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Topic: Tom Bombadil

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Tom Bombadil
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Date: Sep 24, 2012
RE: Tom Bombadil

Before I was banned from the Plaza, I was reading pages and pages of discussions on this subject. And believe me, there are 1000s of pages of research on good old Tom Bombadillo.

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Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
Tom Bom, Jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!

Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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No matter how much research is done, however, the answer to this question has always been clear - Bombadil wasn't 'meant' to fit into any catagory. He was made that way.

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     Some time ago on another thread I stated that Ungoliant seemed to be the more powerful entity over our beloved Iarwain, on the basis that he had little to do outside his small area in Middle-earth.  Ungoliant traveled throughout many lands at will, wielding great power. But upon reading the Lord of the Rings again, Tom's choice to receed from the world became apparent:

      An exerpt from, The Council of Elrond:

     "He is a strange creature, but maybe I should have summoned him to our Council."
     "He would not have come," said Gandalf.
      "Could we not still send messages to him and obtain his help?" asked Erestor. "It seems that he has a power even over the Ring."
      "No, I should not put it so," said Gandalf. "Say rather that the Ring has no power over him. He is his own master. But he cannot alter the Ring itself, nor break its power over others. And now he is withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he has set, though none can see them, waiting perhaps for a change of days, and he will not step beyond them."

      This post isn't really about where Tom came from or what his ranking is according to Valar, Ainur, or Maia, but instead of his choice to diminish. He set bounds about himself in his 'little land'.

     Something about this sounded eerily familiar.  What would make a shut-in out of such a powerful man like Tom Bombadil?  I asked myself.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks;  Goldberry!!!!  

     Like most bachelors he had a large jurisdiction and he probably did many selfless and helpful acts (utilizing such talents which he possessed). Enter Lady Goldberry, the River-woman's daughter, and all went to pots! Alas for Middle-earth! What if Tom's one job was to watch after the Entwives! We all know how that turned out!
     He stopped calling his friends, never came to the summer solstice parties, stopped visiting other regions and started gathering flowers!?!! I've seen it a million times....

     He wasn't even available to help his friends hold onto a ring for a while, he was too busy gathering lillies!  Poor old Tom...no



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Haldir of Lorien - Rank 6
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Shall we discuss the benefits of marriage on the male species and the ill effects on the female? Perhaps we should say poor Goldberry biggrin

But, your theory makes sense, Jado.



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It was all in jest!

     She sounds dreamy. Plus if he did go hang out with Elrond and the boys she'd take half his stuff, and he'd have to get a small place in the Barrow Downs...smile



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Jaidoprism7 and Friends,

Interesting posts! Ocassionally I do marital counseling ... Tom & Goldberry don't need it. wink


There is a legend about Tom's courting Goldberry ... in a book called "The Tolkien Reader" (Ballantine,1966) there is a series of poems called "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" which were originally written in 1934. Tom's consort Goldberry also appeared in this original 1934 version. She is known as Goldberry the River-woman's daughter. She emerges from the river where Tom has been sitting and grabs him by his beard, much like a nixie or watersprite's pulling her victim into the water to drown. Not exactly the kind, generous, and wise lady in The Lord of The Rings.
Here are two excerpts from the poem.

"Old Tom in summertime walked about the meadows
gathering the buttercups, running after shadows,
tickling the bumblebees that buzzed among the flowers,
sitting by the waterside for hours upon hours.

There his beard dangled long down into the water:
up came Goldberry, the River-woman's daughter;
pulled Tom's hanging hair. In he went a-wallowing
under the water-lilies, bubbling and a-swallowing.

'Hey, Tom Bombadil! Whither are you going?'
said fair Goldberry. 'Bubbles you are blowing,
frightening the finny fish and the brown water-rat,
startling the dabchicks, and drowning your feather-hat!'

'You bring it back again, there's a pretty maiden!'
said Tom Bombadil. 'I do not care for wading.
Go down! Sleep again where the pools are shady
far below willow-roots, little water-lady!'

Back to her mother's house in the deepest hollow
swam young Goldberry. But Tom, he would not follow;
on knotted willow-roots he sat in sunny weather,
drying his yellow boots and his draggled feather ...

Tom goes on to have struggles and adventures with Old Man Willow, The Badger-folk, and the Barrow-wights ... but he eventually turns a romantic eye back to Goldberry ...

