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Old 08-08-2004, 09:44 AM   #41
Hookbill the Goomba
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Boots

I agree with a lot of that, Aiwendil, and have often considered it.
it always seems that east is where darkness lies in Tolkien. Save that in the earlier days Melkor dwelt in the north in Angband, so that may be an exception.
We see that the Old forest was on the Eastern side of the shire, the Barrow downs (not entirely evil ) was east of Bombadill's house and Mordor is often referred to as the east. Boromir's dream counts for this,

Quote:
In that dream I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West, a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice...
Here again the East is the place where the darkness seems to be, and the west is where hope and goodness comes from.
I always found it interesting how there are two ends of this spectrum... in the North West of middle Earth is the Shire, here there is a pace loving folk with goodness spewing out of their ears. Moreover almost diagonally opposite in the South east there is Mordor with black malice and nastiness.
Any thoughts?
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Old 08-08-2004, 12:32 PM   #42
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Interesting thoughts, Aiwendil and Hookbill! Another example occurs to me - at the beginning of TTT, when the three remaining members of the Fellowship sing their song after Boromir's death, there is no stanza for the East Wind. Gimli says:
Quote:
You left the East Wind to me, but I will say naught of it.
Aragorn answers:
Quote:
In Minas Tirith they endure the East Wind, but they do not ask it for tidings.
Apparently not only Men, even the Dwarves do not like the East.
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Old 08-08-2004, 01:30 PM   #43
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Why does Tom advise the hobbits to pass the Barrows on the western side?

Well, in addition to the other good answers on here, I'm not sure if it says, but perhaps the barrows open to the east, hence the hobbits would not have to pass the threshold of the barrows. It may also be that the shadows do not lie as long on that side. It could also tie in with the whole 'ancient' feel of these three chapters, in that the hobbits would be passing the barrows 'sunwise', following the path of the sun, rather than pasing them 'widdershins' (i.e. in an anti-clockwise direction) which is most unlucky.
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Old 08-08-2004, 01:30 PM   #44
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Tolkien And now for something completely the same.

Estelyn said,
Quote:
Apparently not only Men, even the Dwarves do not like the East
Gimli is a dwarf of Erobor, Do you think he still has the fear of the east as the lonely mountain was in the east and inhabited by Smoug when he was a child. Perhaps in the years after Smoug came there the dwarves gained a fear and anger against the east. Maybe I'm assuming too much.

Now, I think we've stayed away from the chapter too much...

Near the beginning of the chapter, Gold Berry makes a statement;

Quote:
'Then all this strange land belongs to him?'
'No indeed!" she answered, and her smile faded, 'That would indeed be a burden,' She added in a low voice, as if to herself.
Now, when she says this 'almost to herself', I got the strangest feeling that this was important. Her smile fades and she says this in a low voice, I think that this is, maybe, an indication of one of Tolkien's main messages in the whole book. That is that; Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
She says this as if she has seen it happen. Perhaps there was some master of the lands who came to some unfortunate fate. Or it may be that she is thinking of her mother, the river woman, perhaps she 'owns' the land, and so she knows how burdensome the power is.
However, by the same token, this could just be something Tolkien put in to add more of a mystery to the characters of Tom and Goldberry.
Any thought?
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Old 08-08-2004, 07:59 PM   #45
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Ack, judging the last few posts I am entirely out of left field, or should I say East field here, ( I still have not caught up in reading this thread, but am somewhere in the midst of Fridays posts.)

Just wanted to propose something before we move on to the next chapter

Tom is referred to the master, but master of what? I personally feel that he is the master simply of his own fear and therein lays his power. Perhaps he is to be viewed as an archetype of what created beings were meant to be and that is why he seems not to fit any race fully, rather than being seen as a nature spirit or some thing in the other category. At first I was remembering the mention in the letter at the beginning of the Silmarilian that men had fallen once before, and we arent told how that exactly came about. Was Tom a man from that time who somehow remained untouched? Probably not if he was alive when Middle Earth was still starlit.

But Tom, not contending with nature, exists in a somewhat peaceful balance with it, despite its (and his) eccentricities. Goldberry is a nature spirit who has a powerfully good/beneficial/life supporting aspect, as does water, but I do not think that she is tame. The union of Tom and Goldberry could be representative of the relationship created beings were supposed to have with nature.

But thinking back to the first time I ever read this chapter, I remember feeling a bit uneasy, wondering why exactly Tom and Goldberry werent present at breakfast and so on. Were the hobbits going to be lulled into another precarious situation by this rather seemingly mismatched couple that worked so well together? Were they off stoking the fire under a large kettle out back?

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Old 08-10-2004, 02:53 PM   #46
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Interesting thoughts, Hilde!
I'm trying to catch up after being away on holidays...

