Thread: BOMBADIL AND GOLDBERRY
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I say Eldo, your theory regarding Bombadil is what I have long suspected myself .
Of course, we also have the question of who and what Goldberry is. But that might be a topic for another thread.
You're right, Eldo. How about someone starting a Tom Bombadil and Goldberry Thread? But who?
And much like Second and Third Wave Paganism (more-so Third Wave; and even more-so the Heavenly Hosts of Abrahamic Monotheism), the Greater Spirits are separate from Creation. In other words, Spirit became more and more separated from Matter, and the Deity or Deities came to be seen as above Nature and ruling over it. Thus, in Greek Myth one still has Nature Spirits, but the Gods that represent various aspects of Nature and Man now Rule from above rather than being the Spirit of the Thing in Itself.
Tolkien seems to have set up his Cosmology to more or less to mirror this conception. Eru and the Ainur, from Valar to Maiar, may represent various aspects of Nature and Man, but they aren't Nature Spirits per se. Likewise, it would have been extremely incongruous for Tolkien to have have conceived of Bombadil or Goldberry as (strictly speaking) Nature Spirits. The Ents (as Created beings who are part of Nature itself) are the closest thing to Nature Spirits Middle Earth seems to have. There are no Fairies, no Nymphs, no Dryads or Naiads, no Sprites, no Pixies, No Mountain Spirits or River Gods etc etc.
So in the end, I think the (benevolent) Rogue Maia (or possibly even Rogue Vala) theory would apply to Bombadil AND Goldberry. Indeed, as the Valar seem to all be paired, whereas the Maiar are not, the Rogue Valar theory makes even more sense.
I don't think Tolkien set out to write LoTR but its what appeared when he tried to write a sequel to TH. The opening paragraphs of LoTR read very much like a children's book but it has already begun to grow up by Shadow of the Past. I don't think this was planned so much as just what happened.
Bombadil belongs in ME because he was part of the long process that had been fermenting for decades, but that doesn't mean he needs any other internal reason for being there- as Tolkien says of Bombadil, "He is."
But Tolkien was obsessed (in a good way) with fitting his imaginings into his larger Creation; so Bombadil and Goldberry eventually find themselves in Middle Earth. Though it seems he never quite figured [b:36kvg70o][i:36kvg70o]how[/i:36kvg70o][/b:36kvg70o] they fit in. The more I think about it though, given their pairing, the most logical way to Retcon their presence is to have them be "Rogue" Valar, or even possibly direct Valar emissaries of Eru in Middle Earth proper. This would give them a special sort of cache that none of the other Earthly Ainur (Valar or Maiar) had.
I agree, though compared to some theories it's not that bad. Which isn't saying much, I'll admit.
[quote:31o5v8ob]So in the end, I think the (benevolent) Rogue Maia (or possibly even Rogue Vala) theory would apply to Bombadil AND Goldberry. Indeed, as the Valar seem to all be paired, whereas the Maiar are not, the Rogue Valar theory makes even more sense.[/quote:31o5v8ob]
The Valar are not all paired, we know this from the Valaquenta. We also know that at least some Maiar (Osse and Uinen) are as well. Given Bombadil's lack of understanding about the Ring, I'm not sure why it would make sense for him to be a Vala. Not to mention that there weren't any Vala in Eriador in the First Age.
Is it possible that Bombadil and Goldberry are beings that passed into the west during the earlier age but were returned for some reason? As others that we do know about did, perhaps they two are someone we have already met somewhere else !
As Mr Tolkien, I think the answer with him is that he liked Myth, History and sub-creation. He put all three to use, but his imagination tended to overtake his best intentions. That's why he had so many characters who popped up in his stories, but he did not plan them, so much. They evolved - and so his Myths and Histories evolved in an attempt to make them plausible. The thing about fairy-story characters is that they either jump to life or wake up dead. The proof of the pudding is that Tolkien's characters [i:1eijgc0w]worked[/i:1eijgc0w] wonderfully in their fairy-story context, and are believable in their context, but attempting to explain their context just doesn't work. No amount of research can unlock Tolkien's secrets on this, for there are no secrets to unlock.
