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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. 6th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
Very interesting and creative, but as a few other people have suggested you are outright ignoring several parts of the text that directly contradict much of your theory. I would also really suggest, if you haven't ever, reading some of Tolkien's other work, 'The Books of Unfinished Tales,' the 'Silmarillion' etc. Good read though, thanks!
Sep. 9th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
This...is amazing.
Sep. 10th, 2012 09:22 am (UTC)
I saw this post on Tumblr and I have to say, it's been really long since I was this affected by the LotR. I've always been very intrigued by Tom Bombadil, while his wife gave me the creeps, but I never considered him having his own agenda like that. The last paragraph, the wild speculation is stunning and freaking creepy as hell and I am just in awe with all this! Thank you for sharing your thoughts :D
Sep. 18th, 2012 02:00 am (UTC)
Did Tolkein spell out Tom's origins in the Silmarillion? I didn't read far enough to know.
Sep. 27th, 2012 07:53 pm (UTC)
This is pathetically wrong
First of all, I think it's..interesting.. That you say that Tom is a disliked character. He is one of the most beloved characters in the series, despite having only a small part to play. While I think your "theory" is interesting and fun in a creepy way, it discounts multiple important factors. First of all, you forgot that in Mordor, the real most dangerous place, Frodo and Sam are caught. Twice. Once by ringwraiths whom they narrowly avoid being captured by, and once as Mordors troops match to the black gates. You clearly didn't read very carefully.
You also miss the things presented in Tolkien's Middle Earth lore. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil includes poems about him traveling through the Old Forest reprimanding evil things.
He is a protector. He contains the evil within his homeland.
Oct. 26th, 2012 05:22 am (UTC)
This is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Where do you get off claiming statements on behalf of Tolkien fans when you come across as a Peter Jackson fan. Bombadil is a fantastic character, he is not annoying, and leaving him out of the movies was just one of many travesties that Jackson did.

And no where is it stated that "willows are evil." Old Man Willow is mean, he is not evil, and that is because his heart is black. If it's not obvious to someone with your obvious deft wit, Old Man Willow is a Huorn. Bombadil is a spirit, most likely a maia. He can be oldest and fatherless because he may have just entered the world around the time Ungoliant did.
Dec. 5th, 2012 06:24 am (UTC)
I like it, although I think it is a bit over the top...Tom B was one of my fav characters in the book because of his mysterious nature. However, I doubt he is truly a malevolent spirit. More likely he and his wife are, as presented, tied directly to nature, and, like nature, are simply capable of being both good and evil (without ever having to pick a side).
Dec. 19th, 2012 08:19 pm (UTC)
Tom Bombadil
lol Tom Bombadil is actually one of the most beloved Characters in the
book, and the people dont know about tom because he lives in the old forest and no one goes into the old forest. His power is so great he
does not need to worry of the petty things in life so that explains his great since of joy.
Tom Osborne
Jan. 7th, 2013 07:50 am (UTC)
You're Insane and That's The Best I Can Say of You
I can only say that the evil you see is the evil in your own heart...and in your addle-brained readers who think you are so "smart".

I think this was the most blessed part of the whole six-book novel and I am strengthened every time I read it. (Obviously not "everybody" "hates Tom Bombadil", and it was such a stupid thing to say.) It's a little haven of peace and incredible beauty in the midst of a whole world of evil and danger. I loved it that Tom was utterly unaffected by the Ring...that ought to have given you SOME clue. It was like a silly toy, to him, like something out of a Cracker Jack box (he certainly hadn't the slightest lust for it). He was obviously way, way above and beyond all that; I think he was one who utterly transcended even all thought of evil, but knew that others were horribly affected by it (those who are stuck in the dimension of the pairs of opposites). And to be "oldest" makes him some sort of creator being, unless you think the entire world of Middle Earth was created by evil. No, the "evil" (i.e. "Sauran") came from WITHOUT and infected the earth where Tom already was, so evil was not endemic to Middle Earth. If, as you believe, Bombadil was HARBORING evil (providing succor to the hateful trees and the like), I would say that he has a much broader view of things than you do. So yes, there is hate in the world, and sometime for good reason. Nature, itself, could be considered "evil" when one contemplates the concept that everything has to kill to eat (killing precious plants if not animals), for example. Interestingly, Bombadil's own diet (or the one he fed the Hobbits) was yellow cream, honeycomb, white bread, and butter...wow, nothing at all was killed to fill up that supper table! Again, there it is, transcendence of that evil, as well.

Besides, there was a Tom Bombadil before Tolkien included him in the story; he was a doll that his children had had. So Tolkien's children's toy gets imagined into being a conspirator helping the Hobbits conquer a "lesser evil" so that he will be the last remaining evil on Middle Earth? I'd be scared to death to have such a father as that, then!

So you're so way off base with this bizarre "interpretation" that it's almost frightening. I am amazed that one would not only think of it, but continue to think that it was valid all these years. You couldn't possible be MORE mistaken.