I must confess, I have rather mixed feelings about Tom Bombadil...I know that many find him ridiculous but just as many are fond of him. (In any case I'm glad they left him out of the movies!)
Nobody minds if hobbits sing funny verses and dance on tables, but Tom's "merry dol ! ring a dong dillo!" and his capering around do irritate me a bit. I find his behaviour hard to reconcile with the fact that he is so age-old and wise and detached and powerful in his own way.

But I guess that these two sides are somehow a part of Tolkien himself : the "high and noble " as well as the enjoyment of nonsense and fun.

Come to think of it, it's a bit similar with the Elves : in "The Hobbit" the Rivendell -Elves are poking fun at the dwarves and sing a lot of nonsensical verses and don't behave dignified at all! In the LotR itself the Elves are mostly serious, although Gildor and his companions approach with "mingled song and laughter" and Sam remarks that they are "so old and young, so gay and sad" .

As for Goldberry: I find Frodo's reaction to her interesting , he stands enchanted, recites poetry and stammers...almost if he was a bit falling in love with her... "less keen and lofty was the delight but deeper and nearer to mortal heart; marvellous and yet not strange."

About "the ring in his voice" : I was puzzled that Fordim picked this out and saw it as "the Ring" . I thought this rather far-fetched and I agree with Helen, that it only meant a ringing voice (when he recited the poetry, i guess). (Especially since Goldberry said that it tells that Frodo is an Elf-friend.)
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Old 12-19-2007, 11:08 AM   #47
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Excellent discussion, especially regarding Goldberry. I see her now in a completely new light.

That said, I've been thinking about the lack of symmetry in the hobbits's dreams. In the encounter with Old Man Willow, Merry and Pippin are trapped inside the tree, and Frodo is almost drowned. Sam is not attacked. I assume that Tolkien wanted to have Frodo almost drowned so that he would be available later to help the others (along with Sam). If he were one of the twain trapped within Old Man Willow, this may have been more difficult.

During the first night at Tom's and Goldberry's house, three of the four hobbits have nightmare-like dreams. Frodo dreams of the Black Riders, as that's what's on his mind. Sam does not dream. The other two:
Quote:
At his side Pippin lay dreaming pleasantly; but a change came over his dreams and he turned and groaned. Suddenly he woke, or thought he had waked, and yet still heard in the darkness the sound that had disturbed his dream: tip-tap, squeak: the noise was like branches fretting in the wind, twig-fingers scraping wall and window: creak, creak, creak. He wondered if there were willow-trees close to the house; and then suddenly he had a dreadful feeling that he was not in an ordinary house at all, but inside the willow and listening to that horrible dry creaking voice laughing at him again. He sat up, and felt the soft pillows yield to his hands, and he lay down again relieved. He seemed to hear the echo of words in his ears: Fear nothing! Have peace until the morning! Heed no nightly noises! Then he went to sleep again.

It was the sound of water that Merry heard falling into his quiet sleep: water streaming down gently, and then spreading, spreading irresistibly all round the house into a dark shoreless pool. It gurgled under the walls, and was rising slowly but surely. I shall be drowned! he thought. It will find its way in, and then I shall drown. He felt that he was lying in a soft slimy bog, and springing up he set his fool on the corner of a cold hard flagstone. Then he remembered where he was and lay down again. He seemed to hear or remember hearing: Nothing passes doors or windows save moonlight and starlight and the wind off the hill-top. A little breath of sweet air moved the curtain. He breathed deep and fell asleep again.
I can understand Pippin's dream; his horrible experience is on the tip of his brain. Merry's? Why would he have what to me should be Frodo's dream? Wasn't Merry one of those hobbits that would get his feet wet? Was another dream like Pip's too repetitious, and the one that may have originally been conceived for Frodo substituted?
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Old 12-19-2007, 03:50 PM   #48
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Leaf Tom is the Music

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?)
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Old 02-24-2008, 12:35 PM   #49
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Enw, the vegetarian meal was something I also noticed at this reading - it reminds me of the meal Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Dwarves had at Beorn's home in The Hobbit. I wonder if it has something to do with Tom and Goldberry's attitude toward nature - they do not *own* any of it. Perhaps that precludes making a meal of living creatures. Tolkien must have had a reason for putting that in there, as it certainly did not reflect his own life style - he enjoyed his meat.

Admittedly I am not a big Tom Bombadil fan, but when reading the chapter this time, I found myself thinking how fascinating it would have been to be there with the Hobbits! Wouldn't you have loved to hear the stories of the early ages of Arda? He seems to go backwards in time with his tales.

I noticed a difference between Tom's poems - more nonsensical, light-hearted and folksy - and Frodo's lines in praise of Goldberry. To me, these are slightly reminiscent of the Elves' songs to Elbereth, a bit higher and nobler than Tom's sings, as befits an Elf-friend, perhaps.

