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Old 01-05-2009, 04:59 PM   #1
Vaine
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Tom Bombadil

So I was reading a thread here today which made me think.
Each make their own interpretation on alot of different things in LOTR, so I was wondering, what is your mental image on Tom Bombadil's physical appearance?

My own is, well, that of a Leprechaun...or something of a similar fasion.
A kind of wood-fairy living in constant bliss.
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Old 01-05-2009, 09:58 PM   #2
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Well, my jolly Tom Bombadillo is a man by appearances, albeit shorter than most. Despite his youthful mannerism he appears old and deep - with laugh lines, but not a silly face. Old Tom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo, dary Tom, merry Tom, older than the mountains. He has seen a lot you know! He is wise and cunning. But don't let his age fool you - Tom's a happy soul; he can laugh like anyone - can you hear him singing?
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Old 01-05-2009, 11:11 PM   #3
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I have trouble picturing Tom since in the end he is in M-e, but not of M-e. So how do you really picture someone who is somewhat otherworldly? That is my problem, I can't just think of him as normal guy with coloured clothing...

He must be something different... and since I think of me usually as a nature spirit I'd rather think of him more wizardish. Maybe more like Radagast in a way, only rather a plant-lover than a beast-lover.
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:07 AM   #4
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The Elves are also otherworldly, but most of us can picture them, I think. Tom Bombadil is otherworldly in a more mysterious way; mysterious, but also rustic, earthy, and homely. Can a person be otherworldly in a homely way? The elves are otherworldly in a sun-and-stars way. (I feel like Sam, trying to find words to express what I mean). But I can picture Bombadil in my head.

One thing I find interesting is that we three for starters seem to have very different pictures of Tom in our head, despite what I thought was a rather clear description of him in the books. Neat.
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Old 01-06-2009, 02:07 PM   #5
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Eye Tom

I think of Tom as looking just like my next-door neighbour when I was a kid.

Short-ish, but not a dwarf, ruddy-faced and cheery, weatherbeaten rather than really old-looking.
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Old 01-06-2009, 03:45 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Beregond View Post
One thing I find interesting is that we three for starters seem to have very different pictures of Tom in our head, despite what I thought was a rather clear description of him in the books. Neat.
That was exactly what I was hoping for, to see just how many different descriptions there would be.
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Old 01-07-2009, 03:36 PM   #7
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Jolly man. Shorter than most with a weather beaten hat and clothes.

Long beard and hair. Always smiling. He always makes me happy when I read his part in FotR.
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Old 01-08-2009, 08:11 AM   #8
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The nature of Tom is what I've long been pondering. Not man, not Valar, and so forth.

He fits some aspects of some people with other names in the Sil, but nothing I can pin for sure.
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Old 01-08-2009, 12:40 PM   #9
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The nature of Tom is what I've long been pondering. Not man, not Valar, and so forth.

He fits some aspects of some people with other names in the Sil, but nothing I can pin for sure.
I dont think he's anything like the other races of Arda. He is unique
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Old 01-08-2009, 01:18 PM   #10
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I dont think he's anything like the other races of Arda. He is unique
It would seem so, and naturally one wants to ask what his purpose is, if any. Or maybe he is divine whimsy.
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Old 01-08-2009, 05:45 PM   #11
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It would seem so, and naturally one wants to ask what his purpose is, if any. Or maybe he is divine whimsy.
There's always the chance that he was just used as a way of divine intervention, but I doubth it. I dont know, but when I read the part about Tom I always get the feeling that he is timeless, immortal and divine, kinda like Eru himself. Maybe he is Eru in physical form, inhabiting the old forest of middle earth, watching as each age slowly passes by and keeping himself amused by His Children's wars and struggles :P (after all he never participated himself in the war against Melkor!)
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Old 01-08-2009, 08:32 PM   #12
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To which I then wonder, who or what is Goldberry?
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Old 01-09-2009, 12:06 AM   #13
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There's always the chance that he was just used as a way of divine intervention, but I doubth it. I dont know, but when I read the part about Tom I always get the feeling that he is timeless, immortal and divine, kinda like Eru himself. Maybe he is Eru in physical form, inhabiting the old forest of middle earth, watching as each age slowly passes by and keeping himself amused by His Children's wars and struggles :P (after all he never participated himself in the war against Melkor!)