... Wise old Bombadil, he was a wary fellow;
bright blue his jacket was, and his boots were yellow.
None ever caught old Tom in upland or in dingle,
walking the forest-paths, or by the Withywindle,
or out on the lily-pools in boat upon the water.
But one day Tom, he went and caught the River-daughter,
in green gown, flowing hair, sitting in the rushes,
singing old water-songs to birds upon the bushes.

He caught her, held her fast! Water-rats went scuttering
reeds hissed, herons cried, and her heart was fluttering.
Said Tom Bombadil: 'Here's my pretty maiden!
You shall come home with me! The table is all laden:
yellow cream, honeycomb, white bread and butter;
roses at the window-sill and peeping round the shutter.
You shall come under Hill! Never mind your mother
in her deep weedy pool: there you'll find no lover!'

Old Tom Bombadil had a merry wedding,
crowned all with buttercups, hat and feather shedding;
his bride with forget-me-nots and flag-lilies for garland
was robed all in silver-green. He sang like a starling,
hummed like a honey-bee, lilted to the fiddle,
clasping his river-maid round her slender middle."

So far there is no tangent that would lead to any Ainur connection.

However ...

A lady and scholar named Katherine Hesser wrote an interesting article about Goldberry in The J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. In this article Hesser draws a thought provoking parallel; Tom Bombadil and Lady Goldberry as an incarnation of Aule and Yavanna.
"Goldberry and Tom bear a resemblance to Aule of the Valar and his wife, Yavanna, who are introduced in The Silmarillion. Aule is described as having "lordship over all the substances which Arda has made," and overseeing the "gems in the earth and the gold that is fair in the hand," and also the "walls of the mountains and the basins of the sea." This is very similar to Tom being named the master of all the creatures in the Old Forrest and being described as the oldest being in Middle-earth.
Yavanna's description makes her very similar to Goldberry, in that they are both in appearance and behavior so closely related to nature. Yavanna appears as a women "robed in green" as Goldberry is, but also takes the form of "a tree under heaven, crowned with the Sun." She is called "Queen of the Earth" by the Eldar. It has been argued that Tom and Goldberry are the very same as Aule and Yavanna, though their names and some characteristics have been morphed and changed as the mythology evolved.
Goldberry, with the smooth and kind way she relates to her odd husband Tom Bombadil and through her elegance, accomplishment, and connection to the natural world, brings much-needed peace to Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings. She seeks nothing, longs for nothing , yet appreciates and nurtures everything and everyone around her. She is the only female character in The Lord of The Rings without a personal agenda. She is not looking to earn battle glory like Eowyn,to satiate her hunger as Shelob is, to take in Bag-End as Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, to defy her father for the sake of love as Arwen is, and she is in no danger of being influenced by the Ring as Galadriel fears she might be.
Goldberry provides a feminine figure who is pure, content, significant to the world around he, and wise."
(Hesser, Katherine ~ "Goldberry"~ The J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, Scholarship and Critical Assessment, edited by Michael D.C. Drout, 2007, Routledge ~ Taylor & Francis Group)

So here we are ... Tolkien has once again folded his earlier work into his later work ... and left us to draw whatever lines of connection our imaginations can produce ... people making films completely ignore him ... those of us who love him would like more.

Me? I like bread, butter, and honey! Now if Goldberry had a pot of coffee or some hard cider ... to hell with Rivendell or the Prancing Pony ... You will find me at Bombadil's!




-- Edited by Bear on Friday 28th of September 2012 09:55:32 PM

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Bear,

Did the author you quoted say how she came to believe that Tom and Goldberry were incarnations of Aule and Yavanna? It's a hard jump for me to make. Especially if Tom was possibly active at the time when the Valar were still somewhat more hands on with ME.

I also wonder about her view of Goldberry as the only pure female figure in the stories. Yes, Goldberry has no concerns for anything because she has no involvement in the wider world. She has all she needs within her home and within the boundaries of Tom's lands. I think her assessment of the other females in the story (with the exception of Lobelia) is rather harsh and perhaps a bit unfair.

Tom also may be the only character that has no desire for anything other than what he has. But as someone at the Coucil of Elrond said, he has set his boundaries and will not go past them. When a person doesn't engage in the world, needs and wants can be taken care of without much of a fight.

But, I too, wish Tom had appeared in all of the films. I think it would be neat if someone made a movie about Tom's adventures.



