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Old 08-02-2004, 02:05 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Boots LotR -- Book 1 - Chapter 07 - In the House of Tom Bombadil

This is Tom Bombadil’s chapter! It contains the bulk of the information Tolkien gives us about him and Goldberry and has therefore sparked many, many discussions on our favorite enigma. The hobbits’ stay in their house is filled with dreams, story-telling, and singing.

How does this chapter affect you? What do you think it does for the story? Which parts do you like most or least?
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Old 08-02-2004, 05:24 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Esty
This is tom Bombadil's Chapter!
Well that's as may be, but lets not forget his 'pretty lady'!

I suppose the major character here, at least the one whose presence dominates this chapter, is Tom, but while a great deal has been written about him, his wife, Goldberry seems to have been pushed into second place. She is perhaps too mysterious, yet her presence runs through this chapter like an undercurrent - no pun intended (ok, who am I kidding, it was a pun,, & it was intended!).

Goldberry is the first person we meet in this chapter:
Quote:
In a chair, at the far side of the room facinng the outer door, sat a woman. Her long yellow hair riippled down her shoulders, her gown was green, green as young reeds, shot with silver like beads of dew, & her belt was of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lillies set with thee pale blue eyes of forget-me-nots. About her feet in wide vessels of green & brown earthen ware, white water lillies were floating, so that she seemed to be enthroned in the midst of a pool’
It is Goldberry who welcomes the guests into the house, & closes the door, shutting the night, & its terrors, out It is also Goldberry who recognises Frodo as an ‘elf friend’ & assures the hobbits of their safety:

Quote:
’Have peace now,’ she said, ‘until the morning! Heed no nightly noises! For nothing passes door & window here save moonlight & starlight & the wind off the hilltop. Good night!’ She passed out of the room with a glimmer & a rustle. the sound of her footsteps was like a stream falling gently away downhill over cool stones in the quiet of night.
Its also from Goldberry that we learn of Tom’s nature:
Quote:
Tom Bombadil is the Master. No-one has ever causght old Tom walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hilltops under light & shadow. He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master.
Goldberry is so beautiful that Frodo is overwhelmed, & finds himself repeating Tom’s own song about her. She seems to have control of the elements - the hobbits are forced to remain a full day in Tom & Goldberry’s house, because of the torrential rain, which Tom explains is due to it’s being ‘Goldberry’s washing day, & her autumn cleaning.

Yet, if we look for accounts of Goldberry, attempts to understand her nature, we find very few. Tolkien himself, in letter 210 says of her: ‘Goldberry represents the actual seasonal changes in such lands.’ Not much insight there, though.

In their scholarly study, The Uncharted Realms of Tolkien, Alex Lewis & Elizabeth Currie offer an explanation of her as a ‘River lady’ like the dangerous figures of English folkore, Jenny Greenteeth & Peg Powler, who seek to drag the unwary traveller underwater & drown them. Yet, in a book which expends a fulll fifty pages on ‘Tolkien & the Woman Question, analysing the characters of Galadriel, Eowyn & Erendis, all they can manage to say about Goldberry (in a chapter dedicated to Tom, by the way!) is:

Quote:
Tom captures & marries Goldberry (I’ve given quotes from the relevant verses of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil in the last thread, where she first attempts to drown Tom, & then is captured & married by him, but I’ll repeat them at the end of this post, for the sake of ‘completism’), in a clear & ingenious transformation of the ‘fairy bride’ stories so widespread in the British Isles. Once removed from the river, Goldberry is literally domesticated; dwelling in a house, part of a family (however unconventional) she is tamed & becomes as beautiful & useful as clean, safe water from a well or a tap, far removed from the unpredictable, wild & murky waters outside. It is her mother who is left the spirit of the river, mourning her bereavement, as untamed & dangerous as ever. Goldberry, on the other hand, is treated here more as if she was one of the ‘Lake Maidens’ of Welsh tradition. The poem is not explicit, but it sounds as if Goldberry never returns to the wild water she was dragged from, which would fit the ‘fairy bride’ motif.
Leaving aside the question of exactly how ‘safe’ & ‘domesticated’ Goldberry really is - which personally I would question, as I wouldn’t feel happy getting on the wrong side of her, & of whether the writers are correct in their assumption that ‘Goldberry never returns to the wild water she was dragged from’ - Tom tells the hobbits:
Quote:
...for now I shall no longer
go down deep again along the forest water,
not while the year is old. Nor shall I be passing
Old Man Willow’s house this side of spring-time,
not till the merry spring, when the River-Daughter
dances down the withy-path to bathe in the water
.
This still doesn’t take us much farther in understanding what she ‘means’ as a character. However, I have managed to find an essay, by Deirdre Green, Higher Argument: Tolkien & the Tradition of Vision, Epic & Prophecy, in the Proceedings of the 1992 Centenary Conference collection:
Quote:
The dwelling has low roofs, indicating simple humility; it is filled with light, suggesting spiritual good; the furnishings & the candles are of natural materials, connoting rural closeness to nature. Goldberry’s chair, far opposite the door, suggests a throne in a reception hall. Her yellow hair, suggests innocence & goodness; it is yellow rather than gold, emphasising her unassuming nature. Her gown associates her with lush, young vegitation. Her belt is the gold of purity & sovereignty, but it celebrates in iits floral design the eternal, cyclical triumph of nature. She is encircled by water & flowers, symbols of purity & fertility. As a whole, the image asserts Goldberry as a queen or a local deity, whose power derives from nature; she is associated with water, morning, & spring, & so belongs to the germinating, birthing, & burgeoning segment of the nature cycle. The reader is left with the impression that her power is so fundamental that there is no need for any display of sovereignty; Goldberry’s power is that of earth, water & warmth. Tolkien has combined the complex symbolism od the elaborate pictorial images of Spenser & Milton with observation of real things found in this world to produce a plausible image of great illustrative significance; again he has taken the effects of older literature & shaped them to more modern literary taste
Yet she seems more than all that, because, while all those quotes can give us some insight into her ‘symbolism’, they don’t account for her character, her loving, welcoming, protective nature, her concern for the hobbits, which she displays at he beginning of the next chapter, when she sees them off on their journey.

If anyone knows of a study of Goldberry I’d be interested. She has been overshadowed by Tom (but who wouldn’t be?) for too long.


(Relevant verses about Golberry from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil:
Old Tom in summertime walked about the meadows
gathering the buttercups, running after shadows,
tickling the bumblebees that buzzed among the flowers,
sitting by the waterside for hours upon hours.

There his beard dangled long down into the water:
up came Goldberry, the River-woman's daughter;
pulled Tom's hanging hair. In he went a-wallowing
under the water-lilies, bubbling and a-swallowing.

'Hey, Tom Bombadil! Whither are you going?'
said fair Goldberry. 'Bubbles you are blowing,
frightening the finny fish and the brown water-rat,
startling the dabchicks, and drowning your feather-hat!'

'You bring it back again, there's a pretty maiden!'
said Tom Bombadil. 'I do not care for wading.
Go down! Sleep again where the pools are shady
far below willow-roots, little water-lady!'

Back to her mother's house in the deepest hollow
swam young Goldberry. But Tom, he would not follow;
on knotted willow-roots he sat in sunny weather,
drying his yellow boots and his draggled feather.

**********************************************

Wise old Bombadil, he was a wary fellow;
bright blue his jacket was, and his boots were yellow.
None ever caught old Tom in upland or in dingle,
walking the forest-paths, or by the Withywindle,
or out on the lily-pools in boat upon the water.
But one day Tom, he went and caught the River-daughter,
in green gown, flowing hair, sitting in the rushes,
singing old water-songs to birds upon the bushes.

He caught her, held her fast! Water-rats went scuttering
reeds hissed, herons cried, and her heart was fluttering.
Said Tom Bombadil: 'Here's my pretty maiden!
You shall come home with me! The table is all laden:
yellow cream, honeycomb, white bread and butter;
roses at the window-sill and peeping round the shutter.
You shall come under Hill! Never mind your mother
in her deep weedy pool: there you'll find no lover!'

Old Tom Bombadil had a merry wedding,
crowned all with buttercups, hat and feather shedding;
his bride with forgetmenots and flag-lilies for garland
was robed all in silver-green. He sang like a starling,
hummed like a honey-bee, lilted to the fiddle,
clasping his river-maid round her slender middle.