Odo, I think we CAN make some educated judgments regarding Tolkien's contexts. He has left ample material for us to discern with. You are indeed correct that Tolkien used every bit of Imagination AND intellect to create his world. Certainly many characters simply sprang from his imagination, or were originally developed for other stories. But if they eventually found themselves in Middle Earth, Tolkien was compelled to recontextualize them. Of this we can be certain, even if he never always completed the task.
"Do you think TB, the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside), could be made into the hero of a story?"
letter 144; "
Even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas...TB is one (intentionally)."
TB is not an important person -to the narrative.....he has some importance as a comment..he is just an invention and he represents something I feel is important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely"
"The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side....but both sides..want a measure of control but if you have, as it were taken a 'vow of poverty', renounced control and take..delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself...then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become..meaningless to you...It is a natural pacifists view."
"I don't think Tom needs philosophizing about, and is not improved by it...I kept him in...because he represents certain things otherwise left out...he is then..a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things..[i:1irqsy5z]because they are 'other'[/i:1irqsy5z] and wholly independent of the enquiring mind, a spirit coeval with the rational mind, and entirely unconcerned with 'doing' anything with the knowledge...TB exhibits another point in his attitude to the Ring...the power of the Ring over all concerned...is not a delusion-but it is not the whole picture, even of the then state and content of that part of the Universe."
"Golberry represents the actual seasonal changes."
"I have written a new TB poem...it performs the service of further 'intergrating' TB with the world of LoTR into which he was inserted."
Not sure if these help or further muddy the waters, but thought I'd post them for those who don't have handy access to the book in question.
As Toklien does not dismiss ME having a prehistoric era for Tom to have seen the first rain drop it can be assumed he was 'awake' long before the elves. But as the elves are First-born Tom cannot be (to quote star trek) 'life as we know it'. The Dark Lord he refers too I suspect is Morgoth, not Sauron and the reference to Outside implies Tom was in the world before even the Valar entered it. From this I surmise Tom was there from the worlds inception contained in the song of Creation, "Master of wood, water and hill", as Goldberry says of him. The very spirit of the land itself.
At the Council of Elrond, Elrond says of Tom that he is "oldest and fatherless." and Galdor "Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself," and Gandalf says of him "He is his own master...and now he is withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he has set, though none can see them, waiting perhaps for a change of days."
This would also seem to fit with Tolkiens comment on him as being the "spirit of the vanishing countryside", as if the sprawling mechanization and urbanizing of the land was not just a disfigurement but in some way a rubbing out of the lands very spirit. Toms withdrawal to a small area of land seems to be almost a warning that eventually we will have so urbanized the planet the 'spirit' of it will be reduced within small bounds, the few places left unspoilt by mankind, and that it will not care for us one way or the other. Sadly its not hard to imagine such a world, lacking Tom's spirit, most of us already have to live in it.
The queer thing (as it seems to me) is that we have ALL of us been quite right about Tom all along! In him wonderful diverse ideas seem combined...
Tom is in fact an enigma, and you've got me thinking he shares a certain quality with the Jesus of the Gospels, strange as it may seem to compare them at first. You see, Jesus to me is often someone you believe you know, but then as soon as you think you've got a handle on him, a tiny puff of breath-like breeze blows, and he's gone! Furthermore, he often seems, like Tom, to be exactly what you want him be. Maybe that's why Tom (to me) is so vital to the story even though at a cursory glance he seems only peripheral.
I think you've nailed it, good old Mr Tyrant! Hey! You'll end up being as wise as that Wise Odo fellow the way you're going - high praise indeed - but let's not be hasty!
