Login | Register
Message Board | Latest Posts | Your Recent Posts | Rules

Thread: Week 10 - Tom Bombadil

Is this discussion interesting? Share it on Twitter!

Bottom of Page    Message Board > Tolkien Weekly Courses > Week 10 - Tom Bombadil   
That girl from b*lgium who keps hanging around isn't it? (couldn't resist sorry)
Sounds like a good one, and I'm going to miss it Sad Smilie

I'll look forward to reading the transcript Smile Smilie
oh, boy, I can't wait. I will be here for this one. I promise
Just a few quotes from Tolkien on Tom Bombadil:
From Letter #144
I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function. I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on; but both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, want a measure of control, and if you have, as it were taken a vow of poverty, renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the questions of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power and control quite valueless.`

Letter #144
Ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive. Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron.

Letter #153
But many have found him an odd or indeed discordant ingredient. In historical fact I put him in because I had already 'invented' him independently and wanted an 'adventure' on the way. But I kept him in, and as he was, because he represents certain things otherwise left out. I do not mean him to be an allegory -- or I should not have given him so particular, individual, and ridiculous a name -- but 'allegory' is the only mode of exhibiting certain functions: he is then an 'allegory', or an exemplar, a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are 'other' and wholly independent of the inquiring mind, a spirit coeval with the knowledge...
Also T.B. exhibits another point in his attitude to the ring, and its failure to affect him. You must concentrate on some part, probably relatively small, for the World (Universe), whether to tell a tale, however long, or to learn anything however fundamental -- and therefore much will from that 'point of view' be left out, distorted on the circumference, or seem a discordant oddity. The power of the Ring over all concerned, even the Wizards or Emissaries, is not a delusion -- but it is not the whole picture, even of the state and content of that part of the Universe.

Letter #144
And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).

Using the following definitions
:Enigma is a mystery, something that seems to be unrelated or out of place, but isn't.
An anomaly is a mystery, something that is unrelated, out of place.
Tolkien has told us that Tom Bombadil is an enigma and does have a place in LOTR.

Peter Jackson, among others, appear to have treated Tom Bombadil more of an anomaly in LOTR.

So was the encounter with Tom Bombadil out of place in LOTR?

How does it relate to the epic tale?

These will be the questions central to our discussion on Tom Bombadil.

[Edited on 15/12/2002 by Rednell]