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Laurelin,

Katherine Hesser, the author of the article on Goldberry in the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, also wrote articles on Eowyn and Melian for the Encyclopedia. I only posted a few paragraphs that I thought were relative to the discussion. And to be fair, and to understand her entire position you would need to read all of the article on Goldberry and her other entries.
What may be of interest was her scholarship and critical assessment had a focus more on the archetype represented by the characters and the references to various critical arguments presented by other scholars analyzing the role of the feminine in all of Tolkien's works.
I don't believe her characterizations of the other feminine figures was meant as criticism but rather a different perspective of Tolkien's development of the feminine in The Lord of The Rings.
I think we can agree that Tolkien's portrayal of Goldberry's relationship with Tom is not found in parallel with any other feminine identity in his works.
Her reference to Aule and Yavanna was an attempt to show that the relationship of Tom and Goldberry was partly played out again in these Silmarillion characters.
As the poem above the portion of the article I presented was written decades before the Silmarillion was released I think she was attempting to expand our conception by illustrating that Tolkien incorporated the older "Adventures of Tom Bombadil" into "The Lord of The Rings."
That you see it from a larger perspective and a different social construct explains how you would be uncomfortable with her strictly academic scholastic presentation.

I'm with you.
I treasure Eowyn, Arwen, and Galadriel.  I think that each of them has characteristics and archetypal struggles which glorify the feminine.  And I think Tolkien drew from several mythologies in which the "heroine" played a crucial role.
(I even came to enjoy the transformation of Lobelia at the end of the book. But I still think Shelob is a mean-assed evil spider, however)
What Hesser was trying to show was that "Goldberry" was an archetypal figure on the level of a "goddess" in a unique relationship with her divine masculine archetype "Tom".  This led her to observe that Tolkien repeated this "relationship" between Aule and Yavanna (clearly divine archetypes) in the Silmarillion.
Hesser's point is that the divine feminine, which also appears throughout Tolkien's works, is a pattern which could be used to explain who Tom Bombadil and Goldberry were.

I am not sure why Tolkien limits Tom to specific boundaries.  Perhaps it is a literary device to exclude his character from the rest of The Lord of The Rings.  Perhaps, as Tolkien developed his story he felt he needed Tom and Goldberry to bring "magic" to the plot.
The thing is we just don't know.

I am enjoying the speculation about who and what Tom and Goldberry.  I love the imaginative rational as you and Jaidoprism7 bring to the table.  I love the playful banter that illustrates the friendship  and that Tolkien Forums is a fun place to be.

 

 



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"Hesser's point is that the divine feminine, which also appears throughout Tolkien's works, is a pattern which could be used to explain who Tom Bombadil and Goldberry were."

Thank you, Bear, for clearing that up for me. I know it shouldn't matter in "real life", but I can't help but want to defend the few females in Lord of the Rings. I read somewhere, a long time ago, that Tolkien was very fond of his female characters and wished they could have had a greater role in the stories.

But, since this is a forum about Tom, back to him. I think that looking at him through modern eyes, it is hard for me to picture him as the masculine archetype. Yes, he is kind, wise, and many good things, yet I always think of him more like a Santa Claus or kind uncle than super masculine. Especially when compared to the other male figures in the stories. Perhaps he is more "masculiine" in the stories of his adventures. It's been a very long time since I read them.



-- Edited by Laurelin on Monday 1st of October 2012 01:08:50 AM

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Laurelin,

The most common masculine archetypes are King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. There are aspects of all these in Tolkien's portrayal of Tom.
If we consider his battles with Old Man Willow and the Barrow-Wights, his absolute rule of his small territory, how his magical singing is a weapon, and his respect and love for Goldberry we can see he is an archetypal treasure trove; King,Warrior, Magician, Lover.
In The Lord of The Rings Tolkien adds the archetype as "Husband." And even that is not clearly spelled out.  We must have Goldberry as our compass to discover that archetype.

What is missing, and why you may not recognize these archetypal patterns is that in Lord of The Rings Tolkien only shows Tom in the "good" side of the archetype. There is no "shadow or bad side" of these archetypes about Tom.
But as we look through the other characters we find plenty of archetypes of the "shadow" ilk.


I think that you are right about the earlier poems ... they do reveal much more about Tom. But even those are slack in being about Tom ... only two of those poems in the entire series is about Tom.

 

We are not left with much solid information to answer our questions about what he is ...

Bottom line is "Tom Bombadil" is a "Tom Bombadil"!