If we are to take this tack, then we MUST see them as Manifestations of Eru Himself,[b:hd4b3yt7] to fit within Tolkien's Cosmology.[/b:hd4b3yt7]But if we say "hang it all" and just let Bombadil and Goldberry exist outside of Tolkien's Cosmos, then we have to postulate that Tolkien was willing to accept that Eru was not the only Supreme Deity in the Universe containing Middle Earth. Indeed, this position makes Bombadil a Self Created being (and possibly Goldberry also). They are Anthropomorphic Manifestations of Nature itself, apparently a Force not Created by Eru Illuvatar and His Hosts.
If Tolkien had completed his Cosmology in the fashion of the Second Wave Pagans, Eru would not have been the only aspect of the Godhead, Perhaps He would have had "Gaia Illumatar" as his consort, and she would have been the Godhead, the one who gives Birth to the entire Universe, Mother Nature Herself. In this conception there could be no doubt, The Green Man and his Consort are the Earthly Avatars of of Eru and "Gaia", in other words, Spirit and Matter are One in this reckoning.
[b:hd4b3yt7]There is some suggestion then, in Tolkien's quoted comments, that despite his attempt to Create a Monotheistic Godhead who ruled over Lesser Gods, that his own unconscious Desire for the Old Religion[/b:hd4b3yt7]--before the Sky Gods slew the Titans, before Marduk slew Tiamat and declared Himself the One God above all others, and then morphed into Yahweh, before Christianity spread to Europe and Demoted the Old Gods to mere diminutive "Fairy Creatures"--[b:hd4b3yt7]manifested in Bombadil and Goldberry.[/b:hd4b3yt7]
An Animist/Sacred Feminine Pagan Intrusion into Tolkien's carefully crafted blend of Monotheism and Third Wave Paganism. The Titans, The OG's (Original Gods), the Earth Spirits, are born again, resurrected from their slumber. [b:hd4b3yt7]They are not Beings who owe allegiance to Eru,[u:hd4b3yt7] they predate Him[/b:hd4b3yt7][/u:hd4b3yt7]. And they manifest wherever Nature has been sown. In this conception, ALL manifestations including Eru Himself are Aspects of Nature, and Spirit and Matter are again One, Whole, and Holy. Transcendence and Immanence are resolved and the Duality becomes a Monism.
Anyway, just some of my off the cuff ruminations based on the provided Tolkien quotes, and my own knowledge of the Ancient Religions that Tolkien drew from to develop his Creation. Thanks a Gazillion Petty . You have provided some research and analysis of your own, that fuels my longstanding and continuing development of my Thesis, that Tolkien was far more Pagan at heart than even he himself knew.
The case for the inherently Pagan World-view of CS Lewis has been far easier to make than that for Tolkien. Which is Paradoxical as Lewis was the Great Proselytizer of Christianity, and Tolkien kept his own Catholicism well camouflaged. Though his love of Nature, and respect of Pre-Christian Myth can be inferred by many other aspects of his works which I have already made a part of my Thesis (The Wizards: Istari--another variant of Ishtar, Isis, and Astarte) This Bombadil and Goldberry stuff is a real EUREKA moment for me .
[quote="pettytyrant101":jkftvxlc]The Dark Lord he refers too I suspect is Morgoth, not Sauron and the reference to Outside implies Tom was in the world before even the Valar entered it.[/quote:jkftvxlc]
I've seen this idea before, but I don't really agree with it. Since the quote only mentions a Dark Lord, I assume it refers to this event mentioned in The Silmarillion, Of the Beginning of Days: "Melkor deemed his time had come. And he passed therefore over the Walls of the Night with his host, and came to Middle-earth far in the north; and the Valar were not aware of him." (Prior to this he had raised a host of "spirits" - presumably Ainu - from Ea and became a Dark Lord in truth, and Immediately afterwards he begins delving Utumno.) This fits with my theory of Bombadil as a Maia. It's possible that he parted ways from the Valar even before Melkor re-entered Arda and began his operations as a Dark Lord.