Lamps gleamed within his house, and white was the bedding;
in the bright honey-moon Badger-folk came treading,
danced down under Hill, and Old Man Willow
tapped, tapped at window-pane, as they slept on the pillow,
on the bank in the reeds River-woman sighing
heard old Barrow-wight in his mound crying.

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.

Last edited by davem; 08-02-2004 at 08:30 AM.
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Old 08-02-2004, 06:34 AM   #3
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Excellent thoughts on Goldberry, davem! In this context, I remembered an article by Michael Martinez about Tom and Goldberry's marriage - here it is: Love in the Trees. I find this sentence of his very interesting:
Quote:
The only creature who masters Bombadil, other than Bombadil himself, is Goldberry.
He suggests that it is not Bombadil who chooses the River-daughter. Of their meeting, told in the TB poem davem quotes above, he says:
Quote:
This is a classic courtship ritual. The woman does the choosing, and she tests the man to see if she can dominate him. If she can, he fails her test and she's not interested in him. Tom won't play any girlish games, though, and he goes on about his business, dismissing Goldberry as if she doesn't matter to him. So, he passes the test, and later on, at the end of the poem, when Tom comes to take her away, Goldberry is ready to be his wife.
Martinez also emphasizes that Goldberry is Tom's "number one priority", and goes on to show her autonomous power. They have an unusually modern combination of deep affection and strong independence, with not a shadow of subservience on Goldberry's part. This is a high ideal of marriage and a wonderful example!
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Old 08-02-2004, 09:07 AM   #4
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They have an unusually modern combination of deep affection and strong independence, with not a shadow of subservience on Goldberry's part. This is a high ideal of marriage and a wonderful example!
Possibly, Estelyn, but let's not forget that this is a childless marriage.

I have to say that Martinez's words about the classic courtship ritual mirror my suggestion in the discussion last week on "The Old Forest" chapter that their relationship in the Bombadil poem represented "frisky play". (How about that. Quoting myself.) davem, your analysis of Goldberry is eloquent and very attractive and you are quite right to point out that she is often ignored in discussions of Tolkien's women. I think it is to the good to see the mythological predecesors for the River-Daughter and Goldberry in the

Quote:
the dangerous figures of English folkore, Jenny Greenteeth & Peg Powler, who seek to drag the unwary traveller underwater & drown them.
However, I think we also need to recognise the specific tenor of Tolkien's use of the figures. The danger is very much softened. There is in the Bombadil poem play and comedy rather than terror and I see nothing to suggest Goldberry's wish to drown Tom; she wishes merely to get his attention.

The other mythological legend which Goldberry suggests is that of Persephone and Demeter, the daughter stolen by the god of the underworld, leaving the mother so disconsolate that the fecundity of the natural world is disrupted. Here, it is the daughter, Goldberry, who controls weather, not her mother the River-Goddess. And here there is no sense that Goldberry, having eaten those three or four pomegranate seeds, is become the queen of the underworld. Instead, she becomes the woman who keeps the black dogs of night at bay--"Heed no nightly noises." Again, Goldberry is very powerful, but the connotations of darkness are removed from the literary archetypes to produce her.

This change reflects, I think, Tolkien's view of his art. His focus is upon how good triumphs over evil rather than upon evil itself. We do not see how Saruman became enmeshed with his studies; his fall is simply a "given" in the story. So, too, is the fall of the Black Riders. We do not know how they became ensnared, simply that they were.
It seems to me that Tolkien tames the legends, domesticates them, leaving us with, as davem has described, an elemental safe haven from which the Hobbits must face the quest before them.

This is looking far ahead, but what I have always regretted is that, when Gandalf says at the conclusion of the book that he wishes to visit Tom, there is no mention of Goldberry. This was likely Tolkien the author attempting to weave the Old Forest chapters back into his story, but his omission of Goldberry stands to me similar to the omission of Goldberry from the after-dinner talks with the Hobbits. Had Tolkien included Goldberry in Gandalf's final remarks, I would have been more inclined to accept unreservedly davem's reading of her.

Unless of course, this is where Fordim's idea, in last week's discussion, comes into play, that we ought always to speak and think of TomandGoldberry (no, no, not Tom and Jerry) rather than just Tom.
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Old 08-02-2004, 12:42 PM   #5
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First of all, let me say how glad I am that we've begun with a proper discussion of Goldberry!

I have to say I found Martinez's essay to display a slightly 'political' bias - Goldberry starts out as a young woman looking for a man, & ends up a mother figure (without, as Bethberry points out, any children).

This, for me, is simply another version of the TomandGoldberry scenario. Goldberry is only 'complete' when she has Tom. I see her marriage to Tom as 'enhancing' her nature rather than 'fixing' her.

Another thing I don't get is this desire for the young Goldberry to be 'nice' & playful. Goldberry is the daughter of the Withywindle, a powerful, magical force. The incident with Tom is depicted in a light hearted, playful fashion, but so are the other encounters, with OMW & the Barrow Wight. Tom's response is exactly the same with all of them - he commands them to go back to sleep. It seems I'm alone in preferring an empowered, dangerous, feminine force of nature, while everyone else is wanting a safe nurturing housewifely type!

I think its essential to realise that we are not dealing with human beings here, but with powers of nature in human form. This is an extreme form of anthropomorphism on Tolkien's part.

Anyway, to jump to Tom, an observation: when he is telling them of his own history:
Quote:
When they caught his words again they found that he had now wandered into strange regions beyond their memory & beyond their waking thought, into times when the world was wider, & the seas flowed straight to the Western Shore; & still on & back Tom went singing out into ancient starlight, when only the Elf-sires were awake. Then suddenly he stopped, & they saw that he nodded as if he was falling asleep.
Its almost as if he is moving back in time, back through his own existence, & as he approaches the point in time when he first awoke, he moves back towards unconsciousness - does anybody get what I mean?
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Old 08-02-2004, 01:00 PM   #6
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Some very insightful analysis from everyone so far. I agree that Goldberry is a supremely enigmatic character - more so even than Bombadil.

Forgive me if I bring the discussion down from the high and literary to the mundane and literal. But Tom and Goldberry are, I think enigmas in two distinct ways. First, there is the question of how they fit into The Lord of the Rings as a literary work - i.e., what do they "mean", what's the point of their inclusion. An equally interesting question, I think, is how they fit into Tolkien's mythology in a literal sense - i.e. what is Tom Bombadil?

This is probably the single most controversial point among Tolkien fans (the Balrog issue being a close second). The solutions commonly offered are:

1. Tom is Iluvatar. Tolkien explicitly denies this in a letter (I can't recall which one).

2. Tom is a Vala. There's an essay floating around somewhere on the internet proposing that Tom is in fact Aule. I've always found this quite preposterous. Aule is associated not with nature but with smith-work, skill, craft, metal. Not to mention that the idea that a Vala would take up residence incognito in Middle-earth is itself absurd.

3. Tom is a Maia. This is one of the most commonly made assertions. But neither Tom nor Goldberry acts very much like any other Maiar in the mythology. What would a couple of Maiar be doing living in the Old Forest? How can this be reconciled with Goldberry's description of Tom as the "Eldest"?

4. Tom is a human - perhaps the first human - who has taken a "vow of poverty". This makes sense of "Eldest". But humans are mortal, and Tom does not seem to be. Also, it seems unlikely that taking a vow of poverty is enough to ward off the power of the Ring.

5. Tom is an earth-spirit, or the spirit of Arda. I think that this is probably the most interesting view: Tom is simply part of the world, the same as the mountains or the sea. This explains "Eldest". It also explains the Ring's failure to affect him. But - and I don't recall ever seeing this question posed before - does this mean that Tom has a "Melkorian element" in him (cf. Myths Transformed)?

6. There is no intra-Middle-earth explanation for Tom and Goldberry; they can be analyzed in a literary sense but not in a literal one. But it is incredibly uncharacteristic of Tolkien to violate the reality of his own creation in such a way.

I'm certainly not trying to turn this thread into a repeat of the old debate - but I thought it would be interesting to list the major theories; for as old as it is, it is an interesting question. Tom and Goldberry are just about the only things that simply don't seem to fit into Tolkien's otherwise meticulously crafted world.