-- Edited by Bear on Monday 1st of October 2012 03:59:53 AM

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Bear had stated earlier in this thread that Tom Bombadil was probably a device within the story and I agree.  That sparked an Idea:

      Perhaps Tolkien's original plan for Tom as a character had to be 'down played'.

      If Tom Bombadil was just as powerful outside his area, how much trouble would the Ring Bearer's task be? How many of the designs of the Enemy would have been subverted, or the trials of the Fellowship been avoided entirely if Tom where to come forth to challenge Sauron alongside the Fellowship?

      I think Tolkien realized that if he didn't limit Tom Bombadil, the Hero's tale would not be Frodo's (a small and rather insignificant creature in a world of terrible power and enemies) and more of a mystical 'quarterback sneak'. Frodo being the quarterback and Gandalf and Bombadil being the lead blockers!

     Or would the combo of Tom and Gandalf ruin all chances for secrecy?

      What's more? I feel Tolkien wanted the world of Middle Earth to feel bereft of power for the forces of good: No king to lead Gondor, A weakened king in Rohan, Elves departing, lesser men in places of power, The head of the White Council; a 'turncoat' (literally I suppose), the heir of the throne of Gondor; disenfranchised, etc... I'm sure you guys can name more.

He had to keep Tom out of it.    Idunno...



-- Edited by Jaidoprism7 on Tuesday 2nd of October 2012 04:13:17 AM

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What you're saying Jado, makes sense to me. All the good forces are bound in some way or another so that the little people have their chance at big deeds.

And Bear, I realized one of the reasons that it was hard for me to take Tom more seriously was something one of the elves said during Elrond's council. I don't remember which one said it (and I'm too lazy to walk and find my book) but it was about how Tom, if given the ring, would not realize it's significance, forget about it or lose it. It's hard for me to understand how someone so powerful and wise could be so flippant towards something that important. Obviously he understood what the ring was about, and about evil matters. Elsewise I would have thought him just naive. Truthfully, a part of me wants to shake Tom everytime I read that chapter and when he's mentioned at the council.

As you say, Tom is Tom.



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Laurelin,
    You do have a point.
    Why doesn't Tom hide the Ring  ... or search for a way to destroy?
    Part of the answer maybe where Tom examines the Ring and  when Frodo does try on the Ring and tries to sneak away ......
    
    "Show me the precious Ring!' he said suddenly in the midst of the story: and Frodo, to his own astonishment, drew out the chain from his pocket, and unfastening the Ring handed it at once to Tom.
    It seemed to grow larger as it lay for a moment on his big brown-skinned hand. Then suddenly he put it to his eye and laughed. For a second the hobbits had a vision, both comical and alarming, of his bright blue eye gleaming through a circle of gold. Then Tom put the Ring round the end of his little finger and held it up to the candlelight. For a moment the hobbits noticed nothing strange about this. Then they gasped. ...   There was no sign of Tom disappearing!
    Tom laughed again, and then he spun the Ring in the air - and it vanished with a flash. Frodo gave a cry - and Tom leaned forward and handed it back to him with a smile.
    Frodo looked at it closely, and rather suspiciously (like one who has lent a trinket to a juggler). It was the same Ring, or looked the same and weighed the same: for that Ring had always seemed to Frodo to weigh strangely heavy in the hand. But something prompted him to make sure. He was perhaps a trifle annoyed with Tom for seeming to make so light of what even Gandalf thought so perilously important. He waited for an opportunity, when the talk was going again, and Tom was telling an absurd story about badgers and their queer ways - then he slipped the Ring on.
    Merry turned towards him to say something and gave a start, and checked an exclamation. Frodo was delighted (in a way): it was his own ring all right, for Merry was staring blankly at his chair, and obviously could not see him. He got up and crept quietly away from the fireside towards the outer door.
   'Hey there!' cried Tom, glancing towards him with a most seeing look in his shining eyes. 'Hey! Come Frodo, there! Where be you a-going? Old Tom Bombadil's not as blind as that yet. Take off your golden ring! Your hand's more fair without it. Come back! Leave your game and sit down beside me! We must talk a while more, and think about the morning. Tom must teach the right road, and keep your feet from wandering."(The Lord Of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter VII ~ "In the House of Tom Bombadil", pg 132-133)

    Tom doesn't have power over the Ring but rather the Ring doesn't have power over Tom.
        But it seems Tom has a bond with the earth and what grows on or in it, or has grown, as well as what plant and animal lives or has lived.  Goldberry the same with waters of stream and rain.