That's what my mother thinks (er, sorry to bring my mum into this...), and I must say that the same idea occurred to me as well. Goldberry herself described Tom Bombadil as being 'the master', whatever that implies.

I'm not saying this theory is likely, but Tom just strikes me as being of divine origin, though I could not say how. He's among my very favourite characters; right up there with Sam and Old Man Willow ironically.

In my mind, Tom Bombadil was much as he is described in the book, though perhaps more drab in his clothing choices.

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Old 01-09-2009, 02:17 AM   #14
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Quote:
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Maybe he is Eru in physical form...
I don't have the book handy, but in Letters, Tolkien says that Tom Bombadil is NOT Eru.
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Old 01-09-2009, 08:09 AM   #15
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I don't have the book handy, but in Letters, Tolkien says that Tom Bombadil is NOT Eru.
I need to aquire that book it seems.

Atleast I think we could all agree, that Tom i divine in one way or the other.

Edit: I was thinking something along the line of Mother and Father Earth.

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Old 01-09-2009, 08:29 AM   #16
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White Tree

I was always amused and felt it was telling the way Tom coyly puts on The Ring. Utterly unaffected by it. You get the sense he is beyond the world he is living in. A visitor, observer, basically a level well beyond Middle-Earth. The Elves, Gandolf, even the fell powers simply know not to bother or bother with him.

He is a reminder, in the middle of the grim real world, that there is a broader context everything is taking place in.
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Old 01-09-2009, 09:00 AM   #17
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Why does this discussion feel so familiar...?

Well, I know this is probably the umpteenth time in the last forty-odd years since I first read LotR that I've been involved in such a discourse. A while back, there was a similar one here on the Downs: What connection between Goldberry and Ulmo? It started with that question, but eventually went into the nature and origins of Bombadil as well. Might be of interest.

For myself, I've long believed he was a Maia, probably one of Yavanna's, who came into ME before the awakening of the Elves, and, rather like Aiwendil/Radagast, became so enamored of the land, he stayed and lost his connections to the other Ainur.
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Old 01-09-2009, 09:52 AM   #18
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Why does this discussion feel so familiar...?

Well, I know this is probably the umpteenth time in the last forty-odd years since I first read LotR that I've been involved in such a discourse. A while back, there was a similar one here on the Downs: What connection between Goldberry and Ulmo? It started with that question, but eventually went into the nature and origins of Bombadil as well. Might be of interest.

For myself, I've long believed he was a Maia, probably one of Yavanna's, who came into ME before the awakening of the Elves, and, rather like Aiwendil/Radagast, became so enamored of the land, he stayed and lost his connections to the other Ainur.

Like Balrog wings, the incarnations of Bombadil and Goldberry have been discussed ad nauseum, and the thread Ibrini cites belabors the point until the dead horse had been beaten into microscopic equine subparticles.

Be that as it may, I of course disagree with Ibrin's take on Bombadil and Goldberry's Maiaric nature. They are completely set apart from the story, as Tolkien says 'an enigma'. They have no real connection with the story other than Tolkien wanted them there, having transported them to Middle-earth from poems written long before LotR was written.

I refer you back to the other thread for the appropriate documentation.
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Old 01-09-2009, 12:06 PM   #19
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Be that as it may, I of course disagree with Ibrin's take on Bombadil and Goldberry's Maiaric nature. They are completely set apart from the story, as Tolkien says 'an enigma'. They have no real connection with the story other than Tolkien wanted them there, having transported them to Middle-earth from poems written long before LotR was written.
Speaking from a viewpoint outside the story, I don't disagree with that. Bombadil and many other things in LotR are clearly holdovers or "translations" of things that Tolkien had imagined for other purposes and tales, and they migrated into what at the time was his most publishable work. However, from a viewpoint within the world of the story itself, Tom had to come from somewhere that is consistent with the rest of the subcreational reality. There are other oddities, to be sure (like Beorn and the giants), but none with the kind of power Tom manifests. Perhaps Eru put him there to be a puzzle to the inhabitants of ME as well, but I still like the Maia theory (which, of course, is just a theory).
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:03 PM   #20
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Well, I don't think that Tom Bombadil is a Maia. He seems to earthy and real for that. I would say that he is sort of the opposite of Ungoliant (who I don't think is a Maia either, especially after reading the BoLT). I know I've said this before, but I felt like I had to represent my opinions.