All right, sorry for the interruption - you may continue with your astute analyses, which I will continue to read with interest.
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Old 08-02-2004, 02:30 PM   #7
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I was able to *force* myself to read this chapter. Yes, I hate Tom Bombadil.

Something that should be considered, I think, for people trying to decide who Tom is (and like Aiwendil, I do not want to really go into it...) is this quote:
Quote:
When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from Outside.
This isn't the entire paragraph, but it grows progressively earlier. This is the end, and I was thinking the Dark Lord is probably Morgoth, not Sauron. If he was there before Morgoth (and in turn, the other Ainur) I think this would discount the theories of him being mortal or Ainu. Just some speculation.

Now I will try not to make the rest of this a rant on Tom... but I think one of the reasons that I find him so annoying is because he takes everything so lightly. I think it would be good for him to have some fears, or something that could overcome him... but nothing really can. Because the Ring has no effect on him, he doesn't really take it seriously. He takes everything lightly. For example, OMW: the hobbits are in trouble, and he comes along and basically says "Him? He's no big deal. I'll just do this and everything will be fine." It's not - or it shouldn't be - that simple. Okay, my rant is done.

Interesting points on Tom and Goldberry everybody!
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Old 08-02-2004, 03:34 PM   #8
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Tolkien Time, space and the whole general mish mash... and Tom.

Firefoot,
I would like to expand on what you said about Tom's attitude towards everything. You said;

Quote:
he takes everything so lightly. I think it would be good for him to have some fears, or something that could overcome him... but nothing really can. Because the Ring has no effect on him, he doesn't really take it seriously. He takes everything lightly.
I find that this is similar to the attitude Tree Beard has about everything. My first thought was that they lived such LONG lives and saw every thing as if from a distance and only a small part in the whole of everything. Tree Beard's attitude at first to "wreathing the storm as they have weathered all others" sort of summarises this. However when he is informed of the treachery of Saruman his mind is changed. I think that Tom may have not felt threatened by Sauron, may be he knew the limits of Sauron's power and so knew that he would not succeed.

My theory of them seeing all as a whole and not really caring for that reason was stricken down when I considered Gandalf.
He, a mair spirit, had an absurdly long life and still had cares for all matters "Weather they belonged to him or not."
So my theory is this; Tom and Tree Beard are sort of separated from the rest of the world. A lot like the hobbits were in the shire, almost ignorant to all goings on outside their borders. Tree beard having cares for the trees had a vice that broke and so lead him to action and to stop seeing all as a whole and for the first time he was hasty, as an Ent would see it.

Tom, on the other hand, cared for the trees, but did not fear dominion by sauron, he possibly knew or saw that his downfall would come and so was not worried. Who or what ever Tom was, I think we can agree that he had some power that let him know or feel that his land would be safe for many years and ages to come.
Well that’s what I think anyway.
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Old 08-02-2004, 09:37 PM   #9
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It seems I'm alone in preferring an empowered, dangerous, feminine force of nature, while everyone else is wanting a safe nurturing housewifely type!
Now that statement is one which likely would make SaucepanMan's day, being almost a recognition that we see what we desire to see.

Actually, davem, I don't think I have said I want a "safe, nurturing housewifey type" but then you could be speaking to others besides me.

Quote:
Another thing I don't get is this desire for the young Goldberry to be 'nice' & playful.
Is there "a desire to see" a nice and safe Goldberry? I rather think that my observations about how Tolkien domesticated the older mythologies and
legends suggests that I cannot see such a dangerous character in the text rather than that I don't want to see such a character. I can appreciate the legendary precursors, but in Tolkien's text I don't see the fearfulness, perhaps because this house, the House of Bombadil, is a sanctuary. The Hobbits are delayed by a "washing day", an ordinary rain , rather than a fearful storm with lightning and thunder and violent winds. What sort dangerous empowered feminine nature would say, "Heed no nightly noises"? The dangerous female figures of legend and myth come at night to disturb sleep, not to banish fear.

When I used the word 'play' I did not mean mere frivolity. I meant the very serious, profound kind of play which is the most important aspect of human existence. "Play" is the crucible of children's learning and the keystone in adult mental health. It does not have to be 'nice'. It merely has to be a game.

This is the reason why, I would argue, Bombadil "takes everything so lightly", as Firefoot has complained. For some, the world falls so heavily and so seriously that the only way to stay sane is to deal with it "lightly" in play. I would suggest again that if Frodo had more "play" in him, he might possibly not be so wounded. Or might have been able to resist the Ring better.

Aiwendil, I think it is good to bring that list of past debates and discussions here. And I think you are right to couch the questions this way: "But it is incredibly uncharacteristic of Tolkien to violate the reality of his own creation in such a way." He almost seems to invert his stricure in 'On Fairy Stories" that the one thing that must not be satirised is fairy itself.

But I think you have omitted some other possibilities in the discussion. If I may be so outrageous, let me refer to that rather light-hearted interpretation known as Revenge of the Entish Bow.

Ricky and Gucyberry

And

Being Ilúminated

Hey ho, merry dol, is this allowed, oh mighty mistress Moderator?
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Old 08-03-2004, 12:13 AM   #10
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Hey ho, merry dol, is this allowed, oh mighty mistress Moderator?
Now how could I possibly be against an opportunity for a well-placed, shameless plug for my own RPG, Bb?!

davem, I can't see anything safely domesticated in Goldberry - she is powerful in her femininity, and though she is united with Tom (he is not complete without her either! - it's a two-way relationship), she can stand on her own. This is the kind of ideal marriage I was talking about; two people united, not because they need each other to fill their own lack, but because they voluntarily choose to be together.

The more I think about Goldberry in this chapter, and I'm thankful to davem for getting the discussion focussed more on her than on Tom, the more I see her as a very positive feminine role model. This is the first time I've read this chapter with a greater awareness of her importance in it!
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Old 08-03-2004, 07:59 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Bethberry
I can appreciate the legendary precursors, but in Tolkien's text I don't see the fearfulness, perhaps because this house, the House of Bombadil, is a sanctuary. The Hobbits are delayed by a "washing day", an ordinary rain , rather than a fearful storm with lightning and thunder and violent winds. What sort dangerous empowered feminine nature would say, "Heed no nightly noises"? The dangerous female figures of legend and myth come at night to disturb sleep, not to banish fear.
Well, the fact that she's protective to the hobbits, doesn't mean she's not dangerous - in fact, I'd propose it means she is dangerous - to enemies. Dangerous doesn't mean 'evil' - later on Gandalf will point out to Gimli that he (Gimli) is pretty dangerous himself! I don't think Tom is the only one who could protect the hobbits from harm. I suspect Goldberry could do a pretty effective job on her own, if it came to it.

As far as the 'ordinary rain' of her 'washing day' goes, I don't think we can conclude from that that she couldn't do much more. A nature 'goddess' would be able to control her power. She did what was necessary - any more would have been simply showing off, & potentially destructive, rather than protective.

Oh, back to the Adventures of Tom Bombadil, does anyone find any significance in the fact that Tom's first 'opponent' is Goldberry (=water), his second is OMW (=plants), his third is the family of badgers (=animals), his last is the Barrow Wight (= supernatural being). Its almost like an 'initiation' sequence.

Lastly, for now, why the name 'Goldberry' - isn't that too much of a plant name for a water-lady? Am I pushing etymology too far to speculate its from 'gold-bearer', which could be a kenning, referring to the river water carrying the fallen autumn leaves, or even the reflected glints of sunlight on its surface. (Please tell me if that's a really stupid suggestion!)
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Old 08-03-2004, 08:33 AM   #12
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Bethberry wrote:
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Is there "a desire to see" a nice and safe Goldberry?
Excellently put. Analysis of the text need have nothing whatsoever to do with one's own wishes. I for one don't desire to see Goldberry as nice and safe, but I tend to view her this way nonetheless. The whole tone of the chapter is one of safety and comedy, not of danger. Davem does have something of a point here:

Quote:
Well, the fact that she's protective to the hobbits, doesn't mean she's not dangerous - in fact, I'd propose it means she is dangerous - to enemies. Dangerous doesn't mean 'evil' - later on Gandalf will point out to Gimli that he (Gimli) is pretty dangerous himself!
But the mythological and folkloric river women are not dangerous only in this sense; they are dangerous to travellers and to good people. And they certainly never offer the kind of safety offered by Goldberry. Nor indeed are they ever put in such, literally, domestic settings. I have to agree with Bethberry that Goldberry is a "tamed" version of the old river woman archetype.

