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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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( 244 comments — Leave a comment )
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kengr
Dec. 8th, 2011 04:45 am (UTC)
phineas1971
Dec. 8th, 2011 04:16 pm (UTC)
He aint evil, he's for the trees!
Yeah maybe if HP Lovecraft wrote the Lord of the Rings! I think you are equating doesn't give a rats buttocks about the rest of the world (i.e. the War of the Rings) with evil. If anything Bombadil is a nature spirit, a being of chaos and randomness. Tolkien was big on bringing in some pre-christian celtic lore into his tale and Bombadil was one of those things. As for the evil of the forest, Treebeard says it best " The trees are on no ones side becasue no one is on the trees side." From their point of view all the men, elves, dwarves, hobbits, and orcs have ever done is chop them down for firewood and building materials. How would you react to a being from a race of creatures who kill your kind and then used them to cook dinner or build a shelter? I think Tolkien, who was a great believer in nature conservation and felt that the rural life of England was being destroyed by industrial interests placed characters like Bombadil and Treebeard into his story to voice his concerns about nature and the way the world was heading (i.e. destruction of the natural world for profit)Although you bring up some interesting ideas, I think you totally miss the mark about Bombadil and his intentions, he ain't evil-- he's for the trees.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 8th, 2011 07:14 pm (UTC)
Re: He aint evil, he's for the trees!
I came here to say this.

I have already had that conversation with some friends some time ago and my conclusion is that as some of the elves, Tom Bombadil is keeping himself from the exterior world simply because it is not good enough for him. If we believe his words, he was there from the begining (or very near from it). So I'm pretty sure he is as Gandalf, a Maiar.

Saying he is not evil does not mean he is good, I would think that Tom is grey/neutral. He is a force of nature and his only goal is to protect middle earth or at least his land. He only helps the fellowship because he knows that it is his only chance to block Sauron from getting to his forest.

I was always disappointed about the fact that Tolkien didn't have the chance to expand a bit on the matter... but I guess maybe he didn't want to.
Re: He aint evil, he's for the trees! - (Anonymous) - Jun. 1st, 2012 03:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: He aint evil, he's for the trees! - Andrew Arnott - Mar. 9th, 2013 08:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: He aint evil, he's for the trees! - (Anonymous) - Dec. 18th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: He aint evil, he's for the trees! - (Anonymous) - Dec. 22nd, 2011 12:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: He aint evil, he's for the trees! - (Anonymous) - Nov. 9th, 2013 01:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: He aint evil, he's for the trees! - Wolf Lutton - Aug. 11th, 2015 06:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Dec. 8th, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
> Possibly the least liked character in The Lord of the Rings. A childish figure so disliked by fans of the book...

Not sure how you arrived at that but I would say it's the complete opposite and by *fans* of the book he is much beloved.

> And yet no hobbit has ever heard of him.

Please re-read Fellowship of the Ring, Farmer Maggot knew of Tom Bombadil and had met him on more than one occasion.

Barely 2 paragraphs in and this article is already riddled with inaccuracies. I could go on...
(Anonymous)
Dec. 8th, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
Oldest and Fatherless: The Terrible Secret of Tom Bombadil
Wow, thanks!
(Anonymous)
Dec. 8th, 2011 07:31 pm (UTC)
Very interesting, but recall that all of Middle-Earth isessentially a lesson to the Valar courtesy of Illuvitar. It's an elaborate simulation or extrapolation of the song He had them sing together. How does the Bombadil you describe fit into that framework. If he his not a Valar himself, he is some element of the song.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 8th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
unbelievable
if you're going to trash a beloved character, could you at least spell the author and creator of this character correctly? that is all.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 24th, 2012 12:32 pm (UTC)
Re: unbelievable
"Trash".

I enjoy this version of Bombadil a lot more. Would've been a better story. Don't be so hurt.
Josh Stokes
Dec. 9th, 2011 12:02 am (UTC)
This is very well thought out. This version of Tom Bombadil kind of reminds me of the Warlock Lord from the 'Shannarra" series
firecat
Dec. 9th, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
This is great. I wish it could be made into a movie.
Steven Varner
Dec. 9th, 2011 01:30 am (UTC)
Adventures of Tom Bombadil
Many of Tolkien's works actually date as far back as his childhood and college days. You can trace their development in the 12 volume "The History of Middle-earth" series (see Wikipedia). Tom Bombadil has actually been the subject of university theses. Take this essay for example:
http://www.cas.unt.edu/~hargrove/bombadil.html
Most academics see Bombadil as the essence of the neutral in LOTR, not evil. Gandalf, Saruman, Sauron, and the other wizards are actually Maiar, lesser divine spirits. The Valar are the great divine spirits that live in the undying West. Bombadil was outside all the good and evil forces found in the Silmarillion... neutral.
In 1962, Tolkien released a collection of poems called "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil." In it there are 3 poems about Tom and Goldberry, with much more background. These poems have been in several Tolkien omnibus editions, and are now in "Tales from the Perilous Realm." You can hear Tolkien himself reading some of them on the charming voice records he made. Here's one on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szMCbapqisk
km_515
Feb. 5th, 2012 09:52 am (UTC)
Re: Adventures of Tom Bombadil
I have The Adventures of Tom Bombadil in the 1975 Unwin paperback edition. I left it out of the essay above but did give it some thought.