Everyone who's read the books has come up with this question and answers it for themselves. There are so many theories: Is he an elf? Is he a Maia? Is he a Vala? Is he Tolkien himself?

The debate goes ever on and on, down from book where it began...
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Old 01-10-2009, 06:43 PM   #21
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maybe toms all the good races put together you know like hes a mix of elves, men,
dwarf's, and hobbits or something like that? just an idea
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Old 01-11-2009, 08:11 AM   #22
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I always saw Tom as a cross between Santa and a Leprechaun.
As for who and what he is, maybe Bombadil is the incarnation of Arda itself??
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Old 01-11-2009, 08:38 AM   #23
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I always saw Tom as a cross between Santa and a Leprechaun.
As for who and what he is, maybe Bombadil is the incarnation of Arda itself??
Seems we share the same idea
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Old 01-11-2009, 05:16 PM   #24
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Shield

Not to sound grouchy, purely because I sense a couple of you will be interested and don't yet know, there are dozens of Bombadil threads on the Downs: try the search function and prepare to be bamboozled.

I prefer the Balrog threads myself.
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Old 01-12-2009, 01:31 AM   #25
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There are indeed a great deal of Tom Bombadil threads, but I still think it is fun to start a new discussion.

As for the Bombadil-Eru argument; I realise that Tolkien describes Tom as an enigma, and well, who is going to argue with the author himself? But I still like pondering the possibilities, I haven't been on the Downs long enough to get nauseated by the idea I suppose.
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Old 10-15-2010, 08:50 AM   #26
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Book of Lost Tales-Vol 1:-The Coming of The Valar

I thought I might throw this into the discussion.....;but with Aule was that great lady Palurien whose delights were richness and fruits of the earth, for which reason has she long been called Yavanna among the Eldar. About them fared a great host who are the sprites of trees and wood, of dale and mountain-side, or those that sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve. These are the Nermir and the Tavari, Nandini and Orossi, brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns, and what else are they not called, for their number is very great: yet must they not be confused with the Eldar, for they were born before the world and are older than it's oldest, and are not of it, but laugh at it much, for had they not somewhat to do with it's making, so that it is for the most part a play for them.......

A greater character reference for Tom Bombadil could not be written, however this was never published in Tolkiens lifetime so we have no idea whether he would have included it in the Silmarillion. What was published in the Silmarillion, was this........With the Valar came other spirits whose being also began before the world, of the same order as the Valar but of less degree. These are the Maiar, the people of the Valar, and their servents and helpers. Their number is not known to the Elves, and few have names in any of the tongues of the Children of Iluvatar.


In the notes Christopher says:- Particularly interesting is the passage concerning the host of lesser spirits who accompanied Aule and Palurien, from which one sees how old is the conception of the Eldar as quite dissimilar in essential nature from 'brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns', since the Eldar are 'of the world' and bound to it, wheras those others are beings from before the worlds making. In the later work there is no trace of any such explanation of the 'pixie' element in the worlds population: the Maiar are little referred to, and cetainly not said to include such beings as 'sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve'.

Is it not possible that many of these spirits/sprites survived, who is The River Woman, are huorns mere tree sprites. When Gimli speaks of Caradhras he talks like it is an entity. If Osse and Uinen can affect their environs then surely other Maiar are lurking in the undergrowth doing the same thing. I believe that Tom is a surviving Sprite/Maiar of his little dale. I believe this because Tolkien was always re-using bits he had discarded, if we forget Tom Bombadil the character alltogether and just leave his circumstances and actions in, then the remainder leaves only one conclusion, he is not one of The Children of Iluvatar, he can only be what is left, a divine spirit.
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Old 10-16-2010, 10:14 AM   #27
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When I think of Tom the one word that simply won't go away is "outside."

