Lord of the Rings : Book 1, Chapter 7
In the House of Tom Bombadil 
A Discussion Led by Aelric

This page is ADAPTED by squire from the 'TheOneRing.net Lord of the Rings Reading Group Archives'. The first TORn discussion of The Lord of the Rings was preserved by Lasselanta in Nov. 2001 and is currently stored on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (as of 2015). Changes made were: rearranging threads in first to last order, tightening the layout with fewer line spaces, and adding bookmarks for quicker reference from squire's Reading Room Discussion Archive site.

Discussion Group Home

Return to Book I Discussion Index

  • Chapter 7 1. Discussion: Postponed until tomorrow  : ( - Aelric 
    Sorry guys, today is shaping up to be a horrendously busy one.  I have the questions written out, I just don't think I'm going to be able to post them today.  So to eliminate confusion, I will begin the discussion tomorrow (Tuesday May 2nd).

    My humble apologies to you all!  We can blame it on the two guys that called in sick and stuck me with their duties as well as my own....grrrrrrrrrr!! 
     

    • We will await your convenience, oh steward!  Be well! - Patty

    • Think we have to accept this. - Lorgalis

Return to Book I Discussion Index

  • Chapter 7 2. Discussion:  Who the %&*$(% is Tom Bombadil?! - Aelric 
    "Fair lady!" said Frodo again after awhile.  "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 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."

                             -------------------------

    OK!  Here we go!  I know, I know, the age-old question that we have all discussed before.  Fortunately, we have some new folks around that may not have been afforded the same chance as some of us "older" folks.  So let's hear it!  Who the heck IS this guy?  Is he Eru?  One of the Valar?  A Maiar?  Is he an anomolous character of Tolkien's?  Gandalf, Elrond and others at the Council speak of him with high honor, Aragorn knows of him, and it would seem that even Farmer Maggot speaks to him on accassion.  So who is this guy that acts so silly but is all powerful, at least within his own land?  

    Any help with references is welcome, so I'm going to start a reference thread and a discussion thread.  I don't currently own a copy of Tolkien's Letter's and my Book of Lost Tales is packed away somewhere, so all I have is the LotR text.  So post any and all supporting references and let's try to hammer this out... 
     

    • What does Tom look like? - Blue Wizard 
      We have a pretty good description of his clothing, and his brown beard, and his blue eyes, and ruddy complexion, but also of his approximate size, ie. bigger than a Hobbit - taller, not necessarily stouter, but not as large as one of the big people. Somewhere, and I can't remember where, I read that Tom is supposed to be something like 4 feet tall and 3 feet broad. Which is quite a stout fellow, and quite a sight to be dancing and capering about in his boots! (Of course, the implication here is that the typical Hobbit, who is quite a bit shorter, and NO STOUTER - is more or less round (just like Carcaroth's Bounce a Baggins Game, I guess).

      Somehow, I always pictured Tom as being thinner. Maybe that's because I always associated Tom with the Jethro Tull tune "Songs from the Wood" and figured he looked (and acted) like Ian Andersen. For those of you too young to have any idea what I'm talking about, Ian Andersen was a true anomoly in rock music - a front man/vocalist who played the flute. He would frequently play the flute while standing on one foot, hopping about like a madman. Reminded me of Tom in so many ways. 
       

      • Tom's vital statistics - Kimi 
        Here's a thought: if we take "broad" to mean his circumference instead of his diameter, we get someone who's plump rather than of cartoon dimensions. 36" round the waist would put him just within the safe guidelines for heart disease. All that unhealthy food, eh? 
         

      • Whoa!  I'm thinking Cartman! - GaladrielTX 
        Respect mah authoritah!

        My image of Bombadil has always matched a (Hildebrant?) illustration from one of the old calendars.  Stocky, but not excessively fat, carrying a water lily on a lily pad over his head, waiter-style.
         

        • I am not fat! I'm big boned! - Blue Wizard 
          Whoa Dude, the bone in your a** must be HUGE! 
           

      • Doesn't sound plausible. - Eledhwen 
        He'd be practically a cube. Perhaps someone measured wrong? 
         

      • "Somewhere, and I can't remember where" - Kimi 
        In my message below?

        "Among other stories begun but soon abandoned was the tale of Tom Bombadil, which is set in 'the days of King Bonhedig' and describes a character who is clearly to be the hero of the tale: 'Tom Bombadil was the name of one of the oldest inhabitants of the kingdom; but he was a hale and hearty fellow. Four foot high in his boots he was, and three feet broad. He wore a tall hat with a blue feather, his jacket was blue, and his boots were yellow.' "

        We also know that "his face was red as a ripe apple, but creased into a hundred wrinkles of laughter." (The Old Forest), and he has "deep brows" (In the House of Tom Bombadil) 
         

        • Dohhhh! - Blue Wizard

          • Tee hee! - Kimi 
            Blue, a new piece of foolishness for your collection: the Leader of the Opposition, having lost the last election, wants to re-brand her party. The description she's come up with:

            Radical Conservatives.

            I am not making this up. She is not joking. 
             

    • Quick random thought..I think that Tom is to LOTR what Bilbo's song in the Hall of Fire is to Rivendell--"seems to fit somehow" (to paraphrase Frodo) - EowynII

    • Bombadil thoughts - Kimi 
      Your "Reference" and "Discussion" threads have been abandoned, Aelric! This is a mixture of both, anyway.