[Edited on 15/12/2002 by Grondmaster]
Course log as follows:
[21:11] Today we are going to discuss Tom Bombadil. r[21:12] The young lady from B*lgium?r[21:12] There are several theories out there on who or what Tom is. Who or what do you think he is?r[21:12] no, not our Tommy.r[21:13] she has 2 'L's in her name.r[21:14] Sorry, I think he might be Iluvitar, who after creating a nice world has gone there for his vacationr[21:14] What about a nature spirit?r[21:15] i think he was a nature spirit. i think he was the spirit of nature peronifiedr[21:15] A spirit in charge of nature?r[21:15] Could Yavanna have had anything to do with his creation.r[21:15] basically, yes Grondmaster.r[21:16] that is an interesting thought grondy. i thought that he wasn't because he stressed not being in charger[21:16] true Sam.r[21:16] but if your on vacation you don't want to be in charger[21:16] Eldest, that's what I am. How could he be eldest?r[21:17] Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. He made paths before the Big people, and saw the Little People arriving.r[21:17] When the Elves passed westward, Tome was here already, before the seas were bent.r[21:17] maybe Yavana used him to start the growing of plants and animalsr[21:18] this would support a theory that he was a Valar or illuvatarr[21:19] I thought where Yavanna was so concerned about the trees and flowers that she may have created a spirit to protect them or at least speak for them.r[21:19] i like that idea. i think that then maybe he was sent by yavanna to care for, but not be in charge of, naturer[21:20] The most common belief is that he was maia. r[21:20] i do not think he was a maia. the maia are more focused than he is and think morer[21:20] they are also more dominantr[21:21] Tolkien does not tell us in any of his writings who or what he is so at the end of the day anyone's belief could be true.r[21:21] perhaps tolkien meant it to be that way. r[21:21] perhaps he did indeed. r[21:21] and the ring should have had an effect on him if he was maiar[21:21] nature is what anyone believes it is and maybe tom bombadil is like naturer[21:21] yes, truer[21:22] it would seem everyone in ME knew of him. r[21:22] Called Tom Bombadil by the Hobbits, Iarwain Benadar by the Elves, Forn by the Dwarves and Orald by Men.r[21:22] perhaps he traveled r[21:22] when he was youngferr[21:22] it also seems that he has lived very long, for the different names to emerge r[21:23] does Iarwain Benadar traslate to anything?r[21:23] that is a good pointr[21:23] yes, I think he definitely travelled. His confinement to the Old Forest is of his own doingr[21:24] yes, it does Grondy. I think it means "oldest" r[21:24] and the Old Forest has shrank in sixe ofer the eonsr[21:24] he also says 'now i do not travel beyond the borders' or something like that, which implies that once he didr[21:24] size*r[21:24] It means Old and Without Father.r[21:24] that is right Samr[21:24] hmmmm, that might be the solution r[21:25] * Ikarus digs through a few booksr[21:26] He tells the hobbits a fair amount of the history of Middle Earth so he is aware of what is taking place in ME.r[21:27] perhaps he knows this through other peopler[21:28] Yes, but he really knows how the past is affecting the present and how it will affect the future.r[21:28] he just doesn't seem to fit any of the rules of the races we know of middle earth, for example the not being affected by the ringr[21:28] True Ikarus.r[21:29] I think there is good reason for that actually.r[21:29] yes, very truer[21:30] Please don't use the 'asterisk name function' people. I also got chewed out for that a couple weeks back, because it makes transfering the lesson transcript to the forum later difficult.r[21:31] thank-you, Grondmaster. I neglected to state that at the beginning of class.r[21:31] it makes one thing clear, he is probably not Maiarr[21:32] I don't think there is any clear answer to that. r[21:32] but as to the effect of the ring.r[21:32] Since Tolkien indicates in his letters that: 'The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power.'r[21:33] this would mean the reason the ring has not effect on Tom is that he has no desires or compulsion for power at all. r[21:33] yes, but is that his own nature, or his races's r[21:33] less ambition than even the Hobbits thenr[21:34] yes Grondy. Which brings up another reason for the inclusion of Tom Bombadil in the LOTRr[21:34] 'the questions of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power and control quite valueless. r[21:34] This is where we can see that only TB can be impervious to the power of the Ring, since there is complete absence of desire for control, unlike all other characters in LOTR. So if there can be someone who can completely withstand the influence of the ring through his complete disinterest in power, then there is hope that a Hobbit, with little interest in thr[21:34] * Joins: chikakat (pt@8c813d53.student.28391d56.edu.hmsk)r[21:35] welcome Chikakatr[21:35] His own nature, as we don't know if their are any others of his racer[21:35] * Taz sets mode: -o Tazr[21:35] hey allr[21:35] that's true grondyr[21:35] Rednell: the last line drops away after "interest in th"r[21:35] hi chkakatr[21:35] *chikakatr[21:35] the goings on outside their shire.r[21:35] Grondmaster: so you are