In the context of "Oldest and Fatherless" it's notable that the poems in Adventures are written in very much the same style as Tom's own rhymes. In his Preface, Tolkien says that those poems appear in the Red Book and "evidently come from Buckland", and as such are evidence that the Bucklanders knew of Bombadil. However, that runs contrary to the established fact that Merry (a well-read Brandybuck) had never heard of Bombadil.

I continue my speculation by suggesting that those poems were actually made by Bombadil himself for his own purposes and were recited to the hobbits during their stay in his house. From there they found their way, unatributed, into the Red Book.
Re: Adventures of Tom Bombadil - (Anonymous) - Jun. 26th, 2012 03:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Dec. 9th, 2011 06:16 am (UTC)
I'm so glad to see someone else made this mental link. I loved really old fairy tales as a kid and all of the symbolism with Tom Bombadil freaked me out the first time I picked up the Lord of the Rings books. I kept waiting for all the symbolism to build up to something and it just didn't.
Tom Bombadil never showed back up as a significant character, and no reason was given for why he would delay the ring bearer for so long from such an urgent errand. It's not like they stop there for the night, have a good meal and leave. I mean, they talk about watching the leaves change while at Bombadil's home.
He kept them from their quest for a while.

As for him being a nature spirit that's simply "for the trees..." That's exactly the problem. There are a lot of old stories about nature spirits. Most ate people.
(Anonymous)
May. 30th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Tom kept them for a very short amount of time, just days. Of the top of my head I only recall that they left Bag-End on the 22nd of September and where at Rivendell by the end of October. I would wager they where there no longer then three full days excluding the evening they arrived and the morning they left. As for the leaves changing colour, depending on where you are and what trees you have end of September/beginning of October is the right time for the trees to change colour, and it takes surprisingly very little time for trees of the same species in the same area to change colour (I have visited home for a weekend while I was at university and when I arrived Friday all the poplars were green and by the time I left Sunday they were all yellow).
(no subject) - Ditas Irene Pangilinan - Dec. 9th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Dec. 10th, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC)
Nice analysis. I think theres somewhere in the silmarillion that hints at bombadils existence as one of the Maiar though. A river spirit, with the same level of power as Sauron or Gandalf.

(Anonymous)
Dec. 11th, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
Alternate motivation
Could it be that Bombadil was providing a sanctuary for these evil creatures for their own protection and the protection of others? Maybe the reason he keeps the land in its "evil" state is so that the beings there do not move away into populated land? Perhaps he feels pity for the irreconcilably evil inhabitants of the land and chooses to keep the place their domain? Could he leave it in its cursed state so that he is protected from other evils? What if the creatures are not evil but just possessed, and he is working to free them? Maybe he is only master of an incredibly small domain, his powers being limited to his current presence and small areas around places in which he continually dwells?
(Anonymous)
Dec. 12th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
Classic
Remarkably well written and thoughtful analysis of a true treasure.

I'll be adding this blog to my list of insightful places to visit.

Cheers!
lordrunningclam
Dec. 12th, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
Bill the Pony
One detail not stated in your essay is that when Bill the Pony, whom the Hobbits picked up in Bree after they met Tom, is set loose at the door to Mordor it is stated that he makes his way to Tom Bombadil and is well cared for. I don't recall if the Hobbits got Bill back on the way home or not.
bridgeweaver
Dec. 18th, 2011 02:51 am (UTC)
Re: Bill the Pony
Bill the pony was set loose before the fellowship entered Moria, and he was reunited with Sam at Bree when the hobbits and Gandalf went through there on their way west.
Re: Bill the Pony - (Anonymous) - Dec. 18th, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bill the Pony - mindstalk - Jan. 8th, 2012 04:16 am (UTC) - Expand
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( 244 comments — Leave a comment )