things despite distance in time and/or space is a common trait insofar as mystical abilities are concerned, not just for Bombadil and Tinuviel. Power expressed through song is likewise a common motif. Besides the fact that the universe itself was created through song, we see (for example) that Felagund "strove with Sauron in songs of power" while imprisoned on Tol-in-Gaurhoth (TS, Of Beren and Lúthien), in LOTR Gandalf "softly sang" just before unveiling himself with magical theatrics like rolling thunder and blotting out the sunlight (TTT, 6), and Sam invoked the powers of the Phial of Galadriel by singing a portion of A Elbereth Gilthoniel, the words of which came to him despite not knowing Sindarin (TTT, IV 10).

That's my take, anyway.
Indeed. I think the connection is exactly that - that's just the way magic/[skills, for those elves who dislike the word] works, and the kind of magic that is done. If you have inner power and you have the skill to use it to leave a physical mark on the world, why not heal somebody? That one is also seen with Aragorn and Elrond, possibly others. Why not use the ability for the good of your entrusted land or people, to keep order and monitor that over which you took responsibility? You've already mentioned Melian and Galadriel, maybe also Celebrimbor. If you want to be a good person, do good things within your power.

The other common theme of manifesting skill/power/magic is through creation, and that one is not as morally clear-cut - and also happens to not be something you'd associate with Tom Bombadil, which says loads more about the character that I want to analyze just now. Creations in themselves are not bad, and mostly good, but the circumstances surrounding the creation and the use of the object make it a questionable pursuit if goodness in the world is what you want to achieve. Of course you have completely innocent creations like the Elven-rope Sam carries from Lorien, and neutral creations like Dwarven weapons. And then you have Feanor's Silmarils, the Rings of Power, mithril products "made in Khazad-dum", the Nauglamir - you get the gist. Seems like the message is that creation is good, but "be careful what you wish for" as you do it. I have only just noticed as I wrote this paragraph that Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, though associated with plenty (lots of flowers, lots of food, enough of everything one could need or want), are never linked with creation. Maybe that's why Tom is the Master, not an owner, and why he lives as if apart from the rest of the world.

The obvious difference between Luthien's magic and Tom's is that we know where Luthien's power stems from: after all, she is the daughter of Thingol and Melian. Their descendants maintained a shadow of that power for generations. But whence comes Tom's hypnotic voice? I'll leave that one for other threads to battle out.
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