Interesting that Frodo's question about Old Man Willow was answered in the morning rather than in the dark - much like Gandalf telling about the Ring, Wraiths, etc. in Bag End. "Such matters were best left until daylight," was what the Wizard said there. Tom says, "Some things are ill to hear when the world's in shadow." What would you imagine to be the reason for that?

Tolkien uses Tom's tales to build more suspense concerning the Barrow-downs. After all those warnings and precautions, it is narratively inevitable that something should happen there, don't you think?!

For those who thought Gildor should have helped the Hobbits more actively, here is mention of something he did - alerting Tom.

Did you notice that Goldberry withdraws early in the evenings, and the males carry on talking until late? I wonder why - does she need more sleep, or is there another reason?

One line impressed me this time, sticking with me for no apparent reason: "Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?" (...so much so that I have taken it for my signature.)
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Old 02-24-2008, 01:55 PM   #50
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Addendum:

One word stood out for me this re-reading - penthouse! It sounds like a part of the house that is built on to it - does anyone know what the word means precisely in this context?
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Old 03-27-2008, 07:20 AM   #51
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Thumbs up Bombadil the bold?

A thought struck me.

While writing an essay on the Bombadil poem for university, I had to try and make some sort of interpretation of the character based on his actions. I was quite worried about this, seeing as any interpretation of Bombadil is bound to come up against opposition from a hundred other Tolkien fans.
But this thing struck me as a useful way of looking at him. Here is what I said...

Quote:
The voice in the Bombadil poem is almost childish; it is very playful and rarely threatening. Even though some of the images are quite horrific; a tree that eats people and the ghostly Barrow Wight could well be terror inducing if allowed their share of description and development (which, by-the-by they get in The Lord of the Rings).
However, Tom seems to be able to deal with these horrors quite easily. His songs appear to have a certain power over them and even the badgers submit to his will when he sings. The picture we are left with is one of a very unusual character who, no matter what terrors await him, is able to deal with them calmly and efficiently. The lessons in this poem (I do not think they are the point of the poem at large, however) point towards a life where the horrors do not own people. The ending of the poem emphasises Tom’s attitude to life;

Old Tom Bombadil heeded not the voices,
Taps, knocks, dancing feet, all the nightly noises;
Slept till the sun arose, then sang like a starling:
‘Hey! Come derry-dol, merry-dol, my darling!’
Sitting on the door-step chopping sticks of willow,
While fair Goldberry combed her tresses yellow.


The impression we get of Bombadil’s home life is one of complete freedom, not enthralled by the terrors of the forest and even taking a previously threatening water spirit for his wife. The playful words of his nonsensical song empress upon us how startlingly strange he is. When we live in a world where the horrors (in Tolkien’s day, it may have been the threat of Hitler’s Germany) are broadcast to us daily, Tom’s attitude seems singularly unnerving. What some have dubbed the ‘childish innocence’ of the poem plays on this, exposing the fears as unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Not that Tom does not deal with the problems, but rather, does not let them dominate his life.
Now, with regards to this chapter in the book I think this still applies. Bombadil has this 'detached' attitude, the dangers of the wood don't scare him, nor do the Barrow Wights (we'll have to work harder, folks ). Whatever Tom is, his attitude is rather startling, isn't it? The only thing that worries him is damaging the water lilies, seemingly.

Any thoughts?
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Old 03-27-2008, 09:17 AM   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hookbill the Goomba View Post
A thought struck me.

While writing an essay on the Bombadil poem for university, I had to try and make some sort of interpretation of the character based on his actions. I was quite worried about this, seeing as any interpretation of Bombadil is bound to come up against opposition from a hundred other Tolkien fans.
But this thing struck me as a useful way of looking at him. Here is what I said...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hook's paper
The voice in the Bombadil poem is almost childish; it is very playful and rarely threatening. Even though some of the images are quite horrific; a tree that eats people and the ghostly Barrow Wight could well be terror inducing if allowed their share of description and development (which, by-the-by they get in The Lord of the Rings).
However, Tom seems to be able to deal with these horrors quite easily. His songs appear to have a certain power over them and even the badgers submit to his will when he sings. The picture we are left with is one of a very unusual character who, no matter what terrors await him, is able to deal with them calmly and efficiently. The lessons in this poem (I do not think they are the point of the poem at large, however) point towards a life where the horrors do not own people. The ending of the poem emphasises Tom’s attitude to life;

Old Tom Bombadil heeded not the voices,
Taps, knocks, dancing feet, all the nightly noises;
Slept till the sun arose, then sang like a starling:
‘Hey! Come derry-dol, merry-dol, my darling!’
Sitting on the door-step chopping sticks of willow,
While fair Goldberry combed her tresses yellow.