Outside, in its literal form, obviously. Tom is attuned to all things natural (that is, in nature) and to eschew the unnatural (manufactured), expressed primarily in the One Ring having no power over him. But more than that, I see Tom as "oustside" the entire tale. Tom is described (if I remember correctly) as always having been. Eternal, if you will. I think Tom is from somewhere else entirely and, perhaps, not of the music at all. I don't think we're meant to know -- as, apparently, no one in the tale itself seems to know -- where Tome came from or what he is about. He just is, and cannot be explained. I also liken this theory to what happens to me when I try to picture him in my mind. He's a timeless child, impossibly old and young at the same time. I can't explain it any better than that.
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Old 10-16-2010, 10:50 AM   #28
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When I think of Tom the one word that simply won't go away is "outside."

Outside, in its literal form, obviously. Tom is attuned to all things natural (that is, in nature) and to eschew the unnatural (manufactured), expressed primarily in the One Ring having no power over him. But more than that, I see Tom as "oustside" the entire tale. Tom is described (if I remember correctly) as always having been. Eternal, if you will. I think Tom is from somewhere else entirely and, perhaps, not of the music at all. I don't think we're meant to know -- as, apparently, no one in the tale itself seems to know -- where Tome came from or what he is about. He just is, and cannot be explained. I also liken this theory to what happens to me when I try to picture him in my mind. He's a timeless child, impossibly old and young at the same time. I can't explain it any better than that.
"Outside" is also the place Tom says the Dark Lord (Morgoth) originated from. I see this as the Void.
This is in line with what the Elves thought of Ungoliant:

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The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwė.
Silmarillion Of the Darkening of Valinor

Tom said he "knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless--before the Dark Lord came from outside."

I think "outside" could well be the key, and I see a parallel between Tom and Ungoliant. In line with what narfforc said, both are creatures obviously not of the Children of Ilśvatar, seeming to each have their own desires apart from those of the "divine" in Arda, the Valar, their attendant Maia, and the rebels, Melkor and those who served him.

Perhaps Tom and Ungoliant were merely Ainu who came to Arda seperately from (and completely unknown to) the Valar, to either fulfill a part in the Music known only to the One, or to independantly pursue their own goals.
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Old 10-16-2010, 08:53 PM   #29
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I don't think we're meant to know -- as, apparently, no one in the tale itself seems to know -- where Tome came from or what he is about. He just is, and cannot be explained.
Very true. I read somewhere (I think in one of the "Letters" that Tolkien INTENDED for Bombadil to be an enigma.

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I think Tom is from somewhere else entirely and, perhaps, not of the music at all.
I think you hit very close to the mark, maybe even in the gold.
Remember this quote from Silmarillion in "Ainulindale"
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for to none but himself has Iluvatar revealed all that he has in store
and in every age there come forth things that are new and have no foretelling, for they do not proceed from the past.
I don't believe we need to (or even should try to) fit Bombadil into the list of created beings that are listed in Silmarillion (like Ainur, Maier, etc). Illuvatar is free to bring in other created beings - even some that may be unique.

Bombadil (and Goldberry, and the River Woman, for that matter) could easily be such. And, thus, all we do know of Bombadil is what is directly reported: that he was there when the Elves passed that way first, that no one knows where he came from, that the Ring has no power over him, etc.
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Old 10-17-2010, 09:51 AM   #30
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For some reason, I imagine Tom Bombadil looking like Denholm Elliot in benign (Room with a View) mode (as opposed to sneery Private Function mode)
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Old 10-17-2010, 07:35 PM   #31
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I see Bombadil as leprechaun that is a bit taller than a dwarf (physically). I think that he was created for the same reason as the ents - to guard nature. They both are the the first living creatures on m-e, except for the valar who came to visit. The difference is that ents, in a way, die - they becoe regular trees. Tom, however, is maore like an elf - he probably didn't change one jot since any thousand years ago.
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Old 11-20-2010, 01:04 PM   #32
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Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Could Bombadil perhaps be a Maia?
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Old 11-20-2010, 05:35 PM   #33
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See my post above.

The Downs has gone deep into the detail of Bombadil's nature, possibility of Maiardom included. I believe the consensus is: no, he was not a Maia.
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Old 12-10-2010, 03:27 PM   #34
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The last time I read that chapter I pictured a big brown bearded, big biceped grizzly lumberjack man skipping around in the forest singing to himself. wearing a tunic and tights kinda like Link in N64's Ocarina of Time but different colours and different hat kinda like Gandalfs but not as big and a huge feather sticking out higher then the tip of his hat. I laughed to myself a lot during that chapter lol.
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Old 12-10-2010, 03:46 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Khazad-dūm View Post
The last time I read that chapter I pictured a big brown bearded, big biceped grizzly lumberjack man skipping around in the forest singing to himself.
You don't want to know what image that conjured up in my head! (But then again, it isn't that hard to guess...)