Estelyn wrote:
Quote:
The more I think about Goldberry in this chapter, and I'm thankful to davem for getting the discussion focussed more on her than on Tom, the more I see her as a very positive feminine role model.
I'm afraid I must disagree with this. I don't think Tolkien was consciously sexist, but I simply can't see Goldberry as a positive female role model. She is perhaps somewhat independent of Tom, but I would not say she comes across as being Tom's equal. It is after all "The House of Tom Bombadil" not "The House of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry". It is Tom that has adventures outdoors; it is Tom with whom the Hobbits spend hours talking; it is Tom that twice rescues them. Also, there is the fact that at her first appearance (in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil) she is presented more or less as a prize to be caught.
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Old 08-03-2004, 12:31 PM   #13
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Allow me to add my voice to that of Esty in praise of davem for getting us off on a Goldberry foot for this chapter. She is badly overlooked far too often, and I am as guilty as anyone in this.

So far it seems that the major bone of contention in this chapter’s discussion is the depiction of Goldberry as tamed/domesticated or wild/fey in respect to her relationship with Tom. I would like to suggest that there’s another way to approach their relationship: rather than locking ourselves into a relatively simple either/or version of their ‘marriage’ we can regard it from within an older version of relations between men and women, one that I think held a lot of appeal to Tolkien.

It’s an ideal that I’m most familiar with in, of all things, the plays of Shakespeare. It’s the idea that men and women are ‘best’ or ideally suited to be joined in a relationship of mutuality, with the man still clearly ‘in charge’ of a hierarchy, but still dependent upon and completed by the woman. This is more than just each needs the other, and stems from a way of seeing the world in terms of feminine and masculine ‘energies’ or tendencies. In this view of things, and I’m more and more convinced that this is Tolkien’s own view, everyone is possessed of both masculine and feminine natures; not just people are like this, but all other beings, all actions, all of the created world. In this respect, there is no clear and finite division between the genders, as everyone participates to some measure in the intermingling of both. I think that this sort of a view is palpable in the description of Tom and Goldberry working together:

Quote:
Then Tom and Goldberry set the table; and the hobbits sat half in wonder and half in laughter: so fair was the grace of Goldberry and so merry and odd the caperings of Tom. Yet in some fashion they seemed to weave a single dance, neither hindering the other, in and out of the room and round about the table
The image of the dance is an old and a good one for this – in a traditional dance one partner may lead and the other follow (although we don’t see that here!) but it’s still a mutual effort, with both parties contributing evenly. I think this dancing pair of Tom and Goldberry is the best representation of their mutually conjoined natures – I said it in the last thread, and I reiterate here: I think we are forced by the book to see Tom and Goldberry as single ‘character’ in terms of their function in the narrative.

So they are ‘the same’ in that they are locked in a mutual relationship, but they remain distinct in their effect on the hobbits. When Frodo first encounters Goldberry his reaction is telling:

Quote:
‘Fair lady Goldberry!’ said Frodo at last, feeling his heart moved with a joy that he did not understand. He stood as he had at time stood enchanted by fair elven-voices; but the spell that was now laid upon him was different: less keen and lofty was the delight, but deeper and nearer to mortal heart; marvellous and yet not strange.
The difference between Goldberry and Elves is here summed up by the difference between “enchantment” and “spell”; I think this is really important, for the effect of the Elves is one that is reminiscent of Sauron insofar as it tends toward dominion and over-awing the weaker hobbits, whereas Goldberry (like the Old Forest) works a “spell” – she’s more magical, pure and simple. I love the phrase “marvellous and yet not strange”: I can’t think of a better way to describe hobbits!

Quote:
‘But I see that you are an elf-friend; the light in your eyes and the ring in your voice tells it.’
Here Goldberry reveals that she is more than ordinarily perceptive. She sees the full Frodo in her first glance: the good (elf-friend) and the evil (the ring in his voice). She sees him fully without apparently judging him; this is not some kind of nurturing earth-mother goddess, but a feminised manifestation of the created world itself: she sees all, knows all, accepts all; lies close to the mortal heart of the hobbits – what could be more magical, in the purest sense, than a rainy day?

Then there’s Tom. For my money, his most important moment comes at:

Quote:
‘Who are you, Master?’ [Frodo] asked.
‘Eh, what?’ said Tom sitting up, and his eyes glinting in the gloom. ‘Don’t you know my name yet? That’s the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?’
Right here is where I think we can see Tolkien himself speaking to us right through the mask of his creation. For Tolkien everything begins with language – his works were all undertaken for the sake of the languages he invented, and to go even further, his own Catholicism was one that highly venerated John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Tom is not God or Eru or any such figure – he’s the masculine manifestation of the created world that is the counterpart to Goldberry – but he is here expressing the full creativity of the divine word/language: for Tom the word is the thing, name is identity. This is another way of looking at the magic that fills this realm: Goldberry’s song doesn’t just cause the rain, it is the rain – the true magician says “rain” and water falls from the sky: the reality of the world is begun by language.

So Tom and Goldberry mutually express and embody the truly magical nature of reality in their own ways. They also respond to the Ring in a mutual manner. Goldberry simply accepts the Ring as part of Frodo’s makeup without condemning him or, apparently, seeing any split, while Tom (quite famously for most readers) demonstrates the irrelevance of the Ring to him by putting it on:

Quote:
‘Show me the precious Ring!’ he said suddenly in the midst of the story: and Frodo, to his own astonishment, drew out the chain from his pocket, and unfastening the Ring handed it at once to Tom.
…For a second the hobbits had a vision, both comical and alarming, of his bright blue eye gleaming through a circle of gold.
His action here is more than just to show how the Ring does not have power over him, but to demonstrate that he, like Goldberry, is fully aware of the nature of the Ring (it is “precious”) and of its maker (he mocks the Eye with his own). This is where I think their mutual relationship becomes clearer, insofar as Goldberry responds to the Ring at the individual level (that is, insofar as it has effected Frodo) whereas Tom responds to it at a more ‘historical’ level. Each aspect of the Ring is a necessary part of its truth – how many threads are there in the Downs arguing over whether the Ring operates internally (swaying Frodo’s “voice”) or as an external source of compulsion (brining Frodo under the ‘Eye’)? The split nature of the Ring is here summed up by Tom and Goldberry working together just as in the dance they undertake.

This post is already too long and too pedantic to continue so I shall leave off with just two more quotes. The first is the description of Tom’s songs:

Quote:
A shadow came out of dark places far away, and the bones were stirred in the mounds. Barrow-wights walked in the hollow places with a clink of rings on cold fingers, and gold chains in the wind. Stone rings grinned out of the ground like broken teeth in the moonlight.
And the second is the description of Goldberry’s songs:

Quote:
Goldberry sang songs for them, songs that began merrily in the hills and fell softly down into silence; and in the silences they saw in their minds pools and waters wider than any they had known, and looking into them, they saw the sky below them and the stars like jewels in the depths.
I would suggest that these two songs taken together – perhaps sung in harmony? – are as good a summation of the world created by Tolkien as have ever been written.
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Old 08-03-2004, 01:17 PM   #14
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Esty, thanks again for that article. Its effects are farther-reaching than one might suppose.

Goldberry dangerous: to whom? I would argue that if pressed, she would be dangerous, as would Galadriel, and Arwen. Would the Barrow-Wight prefer her song to Tom's? I doubt it; though I have no proof, I think if Goldberry had sung to the Wight, he would have been rendered powerless.

But that wasn't Tolkien's point. Rather than in arms, we see her shimmering. For me that is enough.

Goldberry gives the hobbits the merry laughter and the feast and the comfort and safe refuge that they tried to make for themselves at Crickhollow. The sleep is refreshing; though they dream, they are comforted upon waking; the baths (and the washing) is more real because more magical; the songs are deeper, yet bring more joy; the comfort, though temporary, takes root in their hearts.