The impression we get of Bombadil’s home life is one of complete freedom, not enthralled by the terrors of the forest and even taking a previously threatening water spirit for his wife. The playful words of his nonsensical song empress upon us how startlingly strange he is. When we live in a world where the horrors (in Tolkien’s day, it may have been the threat of Hitler’s Germany) are broadcast to us daily, Tom’s attitude seems singularly unnerving. What some have dubbed the ‘childish innocence’ of the poem plays on this, exposing the fears as unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Not that Tom does not deal with the problems, but rather, does not let them dominate his life.

Now, with regards to this chapter in the book I think this still applies. Bombadil has this 'detached' attitude, the dangers of the wood don't scare him, nor do the Barrow Wights (we'll have to work harder, folks ). Whatever Tom is, his attitude is rather startling, isn't it? The only thing that worries him is damaging the water lilies, seemingly.

Any thoughts?
Well now, Hookbill, you've got me thinking of a whole new angle to our perennial question "Who or What is Tom Bombadil?" (btw, do you have any idea how easy it is and how many ways there are to mispell that name? Wait, I suspect you might.)

It's your bit about not being "owned" by terrors and trouble and tribulations that got me thinking about this concept of manhood. It's quite a feature in the literature just before Tolkien's time and there are two examples of it that are well known indeed. (As an aside, they garner just about as much ridicule and parody as Tolkien's Tom does.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by [URL="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invictus"
Invictus[/URL]]
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
This is just the last stanza that stands out so much to me. Why, Goldberry could verily have taken her words to Frodo about Tom from this stanza!

And just as yet another aside (of which this post seems to have many) here is a photograph of the author of Invictus, William Ernest Henley. Even granted that many late Victorian gentlemen were rather bushy-faced, his resemblance to many painters' depictions of Bombadil could well be one of those happy happenstances of cultural serendipity.



It must have been rather difficult to see the stiff upper lip under all that beard, but we must remember that not all expositors on this ideal of manhood wore full beards. I believe that Kipling, for one, sported only a remarkable mustache. And speaking of Kipling of course there is his remarkable expression of he who is not owned by anything. Note how the reward which Kipling suggests is the very power which Bombadil holds.

Quote:
Originally Posted by [URL="http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_if.htm"
If[/URL]]
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
And isn't it just the thing for our four young hobbits at the start of all their adventuring to find a role model for stoic manly virtues? No wonder their post-prandial smokes and talks with Tom in the absence of Goldberry is so important!!

Yes, I think you've hit upon something here, Hookbill, and I don't think it's rock you've stubbed your toe on.
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Old 03-31-2008, 02:48 PM   #53
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He is probably the only person who has power in lotr who is not affected by it.
Or rather, maybe he is affected by it, but just uses it in normal daily life.
But probably he always had it, and just decided to live as a normal person, except that the normal problems and troubles just don't happen. He just sort of averts the bad away so that he can do whatever he wants and lead a fun life.
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Old 05-26-2008, 03:14 PM   #54
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At the house of Tom Bombadil,

well probably about time I added my ha'penny worth of speculation to the (surely ultimately unknowable) in-story origins of Tom and Goldberry.

Of Tom, I must say I've had him down as a junior Maiar, or similar spirit of lesser degree. He seems to have been in Middle Earth for a very long time. I wonder if he was one of the 'staff' of the Valar (perhaps an understudy of Yavanna) who worked on forming Arda, but never left? By the third age he has become so attached to his patch that he now fulfils a role similar to the 'Genius loci' of classical mythology, the anthropomorphisation of a particular place. Though JRRT seems to have little truck with classical mythology I think such an idea was popular with many ancient peoples, especially the Celts.

The Forest appears to be Nature presented as 'red in tooth and claw' to a certain degree, the hobbits are not in a tamed landscape but in an ancient, wild survivor of ancient times, with danger as well as beauty. Is Old Man Willow any more to be blamed for seeking some extra nourishment than a Venus flytrap swallowing unwary insects?

Now Goldberry seems again to have a classical aspect, namely the naiads, water spirits of streams and rivers. Their counterparts, the tree-spirit dryads have been changed way out of recognition in LoTR into the ents. Again the naiads became genii loci and many Roman shines were built at springs. This survives in some little way today, for who has never thrown a penny into a wishing-well? Therefore Goldberry again could be a Maiar-esque spirit much like Tom.

Well, so much for my wittering. Down to the more concrete!

Further to the farming aspect of T&G we have candles, probably beeswax, blankets, likely wool (and mention of flocks of sheep on the Downs in times gone by) and the stone construction of Tom's house itself. So they had access to wool (could have kept sheep or maybe collected wool from the hedgerows etc where sheep tend to luxuriate in a good scratch in the spring). Also Tom must either have had a quarry or recycled building stone from the ruined settlements of the Dunedain. Mention is made both of a vegetable garden (beans on poles) and a flower garden.