saying that he might be the only one left, or that he was the only one to start withr[21:36] yesr[21:36] which one Smile Smilier[21:36] I think he is one of a kind. r[21:36] so do ir[21:36] can someone synopsize the discussion for me, please?r[21:37] only one to start withr[21:37] well, that leads to an interesting problem, of how he got to be Smile Smilier[21:37] Glorfindal says that he is the First and if Sauron is not defeated he will be the last.r[21:37] he doesn't have a fatherr[21:37] At the Council of Elrond, Galdor says " Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself." Suggesting a link or bond between Bombadil and nature.r[21:38] chikakat: we are talking about tom bombodil, who he is and why he is and what his function is in the storyr[21:38] no, he is fatherless.r[21:38] oh okr[21:38] thanksr[21:38] Rednell: the elvish translation can be interpret in different waysr[21:38] There has been much discussion on his importance or relevance in the LOTR.r[21:39] do you have a translation, Ikarus?r[21:39] Rednell: well, I think it can be seen as that he is now without father, or that he never had oner[21:39] i think he is in LOTR to show that there are more forces than the innocence of the hobbits or the grandeur of the elvesr[21:39] that is a good point Ikarus.r[21:40] yes, it isr[21:40] Tolkien refers to Tom Bombadil as an enigmar[21:41] something that doesn't seem relevant to the story but is.r[21:41] It would seem that both film makers of the animated LOTR and the new film do not see him as such.r[21:42] they did not see how he related to the storyr[21:42] What are some of the things that make Tom Bombadil an important character in LOTR?r[21:42] is he related to the story?r[21:42] it is sort of hard in a movie: in a book you can make people think but in a movie you have to make an understandable, exciting storyr[21:43] they may have seen such, but felt he was the least need part of the adventure storyr[21:43] he is not really an important character in the quest, but he is an important part of MEr[21:43] but doesn't dropping the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil somehow alter the story on film?r[21:44] yes. it makes it too dark. it makes everything happen too fastr[21:44] Rednell: not really, I think it just makes clear the importance of the quest, but in the movie that is done in different waysr[21:45] Merry needs his ancient sword is only thing i see as really necessaryr[21:45] that is a good point ikarus. r[21:45] I think that is the most significant point.r[21:46] Having Strider coming up with four of them was rtather lamer[21:46] yesr[21:46] what did you think was a signficant point nell? sorry didnt get itr[21:46] getting them from the Barrow made more senser[21:46] The knives from Barrows-Downs are an important part of the prophesy of Glorfinal on the defeat of the Witch Kingr[21:47] i seer[21:47] but of course your common movie goer doesn't know about Glorfindel the First's prophesey.r[21:47] Rednell: but in the movie alot is hidden away already, I think looking at it purely from it independently or even just from the main LOTR books it seems to be finer[21:47] 'But the courage that had been awakened in him was now too strong: he could not leave his friends so easily.' This scene in the Barrow-Downs is the first time we really see the stuff Frodo is made of. That he may indeed have the courage needed to be the ringbearer.r[21:48] yes nell, i agree. ikarus, i also agreer[21:51] * Quits: chikakat (pt@8c813d53.student.28391d56.edu.hmsk) (astral.hub.sorcery.net nebula.sorcery.net)r[21:52] * Quits: Sam (pt@pm3-0-43.du.midcoast.com) (astral.hub.sorcery.net nebula.sorcery.net)r[21:52] * Quits: Grondmaster (pt@60ac36c7.client.dda11a73.com.hmsk) (astral.hub.sorcery.net nebula.sorcery.net)r[21:52] * Quits: Taz (taz@ef298d43.brig.broadband.6ca6d9f1.com.hmsk) (astral.hub.sorcery.net nebula.sorcery.net)r[21:52] * Quits: Rednell (astral.hub.sorcery.net nebula.sorcery.net)r[21:52] * Quits: Ikarus (ikarus@d307d82b.upc-a.d93c1fe4.nl.hmsk) (astral.hub.sorcery.net nebula.sorcery.net)r[21:56] * Joins: Ikarus (ikarus@d307d82b.upc-a.d93c1fe4.nl.hmsk)r[21:56] * Joins: Rednell r[21:57] * Joins: Taz (taz@ef298d43.brig.broadband.6ca6d9f1.com.hmsk)r[21:57] * Joins: Grondmaster (pt@60ac36c7.client.dda11a73.com.hmsk)r[21:57] * Joins: Sam (pt@pm3-0-43.du.midcoast.com)r[21:57] * Joins: chikakat (pt@8c813d53.student.28391d56.edu.hmsk)r[21:57] * nebula.sorcery.net sets mode: +oo Grondmaster Rednellr[21:57] maybe. but it seems he goes anywhere he wants and his only obligations are to himselfr[21:58] but he always comes back home at the end of the day in the poemsr[21:58] this is truer[21:59] * Rednell is now known as Untitled-B6180r[21:59] * Taz is now known as Nobody-B811Cr[21:59] Did anyone notice any significance of music.r[21:59] I forgot about them, the poems until just nowr[22:00] When Frodo was dreaming of the Grey Havens, he heard singing and awoke to Tom's whistling.r[22:00] i noticed his songs are more about ordinary things whereas the songs of elves and men are about wars and peopler[22:01] Tom sang most of the time toor[22:01] The hobbits mention hearing music in dreams as well the fact that Tom was always singing.r[22:01] and how was the world made: by singingr[22:01] could this have anything to do with the