Quote:
‘Come dear folk!’ she said, taking Frodo by the hand. ‘Laugh and be merry! I am Goldberry, daughter of the River.’ Then lightly she passed them and closing the door she turned her back to it, with her white arms spread out across it. ‘Let us shut out the night!’ she said. ‘For you are still afraid, perhaps, of mist and tree-shadows and deep water, and untame things. Fear nothing! For tonight you are under the roof of Tom Bombadil.’
Tolkien pulls this off when others could not. To fear nothing! To shut out the night! Incredible. I wept when I read this.
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Old 08-03-2004, 01:53 PM   #15
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I have to say that I find Tom Bombadil fascinating. To me he symbolises the Green Man, the spirit of nature, and in particular of the woodlands. Possible evidence of this can be found when Tom says that he was making his last trip of the year to gather the lillies, which to me mirrors the yearly hibernation of the Green Man. He is also described as 'Master' of the woodlands, and he has a power over the trees and animals who live there.

Tom is an enigma, and an ancient being living in an undisturbed place, and I like to think that Tolkien was linking some of the oldest and most enigmatic of our folklore into his own creation of Middle Earth. There are the Valar and Maiar, the Elves and Men, all with their own structured histories, yet Tolkien still included this strange figure who cannot be defined by these structures. This mirrors actual mythology, in that we have the Celtic and Norse stories with gods, goddesses and heroes who all have their 'place', alongside older, all-encompassing and more intangible figures who we can only speculate upon.

Intriguingly, Goldberry is also an ancient figure herself, the Goddess - who is at once equal to and different from the god. As Fordim puts it, they are
Quote:
joined in a relationship of mutuality
Tom and Goldberry are complementary to one another, as the ancient figures of the God and Goddess are. They are joined in the 'sacred marriage'. Goldberry is also the river-daughter, another representation of the goddess, and her treachery/trickery when she first meets Tom demonstrates the vividly dangerous side to the goddess figure.

So, not entirely objective thoughts, and possibly not that new, either, but when I read chapters 6 to 8, everything I have read about ancient beliefs and myths immediately springs to mind. Maybe Tolkien had in mind to stir in the possibility that we might start to suspect that Middle Earth was older than its own 'established' mythology? Or just to add in something of the enigmatic aspects of our own ancient past?

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Old 08-03-2004, 01:57 PM   #16
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.

.
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Jack, do you never sleep?
Does the green still run deep
in your heart?
Oh, oh,
Or will these changing times,
Motor-ways, power lines,
keep us apart?

Well I don't think so;
I saw some grass growing
through the pavements today.
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Old 08-03-2004, 02:17 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim
Quote:
‘But I see that you are an elf-friend; the light in your eyes and the ring in your voice tells it.’

Here Goldberry reveals that she is more than ordinarily perceptive. She sees the full Frodo in her first glance: the good (elf-friend) and the evil (the ring in his voice).
This hadn't struck me before - but what does it say about the nature of the elf-friend? Elves are ring-makers - perhaps the more we learn about the nature of the rings the more we'll learn about the elves (& their friends)- was Annatar ever named an 'elf-friend', I wonder.

But Goldberry - how come, after all this time, after all the threads & all the posts, why have we all suddenly become aware of Goldberry? Oh, that somebody would write a proper study of her!

(Having said that, I'll turn to Tom )

I suppose I lean towards Lalwende's feelings about Tom & Goldberry

Quote:
He then told them many remarkable stories, sometimes half as if speaking to himself, someties looking at them suddenly with a bright blue eye under his deep brows. Often his voice would turn to song & he would get out of his chair & dance about.
So, what stories does he tell the hobbits, exactly?

He begins, with the place they’re in - the Old Forest. He tells them its nature & history, the stories of its inhabitants, giving them an insight into the place they’re in. then his stories take them out from the forest into the hills of the Barrow Downs. He takes them, also, back in time, back through the history of the Land, but his stories don’t stop there:

Quote:
When they caught his words again they found that he had now wandered into strange regions beyond their memory & beyond their waking thought (but not beyond their ‘sleeping’ thought?), into times when the world was wider, & the seas flowed straight to the western Shore; & still on & back Tom went singing out into the starlight, when the Elf-sres were awake.....The hobbits sat still before him, enchated; & it seemed as if, under the spell of his words, the wind had gone, , & the clouds had dried up, & the day had been withdrawn, & darkness had come from east & west, & all the sky was filled with the light of white stars...

Whether the morning & evening of one day or of many days had passed Frodo could not tell. He did not feel either hungry or tired, only filled with wonder. the stars shone through the window & the silence of the heavens seemed to be round him.
They have been transported from the everyday world, with the earth solid beneath their feet, back to the begining, where the stars of Elbereth shine in the silence. But still, Tom is there, his voice speaking out of that silence. And he is going to tell them something important, something vital - he tells them to ‘mark my words, my friends’:

Quote:
Tom was here before the river & the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop & the first acorn He made paths before the Big People & saw the little People arriving . He was here before the Kings & the graves & the Barrow Wights. When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, befor the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless-before the Dark Lord came from Outside.
What Tom is telling them is that his ‘stories’ are not simply stories - they are his own memories - he is telling them of his own experiences. But this visionary experience doesn’t end with Tom standing in the fearless dark, beneath the stars, something else is to culminate the whole mystical experience:
Quote:
A shadow seemed to pass by the window, & the hobbits glanced hastily through the panes. When they turned again, Goldberry stood in the door behind, framed in light. She held a candle, shielding the flame from the draught with her hand: & the light flowed through it, like sunlight through a white shell.
‘The rain has ended,’ she said; ‘and new waters are running downhill, under the stars. Let us now laugh & be glad!’
We’ve gone back to the begining of the world, guided by Tom Bombadil, & who do we find awaiting us, bearing a light in her hand, echoing the Secret Fire, telling us that new waters are flowing under the stars, but Goldberry, the River Daughter!

Finally, what do we make of Tom’s verse:

Quote:
Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!
By water, wood & hill, by the reed & willow,
By fire, sun & moon, hearken now & hear us!
Come Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!
This is a kind of ‘invocation’ - Tom is called by invoking the elements of the Land - water & earth, the living plants & trees (including the ‘dread’ Willow!), the (the ‘Secret’?)‘fire’, & finally, by the lights of heaven, the Sun & the Moon. They are to call on the elements of the Land beneath & the heavens above them, to bring Tom to their aid, & if they do so, he will come to them.
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Old 08-04-2004, 12:40 AM   #18
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This post, due to considerable lack of time, will be brief and a bit jumpy (but I promise to come out with a bit about Tom and his versified speech in the next chapter discussion. I will probably include the following as the part of the post to come, as incantation in question is repeated in chapter 8 too):

The last verse in davem's post re:

Probable hint at ‘who is Tom Bombadil’ may be found in the incantation he teaches hobbits to entreat him to their aid:

Quote:
Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!
By water, wood and hill, by the reed and willow,
By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us!
Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!
Hobbits must implore to nature elements to summon him. May it be he is nature spirit? (though yours truly leans over to the ‘ëalar theory’, or all of the mixed up). Interesting too is that three out of four are mentioned: earth, water, fire, but not air. Why, one should ask? In addition to this one may reflect upon the following:

Quote:
I am no weather-master
So, Tom controls water, earth and fire inside his boundaries, but not air. (hey, who said poetry is dumb? who dares to skip the verses in LoTR. You! Yes, you! Detention!). That’s why Bombadil may not be Manwe (as I’ve heard some say. But merely earth spirit is not enough – what about water and fire, than? I probably may argue that Bombadil is all of them together, i.e. earth spirit (by hill + marriage to river daugher, scenery reminiscent (or so I'm told) of Oxford countryside), a bit of a Maia (Gandalf as his equal and rolling stones, but that will be jumping before the train, as it comes out by the end of the book), a bit of Eru (omnipotence inside his land, the incanantatio he uses to wake hobbits - chapter 8, 'I will not step outside') etc. But, er, well, before I go too far along the road of Tom’s origin, let me refer you to burra’s excellent Derry Dol, Indeed thread and stop here.

So far so good

As for the Light in Frodo's face and Ring in his Voice, I doubt the light and ring are to oppose each other as symbols of Good and Evil. True to alleged jumpiness, and due to proclaimed busyness, I will refrain from discourse at the spot, but merely direct you to the following:

Concerning Elf-Friends

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Old 08-04-2004, 01:55 AM   #19
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Fordim said:

Quote:
Here Goldberry reveals that she is more than ordinarily perceptive. She sees the full Frodo in her first glance: the good (elf-friend) and the evil (the ring in his voice).
That's an extremely good pick up, Fordim. Also just let me add that I think it works both ways- I think that Frodo's 'elvishness' and his burden are beginning to show more on his physical characteristics, and that we can see this stated explicitly sometimes (i.e. when he looks at himself in the mirror in Rivendell).