Meanwhile, on Barrow-bypassing, here's the link that Esty mentioned above -
http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthread.php?t=1852

Now a thought which has never struck me before, (doh!). Tom fails to become invisible when he puts on the ring. Sauron, as far as I can make out, was not invisible during his epic battle with Elendil, Isildur and Gil-Galad on Mount Doom, though he was wearing the ring. This seems to argue that Tom and Sauron are at least similar types of beings, be that Maiar or related spirits. Perhaps invsibility was one of the things implied by Gandalf when he said that the ring would give power according to the stature of the wearer, ie to elect whether to be invisible or not when wearing the ring?
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Old 05-26-2008, 08:02 PM   #55
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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
... how fascinating it would have been to be there with the Hobbits! Wouldn't you have loved to hear the stories of the early ages of Arda? He seems to go backwards in time with his tales.
I've often felt the same. More detail, Professor. WHAT were those stories! But that's his style; wave a little at the ancient-ness of it, and you create the wonder. I wonder, all right, I wonder!

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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
... Interesting that Frodo's question about Old Man Willow was answered in the morning rather than in the dark - much like Gandalf telling about the Ring, Wraiths, etc. in Bag End. "Such matters were best left until daylight," was what the Wizard said there. Tom says, "Some things are ill to hear when the world's in shadow." What would you imagine to be the reason for that?
Because it's scarier in the dark. THe ringwraiths wait to attack until dark because fear is stronger then. It makes their job easier.

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Did you notice that Goldberry withdraws early in the evenings, and the males carry on talking until late? I wonder why - does she need more sleep, or is there another reason?
Maybe she's giving the men-folk some space. And maybe she's heard, or knows, those stories already... Maybe she's weaving their good-night-sleep over them. Or maybe she's preparing for her washing day.

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One line impressed me this time, sticking with me for no apparent reason: "Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?" (...so much so that I have taken it for my signature.)
True; if we are not part of some story, what are we?
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Old 05-27-2008, 06:19 AM   #56
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Originally Posted by Rumil View Post
By the third age he has become so attached to his patch that he now fulfils a role similar to the 'Genius loci' of classical mythology, the anthropomorphisation of a particular place. Though JRRT seems to have little truck with classical mythology I think such an idea was popular with many ancient peoples, especially the Celts.
I think it will be more appropriate to finish the last sentence with words: "...especially everyone."

Quote:
Also Tom must either have had a quarry or recycled building stone from the ruined settlements of the Dunedain.
I would say the latter is more probable; after all, this is how it used to be done in the Middle Ages, and I would think that if for example Bree had stone houses, then surely they were built this way.

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Now a thought which has never struck me before, (doh!). Tom fails to become invisible when he puts on the ring. Sauron, as far as I can make out, was not invisible during his epic battle with Elendil, Isildur and Gil-Galad on Mount Doom, though he was wearing the ring. This seems to argue that Tom and Sauron are at least similar types of beings, be that Maiar or related spirits. Perhaps invsibility was one of the things implied by Gandalf when he said that the ring would give power according to the stature of the wearer, ie to elect whether to be invisible or not when wearing the ring?
That's plausible, however I'd be careful on using the words "Tom" and "power" too close to each other. As it is said in the Council of Elrond, it's not that he would have power over the Ring, but that the Ring has no power over him. So this is how I would attribute that. Sort-of existencially speaking, Tom doesn't have anything to hide, so he feels no need to become invisible, and he does not become invisible. And I'd say the incident doesn't tell that because the Ring works (or rather, doesn't work) in one aspect similarly on Tom and Sauron, it tells anything particular about their similar... substance, or how should I say that One possibility is that for example Sauron wanted to represent visible power, so he wouldn't want to become invisible in the first place; or maybe he would, but the power was so great that he simply couldn't be invisible anymore even if he wanted, if you know what I mean? Tom, on the other hand, I think did not simply even consciously, and not even subconsciously think about becoming invisible, or in any way interacting with the Ring in the first place. He simply thought it nothing more than a simple ring (a piece of gold, indeed), and so it had no power over him. I would once again point out the fantastic essay of Hookbill, which he quoted several posts above - if you think about the Ring as one of the things which he "does not let dominate his life", this well goes with the idea.
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Old 05-27-2008, 12:21 PM   #57
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West is the Good direction in Tolkien's mythology, apparently because that's where the Valar chose to dwell after the destruction of the Lamps - a west wind is always a good thing, for example. It seems to me that this is simply a result of the geography of Europe. To a European, west is the direction of the Sea and of sea-longing - just as here on the east coast of the U.S. I've always thought of east as the good or special direction. A large part of the feeling of the west in the Legendarium can be summed up in the image of a person standing on the shore, gazing westward toward Valinor.