Valar and the Music?r[22:02] * Nobody-B811C is now known as Tazr[22:02] Tom being part of the musicr[22:03] i think it is that tom is part of the worldr[22:03] the world is also part of the musicr[22:03] well, it is possible yes r[22:04] I just got the feeling that music was very prominent in this part of the story. A different kind of music than with the Elves.r[22:05] well yes grondy, that is sort of what i meant. while there is a direct conncection between the world and the Music, I thought there was a very connection between Tom and the world but not Tom and the music.r[22:05] the Elves' music is about that that was; Tom's music is about that that isr[22:05] good point Grondy. r[22:06] wonderfully said grondyr[22:06] okay, i have to. thanks for the great class nell, i enjoyed talking to all of your[22:06] *i have to gor[22:06] * Quits: Sam (pt@pm3-0-43.du.midcoast.com) (Quit: Leaving)r[22:07] I think that Tom truely was an enigma in LOTR. He comes across as just a silly man who rescues the Hobbits on 2 ocassions.r[22:08] but those hard spots the hobbits got themselves into helped train them for later, I thinkr[22:09] but the demonstration of the lack of power the Ring has on him, gives us hope that Frodo may indeed be able to complete the task before falling victim to the Ring's influence.r[22:09] well, I think tom's enigma is related closely to his location r[22:10] That is another point Grondmaster. That is exactly what those hard spots did. I didn't think running from the Ringwraiths really demonstrated the true courage of the Hobbits.r[22:10] good point Ikarus. I don't think we see the Old Forest as part of the battlefield.r[22:11] but has there been anything in the old forest before of importance that isr[22:11] but this is where Frodo finds out that he does have enough courage to face unsurmountable odds when he cuts off the had of the barrowwight to save his friends.r[22:12] this is where the reader sees that Frodo has the right stuff.r[22:13] Ikarus: depends on what you think of Old Man Willowr[22:13] I'm more wondering, why Tom is therer[22:13] We are given the impression from Tom's poem that Old Man Willow has been awaken. r[22:14] most likely by Sauron.r[22:14] I think it was more by the ring it self r[22:14] Tom knew about the barrow wights, Ikarus. He knew the barrow blades would be weapons that the Hobbits would need.r[22:14] or because the trees become more entlike and the Ents become more tree-liker[22:15] If it weren't for Tom, the Hobbits would not have those blades, and Merry would not have fulfilled Glorfindal's prophesy.r[22:16] but did tom know about the prophesyr[22:17] I believe he would. He was in contact with the Elves through Gildor. r[22:17] Doesn't matter if he knew it, he was a necessary part of its fulfilmentr[22:18] He does mention to Frodo that his journeys will take him to the east and the south.r[22:19] So he might restrict himself to the area to be sure to fulfill the prophecy ?r[22:19] could be, actually.r[22:19] yes he talks with the Elves as they pass through his forestr[22:20] or on his trips for aler[22:21] Why did he not take the Hobbits to the road in the first place. He must have know the dangers in the Barrow-Downs.r[22:22] His response when Frodo needed him was almost immediate. I believe that this was a necessary part of the journey for not only the retrieval of the barrow blades but to show Frodo that he did have courage to take on the task. At this point Frodo only intended to take it as far as Rivendell.r[22:24] [22:24] He was probably waiting right outside the moundr[22:25] This encounter with Tom Bombadil in the Old Forest may have been a test to see if Frodo was worthy enough to be the ringbearer.r[22:25] that's a good pointr[22:26] up to then we only had Gandalf's intuitionr[22:27] exactly. I think the Elves needed more than that. Elrond seemed quite willing to allow Frodo be take on the role of Ringbearer. r[22:28] and I think that was based on conversations between Tom and Gildor.r[22:28] wasn't part od EElrond's willingness because ther was no one else left in the inn?r[22:28] pure speculation, of course.r[22:29] partly, but to base it solely on that, they might as well as sent the ring to Sauron by courier.r[22:29] but quite plausible speculation at thatr[22:29] anyway that ends the lesson on Tom Bombadil.
Thanks for the class Nell, I think it was the best one so far. Sorry I couldn't stay through it all, I enjoyed reading the transcript.Thanks! Big Smile Smilie
And I feel as though I've missed something I should have been party to too (particularly as the Hawkwind concert was cancelled anyway).

For those who are interested in my views... Tom Bombadil.. Definitely a maiar spirit...one of Yavanna's servants. His mariage to Goldwing, the River Daughter was significant too, in that she was a servant of Ulmo, the only Valar to not give up on Middle Earth during the later ages.

He preceeded the ring, and had no ambitions of power beyond what was already granted to him, so it had no power over him. In a war with Sauron, however, he would have lost because to win a war you must take the offensive. Tom had no interest beyond his own borders, so would never had pressed his advantage.

In his own diminishing world he was Lord Supreme, but his world was steadily growing smaller.