I never knew that Goldberry generated so much interest for lots of people- to me it was Tom who was more interesting, and I assumed that whatever he was (i.e. Maia, spirit, etc.) Goldberry was too; I must make it my mission to read The Adventures. At first when I heard it was a collection of poems, and I skim read one, I thought it was very "babyish" (it was similar to Sam's poem about the trolls), but now I've come to love the more "babyish" or "hobbitish" of Tolkien's poems as much as, or even more than, his more serious, darker ones. Goldberry is certainly an very interesting lady, to say the least.
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Old 08-04-2004, 02:33 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heren-Istarion
Hobbits must implore to nature elements to summon him. May it be he is nature spirit? (though yours truly leans over to the ‘ëalar theory’, or all of the mixed up). Interesting too is that three out of four are mentioned: earth, water, fire, but not air. Why, one should ask?
Indeed, & why invoke him by the plants of the forest & not the animals? Also, in the light of Tom's songs - which seem to be the source (or perhaps the means of 'channelling') his power - Tom seems able to overcome his foes because 'his songs are stronger songs, & his feet are faster'. My take on this is that Tom's songs are 'stronger' because they are true songs, coming out of his own experience. The songs of the Barrow Wight & OMW are 'false', & cannot stand against Tom's. Also, does the reference to his feet being faster refer to his tendency to dance as well as sing - its his song & his dance that his power manifests itself.

Secondly, if when Frodo puts on the Ring he 'passes into the otherworld', & so cannot be seen in this one, does that mean that Tom (who can see Frodo clearly when he wears the Ring).like the High Elves, also lives in both worlds at once?

Finally (as far as I remember), only three of Frodo's dreams are given in detail (if we don't count 'Frodo's Dreme, that is) - one at Crickhollow, & the other two under Tom's roof - ie, the first happens as Frodo prepares to enter the Old Forest, the second while he is on the edge of it & the third as he prepares to leave it, one dream on each successive night. Does this relate to the dreamlike nature of the Old Forest - even during daytime being in the OF is dreamlike, & being there (or in the vicinity) seems to intensify an individual's dream experiences. Flieger classifies the first dream, of the tower, as 'psychological', the second, of Gandalf at Orthanc, as 'psychic' - he is witnessing an actual event - albeit one that actually happened some days prior to Frodo's dream of it, & the third dream, of the grey rain-curtain & the far green country, as 'spiritual'. In each successive dream Frodo goes 'deeper'.
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Old 08-04-2004, 02:42 AM   #21
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Davem said:

Quote:
Secondly, if when Frodo puts on the Ring he 'passes into the otherworld', & so cannot be seen in this one, does that mean that Tom (who can see Frodo clearly when he wears the Ring).like the High Elves, also lives in both worlds at once?
Ah, now that's a very interesting possibility- one that I hadn't seen before. To me, it suggests one of two things- that Tom lived in the Blessed Realm before he came to dwell near Buckland, or that he just has the sight of the 'Ringwraith world'. Gandalf said that those who have dwelt in Valinor live in both world at once, so I think we can safely assume that is true. If it is, that means that Tom was an 'outsider' in the sense that he came to Middle-Earth from the Blessed Realm, which further deepens the mystery of his origin, which I do not wish to debate as Aiwendil has already covered it above, and there are plenty of threads discussing this.
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Old 08-04-2004, 05:15 AM   #22
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Tom's ability to see Frodo even when he's on 'the other side' only makes sense in light of what we've been saying about Tom here -- he is either a manifestation of (in a literary sense) or spirit from the natural world, so of course he would be able to see everything that exists in nature. If putting on the Ring placed one in a different natural order, then this would mean that Sauron had succeeded in an act of creation that was on par with Eru -- that is, in creating a 'world' of his own.

The fact that Tom can still Frodo when he is invisible to others is proof positive that the Ring is part of a perverted or subverted nature that Sauron has managed to twist to his own purposes, not the gateway to a whole other realm.
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Old 08-04-2004, 07:39 AM   #23
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Boots An allusion by any other name

Just popping in for a brief comment on the passage which HerenIstarion has discussed. (A pleasure to see you back, HI, even if briefly.)

Quote:
Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!
By water, wood and hill, by the reed and willow,
By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us!
Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!
Before I point out something about the last line, I want to provide this short preamble. Literary allusions can be a conundrum. What role do they play in helping readers interpret passages? Who are they meant for? If readers don't "see" or "get" the allusion, is the meaning lost? Or can it be ascertained elsewhere in the text? And when is an allusion "really" there? If I see a resemblance which another reader does not, what matters that?

"Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!"

Tom teaches the hobbits to sing this, the lesson placed significantly at the end of our current chapter. And, of course, when the hobbits do get into trouble with the nasty barrow wight, Frodo recalls the verse and sings it, in effect summoning Tom's help to save them from the wight.

So, what's the allusion here? Well, the line reminds me of a line from a well-known Psalm, in a passage which for me is familiar because I have seen it used in other English texts.

Quote:
Psalm 22: 1, 11.

My God, my God, why hst thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

. . .

Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
The psalm provides an eloquent and evocative description of the physical sensations of fear and affliction and succour in the lyric rhythm for which psalms--songs--are revered. Do I think this means Tom is Eru? No. But there is an elemental cry for help to one who is master of himself, the Ring, and his realm.
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Old 08-04-2004, 07:53 AM   #24
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Pipe Slightly off-topic...

...so apologies, Madame Bb-fly.

But reverie led me to wonder what the limits of this little charm were. How far away from TB's house would be too far? And what if Sam and Frodo sang the song simultaneously but a mile apart. Hmm? I had a wonderful image of a group of school-uniformed children with clipboards and pens studiously measuring how far they were from the house each time they sang the song, and a flustered-looking Tom constantly capering hither and thither as they made notes...

Facetiousness aside, isn't TB in this instance another example of Tolkien's get-out clauses? These include Eagles, Armies of Dead etc...

Impishly,

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Old 08-04-2004, 09:15 AM   #25
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Fordim wrote:
Quote:
The fact that Tom can still Frodo when he is invisible to others is proof positive that the Ring is part of a perverted or subverted nature that Sauron has managed to twist to his own purposes, not the gateway to a whole other realm.
And yet we have a lot of quotes suggesting that the Ring does function like a gateway to another realm - a spirit world, one in which the Elves partially exist and in which the Nazgul primarily exist. Not one that Sauron created, and yet one that is supernatural. Tom is supremely "natural". And he has power over nature. But the Ring is a work of artifice, and a gateway into a supernatural world. So Tom does not have power over it - but it also does not have power over him. It's as though Tom exists entirely on the plane of Nature; he can command, and interact with, other parts of Nature, but all that is unnatural, artificial, or supernatural means nothing to him - it cannot affect him and cannot be affected by him.

This is part of why I find the Tom = Aule idea completely ludicrous. The two are diametrically opposed. Tom is pure Nature and Aule pure Craft.

Rimbaud wrote:
Quote:
Facetiousness aside, isn't TB in this instance another example of Tolkien's get-out clauses? These include Eagles, Armies of Dead etc...
Impishly or not, I think you've hit on an interesting point. There seem, at first glance, to be a lot of dei ex machinis in Tolkien. Just when things seem completely hopeless, something unexpected will come to the rescue. There's Tom twice, the flood at Bruinen, the Rohirrim attacking the Orc band, Gandalf sent back by Iluvatar, the Huorns at Helm's Deep, the Rohirrim arriving at the Pelennor at dawn. And those are just from LotR. Other prominent examples are the Eagles at the Battle of Five Armies and the Valar at the end of the First Age. Indeed, Tolkien's very notion of "eucatastrophe" would seem to involve this kind of thing.