Of course, in C.S. Lewis's Narnia books, east is the Good direction, which would seem to blow a hole in my theory.

Maybe Tolkien is looking at it from a mainland European way, and C.S. Lewis is looking at it from an English (Wales doesn't even have an East coast, and Lewis was not Scottish or Irish).


Anyway...

I seem to feel that for some reason, Tom is on a different level to the ring, he is more eathy, more base material (I don't really know how to put it).

Tom is unaffected by mortal troubles, and even Maiaric(?) troubles, I think (except for the whole "Last as he was first" thing). But he is still alive, which I think makes him even more interesting, not like the Ainu who are not really alive (I supose you could argue agaisnt that...)

But now I've been reminded of a completely different idea which I mentioned above: Is the fact that Sam doesn't doesn't dream here important? Does it show that he is not affected by things? ... Or am I just overthinking an unimportant idea?
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Old 02-24-2009, 07:04 PM   #58
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I've thought about Bombadil a bit. I've also posted this in a different thread, because I figured more people would read it that way.

I have a little theory about Bombadil, and it goes like this.
e may be an anomaly, but in my view he is quintessential to the books, because he shows Tolkiens world is essentially one of powers.
This is evident when Gandalf tells Frodo about his imprisonment in Orthanc.

('Yes, I, Gandalf the Grey,' said the wizard solemnly. 'There are many
powers in the world, for good or for evil. Some are greater than I am. Against
some I have not yet been measured. But my time is coming)

This is defined in a spheric, or topical world way. Each 'power' (this is of course the Valar and Maiar, but also the Istari and the ringwielders) has its field of influence, or care/stewardship. This is evident in Rivendell and Lorien being places where the decay of the world is halted for some time, and the memory of the ancient days of Middle-Earth can still be felt. Elrond and Galadriel both have, through their rings, a stewardship of sorts, but of a physical place.

Gandalf is also a steward, but in a more general sense: he is a carer for the children of Iluvatar. He says exactly this to Theoden on his suicide rampage ('I too, am a steward')

From the Silmarillion:
Wisest of the Maiar was Olrin. He too dwelt in Lrien, but his ways took him often to the house of Nienna, and of her he learned pity and patience (...) though he loved the Elves, he walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them, and they did not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts. In later days he was the friend of all the Children of Ilvatar, and took pity on their sorrows; and those who listened to him awoke from despair and put away the imaginations of darkness. (Silmarillion)

He is after all, a servant of the secret fire and wielder of the flame of Anor (which is the ring Narya, the ring of fire):

It is described as having the power to inspire others to resist tyranny, domination, and despair (in other words, evoking hope from others around the wielder), as well as giving resistance to the weariness of time: "Take now this Ring," he said; "for thy labours and thy cares will be heavy, but in all it will support thee and defend thee from weariness. For this is the Ring of Fire, and herewith, maybe, thou shalt rekindle hearts to the valour of old in a world that grows chill" (Crdan the Shipwright to Gandalf)..

Being a power (a good power at least) essentially involves being a steward. Look also at Melian and her girdle. Aragorn who spends many years protecting the Shire and other parts of the world.
Saruman who becomes steward (and eventually a locked-in gatekeeper) of his own fortress. This is true for Sauron as well, who wields his power in the form of influence (eg. pulling snow from Caradhras). His servants perform the physical acts. All the more due to his no longer having a physical body. And take Denethor, he is no more than a steward. As opposed to Theoden who is a steward to his people ('what will you say of the children of Rohan, who lay dead at helm's deep' as he says to Saruman.. imagine Denethor saying that).

To me, Bombadil is so important because he symbolizes exactly that. By showing us the gentle but all-encompassing power Bombadil wields when he is within his own domain (evident because he is unaffected by the rings power, and has power to hold Old man willow and the Barrow Wights), Tolkien in a way shows us how and why these powers exist in the world. As has been remarked here, Bombadils interest and influence go no further than the borders of his land, the boundaries of his sphere. Therein he is all-knowing and omnipotent (again, in a gentle way).

As such he is to me Tolkiens way of illustrating the way powers manifest themselves and interact in his world. Bombadil also makes us see the difference in the way the good and evil powers manifest themselves. Was not the fall of Melkor a result of the fact he was not satisfied with where the limits of his influence or care lay, though they were the broadest of all the ainur. His very aim was to reshape the world as he saw fit (changing the songs of the other ainur
, destroying the lamps ). But when the Valar retire to valinor after the destruction of the lamps, he literally dilutes his essence, his power all over Arda, marring everything. Hence, he is not strong enough to withstand the Valar at the time of his first imprisonment (in the Halls of Mandos).

