Was Tom Bombadil Important to

User avatar
rednell
Posts: 1798

Was Tom Bombadil Important to

Post#1 » Sun May 16, 2004 1:51 pm

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. Screen and stage writers appear to have treated Tom Bombadil more of an anomaly in LOTR.
So was the encounter with Tom Bombadil out of place in LOTR?
If you think Tom is important to the plot, then what is his role?

User avatar
valedhelgwath
Posts: 4233

Was Tom Bombadil Important to

Post#2 » Sun May 16, 2004 2:53 pm

Nice post, Nell, though I do not have much time at present to attempt an answer that it deserves.

I have always argued that Tom is a Maiar spirit, possibly a servant of Yavanna. By the time of the War of the Ring few Maiar remained in Middle Earth, and although Middle Earth is still a magical, fantasy world, it is lacking the magic of Valinor. Tom's presence is largely unnecessary in Lord of the Rings, as has been evidenced by the various film maker's decisions to omit him from the tale. At a glance he is an anomaly, something out of place with the story and the world. He isn't, however. By including Tom in his story, Tolkien is demonstrating to his readers that the Valar and Maiar were not just mythical, religious beings, but were very real.

Some people read that Tom being an enigma means he is unique and not a Maiar. They take it to mean that he is an enigma to the entire history of Ea. I think what Tolkien was refering to, however, was that Tom was an enigma to Middle Earth at the time of the War of the Ring. In this land, long abandoned by the Valar and Maiar, someone like Tom would appear to exhibit tremendous power. Here Tolkien very cleverly lets us see that the Maiar are real, are extremely powerful, but also that their thoughts are so different to those of Elves and Men. I see many of the Maiar as being embodiments of the elements; waves, wind, clouds, rain etc. While very powerful in their way, they are also very self focused, an attribute almost alien to minds of Men. Like Gandalf says when it is suggested Tom be given the Ring, while he is someone beyond its power of corruption, because its sphere of influence does not come within Tom's focus, he would soon forget about it and lose it.

Unfortunately, films have strict schedules they must adhere to. Tom is an obvious candidate to be edited away, because even as Tolkien says, he is just an adventure along the way. For those who read the book, however, he provides so much mystery , whatever level you are reading the story from. He is that little piece of Valinor in Middle Earth.


User avatar
grondmaster
Posts: 25451

Was Tom Bombadil Important to

Post#3 » Sun May 16, 2004 6:22 pm

And I think he is a necessity to the plot as I've said elsewhere, towards providing a rest time between the stressful encounters with Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wight, as well as providing the hobbits with their Blades of Westerness for use later on in the story. I think this worked much better in the book than in the film where Strider just hands them over from a hidden stash in the ruins of Amon Sul on Weathertop.

Tom Bombadil has some of the same or similar attributes of The Hobbit's Beorn, in that he also was a mysterious enigma in that we know not his origins and he also was used for a rest spot between stressful encounters. Though Tom was from first glance onwards seen to be a friendly entity, as he had no fear of the hobbits, whilst Beorn appeared to be a gruff threatening character, who only later proved a friend of the dwarfs and hobbit after he learned Gandalf's story was true.

Tom was a stay at home type and limited his wanderings to the close proximity of the Old Forest, for he had a Golberry to look after, or to be looked after. While Beorn ranged throughout the northeastern area of the upper Anduin. Of course Beorn's animal friends/servents could probably make do without his presence for longer periods of time.

(Anyway, while I was thinking about Rednell and Val's posts, I saw the above similarity and thought I'd share it. If it should be in a separate thread then one of the other moderators can ask me to move it and I'll comply.)
'Share and enjoy'

night
Posts: 2

Was Tom Bombadil Important to

Post#4 » Fri May 21, 2004 4:05 am

Tom is very important! I always thought that Tom was the worlds response to the threat of the ring-Sauron would use the ring to kill and destroy, so Tom was there to nuture and care for those who needed his help. When Sam is trying to find them a way out of Shelobs' lair he doesn't think of Gandalf, or any other member of the fellowship, he thinks of how they were saved by Tom, and wishes that he was there.....and then he remembers Galadriels gift for Frodo. Tom represents a stranger who is willing to help anyone who needs him, and is overall a symbol of what will be lost if the fellowship fails.

User avatar
virumor
Posts: 3567

Was Tom Bombadil Important to

Post#5 » Wed May 26, 2004 2:01 pm

I don't think Tom is a Maia or a servant from any Vala :

"'Don't you know my name yet? That's the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless? But you are young and I am old. Eldest, that's what I am. Mark my words, my friends: 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. He was here before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. 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.'"

The Dark Lord that came from Outside is Melkor, obviously, and it is said in the Silmarillion that Melkor was the first Ainu who travelled in Arda. So even before the Valar travelled to Arda and even before they built the mountains, rivers, before they built Almaren, before everything Tom was there. So he was there even before the Valar + the servants who aligned to them arrived in Arda. In one word: Tom doesn't belong to them.

Tom is perhaps an Ainu, sent by Eru to Middle-Earth with a task which is completely different from the Valar. Only Eru and Tom knows about this task. In LOTR, Tom is basically bound to his land, never leaves it and always stays within the confines of it. Yet, he knows everything that happens outside his land ànd even knows the entire history of Arda, yet he doesn't care for that. He doesn't take part in it! He never did. His task has nothing to do with "politics" or the "fight of good vs evil" which is the theme of LOTR and the Sil.

