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Old 03-26-2018, 09:35 AM   #1
Mithadan
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Boots Early Hints at Bombadil?

Years ago, I promised myself that I would not participate any further in threads about Bombadil and Goldberry. I had said my views several times and no longer wished to repeat myself or engage in speculative and sometimes fanciful debate. I recognize that Bombadil is an intriguing subject to some. He is a jarring character. His demeanor is odd and he appears to fit better in a children's book than the more mature LoTR. Tolkien himself calls him an "enigma." But to me, he has always seemed easily explained, particularly once the Silmarillion was published.

I always look to internal consistency in the books in interpreting Middle Earth. So to me, it has appeared obvious that Bombadil and Goldberry are Maiar that have chosen a rustic and secluded life together. I will concede that there is no express statement in LoTR or the Silmarillion that establishes their nature. It is enough for me that they are creatures of inherent power and longevity, that they are familiar to Gandalf, and that they are not Elves or Men (or Dwarves, Orcs, etc.). Goldberry in particular seems easily explained; she is one of Uinen's people overseeing the rivers of Middle Earth.

I recently began a re-read of Lost Tales. When I first read them, decades ago, I did not like them much but later developed an appreciation for these volumes. Yes, the writing is uneven, but it is sometimes excellent. Yes, they are more "fairy tale-ish." Yes, they include elements that are not consistent with later writings including some that are simply odd. Yet, I liked the concept of a Man finding his way onto the straight road and being instructed on Elvish history which had long since been forgotten in the great lands. For those who have some longevity on this site, some may recall that I wrote a series of interrelated short stories about Aelfwine and his visit to Tol Eressea, updated with characters from LoTR and the published Silmarillion. But, as a general rule, I did not look to Lost Tales as a source of anything resembling canonical information.

However, during my latest re-read, I cam across something I had not noticed before. Because the following excerpt may provide previously undiscussed information that at least hints at the origins of Bombadil, I have decided to briefly set aside my personal boycott on the subject. The following quote is found in the chapter The Chaining of Melko (which itself includes some odd pieces including the capture of Morgoth via subterfuge). In this chapter. Meril is telling Aelfwine how it came to pass that the Valar took up their dwelling in Eldamar while Morgoth remained in Middle Earth and Orome and Yavanna's travels to and concerns about the great lands.

Quote:
At that time did many strange spirits fare into the world, for there were pleasant places dark and quiet for them to dwell in. Some came from Mandos, aged spirits that journeyed from Iluvatar with him who are older than the world and very gloomy and secret, and some from the fortresses of the North where Melko then dwelt... But some few danced thither with gentle feet exuding evening scents, and those came from the gardens of Lorien."
To me, this is altogether too familiar and consonant with my views of Bombadil and Goldberry.
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Old 03-26-2018, 09:48 AM   #2
Inziladun
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Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.
I saw the title, and at first shuddered.

I have a similar view on Bombadil and Goldberry.
I see a parallel between them and Ungoliant.

Quote:
In Avathar....Ungoliant had made her abode. 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 Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of those that he corrupted to his service. But she had disowned her Master, desiring to be mistress of her own lust..
The Silmarillion Of the Darkening of Valinor

Perhaps Bombadil too originally came to Arda in the service of a Vala, but decided he'd rather settle down with a 'kindred spirit' and do his own thing.
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Old 03-26-2018, 12:58 PM   #3
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I can understand that.

I mean, after you've worked hard to help create a beautiful world wouldn't you want to go and enjoy it for a while?
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Old 03-27-2018, 02:54 AM   #4
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Boots

You realise this means that Tom Bombadil's songs are the closest thing we have to the Music of the Ainur.

No, but seriously! The only confirmed Ainu who sings and whose songs are actually written down is Gandalf, and he seems to be passing on other people's poems ('Tall ships and tall kings', at least; 'In Dwimordene, in Lorien' may be original to him). Oh, and Sauron, assuming you think the Ring inscription was meant to be poetic.

But other than them? It's Bombadil and Goldberry. We know for certain that their songs are original to them, and notably, Tom repeatedly uses his music to enact changes in the world - putting Old Man Willow to sleep, and razing the Barrow.

(... I've just noticed something amazing, but that's for another thread.)

If Tom is a Maia, then the fact that he uses song as a source of power ties directly back to the Ainulindale. He's still doing exactly what he did in the Timeless Halls, and - given his unchanging nature - I think we have to accept that he's doing it in the exact same way.

Unless you view Tom as one of those thrown off by Melkor's dischord, that means we also have to accept that part of Iluvatar's plan for creation was for at least one of his Ainur to sing about himself in the third person and comment on his fashion choices.