And welcome to the Downs, by the way, as we haven't met yet!
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Old 12-03-2011, 11:40 PM   #36
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To get back on-topic from all the "nature of Bombadil" stuff . . .

My good twin? Well, I always envision him with a sharp object or three stuck in him (downright nauseatingly cheery, that one is).

More seriously, I think of him as . . . well, a semi-paternal figure. Wise and clearly old, but so active and cheerful that you don't really notice that. The sort of person who always knows what to do and has seen it all, and knows better than to be too serious. This is a bit more of a character description than a physical one of course, but that's how I see people - I probably couldn't describe my own parents to you in any detail, but I could tell you all about them.
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Old 12-23-2011, 12:20 PM   #37
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The necessary anomaly

I mostly imagine Tom as being mostly earthy...careless and unconcerned like the books say, with higher things which reminds me more of nature spirits, fairys, etc, but seemingly kinder; perhaps not any less mischievous. In "Letters" Tolkien refers to Tom as "the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside." He ponders if Tom could be made into the hero of a story (when he is pondering a sequel to "The Hobbit"), "or is he, as I suspect, fully enshrined in the enclosed verses?"

I think (simply my opinion/interpretation) that Tom represents just that for Tolkien, the embodiment of the "vanishing" of the passing of the old world that Tolkien mourns throughout his life which seems to bleed through in his writings. To me, when I first read "Fellowship," the hobbits encounter of Tom is a welcome and wonderful diversion. I think I was really sad when they left and had to get back to the "real world" of battle, good versus evil, etc. (Still sad he was not portrayed in the movies!)

Gandalf announces at the end of LOTR (paraphrase) that he is going to see Tom; that while he has been a rolling stone, Tom has been one who has more or less lain still for ages, gathering moss. Tom's power seems to be more "descent" based (earthy) rather than "ascent" based (like many of the elves, the Valar, even the dark lord.) He is limited in the range of his power, yet possesses a refreshing carelessness, an almost omnipotent kind of existence which is outside of the events of ME. He seems unconcerned with power, victory, defeat, the world of up and down, right or wrong. And yet, he is naturally pure and good...but perhaps not logical. I have to agree with the assertions that he is an anomaly, but a completely necessary one as he may be a character that very clearly reveals the heart and desire of the author moreso than many others.

All that to say...yes, something like a chubby elf, a sort of Santa, worn (not in a tired way though) and earthy yet young and refreshing. With a long beard. Always imagined him with a long beard. Can't remember if that is in the books or not right now.
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Old 01-04-2012, 01:31 PM   #38
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I think you really nailed it there, leapofberen. Especially with your assessment of Bombadil's power, much the way Tolkien put in the letter quoted below.

To use your word - refreshing - he is a refreshing departure from all else going on in Middle-earth with his total indifference to things outside his occupation with the forest. I love Gandalf's comments about Tom and his odd nature:

Quote:
...if he were given the Ring, he would soon forget it, or most likely throw it away. Such things have no hold on his mind.
Quote:
I am going to have a long talk with Bombadil: such a talk as I have not had in all my time. He is a moss-gatherer, and I have been a stone doomed to rolling. But my rolling days are ending, and now we shall have much to say to one another.
Quote:
They halted and Frodo looked south wistfully. 'I should dearly like to see the old fellow again,' he said. 'I wonder how he is getting on?'
'As well as ever, you may be sure,' said Gandalf. 'Quite untroubled; and I should guess, not much interested in anything that we have done or seen, unless perhaps in our visits to the Ents.'
I wish we could've listened in on Gandalf's later conversation with Tom!

When I read Tolkien's similar assessment, I thought it really articulated the sort of character I received him as, and why I was so glad he had a place in the books.

Quote:
...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, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on; but both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, 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. It is a natural pacifist view, which arises in the mind when there is a war. But the view in Rivendell seems to be that it is an excellent thing to have represented, but that there are in fact things with which it cannot cope; and 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. (Letter 144)
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