That's indeed why Tom is called an 'enigma' because his character is so different from all the other characters in Tolkien's books, who are on the path of good vs evil, and act according to that path. Tom is on another path, has an another task, which we don't know or understand. Yet, we try to explain it, inserting elements from the LOTR and Sil theme. This doesn't suffice. If i have to give a definition of Tom Bombadil, i'd say he is the direct representative, ambassador if you will, of Eru on Arda. He just observes what's going on, and meanwhilst enjoys of everything on Arda, the plants, trees, forests.... perhaps Tom is the embodiment of Eru on Arda. As Goldberry mentions : "He is Master". If Goldberry is a Maian spirit (highly likely) who would she call master? Manwë? Aulë? Eru?

Perhaps the fact that Tom Bombadil stands totally aside from the regular LOTR story is the fact that the Ring doesn't affect him at all : he doesn't disappear of course, but this doesn't necessarily mean that the Ring doesn't effect him. If Aragorn, Gandalf, Galadriel or Elrond would put the One Ring on, they wouldn't disappear themselves. Their power would just be increased, they'd become pretty much omnipotent. Yet, the power of the One Ring itself would effect them as well and make them corrupt.

With Tom, none of the above is the case : the Ring doesn't effect him at all, the Ring's power is unable to corrupt him. This is proven by the fact that Tom MAKES THE RING DISAPPEAR : "Tom laughed again, and then he spun the Ring in the air – and it vanished with a flash." I doubt any Maia would be able to do such a thing... perhaps a Vala could , though.

But i believe Goldberry -the Daughter of the River- is a Maian spirit. We know she was found by Tom long time ago 'by the pool', so i believe she was a Maian spirit, probably a servant of Yavanna or Estë, who at one point desired to see Middle-Earth and one day wandered through Tom's lands... and there she met Tom and decided to stay with him.

About Tom's importance in the story (I won't argue about a Tom Bombadil in the movies, as the movies have little or nothing to do with the LOTR story anyway) :

a) obviously, saving the Hobbits from Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wight, ànd delivering the Barrow blades.

b) showing the Hobbits that the world outside the Shire, which the Hobbits see as 'dark, dangerous and unknown' (including inhabitants) isn't quite as dark, dangerous, unknown as they thought : there are forces of good outside the Shire, which are mysterious and unknown to them, which they don't understand, but which are still able to withstand Sauron, which are unharmed by Sauron.

c) Tom has perhaps something to do with the dreams Frodo has : Frodo sees Gandalf on top of Orthanc, being taken away by Gwaihir + Frodo has a vision of distant shores = Frodo's future arrival at Valinor.

I think the chapters with Tom Bombadil in are one of the best parts of the entire trilogy. At least for me.

Give up the Halfring, she-elf...

User avatar
grondmaster
Posts: 25451

Was Tom Bombadil Important to

Post#6 » Wed May 26, 2004 3:21 pm

:elfcool: Watch it Virumor, your above post is also POTW quality, but it isn't my turn this week. :elfbiggrin:

Somewhere in one of these threads, I've jokingly postulated that Tom was the disguised Eru, enjoying a well earned and lengthy vacation on Middle-earth. :teacher:
'Share and enjoy'

randalllin
Posts: 219

Was Tom Bombadil Important to

Post#7 » Wed May 26, 2004 3:50 pm

I have always argued that Tom is a Maiar spirit, possibly a servant of Yavanna.


I agree, he's so mysterious.

User avatar
valedhelgwath
Posts: 4233

Was Tom Bombadil Important to

Post#8 » Wed May 26, 2004 5:46 pm

That's a convincing argument, Virumor. I might have to adjust my own way of thinking about this one. The "Dark Lord coming from Outside" is the keystone of the argument, in my opinion. Being Lord of the Rings, I always interpreted the Dark Lord to be Sauron, and the Outside, a simple euphanism for the West, but looking at it again, Melkor coming from the Void does seem more appropiate.

User avatar
Vee
Posts: 2711

Was Tom Bombadil Important to

Post#9 » Fri Jun 11, 2004 3:03 am

I thought Tom may have been something caught up when Iluvatar created Ea, sparked by the Flame Imperishable and so created within the world as part of the world. I was quite disappointed to read Tolkien's writings on Tom (quoted by Rednell above) especially -

Tom Bombadil is not an important person - to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a 'comment'. ... he is just an invention ... and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely
.

I don't think Tom needs philosophyzing about, and is not improved by it. But many have found him an odd or indeed discordant ingredient.

User avatar
Peredhil
Posts: 2167

Was Tom Bombadil Important to

Post#10 » Fri Jun 11, 2004 8:36 am

Tom also has the effect, in my opinion, of adding an element of the amaranth to the forces of Good in general. When I read about him, I can imagine no way that he would ever be touched by evil, so in that way, he is a hope that will always be there, never diminishing, a sign that Good will eventually prevail over Evil. I think he's a maia, btw.
A mind full of fire and a fistful of steel.

Return to “Characters”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest