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(This is another of my speculative pieces and nothing to do with Star Wars. This one is for an older trilogy.)

Old Tom Bombadil. Possibly the least liked character in The Lord of the Rings. A childish figure so disliked by fans of the book that few object to his absence from all adaptations of the story. And yet, there is another way of looking at Bombadil, based only on what appears in the book itself, that paints a very different picture of this figure of fun.

What do we know about Tom Bombadil? He is fat and jolly and smiles all the time. He is friendly and gregarious and always ready to help travellers in distress.

Except that none of that can possibly be true.

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( 245 comments — Leave a comment )
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Sep. 24th, 2013 08:07 am (UTC)
You are a genius!
I have been thinking about this for a very long time but you actually solved the riddle!
Sep. 24th, 2013 11:25 am (UTC)
Bombadil's ID
I would postulate that he is either the first of the ainur or maiar to have emerged, further I would suggest that given Tolkien (and C. S. Lewis's) English upbringing, there is one figure, that is not typically mentioned, who fits the character. Bombadil is perhaps later known to us as Santa Claus (or "father christmas" to the Brittish folk)... to elaborate, consider his position, just far enough away from civilization in general and in a "wilderness place" to be private enough, without being separate entirely from the rest of the world (in modern times what place is there left that is just separate enough but still here? The north pole). He also has a very kind wife in Goldberry who is also a Maiar as well, as other commenters say, possibly of yavanna or of an unnamed one associated with rivers and fresh waters.

I presume this from the fact that Lewis included Santa in his own Chronicles of Narnia, so it stands to reason that Tolkien may well have included such a figure as well, plus the fact that he and Lewis were good friends, suffice to say I think Cirby's comment has merit in this regard, but unfortunately that website has vanished at the time of this writing. I cannot go for the idea of Bombadil as an evil being (Decent writing otherwise though.) the atmosphere of his house, and the character of he and his wife are good testaments to the fact that he was Good, but also one striking bit is Gandalf's association with him (surely Gandalf wouldn't befriend an evil being).

As a side note on Maiar, it would seem that not all Maiar are necessarily equal... for example, the balrog of moria was a maiar demon, so why did it not contest sauron openly and take his power? Likely because it was a slightly lower rank of power. Oh and I should mention I am decidedly a person who likes the character of Bombadil.
Nov. 13th, 2013 07:13 pm (UTC)
You are all wrong if it was so then how come after the fall of sauron he didn't go and attack already everything already was weakened by sauron why wouldn't he just attack and as we all know of stereotype villains they would launch a attack right after "their foe or rival was overthrown" same with star wars did malak wait till his master was caught by the jedi boarding party NO HE BLEW UP THE !@#$% BRIDGE! thus my conclusion goes to a lesser evil something that is under sauron with enough power to control a region....THE WITCH KING! yes many of you probably already read the link about that but it makes sense plus with this article above and why no evil has spread after the fall of Sauron. hmmm I just thought what if all of them was old man willow if hes old and tree beard said he was old then that must mean that theory is correct EUREKA! THATS IT ALL OF THEM ARE OLD MAN WILLOW WHO WANTS THE DARK LORD TO FALL TO TAKE OVER OH MY GOSH!
Nov. 19th, 2013 04:56 pm (UTC)
Not very impressed with this theory. As someone pointed out above, Elrond knew of Bombadil; he had forgotten about him, but after hearing Frodo's story was able to even tell what other names he has had. Your implication that Gandalf might be lying about the reasons to not send the Ring to Bombadil is also sketchy, instead of creating a theory based on facts you seem to be making a twisted interpretation of the facts to better serve your theory. I won't even comment on the last paragraph, the grimdark nearly made me laugh out loud.
Yvane Piper
Nov. 21st, 2013 09:47 am (UTC)
Tom Bombadil
Do you not understand who Tom Bombadil is? He is Oldest and Fatherless. He is the Master. He is no Dark Lord. The Valar were the first beings to set foot upon Middle-Earth, Melkor included. From Melkor all evil came. So I argue not that Tom Bombadil was trapped by the Valar, but that he is one of the Valar. To be exact Manwe. This explains his control over nature, and why the ring has now power over him. The Silmarillion states that two of the Valar remained in Middle-Earth, and they were Ulmo, (Lord of Water) Varda (Giver of Light) and Manwe (Lord of Nature). Ulmo wouldb be Cirdan, Varda would be Goldberry, and Manwe would be Tom Bombadil. Do you not remember Goldberry hating the night? This I argue, and in this I believe I am right.
Jan. 9th, 2014 11:41 am (UTC)
Re: Tom Bombadil
Cirdan is an Elf I am pretty sure. Also, why would Varda hate the night when she created the stars?
Dec. 5th, 2013 10:34 am (UTC)
1. The local hobbits know that the forest is dangerous and Merry himself describes it as "Queer folk live there, though I've never seen any myself. Withywindle is the most queer place, it spreads from there" The hobbits are well aware of the dangerous forest and that there's very odd people living in there and the Hobbits venture there very rarely. Merry has gone there only a few times and even then only during daylight.

2. Elrond knows of Bombadil. In council of Elrond he says "I had forgotten about Bombadil, if it's indeed the same old yadda yadda, that was not his name back then, oldest and fatherless etc." Elrond even gives the names Dwarves, Humans and others use for Bombadil.

3. Even Merry states that Farmer Maggot has been in the Old Forest to 'gather wisdom'. He says so after the group left the farm and they discuss about Farmer Maggot.

4. Mordor was 'safe' because of the distraction that drew all armies away from Frodo's path, Moria was inhabited by orcs and goblins mainly since it was their new home after the wars with dwarves. The Old Forest is dangerous because the trees are intelligent but there's no Ents to manage them. Even Fangorn forest is extremely dangerous place with the ents in it. Fangorn would've stomped the hobbits if he hadn't heard their merrymaking or something. All the ancient forests are hostile because of their ages of turmoil with humanoids.

5. Goldberry explicitly states that Bombadil does not command or lord over the trees, because it would be a massive burden. He is called Master because "he hasn't been caught".

6. Bombadil says that one of his duties is "creating", it is also explicitly stated that the dark corrupt powers do not create, only corrupt.
Sep. 12th, 2014 05:11 am (UTC)
All wonderful refutations, and a few more
1. Galadriel and company have the power to "imprint" and master their will over their domain BECAUSE of their rings. The Balrog did not bring evil things to Moria, it was already there and awoken by the Dwarves. As pointed out, Tom is not and has no wish to be master. He is the ultimate pacifist.

2. Again as pointed out, and in concurrence with the above point, the forest used to be a place without turmoil but has slowly become hostile. (And there are no new ents to sheppard).

3. This article likens him to the Old Man Willow, but Bombadil is clearly a foil to the Willow.

4. The article makes the point that Bombadil never saves anyone, which might actually make sense b/c other than Merry and Pippin, no one goes in the old forest.

5. Not sure why the article points out that he won't go beyond his own borders, but then say later that he is bound by a spell?? I'm sure Oldest and Fatherless is also Masterless. If the ring has no affect on him, then obviously no spell would.

6. Where in the books does it say Tom is "friends" with anyone? I think any fan knows from reading the books that men of power can divine things, use animals, or sense things that cannot be seen, etc.

If anything the characters of Tom and Goldberry would serve more as reminders of pure nature spirits, or for the more religiously inclined, as a reminder of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden in a now sinful world. These two suppositions would be "loose connections." The arguments in this article are more akin to "no connections."
Dec. 27th, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
Not who he seems to be
Yikes! Brilliant reading, John. You're saying Bombadil is Yog-Sothoth, oldest and fatherless. Is there any hint that Tolkien may have ever read Lovecraft, or is it perhaps they sometimes shared similar dreams?
Martín Van Houtte
Dec. 27th, 2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
Or is it the exactly oposite way?
Consider this: Tom might be a Maiar or Valar, sworn to protect the Middle Earth from some kind of dark power that lies under the Dark Forest. Maybe he is the one maintaining the ring spell arround his country, jailing this evil force. Maybe it is not an evil force but a way, a portal that Margoth found to enter Arda again from his confinement; the spell would stop him from entering the world, an that's why Tom can't leave the place.

¿Who knows? Maybe The Oldest and Fatherless is the power that Tom is maintaining away from Middle Earth; maybe Tom is an Istari. Nobody knows when Gandalf and the other Istari came. Tom can be one of the Blue Wizards, returned to recover some honor, containing his corrupted brother inprisoned in the earth itself. No noe wants another balrog...
Jan. 3rd, 2014 04:08 am (UTC)
I'm astounded. Where do you get the time to worry about and consider this stuff?!
Jan. 4th, 2014 01:29 pm (UTC)
*screams forever*
This makes more sense than anything else I've ever read on the topic. Oh my God.
*goes and hides*
Jan. 8th, 2014 03:28 am (UTC)
Very Interesting
I am amazed by your theory. It takes a strange approach, but impressive. Your idea of Goldberry is surprising. I never would have thought about Tom Bombadil this was before.
Jan. 8th, 2014 03:57 am (UTC)
This is the most epic meta I have ever read. I am applauding and shivering.
Jan. 8th, 2014 04:55 am (UTC)
I read this, and went away and thought about it... and came up with a somewhat different explanation of the same facts. It is possible that Tom is not known in the Shire not because he's hiding, but because he simply forgets how the passage of time affects mortals. If he stays close to home for 500 years at a time, there aren't going to be many factual stories about him. The could be traces of legend that we don't see in the books, such as children's rhymes.

Also, the existence of evil within his domain does not mean he is evil in himself. Perhaps he is simply tolerant, accepting of the ugly and deformed in a way the elves never will be. Maybe he sees his land as a region where all beings are welcome, as long as they keep to themselves - since he rescues the hobbits quickly enough, and more than once.

Jan. 20th, 2014 07:10 am (UTC)
You forget the Old Willow

The Old Forest isn't necessarily the most dangerous area in Middle-Earth -- that honor goes to Mordor, with its mountain of fire and poisonous fumes.

Nor is Tom the source of the malevolence in the Old Forest -- the implication in the text is that the source is Old Man Willow. Willow is the one who draws and traps all travelers, setting himself in the center of paths that he bends to lead intruders to him, as if the Old Forest were the pit of an ant-lion.

Tom Bombadil is also said to visit Farmer Maggot from time to time. And Gandalf and Elrond know enough about Bombadil to hint at his nature. Indeed, Gandalf seems to know more than he's letting on.

On the other hand, the Withywindle does originate from near Tom's door, and the description of Goldberry as a willow in disguise fits her character and appearance. Perhaps Tom has, in his marriage to Goldberry, forged something of an alliance with the trees of the Old Forest.

And the Old Forest is supposed to be the oldest forest in Middle Earth, right? And willows themselves are supposedly the most ancient of trees in Middle Earth, originating at the same time as the Great Lamps and the realm of Almaren. The Old Forest is probably younger than this, as the fall of the lamps and the ruin of Almaren were so destructive that they permanently changed the shape of Middle Earth. But the realm now known as the Old Forest could have arisen any time after the fall of Almaren.

Which raises the possibility that it is close to 30,000 years old, i.e. almost as old as the world itself.

And Old Man Willow is explicitly stated, in Gandalf's discussion of Tom Bombadil, to be one of the oldest trees in that realm. Old Man Willow could be older than the elves, older than the orcs, older than any of the fell beasts that are remembered now. Old Man Willow could be the oldest tree in Middle Earth, with at least 20,000 years to develop an intense hatred of two-legged intruders, and then hone it to perfection, to see one army after another passing by, to see the primordial forest cut down, year after year, his kindred falling to the axes of men, foolish Numenoreans seeking fleeting glory, and at last, only he and his small realm would have remained -- a realm that he had to protect at all cost, now.

Why assume Tom is the malevolent one in the forest, then, when there is a more obvious candidate? The Withywindle is cursed not by Tom's power, but by the ancient hatred of the willow.

That being said --

Tom Bombadil is far older than the willow.

Iarwain Ben-Adar, he is called, oldest and fatherless. First upon the land of Middle Earth. Before Melkor, even, who is said to have arrived in Arda before the rest of the Valar.

Iarwain Ben-Adar remembers a time before Melkor. He says he remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn, but he was there, somehow, even before "the dark lord came in from Outside", outside referring to the void that corrupted Melkor as he wandered in it. Iarwain Ben-Adar, first of all beings in Middle Earth, before even Melkor. How is this possible?

None of the remaining Ainur entered Arda before the Valar. Melkor was there first, as the Valar were the first Ainur. Which means that Iarwain Ben-Adar must have been created as part of the music of the Ainur. He must have been created within the circles of the world, not outside of it. When the Valar entered Arda, and met Iarawain Ben-Adar, they were meeting their own creation.

That still doesn't answer the question of what purpose this being serves. What is he, exactly? The first being in Arda, but what besides that? The spirit of the land? A figure unbound by anything? His appearance, a figure in a blue jacket and bright yellow boots, is idiosyncratic, and offers no hint. And what was he DOING for thirty thousand years, anyway? Was he singing the same stupid songs over and over again? Maybe prancing in front of giant abiders, or cheerfully walking through the midst of great battles whistling merrily. Who knows? Tolkein never said a word about his actions in those years, only that he was there. First.

I guess there's more to Arda than we've been allowed to know.
Feb. 26th, 2014 06:34 am (UTC)
Tom Bombadil is a MYSTERY!
I'm sorry, but I've read lots and lots of interpretations of Old Tom Bombadil and this one, I believe, is one of the most ridiculous so far! Tom was a merry, jolly character who (in a way) cared about nothing. He was NOT some evil and devious being that waited and waited for thousands of years so he could dominate all of Middle-Earth. And if the Valar are all powerful (which they are) then how come their magic won't hold after the Elves leave? I'll tell you how! Because it's not there! In my opinion Bombadil was some sort of lesser Maiar, like Gandalf. Except weaker. To even think of the possibility, let alone stick to it after some speculation is absolutely, fibbly-fobbly, ridiculous!

Thank you, and goooooooooooood night!
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( 245 comments — Leave a comment )