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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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Feb. 5th, 2012 10:17 am (UTC)
Many thanks for all the kind comments. And even for the not so kind ones.

As I said "Do I think that Tolkien planned things in this way? Not at all, but I find it an interesting speculation." The oddity, ambiguity and interest of Tom Bombadil as a character comes in part from the way that Tolkien wove him into the story before he had a complete idea of what the structure of Lord of the Rings was going to be. As it turns out, the Bombadil sequence became a sideline to the main story that was never revisited or explained. Yet Tolkien clearly liked the character too much to edit him out, so we are left with an element of mystery and a field for multiple speculations.

And to those whose comments have been in limbo for many weeks while I forgot to unscreen anonymous comments, my apologies. All non-spam comments have now been restored and I'll be checking up on a much more regular basis from now on.
Feb. 9th, 2012 11:36 pm (UTC)
Bombadil was awesome
This is an AMAZING article, but I have to disagree with you on two counts, first, almost everyone I know loves Tom Bombadil, he is one of my favorite characters. Second, Bombadil is not the only master of the forest, there is also Old Man Willow, an evil influence , unlike in Sauron's realm where he is the only real influence. In short though, this was an amazing article!
Mar. 12th, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC)
This is fantastic! ... but wrong.
Fantastic! ... but wrong. He is Ilúvatar. Thought it was obvious—oldest and fatherless. He is Tolkien's embodiment of his creation god on Middle-earth. Neither good nor evil, nor particularly concerned with the dangers and strife of years or even ages. Kingdoms will rise and fall. Good will win. Evil will win. It will all just keep happening again and and again—small consequence in the life of a world... or at least that's how I read it. And by the way, neither am I qualified to make this assertion nor am I terribly attached to my conviction—I just really enjoy the atmosphere of Tolkien and wild speculation. Good stuff. Thanks for this.
May. 31st, 2012 06:31 am (UTC)
Re: This is fantastic! ... but wrong.
Tolkien did comment several times saying directly that Bombadil was NOT the embodiment of his version of God, so I'm not sure that's the right impression to take from it.

Likewise, to the original post, Tolkien's penchant for idealizing nature and all the is associated with it seems to run counter to your theories. The forest is not "evil" in any way; rather, it has been attacked repeatedly by the sentient beings of the world, and is defending itself from intrusion and potential damage - animalistic and primal, perhaps, but not evil.

That said, Bombadil represents many things in different ways - he is a relic of LoTR's origins as a direct sequel to The Hobbit (i.e. a children's book), he is an intentionally ambiguous character to add the bit of mystery Tolkien felt was necessary for good storytelling, and, as many have already written, he was partially the embodiment of nature and of certain mythologies' notions of natural spirits. My personal interpretation is that, in addition to all of that, he was the means of balancing the complicated and practical (and scary and dangerous) real world with simple, innocent pacifism and love. He does save the hobbits, and then the hobbits essentially save him. That seems like's Tolkien's way of telling us that as dangerous as the world is, we need sometimes to return to simplicity and happiness and not just worry and struggle all the time; but, at the same time, that we should also be mindful of the real world and not forget that sometimes we need to work to make things better. The two points check each other and balance each other out; neither the realism of the war nor the naivete of Bombadil could have survived in isolation.

My two cents, at least.
May. 16th, 2012 05:15 am (UTC)
Link Drawer, "Is the name of my Castlevania tag appropriate here or not?" edition
User indigozeal referenced to your post from Link Drawer, "Is the name of my Castlevania tag appropriate here or not?" edition saying: [...] Yeah, that stuff about Tom Bombadil doesn't add up, does it? [...]
May. 30th, 2012 04:38 am (UTC)
My friend, this is brilliant.
May. 30th, 2012 05:35 am (UTC)
So much knowledge, learning and good thought but . . .
It is "Middle-earth" not "Middle Earth". Who cares? Well, the author J.R.R. Tolkien for one.
May. 30th, 2012 07:13 am (UTC)

You're assuming that the forest being dangerous means it's also evil... instead of you know, just being nature, which is dangerous by default.

And it's implied that the ring didn't affect him because he didn't want anything more then he had, not really a trait of an evil person (and considering Gandalf's reaction to the ring he'd have to be a Valar to resist it outright, and that's just an assumption on ym part as i odn't recall anything canon about the effect of the ring on one).

May. 30th, 2012 07:22 am (UTC)
Well that ruins the book
Well that kind of ruins the book for me. I already saw the movies, and wanted to read the book, but I didn't finish it, I only got a ways past the Bombadil part, when I stopped, to read the Hobbit, but I didn't continue, although I planned to. Now my entire outlook on the book has changed, knowing that their whole journey was all part of the plan of evil mastermind Bombadil. That part freaks me out now, knowing that notorious figure waits in the forest, so close to the Shire, just waiting for the war to end so he can dominate Middle Earth.
May. 30th, 2012 08:36 am (UTC)
"Dark Lord Bombadil" has a wonderful ring to it. Goldberyy as the harsh, ice-cold Galadriel that appears momentarily to Frodo in Lorien. The nitpickers commenting above need to simply enjoy your well written flight of fancy. Kneel before the malevolent might of Bombadil!
May. 30th, 2012 11:29 am (UTC)
Does Tom have anything to do with the Entwives
Is is possible that Tom has had anything to do with the Entwives? How were they lost? Did Tom's forest consume/kill them? I'm pretty interested in that too!

Apart from that - Awesome post. I think I believe you! :)
May. 30th, 2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
some problems with this theory
For one, he has met hobbits. This is seen in n The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, a series of poems by tolken. In this same book he can be seen fighting Old man willow, and barrow wights. Srry. Info is from wikipedia BTW. please double check!
May. 30th, 2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
This could explain a lot
How Middle Earth became modern England and what happened to the Hobbits. Is there a historical analogue to the free-to-rampage Bombadil?
May. 30th, 2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
A very inspiring take on a fascinating character! More!
May. 30th, 2012 03:51 pm (UTC)
Tom, Tom, Bombadil!!
I really enjoyed the post. I am a great fan, yet still have much history to explore. I always liked Tom, and found it odd not to see him in the movie, however, I always figured he didn't make an appearance because it was always unclear what the interaction meant or what would come of it. I felt this way about Beorn a little too...I concur with the creature of chaos theory.Since Tolkien was such a devout Catholic, and the entire series was compared to possibly a trip through purgatory~not necessarily knowing the full purpose of the meeting or the ramifications it may have depending on the interaction. This was a great twist to think about for the devil may take many shapes, even offering help without exposing his purpose. Please keep the ideas coming, they are very enjoyable to read and speculate over!
May. 30th, 2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
This is the most coherent, clear, and sensible explanation of Bombadil and Goldberry that I have ever read or heard in my entire life. I so appreciate your sharing your thoughts on this subject. Thank you for a most enlightening discussion!

DEFINITELY favoriting this post now....

-Febobe :)
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( 245 comments — Leave a comment )