    "Fair lady!' said Frodo again after a while. 'Tell me, if my asking does not seem foolish, who is Tom Bombadil?'
    'He is,' said Goldberry, staying her swift movements and smiling.
    Frodo looked at her questioningly.
    'He is, as you have seen him,' she said in answer to his look.
    'He is the Master of wood, water, and hill.'

    'Then all this strange land belongs to him?'
    'No indeed!' she answered, and her smile faded. 'That would indeed be a burden,' she added in a low voice, as if to herself. 'The trees and the grasses and all things growing or living in the land belong each to themselves. Tom Bombadil is the Master. No one has ever caught old Tom walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hill-tops under light and shadow. He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master."
(The Lord Of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter VII ~"In the House of Tom Bombadil", pg 124)


    Frodo asks; '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 Barrow-wights. 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." (The Lord Of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter VII ~"In the House of Tom Bombadil", pg 131)

    So The Ring and Sauron are just a small passing evil in a history of many passing evils.
    

    It also seems that Tom sticks close to his own borders too.  He ignores most of what goes on outside.  He doesn't go out his way for good or evil.  So a messenger from the council might not even be acknowledged.
    Even the hobbits would have been ignored in their struggle with Old Forest and Barrow Downs.
     For instance when the hobbits are ensnared by Old Man Willow and Tom comes to their rescue he tells the hobbits that they are lucky that he was gathering water-lilies for his Lady Goldberry or he wouldn't have been that way until the following spring.

    "Tom stirred like a man shaken out of a pleasant dream. 'Eh, what?' said he. 'Did I hear you calling? Nay, I did not hear: I was busy singing. Just chance brought me then, if chance you call it. It was no plan of mine, though I was waiting for you. We heard news of you, and learned that you were wandering. We guessed you'd come ere long down to the water: all paths lead that way, down to Withywindle. Old grey Willow-man, he's a mighty singer; and it's hard for little folk to escape his cunning mazes. But Tom had an errand there, that he dared not hinder.' Tom nodded as if sleep was taking him again; but he went on in a soft singing voice:
        I had an errand there: gathering water-lilies,
        green leaves and lilies white to please my pretty lady,
        the last ere the year's end to keep them from the winter,
        to flower by her pretty feet tilt the snows are melted.
        Each year at summer's end I go to find them for her,
        in a wide pool, deep and clear, far down Withywindle;
        there they open first in spring and there they linger latest.
        By that pool long ago I found the River-daughter,
        fair young Goldberry sitting in the rushes.
        Sweet was her singing then, and her heart was beating!
He opened his eyes and looked at them with a sudden glint of blue:
        And that proved well for you - for now I shall no longer
        go down deep again along the forest-water,
        not while the year is old. Nor shall I be passing
        Old Man Willow's house this side of spring-time,
        not till the merry spring, when the River-daughter
        dances down the withy-path to bathe in the water."
(The Lord Of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter VII ~ "In the House of Tom Bombadil", pg 126)

    I think the who and what of Tom Bombadil is one of those enigmas that will go on and on ... Tolkien just flat out didn't give us as much of Tom Bombadil as we wanted ...
Tolkien kept him out of the picture ... I think making way for other characters as caretakers.
    
    One last question ... why didn't they try and stop and see Tom and Goldberry on the hobbits way home?






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I thought Gandalf had left the returning Hobbits to visit Tom on their journey home. Not sure, but once again this site proves: No question is out of the question, and no thread is too stagnant to stir up!

Bear. Laurelin. You have given me much to consider about this topic. I think its time for me to delve into The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and the words concerning him in Lord of the Rings.

Not to decipher his purpose, but to trace his wanderings if I may find them.

Cheers!

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Jaidoprism7,

Sounds good to me!



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Nice discussion everyone. I want to throw one more provocative thought into the mix. This came from a friend of mine ages ago when we were discussing Tom. His thought was that Tom was none other than Iluvatar. Apart from the sheer bombastic audacity of such an idea, I cannot think of any supporting evidence for this, apart from the lack of ability to fit him in anywhere else. In some ways it makes perfect sense, his story of being the first in the world, for example, but in other ways it makes no sense. Any thoughts?

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Gil~Celeb,
    I have heard the opinion of Tom Bombadil as divine, even as an incarnation of Eru or Ilúvatar.
    Certainly it is worth exploring.  
    Unfortunately Tolkien himself speaks against it.