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Old 03-27-2018, 08:07 PM   #5
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I have a similar take on Bombadil, though I don't think he's necessarily a Maia. That's certainly one possibility: the Valaquenta is explicit that there were Maiar in Middle-earth, and implies that this was a majority ("few have names in any of the tongues of the Children of Ilúvatar; for though it is otherwise in Aman, in Middle-earth the Maiar have seldom appeared in form visible to Elves and Men"). But he could be an Ainu or some other sort of spirit who was not one of the Maiar. To again quote from the Valaquenta:

Quote:
Among them [the Valar] Nine were of chief power and reverence; but one is removed from their number, and Eight remain, the Aratar, the High Ones of Arda: Manwë and Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna and Aulë, Mandos, Nienna, and Oromë. Though Manwë is their King and holds their allegiance under Eru, in majesty they are peers, surpassing beyond compare all others, whether of the Valar and the Maiar, or of any other order that Ilúvatar has sent into Eä.
The key phrase here is "any other order that Ilúvatar has sent into Eä". In the early phases of the mythology, especially The Book of Lost Tales, there were references to many different classes of spirits, including "brownies, fays, pixies, [and] leprawns", which Tolkien was clear to distinguish from the Eldar (HoMe I, The Coming of the Valar). The idea of there being many different orders of spirits was most clearly present in the Book of Lost Tales period, when we know they were "brownies, fays, pixies, [and] leprawns" which were clearly distinguished from the Eldar (HoMe I, The Coming of the Valar). However, most vaguely defined spirits of the early mythology were subsumed into the catch-all category of Maiar in the early 1950s when Tolkien was reworking the Annals of Valinor into the Annals of Aman (a process documented in HoMe X). The interesting thing about the "any other order" line from the published Valaquenta, though, is that it's source is from the same time period as the introduction of the Maiar, some thirty years after the Lost Tales (HoMe X, The Later Quenta Silmarillion, Of the Valar):

Quote:
Thus it may be seen that there are nine Valar, and Seven queens of the Valar of no less might; for whereas Melkor and Ulmo dwell alone, so also doth Nienna, while Estë is not numbered among the Rulers. But the Seven Great Ones of the Realm of Arda are Manwë and Melkor, Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna, Aulë, and Nienna; for though Manwë is their chief [> king], in majesty they are peers, surpassing beyond compare all others whether of the Valar and their kin, or of any other order that Ilúvatar has conceived [> caused to be].
My interpretation is that this refers to Ainur who entered Arda but were not considered part of the Valar or Maiar, though other possibilities exist (which are not necessarily mutually exclusive). Aside from Tom, we have several other mysterious beings whose origins potentially lie here. Ungoliant is one, as Inziladun points out. So are the "nameless things" beneath Moria (TTT, III 5):

Quote:
‘Deep is the abyss that is spanned by Durin’s Bridge, and none has measured it,’ said Gimli.

‘Yet it has a bottom, beyond light and knowledge,’ said Gandalf. ‘Thither I came at last, to the uttermost foundations of stone. He was with me still. His fire was quenched, but now he was a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake.

‘We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted. Ever he clutched me, and ever I hewed him, till at last he fled into dark tunnels. They were not made by Durin’s folk, Gimli son of Glóin. Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day. In that despair my enemy was my only hope, and I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dűm: too well he knew them all. Ever up now we went, until we came to the Endless Stair.’
Perhaps the most intriguing thing here is that the "nameless things" are stated to be older than Sauron. On the face of it this seems impossible; Sauron (as an Ainu) existed before the creation of the physical universe or even time itself, and so would seem to be older than anything in Eä. But we get another clue in the discussion of Caradhras and whether the mountain itself was sentient and responsible for the Fellowship's hardship when attempting to traverse it (FOTR, II 3):

Quote:
‘We cannot go further tonight,’ said Boromir. ‘Let those call it the wind who will; there are fell voices on the air; and these stones are aimed at us.’

‘I do call it the wind,’ said Aragorn. ‘But that does not make what you say untrue. There are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Sauron, but have purposes of their own. Some have been in this world longer than he.’
I think that "world" in this context needs to be interpreted not as the Planet Earth, but in a more general (or perhaps metaphysical) sense as the physical universe. The Valar and Maiar were responsible for the shaping of Eä but did not initially create it. The implication is (in my opinion) that there were already beings or entities of some sort in Eä before the Valar and Maiar entered into it. What they were specifically ... who knows. The mystery is kind of the point. "Echoes of the music of the Ainur" is one idea I've seen floated, though, and I think it's as good a guess as any.

To tie things back to Bombadil, some people interpret his statement that he was "was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn.... He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless – before the Dark Lord came from Outside" to mean that he must have predated the arrival of the Ainur (including Melkor). However, landmasses, weather systems, and flora did not yet exist when the Ainur arrived: "when the Valar entered into Eä they were at first astounded and at a loss, for it was as if naught was yet made which they had seen in vision, and all was but on point to begin and yet unshaped, and it was dark" (TS, Ainulindalë). Also, Melkor wasn't a Dark Lord yet, and I think Bombadil was almost certainly referring to Melkor's return to Arda, minions in tow, as described in the chapter "Of the Beginning of Days".
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Old 04-06-2018, 03:39 PM   #6
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@Eldorion

Nice post! I think the distinction between Maiar and other spirits is underappreciated. I do recall an older discussion that addressed it, but you provide some nice additional support from the texts!
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Old 04-07-2018, 11:37 PM   #7
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Thanks obloquy! I can't say I've ever seen that thread before (I was eight years old in November 2002) but you wrote a very interesting OP there!
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