But if these are really such cop-outs, why doesn't anybody ever seem much bothered by them? Because they're not. There's a difference between unexpected and unprepared. In nearly every case, the thing that comes to the rescue is something that has already been set up. Tom saves the Hobbits at the Barrow-downs only after painstakingly teaching them the proper song for summoning him. We hear about the Rohirrim long before they inadvertently rescue Merry and Pippin. And we know that they are on their way to Minas Tirith even if we don't know when to expect them. Moreover, it is almost always through the actions of established protagonists that the deus is allowed to come out of the machina. Tom doesn't just show up on the Barrow-downs; he must be summoned, and that only after Frodo's heroics (though I admit he does show up completely without warning to save them from OMW). The Valar don't simply change their minds about the Noldor; Earendil has to convince them. The Ents don't act on their own; it takes the prompting of Merry and Pippin.

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Old 08-04-2004, 09:38 AM   #26
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A new job has seriously impaired my Downs-time and my ability to keep up with, let alone contribute to, these book discussions. But this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
There seem, at first glance, to be a lot of dei ex machinae in Tolkien... Indeed, Tolkien's very notion of "eucatastrophe" would seem to involve this kind of thing.
...made me think of an interesting old conversation on the topic of deus ex machina.
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Old 08-04-2004, 09:42 AM   #27
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Aiwendil, Tom himself puts his presence at Old Man Willow best:

Quote:
'Just chance brought me then, if chance you call it. It was no plan of mine, though I was waiting for you.'
Tom = Nature indeed! Here he is admitting that his comings and goings are at one with the 'chance' of circumstance in the created world, and that he is part of (perhaps even subject to?) the "plan."

Another thought has occured to me: in an earlier thread we spoke briefly about women and the pattern that emerges as Frodo moves from feminine refuge to feminine refuge. The first step in this pattern was Mrs. Maggot (the next 'rest' at Crickhollow, and entirely masculine affair, was singularly unsafe and unrestful, as we noted), and now we reach the second occurence in the pattern with Goldberry.

We've already noted the connections between Tom and Maggot, but are there connections between Goldberry and Mrs. Maggot? Both are associated with light, both are associated with domesticity (without being domesticated), both provide nourishment. What is it about the women characters (so far at least) that allows the hobbits to feel so safe, in a way that is perhaps more profound than with men?
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Old 08-04-2004, 09:48 AM   #28
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Pipe A nice summary...

Aiwendil - And in many of those cases I agree; but it is an undeniable trait. There have been comments on the issue, even on this forum, especially with regard to the Eagles. And to be honest, it was not really a complaint, more of an observation.

I like your link to eucatastrophe, and I think it is a valid one. I would take this further slightly, and perhaps somewhat off the tone of the thread, and argue that these gods from the machines are less actual gods, or Valar etc, than Tolkien's notion of the hand of fate (as applicable in ME). Fate has been discussed explicitly here on this forum, and now perhaps is not the time for a full-fledged rehash.

However, I will suggest that Tolkien's fairly prescriptive (with reference to Middle-Earth only, let's not have a theological debate on Catholicism and free-will just yet) fate for the Ring and its bearers/seekers is ushered politely along by these Acts. It is perhaps the combination of the event itself and fate's guidance another step down the path when combined with the heroism (inadvertent or not) of the protaganists that is the essence of T's eucatastrophe. It's a combination of choice and powerlessness, leading to success.

A weak analogy is luck in an everyday affair. You kick a football, and no matter how much skill you possess, no player in the world would score without an element of luck, and they know it. It is that combination of power and powerlessness that is the key... I've veered a long way from Tom.

Bringing it back, you are right to point out that calling Tom for help was a choice and to some degree a skill that the Hobbits had to perform, and therefore perhaps not a genuine 'rabbit-out-of-a-hat' get-out clause. However, I would still see him in this way, despite the build up - and distinct from your Rohirrim example above, which I agree is adequately foreshadowed. I will admit though that this unwillingness to see Tom as a 'fair' plot point has its roots in many other matters.
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Old 08-04-2004, 09:51 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
It's as though Tom exists entirely on the plane of Nature; he can command, and interact with, other parts of Nature, but all that is unnatural, artificial, or supernatural means nothing to him - it cannot affect him and cannot be affected by him.
I lean towards this idea of Tom as existing 'entirely on the plane of Nature', but then how to explain his power over the Barrow Wight?

And did Tolkien ever explain the nature of the 'otherworld' - how much of a 'world' is it - are there locations within it, for instance, that don't correspond with any place in this 'dimension'? Or is it some kind of 'archetypal' dimension, like the 'matrix' out of which this dimension is formed?
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Old 08-04-2004, 02:43 PM   #30
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Quote:
the good (elf-friend) and the evil (the ring in his voice).
Fordim: a bit late, but I didn't catch this til Fingolfin quoted it: "ring in his voice" refers to the timbre, the tonal quality of his voice; the joy, firmness, and power in it. Not to 'the Ring' that Frodo carried. Her reference to "the light in your eyes and the ring in your voice" compares him to elvishness in both cases; they have shining eyes and clear musical voices; so does he.



1. To sound, as a bell or other sonorous body, particularly a metallic one.
...
3. To sound loud; to resound; to be filled with a ringing or reverberating sound.
...
4. To continue to sound or vibrate; to resound.
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Old 08-04-2004, 05:18 PM   #31
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Davem wrote:
Quote:
I lean towards this idea of Tom as existing 'entirely on the plane of Nature', but then how to explain his power over the Barrow Wight?
Er . . . yes. Well, I didn't think of that. He clearly does have power to command the Barrow-wight, and the Barrow-wight is about as supernatural as one can get. I can't think of much to say to that except that my theory appears to be quite incorrect.
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Old 08-04-2004, 05:36 PM   #32
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There's nature and there's Nature. The Elves are extremely natural, yet they exist in both the shadow-world (the wraith-world, one might call it, except that elves are there too) and they also exist in the "normal, physical world".

I think, Aiwendil, that we will have another one of those divisions similar to the division over truth versus Truth. Maybe it's my Vineyard background! But some of us will say that "Naturally Supernatural" sounds perfectly reasonable, while others will balk at the phrase and call it an iherently illogical contradiction in terms.

Personally, I see no problem with Tom being 'Naturally Supernatural', and having a 'naturally supernatural' power over the Barrow-Wight. In the same vein, the elves' magic is more like Art; it is Natural; it is not about Power, yet it is Powerful.

There was a carpenter like that once.
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Old 08-04-2004, 07:14 PM   #33
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Mark12_30 wrote:
Quote:
Personally, I see no problem with Tom being 'Naturally Supernatural', and having a 'naturally supernatural' power over the Barrow-Wight. In the same vein, the elves' magic is more like Art; it is Natural; it is not about Power, yet it is Powerful.
Yes, to a degree I can accept this. But something still makes me uneasy. There is, I think, throughout the Legendarium a contrast drawn between the natural and the artificial, between Nature and Art. It is the difference between the Avari and the Noldor, the difference between Gandalf and Saruman, the difference between Ulmo and Aule, the difference between Finarfin and Feanor. The Elves' magic is Art, which is to say "artificial" - i.e. works of artifice, of skill. Now I don't see any problem with the Elves also appreciating and representing the Natural side of things - no real person can be all artifice or all nature. But I had thought of Tom as representing the purely Natural, without any of the "learned", without any of the curwe so prized by Aule and Feanor. And I think that the simple and obvious fact that he has a power of command over the Barrow-wight poses problems for that view. Also, there's his singing - indeed, it seems unlikely that anything in Arda could be completely devoid of connections with Art, since the world was created in the Ainulindale.

Sorry if that's not very coherent; I'm thinking and typing at the same time.

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Old 08-05-2004, 01:25 AM   #34
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Nature, Overnature, Undernature - brief note

Aiwendil - Art as it is forms a part of Nature. After all, the Nature itself is created = act of art. Art rightfully employed = sub creation = imitation of the first Act of Art. Only perverted art, one not conforming to natural pattern, is opposed to Nature.

Besides, it may be argued that only humans when dead leave Nature behind, as they leave the Circles of the World. All else, including ghost world of wraiths, is inside it, though on different plane. Hence, only Supernatural acts (=miracles) are those coming outside of it - i.e. interventions of Eru - Numenor case, resurrection of Gandalf, and the case of Bilbo finding the Ring. Even in those cases, pattern is natural - the island is overflowed, the body is not destroyed, the finding of the ring is, well, just chance-finding.