        
    Was Tom Ilúvatar Himself?
    Tom's powers are apparently limitless, at least within his own domain, and this has led a lot of people of suggest that he might be none other than Eru Ilúvatar himself. There are certainly several hints in the text of The Lord of the Rings that this might be the case; he is called 'Master', and 'Eldest', and Goldberry says of him simply: "He is." (The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of The Ring, Book One, Chapter VII, "In the House of Tom Bombadil", pg 124)
    In terms of medieval philosophy this would mean that existence is a predicate of Tom Bombadil and that he is therefore God.
    Although Tolkien denies this implication in a letter, written in 1954 (Letters, pp. 191-92), saying that Goldberry, like Tom later, is only making a point about the nature of naming, I remain haunted by the remark. Just as the reference to Odin does not necessarily mean that we must conclude that Tom is Odin, the allusion to medieval philosophical terminology in describing him need not be interpreted as a Christian theological crisis. While Tolkien's denial clearly rules out the possibility that Tom is Iluvatar, I do not see that it eliminates the possibility that he is an offspring of Iluvatar's thought, a Vala or a Maia, for I see nothing theologically troublesome with existence being a predicate of part of God."
      "Moreover, Tolkien draws some literary connections with regard to Tom that help support his divine status ... Tolkien makes reference in "Bombadil Goes Boating" to a story in the Elder Edda about Odin, one of the most powerful Norse gods, thereby associating Tom with him ..."
(Hargrove, Gene ~ "Who Is Tom Bombadil", http://www.cas.unt.edu/~hargrove/bombadil.html)
    All of these points might suggest that Tom and Ilúvatar were in some sense the same being. In fact, though, this is one of the very few theories about Tom that we can bring to a definite conclusion. This point is touched on several times in Tolkien's letters, and each time he makes it clear that Tom and Eru should not be confused. Perhaps his most definite statement is this:
    'There is no embodiment of the One, of God, who indeed remains remote, outside the World, and only directly accessible to the Valar or Rulers.'(The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien No 181, dated 1956)
If there is no embodiment of the One (that is, Eru), then Tom cannot of course be such an embodiment.
(Encyclopedia of Arda, Tom Bombadil, http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/t/tombombadil.html)


These are just a couple of opinions out of many.
Still hard for me to swallow his identity as "He is."



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Haldir of Lorien - Rank 6
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Date: Oct 9, 2012

I have a random question that never occurred to me before...

The blue jewel (I think a brooch) that Tom took out of the Barrow Wight's pile of treasure belonged to someone out of the past, but no name is given. Are we supposed to know who it was? I've always taken it as Luthien, but just recently thought that perhaps that was wrong. Was there some significance to this particular piece?

Anyone know?



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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Date: Oct 9, 2012

Laurelin,
This is one of those mysteries that many Tolkien fans have speculated and researched.
I give you here three different excerpts from some of the best sites where this discussion occurs.
My suggestion is that, rather than settle for this blurb of a few sentences, you go to the sites listed and read they whole discussion ... you will see there is wide speculation ... but a sincere quest for who the lady of this brooch was ...


"He chose for himself from the pile a brooch set with blue stones, many-shaded like flax-flowers or the wings of blue butterflies. He looked long at it, as if stirred by some memory, shaking his head, and saying at last: 'Here is a pretty toy for Tom and his lady! Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!" (The Lord of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring , Book One, Chapter VIII ~ "Fog on the Barrow-downs", pg 140)   

    "One of the ways in which the Professor showed his mastery in storytelling was the way he mentioned things in passing and then left them for us to imagine. There are so many of these! One of my deepest longings regards the lady mentioned by Tom Bombadil when he spreads out the jewels and treasures from the barrow for 'birds, beasts, Elves or Men' to take and scatter, so the spell of the barrow-wrights will be broken forever. Tom picks out this one brooch, "set with blue stones, many-shaded like flax-flowers or the wings of blue butterflies." Tom seems to remember her from long ago, wearing the brooch on her shoulder, very fair. Also a friend to Goldberry. There is not enough history of Arnor to satisfy me, that's for sure. So if anyone has any info on this topic, I would so very much appreciate sharing it. Or just passionate speculation would be fun, too."

"The Barrow Downs are the tombs of the great Numenorean Kings of Arnor During the very ancient days at the end of the Second Age. I'm guessing that the broach belonged to either the wife of an ancient king who was burries along side her husband or lord. She could even have been the wife of one one of the Nazgul of course before the wraithing process and the possession of their soul by foul Sauron."