"The Morgoth" was a term given to the person of Melkor/Morgoth in his complete power over the matter of Arda: therefore Dragons, Trolls, Orcs, and even Angband were in a way part of "The Morgoth", but not part of Melkor/Morgoth. While Melkor/Morgoth was eventually executed by the Valar, the only way to destroy "The Morgoth" would be to completely destroy all of Arda and render it anew: a task the Valar could not do without also destroying the Children of Ilvatar and therefore unthinkable.
source: http://www.indopedia.org/Morgoth.html#Names_and_Titles

That's why the valar can only banish his fa and cast it into the void, instead of destroying him. (see also: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/F%C3%ABa). So in this way Melkor as a power has gone the furthest, dispersing himself so his influence is felt everywhere, but at a high price.

But I digress. I think the notion of stewardship is essential here. Being a steward not for one's own good or to counter one's own fears (Saruman, Denethor), but for the good of the world. This is of course a very Christian thing and biblical (man is a steward to world) which is not surprising given Tolkiens background.

To me Bombadil illustrates this so well because of the small sphere of his stewardship. And his comical reaction to the ring. He is the only incorruptible power (remember, Gandalf wouldn't touch the ring), save Illuvatar perhaps. Of course this supports the theory he is (in the logic of the tale) the embodiment of Illuvatar. But.. I think it's better to interpret him as an enigma illustrating some essential points of Tolkiens world and philosophy, then to try and force him into the laws of logic inherent to this world. Tolkien said something similar in one of his letters (can't be bothered to look it up, sorry ).

Too bad every adaptation of Tolkiens work (all movies, radio plays etc.) I know of has failed to see Bombadils significance.
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Old 03-01-2009, 05:48 PM   #59
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Boots

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. Thoden 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 Lrien. The world goes by, but he just has a piece of it in which he allows himself to do things his way.

PS. Writing this has given me many more new thoughts on the subject of TB, and I went much deeper than I thought I would in some parts.
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Old 03-02-2009, 12:01 PM   #60
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Wow! That's two fascinating essays, Eonwe and Curunir!

However:
Quote:
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.
I have a hard time picturing Tom doing anything of the sort, and not only because it would be out of character, but because I don't see Tom as powerful in this extroverted sense. Actually, to me most of his supposedly immense power looks more like immunity against (or perhaps simply indifference towards) other powers, whether it be Old Man Willow's, the Barrow Wight's or even Sauron's (manifest in the ring). Tom is the Master because he is, and remains in all situations, his own master, and thus cannot be mastered by others. Self-discipline indeed seems to be the key to his Mastership. Tom the zen-master... I rather like this idea!

Let's not forget, however, the other crucial aspect of his Mastership: not only were his songs stronger songs, but his boots also were faster!
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Old 09-30-2016, 05:20 PM   #61
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Now we've reached my least favorite chapter. I'm intrigued by Old Man Willow and the Barrow-wight, because of the depth it provides to placing this long tale into a much longer and deeper history. But Tom annoys me.

It's not the poetry, singing, and random oddball-ness of his character. I just try not to read too much into Tom's character and nature, but the fact that much about Tom is an enigma means he attracts a lot of curiosity and questions. I read this chapter and just push Tom aside as an enigma, and leave it at that. I find no interest in trying to uncover anything else about his character, because someone who is 'outside the Lord of the Rings story,' I don't like spending so much time on trying to figure Tom out.

And his appearance in the story seems like a deus ex machina to me. But this has intrigued me recently, I remember I think Inzil bringing it up in a different thread:

Quote:
'Did I hear you calling? Nay, I did not hear: I was busy singing. Just chance brought me then, if chance you call it. It was no plan of mine, though I was waiting for you. We heard news of you, and learned that you were wondering...'
We find out at some point that Maggot has had communication with Bombadil, but I don't think Maggot knew Frodo's plan to leave the Shire. Gildor knew, so perhaps Gildor's elves alerted Bombadil that Frodo might be in the area. However, I'm having trouble figuring out what Tom means by this...he was waiting for Frodo but chance brought him and 'it was no plan of mine'?
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Old 10-01-2016, 01:54 AM   #62
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Originally Posted by Boromir88 View Post
We find out at some point that Maggot has had communication with Bombadil, but I don't think Maggot knew Frodo's plan to leave the Shire. Gildor knew, so perhaps Gildor's elves alerted Bombadil that Frodo might be in the area. However, I'm having trouble figuring out what Tom means by this...he was waiting for Frodo but chance brought him and 'it was no plan of mine'?
He means he was waiting for Frodo in a general sense, but hadn't known he would run into him at that specific place and time.
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Old 10-01-2016, 08:15 AM   #63
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Originally Posted by Nerwen View Post
He means he was waiting for Frodo in a general sense, but hadn't known he would run into him at that specific place and time.
Basically I would also think it's meant like that. Also Frodo concludes that Tom had heard somehow via Gildor, resp. via the other messengers (animals?, "good powers") Gildor had sent out since their meeting. Specifically, I was quite curious about Tom's statement that he had heard about the Hobbits entering the Forest, because that obviously brings to mind the only possible way he might have heard: a bunch of chatty badgers (okay, or birds).