Also, regarding Bombadil as the spirit of the vanishing countryside that Tolkien mentioned; I think it important to remember the fictitious notion that Middle-earth is our own world in the distant, mythical past. The Shire is more or less geographically equivalent to England, so it's possible that Bombadil's country is quite close to "Oxford and Berkshire". I don't know if this is what Tolkien intended, but I think it's plausible, especially if Bombadil endured past the Fourth Age.
Again, I think this points to a side of Tolkien that was more Pagan than Catholic.
Big galoot in big boots,
Rolling down the hillo!
Lazy Lob, Crazy Cob,
Keep your webbies frilly!
But who's the blond in the pond?
Goldberry, oh what a filly![/i:21p8fiou]
Ahh! Yes! There's only one Tom and Goldberry! Analysis would only seem to diminish them!
At the end of the day though, I think we must accept Tolkien's word on the matter: an enigma (however regretfully ).
I don't see how "enigma" shows that Bombadil and Goldberry were uncreated beings. (About Goldberry, how could she be? She had a mother.) I think "enigma" is merely being used to indicate that no one - not even people inside the story - know their origins, not that they had no origins. I can't prove that though, it's just my interpretation.
I think the distinction between your usage and mine of the term "Nature Spirit", is that if they are indeed Maia, then it is only a figurative description. In my usage, I am relying on Tolkien's own recognition of them as having a prior existence to Middle Earth and being Literally an embodiment of an ancient Mythic Archetype.
I'm afraid I don't see what makes it so obvious that they were unconnected to the [i:3a8llq2i]omnipotent creator of the universe[/i:3a8llq2i].
I think you are confusing in-universe and out-of-universe phenomena. Tom's crreative origin being outside the legendarium has no bearing on his status within the legendarium after being incorporated into it. Hobbits originated outside the legendarium. Gollum originated outside as well (independently of Hobbits in general). Once they were included in the legendarium, however, they have to play by the rules of the legendarium. That includes Eru being the ultimate creator.
As for Tom being the embodiment of an aechetype, I think that's another out-of-universe thing. Archetypes are real-world cultural ideas, and saying that Tom was an archetype in leiu of a "race" confuses the concept of archetype, in my opinion. Many Tolkien characters could be said to be archetypes.
Unlike the Hobbits, who Tolkien gave us plenty of clues to--both within and without text, B & G have no other reference points. You're perfectly within rights to do your own retconning, and indeed within Tolkien's defined Cosmos the Rogue Valar/Maiar theory does make the most sense. But B & G existed in Tolkien's mind as a Super-Universal Archetype that didn't follow the normal rules of his Legendarium.
So that's fine with me to see them in the same light as he did, as it fits MY conception of a Larger more Complex Cosmos.
There are no Fatherless beings in Middle Earth except Eru; in Tolkien's devout Catholic Conception Eru is Father of ALL--except for Bombadil, Spirit of the Wild Land. And Goldberry is clearly a Naiad (Water Spirit), "Daughter of the River". These are Animist (First Wave) and Sacred Feminine (Second Wave) Pagan incursions into a world designed as a blend of Monotheism and Third Wave Paganism. It logically follows that B & G are indeed not entirely of Middle Earth; that they are Archetypes Unbound, who manifest in all Universes where Nature exists. They exist in a sort of Meta-Reality of Multiple Universes and Dimensions.
Bombadil in particular, evades all attempts to "capture" him and shackle him to one Reality. Of course many of Tolkien's other characters are Archetypal also. Is Gandalf not Merlin (and Obi Wan Kenobi)? But he and the other Archetypal characters are story-bound. Their Meta-Realities existing as simply echoes of other characters. Bombadil exists outside that frame-work (and by extension, so does Goldberry).
This seems an objective fact to me. Tolkien certainly filled in many gaps when he wanted too. This one he chose to leave open.