"I cannot find anything specific about this brooch, but the way it 'stirred some memory' in Tom and the way he describes the lady as 'long ago' implies it was a long time ago, even by the reckoning of Tom and Goldberry - both of whom had been in Middle Earth pretty much from the beginning. My gut feeling is that the brooch once belonged to Melian or Luthien. It may then have been passed down Elros's line in Numenore and then returned to Middle Earth with the Faithful. The brooch may then have been buried with some Dunedain lord or lady. I just feel the way Tom wants to keep the brooch to remind him of someone, it was someone greater than a Dunedain lady. I think it is the original owner he wishes to remember."
( Thanks to Marghanna,Brego,Valedhelgwath, at Planet Tolkien ~ http://www.planet-tolkien.com/board/5/4764/0/who-was-the-blue-brooch-lady?-)

 

Or try this one ...

    "Together, the Barrow-downs and the Old Forest formed a spur or pocket in the northern borders of Cardolan, creating a small but defensible region apart from the main land. It was here the last Dúnedain of Cardolan settled after the fall of their kingdom. That same area coincides almost exactly with the land under the power of Tom Bombadil at the end of the Third Age.
It seems that Tom was not only present during the chaos surrounding Cardolan's fall, but he knew at least some of its people. After discovering a blue-jeweled brooch from the tomb of the last prince of Cardolan, Tom says: "Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!" (The Lord of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring , Book One, Chapter VIII ~ "Fog on the Barrow-downs", pg 140)
    He seems to be moved by a recollection of the brooch's wearer, to the extent that he seeks to preserve her memory. That suggests that Tom not only knew the people of Cardolan, but was on friendly terms with them." (Thanks to The Encyclopedia of Arda ~ http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/c/cardolan.html)


And lastly I believe we must seek out what the Barrows really are.  In this way we can narrow down the possible owners of this  "brooch set with blue stones, many-shaded like flax-flowers or the wings of blue butterflies."

     "About the "Downs" east of the Old Forest in Eriador. They were known as the Barrow-downs because of the barrows, or burial mounds, that had been made there.
The first burial mounds on the Barrow-downs were said to have been built in the First Age by the forefathers of the Edain before they migrated to Beleriand. In the Third Age, the Dunedain, who revered the downs as a resting place of their ancestors, buried many of their lords and kings there. When the northern realm of Cardolan was defeated by the forces of Angmar in 1409, some of the Dunedain took refuge in the Barrow-downs and in the Old Forest beyond. Some of their slain, including the last prince of Cardolan, were buried in mounds on the downs.
When the Great Plague swept north in 1636, many of the people of Cardolan perished and the Barrow-downs were abandoned. The Witch-king then sent evil spirits from Angmar and Rhudaur to the Barrow-downs to enter the barrows. These evil spirits were known as Barrow-wights. The Barrow-downs became a place of fear and even Hobbits had heard of their sinister reputation." (Thanks to The Thain's Book, Hills and Downs, Barrow-downs, http://thainsbook.net/hills.html)


I think, after reviewing the sites and threads listed here, that there is a larger history and depth of information about "Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder" and that there is so much more to research and uncover.


(PS: I also suggest you "bookmark" these three sites.  They are wonderful resources about things "Tolkien".)



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Tom Bombadil
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Date: Oct 10, 2012
Wow, I missed a lot, and I don't have the time to catch up. I am really impressed!

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Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
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Haldir of Lorien - Rank 6
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Date: Oct 10, 2012
Thanks, Bear!

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Tom Bombadil
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Date: Nov 5, 2012
Old Tom is little me, he too is an enigma

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Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
Tom Bom, Jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!

Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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Posts: 35
Date: Mar 10, 2014

Just for fun, I want to run through some possible previous owner of the Broach that Tom gave to Goldberry:

- Aredhel Ar-Feiniel - Turgon's sister, she had wandered outside the gates of Gondolin and finally found and married Eol. She could have encountered Tom & Goldberry in her wanderings. She returned to, and eventually was slain in Gondolin. Since Gondolin was sacked by Morgoth's army and its treasures spread thoughtout the lands, her broach could have ended up anywhere. Please referance Gandalf's and Thorin's (and Bilbo's) swords being from Gondolin, found in Eriador, thousands of years later.