Otherwise: I actually like this chapter quite a bit. More so than the previous one (which I do not particularly dislike, but neither do I particularly like it). It is this beautiful, restful place, Tom is actually not present that much in the form of singing nonsense - he is actually supplying food and shelter and information and ancient lore (which I like really, really a lot). The whole, ahem, incident with the Ring is of course puzzling in terms of "rules" of Middle-Earth/Arda, but that aside it is nice because it offers a bit of a different perspective on the problem. And I like it.

Anyway, the "passing of time" as Tom tells his story and then the Hobbits not being sure how much time has passed, isn't that a beautiful description? Doesn't it remind you of when you "submerge" yourselves into some good story you are reading or listening to, and when it for example tells about something that happens at night-time, and then you suddenly look up from the book and realise that it is daylight (or vice versa), and it feels surprising?

I also very much like the description of the rainy day. Also Frodo being happy that he doesn't have to leave yet because of it - it also resonates very much, haven't you ever experienced the situation when you would have had to do something (or should have), but external circumstances prevented you from it, and it was actually quite pleasant?

And I must be somewhat stupid, but I only now realised that Tom's statement that "this is Goldberry's washing day" (and autumn cleaning) isn't referring to the fact that she is somewhere in some back room doing laundry, but probably (either also, or only) to the fact that the rain is somehow her doing, that the water flowing down from the river also "cleanses" the forest? I was also wondering: are we encountering here some kind of metaphore for natural forces at this particular time of the year? (It should be right after, or around, autumn equinox, for instance. Sort of "washing after the summer's end, up for the new season?" And maybe of course more...)

Last of all: Frodo dreams. Again. I very often forget this, because the previous chapter sort of disrupts the counting of the days, but Frodo has been having consequently three of his unusual dreams in a row here. Three days in a row. The future events in the Barrow and the further events will somehow disrupt this, but it is an interesting start of the journey, to say the least.
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Old 10-01-2016, 09:27 AM   #64
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Everybody knows it was the fox from the "Three's Company" chapter that let Bombadil in on the "Strange doings in this land". Foxes are quite chatty and prone to gossip.
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Old 08-10-2018, 07:39 AM   #65
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I usually blitz read through this chapter, because I want to "get back" to Middle-earth. Tom's house always felt like a detour, but on this reading I'm noticing so much more.

1. The imagery of Tom holding the Ring up to his eye and the hobbits:

Quote:
Then suddenly he put it to his eye and laughed. For a second the hobbits had a vision, both comical and alarming, of his bright blue eye gleaming through the circle of gold.
We have Tom holding the Ring up and his eye "gleaming" through the Ring, and perhaps the most widely known symbol associated to Sauron being the "Eye". I can't recall but up to this point in the books I don't believe "the Eye" has been established, or mentioned, as a symbol for Sauron.

When the Ringwraiths are near, Frodo gets a feeling he is being watched and wants to put on the Ring, but there's been no mention of Sauron's "Eye" yet.

2. All the hobbits dream in Tom's house except for Sam:

Quote:
As far as he could remember, Sam slept through the night in deep content, if logs are contented.
I've always remembered this line because it's Tolkien's amusing spin on the phrase "slept like a log," meaning the person was knocked out all night, and when you "sleep like a log" you had a refreshing, very good night of rest. The other hobbits have disturbed rest, where they wake up from a specific dream, remember Tom's words and go back to sleep undisturbed for the remainder of the night.

This got me thinking about what does this reveal about Sam's character? He doesn't get pulled into Old Man Willow's dreams and he's the only hobbit in Tom's house who "sleeps like a log." Sam sees things for what they are, he sees through magic. If he was a character in the Wizard of Oz he would see the "man behind the curtain" and he pulls off masks.

He has some rather perceptive thoughts on his first encounter with Elves:

Quote:
"They seem a bit above my likes and dislikes, so to speak," answered Sam slowly. It don't seem to matter what I think about them. They are quite different from what I expected - so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were."~A Shortcut to Mushrooms
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"Yes, sir. I don't know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can't turn back. It isn't to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want - I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me."
Quite different from the Sam who just a few chapters ago was jumping up, squeeing about going to see Elves. Sam can't describe what his purpose for going with Frodo is yet, but he is the only hobbit who (up to this point) isn't fooled by magic, and sees people for what they are, not who they appear to be. I'm keeping this in mind when approaching the Strider chapters, because if I recall correctly, it takes a while for Sam to trust Strider.
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