I don't see the need for any confusion. For me there is no problem with TB and G being a consequence of the act of Creation. By this I mean that TB is indeed fatherless in the sense Eru did not create him individually- he is an emergent property, inevitable, that arises from the creation of matter. TB and Goldberry are consequences, perhaps not even foreseen, but inherent in the appearance of the cosmos. (Think of it like the Big Bang- the first stuff was just superhot gas but as it cooled new properties, that could not have been foreseen before, appeared) TB and G are not part of Erus' plan they just are. But neither is Eru dethroned as the one and only true God. TB is not in competition, nor does he come from somewhere other than Eru. Its just he is not created deliberately in the sense that the First Born or Men were, and nor is he a corruption of existing life like the orcs- he is, because the universe is, nothing more.
We've already been over the enigma bit, and I stand by my previous interpretation. I also would not interpret Fatherless quite so broadly as you are. I think it quite reasonable that the name merely meant that Bombadil had no physical, earthly father. In any event, as he predated the Elves, I don't see how they could know one way or another. I don't put too much stock in a line delivered by a substantially less-than-omniscient character.
[quote:mtimidor]These are Animist (First Wave) and Sacred Feminine (Second Wave) Pagan incursions into a world designed as a blend of Monotheism and Third Wave Paganism. It logically follows that B & G are indeed not entirely of Middle Earth; that they are Archetypes Unbound, who manifest in all Universes where Nature exists. They exist in a sort of Meta-Reality of Multiple Universes and Dimensions.[/quote:mtimidor]
As I mentioned earlier, I don't think there are any 'meta-realities' or rule-breaking incursions into Middle-earth. Tolkien didn't tell us much about Tom, but we don't know how much Tolkien thought about the matter privately. He also had a very good reason for not going into detail: he was trying to tell a feigned history, and histories are never truly comprehensive. There are always mysteries - enigmas - that show the characters are not omniscient and make the world more realistic.
Furthermore, I can't think of any instances of or evidence for 'meta-reality' in Arda outside of Tom. Since using Tom as evidence that Tolkien wrote 'meta-realities' ,in turn showing that Tom exists in one is classic circular reasoning; so I would like other evidence that Tolkien did not try to make the legendarium coherent and consistent. Your claim seems to me to go against Tolkien's desire for both feigned history and a developed, consistent secondary world.
Surely the crests of our resident Liberal and Lore-master have fallen! Their fine talk is mere psycho-babble - and oh so justificatory!
In any case, I concur with Eldorion that as a Rule, by the time Tolkien settled on his Cosmology for Middle Earth, he had moved away from populating it with Nature Spirits. B & G are the Exceptions that prove the Rule.
Now the notion of Bombadil being an "emergent property" doesn't quite fit T's Cosmology either, and is hence Meta. But in any case, any "emergent property" in a Universe created by Eru is by definition "Fathered" by Eru. Christians who believe in Evolution still believe Jehovah "Fathered" emergent beings.
Tolkien did indeed consider having Middle Earth populated by Nature Spirits early on in developing his World. But later revised them to being the Valar and Maiar. Which indicates that B & G are a sort of Meta holdover from an earlier description of his Cosmos.
If Bombadil and Goldberry are nature spirits, it is possible that they are the only ones Tolkien ever mentioned. However, the more [b:2psgbyft][i:2psgbyft]potential[/i:2psgbyft][/b:2psgbyft] nature spirits we identify, the more likely it is that such beings were part of Tolkien's vision for Middle-earth. Also, several examples would be necessary to learn anything about them as a general class. While the examples that follow are not meant as convincing evidence that the "canonical" Middle-earth contains nature spirits, they support that idea and help inspire the specific theory about them presented in the next section.