Dratted lack of time, so I must refer you to, instead of developing it on the spot:

Evil Things
Acceptance of Mythology

Those do not deal directly with the issue in hand, but touch upon it as well

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Old 08-05-2004, 04:21 AM   #35
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Aiwendil, Mark and HI: very interesting take on the relation of Art and Nature here. I agree with HI, however, that in ME Nature (ie the created world) takes 'precedence' over Art (ie the practice of the created beings who form a part of Nature). In his works, I think that Tolkien recovered a much more substantive and meaningful conception of Nature: not just trees and hills and all the stuff 'out there' or 'outside' the human, but the sum total of creation, which includes humanity and our own acts of creation, or Art.

Shakespeare put it best in The Winter's Tale:

Quote:
Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean; so over that art
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes.
This is why things like Rings and Barrow-Wights (which are the result of Art, be it the art of Ringmaking or the art of magic) are irrelevant to Tom and Goldberry, who embody the Nature from which all Arts spring.

Rimbaud: I like your football analogy for the eucatastrophe of Tom's appearance, not in the least because it shows the ultimate paradox of Tolkien's attempt to embody nature: Tom's existence as a part of nature is made possible only through Tolkien's art!
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Old 08-05-2004, 09:26 AM   #36
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Heren Istarion wrote:
Quote:
Art as it is forms a part of Nature. After all, the Nature itself is created = act of art. Art rightfully employed = sub creation = imitation of the first Act of Art. Only perverted art, one not conforming to natural pattern, is opposed to Nature.
I'm not sure that I agree. Art is artifice - it is by definition artificial. And throughout the Legendarium there is a contrast drawn between Art (craft, skill, lore) and . . . well, something else - I'm not sure whether to call it "nature" or "wisdom" or what. The Noldor, Aule, Sauron, Saruman, Feanor - they all exemplify the Art side of things. I'd say that Gandalf, the Vanyar, Yavanna, and Ulmo, among others, exemplify the other side. Remember Aule's words to Yavanna about the Dwarves - "Nonetheless, they will have need of wood." So there is some kind of opposition between the world of skill and the world of growing things.

But perhaps the opposition I'm seeing is not to be thought of as one between Art and Nature, but rather between Art and something else.
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Old 08-05-2004, 01:47 PM   #37
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He made no secret that he owed his recent knowledge to Farmer Maggot, whom he seemed to regard as a person of more importance than they had imagined. 'There's earth under his old feet, & clay on his fingers; wisdom in his bones, & both his eyes are open.' said Tom
So, what was Tom's relationship to Old Maggot?

Quote:
Tom slumped along the road, as the light was failing.
Rushey lamps gleamed ahead. He heard a voice him hailing.
'Whoa there!' Ponies stopped, wheels halted sliding.
Tom went plodding past. never looked beside him.

'Ho there! beggarman tramping in the Marish!
What's your business here? Hat all stuck with arrows!
Someone's warned you off, caught you at your sneaking?
Come here! Tell me now what it is you're seeking!
Shire-ale. I'll be bound, though you've not a penny.
I'll bid them lock their doors, and then you won't get any''

'Well, well. Muddy-feet! From one that's late for meeting
away back by the Mithe that's a surly greeting!
You old farmer fat that cannot walk for wheezing,
cart-drawn like a sack, ought to be more pleasing.
Penny-wise tub-on-legs! A beggar can't be chooser,
or else I'd bid you go, and you would be the loser.
Come, Maggot! Help me up! A tankard now you owe me.
Even in cockshut light an old friend should know me!'

Laughing they drove away, in Rushey never halting,
though the inn open stood and they could smell the mailing.
They turned down Maggot's Lane, rattling and bumping,
Tom in the farmer's cart dancing round and jumping.
Stars shone on Bamfurlong, and Maggot's house was lighted;
fire in the kitchen burned to welcome the benighted.

Maggot's sons bowed at door, his daughters did their curtsy,
his wife brought tankards out for those that might be thirsty.
Songs they had and merry tales the supping and the dancing;
Goodman Maggot there for all his belt was prancing,
Tom did a hornpipe when he was not quaffing,
daughters did the Springle-ring, goodwife did the laughing.

When others went to bed in hay, fern, or feather,
close in the inglenook they laid their heads together,
old Tom and Muddy-feet, swapping all the tidings
from Barrow-downs to Tower Hills: of walkings and of ridings;
of wheat-ear and barley-corn, of sowing and of reaping;
queer tales from Bree, and talk at smithy, mill, and cheaping;
rumours in whispering trees, south-wind in the larches,
tall Watchers by the Ford, Shadows on the marches.

Old Maggot slept at last in chair beside the embers.
Ere dawn Tom was gone: as dreams one half remembers,
some merry, some sad, and some of hidden warning.
None heard the door unlocked; a shower of rain at morning
his footprints washed away, at Mithe he left no traces,
at Hays-end they heard no song nor sound of heavy paces.
Bombadil goes Boating
We seem to have an interchange of news - though not set out so clearly; if we highlight what seems to be Tom's contribution its a bit clearer:

old Tom and Muddy-feet, swapping all the tidings
from Barrow-downs to Tower Hills: of walkings and of ridings;
of wheat-ear and barley-corn, of sowing and of reaping;
queer tales from Bree, and talk at smithy, mill, and cheaping;
rumours in whispering trees, south-wind in the larches,
tall Watchers by the Ford, Shadows on the marches.


Tom informs Maggot of the unnoticed 'mysteries' all around him, while Maggot tells Tom the local gossip. Of course, at one point, Maggot was to have been a creature like Tom, so he goes through a very strange process of evolution - first a violent thug, then, briefly, a supernatural being like Tom, finally ending up a friendly hobbit. We could speculate that Tom's speech to the hobbits praising Maggot, arose out of the 'middle' period, as the Maggot we have in the book, while worthy, doesn't seem all that 'wise'. Yet it may be that his wisdom comes from his listening to Tom, while Tom seems to have learned a lot of what he considers to be 'valuable' information from Maggot. What does this tell us about Tom's values? Maggot simply relates his experiences of the everyday comings & goings of ordinary hobbit folk. Tom seems the spirit of wild, uncontrolled nature, yet the day to day wisdom he passes to Tom make him seem a fellow worthy of respect - are we seeing a kind of ideal relationship between the wild & the tamed, one that the Ents & the Entwives could never manage, & so brought about their destruction? Perhaps we can see Tom & Maggot as complementary 'reflections' of each other.

Which brings something else to mind - we've spent a lot of time exploring Goldberry's character, but why have we ignored Mrs Maggot? She tends the house, the fire, provides the food & ale - she also is a mother, a nurturer & provider, & also seems to be the one running the family - her final words telling Maggot to take care:
Quote:
'You be careful of yourself, Maggot!' she called. 'Don't go arguing with any foreigners, & come straight back!'
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Old 08-05-2004, 01:52 PM   #38
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For my own part, I don't see any problem with Tom being a nature spirit and him being able to control the Barrow-Wight. If Tom is indeed some kind of personification of the 'old' god, then I would see him as having the potential for power over whatever may be within the landscape. After all, those entombed within the Barrow Downs ( ) are now dead, and part of the earth itself. We see how the Downs have a strange power or force impelling the hobbits to go where they ought not, and this suggests that the Wight could be just another aspect of that force or energy of nature which Tom can control. Davem says many posts back that the rhyme Tom teaches the hobbits is almost an invocation; I think Tom knows full well that the Downs have some kind of terrible force, and he wants them to be able to use his 'counter-force'.

Hmmm, it's hard to explain, this line of thought, but to add, I see the Barrow-Wight as something apart from other 'otherworldly' (for want of a better word) forces, such as the Wraiths and Elves. The Wight is a creature seemingly bound to his Barrow, and hence, to the land.
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Old 08-08-2004, 07:04 AM   #39
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When I began to read the next chapter, I glanced at the opposite page, the end of this chapter, and a detail caught my eye. Tom is warning the hobbits against the Barrows and the Wights and:
Quote:
advised them to pass barrows by on the west-side, if they chanced to stray near one.
I have a vague memory of a discussion on that thought some time back, but don't remember which thread it was. To pick up that question here - why on the west-side? What significance does that advice have? Does it have something to do with Valinor being in the west?

Of course, since it was foggy when they got there, I don't suppose that the hobbits would have known where west was, even if they had seen the barrows...
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Old 08-08-2004, 09:00 AM   #40
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Does it have something to do with Valinor being in the west?
That's what I've always assumed. 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.
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