And your readers who were "frightened" reading that part of the story, I would worry about them, too. To be frightened of something so good is something to be very, very ashamed of.
Jan. 27th, 2013 12:40 am (UTC)
Re: You're Insane and That's The Best I Can Say of You
Thanks Tom. (You're well named. ;-)
As a character Tom Bombadil is not as richly realized, moving and beautiful an invention as the Ents... but he's the doorkeeper of the (trap)door to dizzying immensities of time WHICH HE HAS PERSONALLY WITNESSED - and he cracks it open briefly.
"When they caught his words again they found that he had now wandered into strange regions beyond their memory and beyond their waking thought, into limes when the world was wider, and the seas flowed straight to the western Shore; and still on and back Tom went singing out into ancient starlight, when only the Elf-sires were awake.
Then suddenly he slopped, and they saw that he nodded as if he was falling asleep. The hobbits sat still before him, enchanted; and it seemed as if, under the spell of his words, the wind had gone, and the clouds had dried up, and the day had been withdrawn, and darkness had come from East and West, and all the sky was filled with the light of white stars.
Whether the morning and evening of one day or of many days had passed Frodo could not tell. He did not feel either hungry or tired, only filled with wonder. The stars shone through the window and the silence of the heavens seemed to be round him. He spoke at last out of his wonder and a sudden fear of that silence:
'Who are you, Master?' he asked.
'Eh, what?' said Tom sitting up, and his eyes glinting in the gloom. '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 Barrowwights. 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.'"
This is about the most inspired scene in the entire trilogy IMHO. It raises the hairs on my neck.
I read a lot of HP Lovecraft long ago and by far the most powerful terror was inspired by the encounters with beings which are... horribly OLD. "Horrible" not because they're evil - but because they have stood witness through unfathomable gulfs of time, change and chaos.
"Le silence etérnel de ces espaces infinis m'effraie" (Pascal)
But it is a salutary terror which quiets and humbles the human spirit.
Before, beyond, outside good and evil there is Time and Nature - of which Tom is the personification.
Another brilliant little detail (which some seem not to notice in the book) is when Tom puts the One Ring on his finger and it takes the hobbits a moment to realize what's wrong with this pictur: nothing happens! Tom remains visible. Then he throws the Ring in the air, makes it vanish and then reappear (IIRC). A powerless bauble. Holy crap!!! But Tolkien does it with such a light touch.
I submit that anyone who sees Tom as "evil" needs to get away from a diet of movies and learn more about science and nature (and our place in nature).
Oh yes and he/she should take the time to actually read the trilogy closely. It is the small unexpected details that I find the most enjoyable in LOTR, more than the large theme of conventional good vs ill-defined evil. The Bombadil interlude is 100 times more original than, say, the big theme of "the return of the King" (Aragorn) with all its heavygoing "And lo's".
Jan. 7th, 2013 08:00 am (UTC)
This is a very refreshing interpretation, and I must admit that while reading the Tom Bombadil section in LOTR, I had a vague sense of unease myself, as if something evil would occur at any moment while the hobbits were in his home. The disturbed sleep of Merry, Pippin and Frodo himself seemed particularly inexplicable.

But Elrond certainly knew him beforehand, as is evident from his speech at the Council: `Time was when a squirrel could go from tree to tree from what is now the Shire to Dunland west of Isengard. In those lands I journeyed once, and many things wild and strange I knew. But I had forgotten Bombadil, if indeed this is still the same that walked the woods and hills long ago, and even then was older than the old....He is a strange creature, but maybe I should have summoned him to our Council.'

However, as others have pointed out, it seems very likely that Tom was neutral in the War of the Rings - and neutrality cannot be equated with evil. Moreover, there are some very interesting points in the way that Tom deals with the Ring, points that I believe indicate his origin (and his kind).

1. Tom can make the ring bearer give the ring away without seeming effort or mental struggle on the bearer's part - something which even Gandalf cannot do (this point was even missed by Gandalf himself, when he said '...But he cannot alter the Ring itself, nor break its power over others'. On the contrary, it seems that Tom can indeed break the Ring's control on others' minds.

2. Tom can, of course, give the Ring back with equal ease, showing that it does not have any power over him either, and hence he does not fear its influence (again, unlike Gandalf, who was as afraid of the Ring's influence on himself as on anyone else).

3. Tom can make the Ring itself disappear. This clearly indicates a great power over the Ring, something which was not intended at all by its maker.

All the above indicate that Tom can "envelope" the Ring with his own power so that it ceases to function and becomes just an ordinary ring. Which immediately tells us that Tom Bombadil is of an order higher than the Elves (who made other Rings of Power) and also of the Maiar (Gandalf, Saruman and Sauron).

He is, then, one of the original Ainur. This is also indicated by the extreme ease and casualness with which he disposes of Old Man Willow and the Barrow-wight - even Gandalf usually struggled before overcoming other evil spirits. And his chosen weapon each time? A song! Who else other than an Ainur would use a song to control spirits? He was most probably one of the unnamed Ainurs that entered Arda along with the named ones, and thereafter confined himself only to an observation of how the music played out. This might also explain Galdalf's comment at the end - he was a moss-gatherer, meaning that it was his nature not to actively participate, but only to observe.

Lastly, is Tom Eru? I dont think so, for Eru has never directly interfered in any of the events of Arda (the one or two times that he has interfered at all, he has conveyed his thought through the Valar).

So there you have my interpretation - Tom is neither Eru nor a Maiar - he is an Ainur who prefers to remain in the background and observe the unfolding of the Song.
Mar. 20th, 2013 03:18 am (UTC)
Does that make him a valar?
I never read the the books, only the first halves of the Hobbit and the Fellowship, but since he may be an ainur, does his entrance into the universe make him a valar?
Jan. 22nd, 2013 03:47 am (UTC)
I'm going with this explanation, cause you're just making shit up.
Jan. 24th, 2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
Interesting food for thought. I am curious though where you get the notion that Bombadil is the least liked character in the story. He's always been a favorite of mine, the mystery surroundung him being part of the reason why, and I have never known a Tolkien reader among my generation (first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in 1975) that dislikes Bombadil.
Jan. 28th, 2013 09:50 am (UTC)
I did not see this coming
I always thought Tom Bombadil was fat and jolly and made merry all the time, but your argument is that he's got something else going on.
Jan. 31st, 2013 11:24 pm (UTC)
I think I love you for this, whoever you are.
Feb. 15th, 2013 12:51 pm (UTC)
Who said Tom is the least liked? o_O
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