Tolkien's earliest stories explicitly contain "nature spirits" of a sort. "The Coming of the Valar" is The Book of Lost Tales I tells of "the sylphs of the airs and of the winds", "the spirits of the foam and the surf of the ocean", and
"the sprites of trees and woods, of dale and forest and mountain-side, or those that sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve. These are... brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns, and what else are they not called, for their number is very great... they were born before the world and are older than its oldest, and are not of it, but laugh at it much, for had they not somewhat to do with its making, so that it is for the most part a play for them..."
In the language of the later stories, these spirits were the Maiar. However, while the "Valaquenta" says that "in Middle-earth the Maiar have seldom appeared in form visible to Elves and Men", these spirits seem to have been known throughout the world.
Later revisions hint that Tolkien changed his mind on the origin of some of these spirits. The last outline for "Gilfanon's Tale" says of the "Shadow Folk" that
"These were fays (C); no one knows whence they came: they are not of the Valar nor of Melko, but it is thought that they came from the outer void and primeval dark when the world was first fashioned."
("(C)" refers to an intermediate outline; I am not sure what it means here.) In the Lost Tales, all of the Ainur who entered the world were called Valar, so at least some "fays" now had very different origins. While none of this reflects Tolkien's later vision, it shows that he did once imagine nature spirits in Middle-earth.[/quote:2psgbyft]
I would suggest that Steuard should have written "original vision"; but in any case, some of the quotes in Steuard Jensen's analysis indicate how much Tolkien's concepts changed. As I mentioned before, there are no Brownies, Leprechauns, Pixies, Flower Fairies, etc etc in later "canonical" versions. All of these Animist Spirits became "elevated" to "Angelic" or "Godly" status. Only B&G remain "Nature Spirits".
My point is just that he can be a nature spirit while also being a Maia.
If we simply take the bits of canon and Tolkien's cryptic ruminations at his word, then we are (with certainty) left with the Mystery of what a couple of Nature Spirits are doing in Middle Earth. Perhaps eventually Tolkien would have settled on them as Maiar. But the fact he couldn't manage to bring himself to in his lifetime speaks volumes.
So, I am not saying that my view is the only correct way of viewing the situation, but that for the time being we can feel safe ruling out the Rogue Maiar theory (though, as I said, it would make most sense to consider them thus, given his Cosmology).
No, he wouldn't have. He deliberately left Bombadil obscure, and such obscurities enhance the faux-historical aspects of Tolkien's work. Just because Tolkien didn't tell us what Tom was doesn't mean that Tolkien didn't know himself, much less that there was not some origin. Furthermore, us readers' ignorance on the matter does not by any stretch of imagination necessarily lead to suspending the rules Tolkien put in place for his world.
In that case he may not have found the sources for Tom and Goldberry, so he didn't know the answer himself.
[i:2vrtpaef]Ockham's Razor[/i:2vrtpaef] folk! That's the tool needed here!
Tolkien actually did pretend that he had only pretended to make Middle-earth up. It's especially obvious in the Prologue to LotR (in FotR for those with three-volume editions) - Note on the Shire records. Ostensibly he had discovered a collection of writings grouped together as the "Red Book", translated it, and published stories from it as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Keeping this in mind, if none of the sages and loremasters of Middle-earth knew what Bombadil was, there would be no way for Tolkien the "translator" to know either.
[quote:fkrk50hh][i:fkrk50hh]Ockham's Razor[/i:fkrk50hh] folk! That's the tool needed here! [/quote:fkrk50hh]
META (pre-Post-Modernist META)
My point is that he eventually altered them to create an entirely New Cosmology that one would have to work at to discern the original influences. Yet he left Bombadil and Goldberry in their original archetypal forms as they first came to him. I don't know how it could be any more obvious. I don't think I'm the one stretching the evidence here, to make my point. I'm just taking it at face value.
It seems to me, one has to stretch the existing evidence out of shape to make Bombadil and Goldberry a pair of Maiar. I don't see what's wrong with accepting B&G as essentially mysterious anachronisms.