- Melian - The Maia lived in Doriath/Menegroth until the Dwarves slew Thingol, at which time she forsook Middle-Earth and returned to Valinor. Menegroth was sacked by the Dwarves and it's treasure scattered to the winds. I dont think it would be out of the question to think that Tom/Goldberry knew Melian.

- Morwen - In her youth she was indeed beautiful and before the occupation of Belariand would have had a few treasures. These would have been taken by the Easterlings that Morgoth allowed to rule and plunder the Edain. Could have been moved into Eriador over the years between her fall and the War of Wrath that sunk Beleriand below the waves.

- Lúthien Tinúviel - She spent time wandering her father's kingdom. Went on increadible adventures. see above for ways her jewelry could have been dispersed. very good possiblity that Tom/Goldberry visited with Melian (?Thingol?).  They also could have visited Beren & Luthien in Tol Galen before they passed into the West.

- Finduilas - after Nargothrond was sacked by orcs and Glaurung, she was taken by orcs and slain as she called for Turin. I am sure that after Glaurung was slain, Nargothrond was looted by Easterlings and others.


- OR! It could have just been one of the queens, princesses, or great ladies of the Edain after the Numenoreans came to their new found lands in Middle-Earth




-- Edited by azaghal on Monday 10th of March 2014 05:46:04 AM



-- Edited by azaghal on Tuesday 11th of March 2014 02:06:00 PM

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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azaghal,

I like these speculations.
Each name suggested seems to trigger another chapter of its own ... and, for me, the encounter would be one of Tom having some form of interaction (or at least some observation) ... and that leaves me with a thought of the nature of Tom himself ...Valar perhaps ...High ranking Maia ...

Very interesting post! Well done!



-- Edited by Bear on Tuesday 11th of March 2014 05:26:44 AM

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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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Date: Mar 11, 2014
Bear, Thank you VERY much for your feedback! I am kinda leaning towards Melian myself.



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King Azaghal was I, Lord of Belegost.

Fought the father of dragons at great cost,

During the Battle of Unnumbered Tears,

Nearly killed the Great Worm of our fears,

I Stabbed my knife into Dread Glaurung,

Could be worse, I could be dragon dung.

 

Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
Status: Offline
Posts: 383
Date: Mar 11, 2014
I was wondering how Tom Bombadil was able to tell that the lady that wore the brooch was fair. Does that necessarily mean he has previously seen her, or is it something the brooch 'tells' him, much like the stones of Hollin 'spoke' to Legolas (and conceivably Gandalf) about the Elves that worked with them long ago. The phrase 'and we will not forget her' is interesting. Sounds like he is talking about someone he has not necessarily known in the past, but just came to know about; otherwise he already remembers her anyway. Although 'looked long at it, as if stirred by some memory' may point out he knew her but indeed forgot, and didn't want to forget her again (forgetting Luthien or Melian would be remarkable). Or simply has seen a thing like this brooch before...

Although this is just a short episode in the published version, in the draft it is 'we shall not forget them, the vanished folk, the old kings, the children, and the maidens, and all those who walked the earth when the world was young'. If the mysterious lady to whom the brooch belonged was still thought to be of that 'vanished folk' in the final version, the reference to children might indicate that she was human, as there seems to have been much fewer Elven children.

Sure enough, there can be multiple other interpretations. I just wouldn't think it was Aredhel's, the color (blue of many shades) seems not to fit well with her favorite white and silver - just an opinion.

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Lórellinë

Guard of Armenelos - Rank 4
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Date: Jul 20, 2014

#1- About Tom Bombadil:

In Question #1, I state that Tom's name was given to him by the Bucklanders: This comes from a passage in the Preface in The Tolkien Reader which states: Nos 1 and 2 (which are the poems The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Tom goes Boating), evidently come from Buckland. They show more knowledge of that country, and of the Dingle, the wooded valley of the Withywindle, than any Hobbits west of the Marish were likely to possess. They also show that the Bucklanders knew Bombadil,..." Here a foot note (#4) states: "Indeed they probably gave him this name )it is Bucklanish in form) to add to his many older ones." Then the Preface continues thus: "though, no doubt, they had as little understanding of his powers as the Shire-folk had of Gandalf's; both were regarded as benevolent persons, mysterious maybe and unpredictable, but nonetheless comic.



-- Edited by Jaidoprism7 on Sunday 20th of July 2014 12:47:14 AM



-- Edited by Jaidoprism7 on Thursday 24th of July 2014 12:45:09 AM

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