      Bombadil is not Eru. A correspondent asked that, and Tolkien said quite firmly that that was not the case. I haven't got "Letters" with me today, so can't quote exactly, but he left no doubt on that point.

      Other than that, I agree with those who have described him as an anomalous character, left over from Tolkien's earlier writing. He's fun, but he doesn't fit into the Middle-earth cosmology very well. Tolkien had the character pre-written, and used him here (�I put him in because I had already �invented� him [�] and wanted an �adventure� on the way.�, as I quoted below).
       

    • 2 ways of looking at this - Hengist 
      one is what is he in the story what did tolkien mean him to be - lets look at all the forgotten scripts that jrrt wrote

      or what does he mean to the reader - what image does he conjure up
      So im now going to ramble on my thoughts which seem to tally with some others here, at least in part.

      Tom to me is nature, he is the world (already pointed out) His concerns are with the world and the inhabitants of the world, which is why the ring has no power of him and he has no power of it.
      He deals with the world and things/ people of the world. By the world i mean middle earth of course. I sense that there are 2 types of beings in ME those of ME and those not. In this case the elves are not of ME, theyre tied to other realms and are otherwordly. The hobbits are in contrast tied to ME and are very close to the earth and nature. This is why they feel such awe for tom and goldberry. In a similar way the ents are also "deep rooted" in ME and again i believe this is why the hobbits seem to be able to get on so well with ents.  
      there is a hypothesis called the gaia principle which i believe reasons that our earth is like a living organsim with everything on it part of the "body" of the organism and that if one bit goes wrong it all goes wrong. I like to think of tom as the embodiment of that principle in ME.

      What i like about tom is that as far as i know jrrt never said what he was so no one can ever say this is the true tom. That way im free to chose how i see tom knowing im just as right as anyone. 
      Isnt that the test of great literature - that no matter how it is analysed or revised or copied the original can still inspire the magic of ones imagination.

      personaly i dont want to know who or what tom is - that ould spoil the fun! 
       

    • Who is Tom Bombadil? - Blue Wizard 
      Tom is the Green Man, Jack in the Wood, Puck, Robin Goodfellow, and known in many cultures, and by many names.

      Goldberry is a Naiad, perhaps Nomia or Aegle, Melite or Lilaea (I vote for Lilaea, only because of the repeated references to water lilies)

      Now, if you want to know how they fit into Tolkien's cosmology...your guess is as good as mine.  But, the real key is the passage in The Council of Elrond, in which it is said that Tom is know by many names and by many peoples. 
       

      • About Puck - GaladrielTX 
        I can't quite reconcile Puck with the character of Bombadil.  Perhaps I am not as familiar with the figure of Puck et al. as you are, having only read of him in A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Yet, as Shakespeare presents him, at least, he's a "knavish sprite" who plays pranks and is always meddling in people's affairs.  He is also subject to Oberon and Titania, whereas Bombadil is Master.  Do other legends portray Puck differently?
         

    • Tom is a square peg in a round hole. - Annael 
      I believe that Tom is a "cameo appearance" by a character Tolkien created apart from his "Middle-earth" work, but liked so much he wanted to plop him into the story. He probably did this in the early stages when the story was still just a sequel to "The Hobbit," before the "tale grew in the telling" and became the much darker tale rooted in the history and languages Tolkien had been developing for so long. When he rewrote the story backwards to make it all consistent, he couldn't take Tom out because it would mean redoing several chapters, and he couldn't come up with any explanation that fit into his invented world, so - he copped out. I don't think Tom can be made to fit; maybe that's what Goldberry was trying to tell us. 
       

      • Agreed! - Pteppic 
        Some additional info on Tolkien's motivation for keeping Tom in, though: In the first 1954-letter Kimi quoted (which btw was dated 25. april - my birthday, hehe! - and written for Mrs. Naomi Mitchison) He says:

        "I mean, I do not really write like that: he is just an invention[...], and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely."

        And, from Kimi's other 1954-letter(this letter was dated September for Peter Hastings):

        "But I kept him [TB] in, and as he was, because he represents certain things otherwise left out."

        My point is that Tolkien thought TB was important enough to keep. As he says in the letter for Naomi Mitchison:

        "I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function."

        Tom B is a character created outside of LotR. But I think he was a little more important than an initial mistake which was too much trouble to correct.

        It may seem like I'm coming on a little strong about this, I mean three quotations, just to prove my tiiiny point(!), but I don't really feel that strongly about it. I simply had to justify my spending 40 minutes on the subway reading through "Letters" looking for references. 
         

        • Ah, the writing process . . . - Annael 
          How's this: Tolkien may have stuck Tom in on a whim, but once Tom got in there, he took on additional importance and couldn't be deleted without leaving something essential out of the story.

          This is one of the mysteries of writing. Characters and other aspects show up and become far more than the writer intended. I don't know where these inspirations come from; I don't think any writer does. Tolkien was wise enough to allow this "guidance" full rein; I think this is one of the reasons why the book is as good as it is. 
           

      • This what I believe as well... - Aelric 
        Tom is an anomaly within ME.  Tolkien liked the character and placed him in LOTR for personal affection.  
         

      • Re: Cameo - Malbeth 
        If that's the case, JRRT would probably have gotten a kick out of reading this thread with all of our speculations ;) 
         

    • I lready expected you discussing alone... - Lorgalis 
      The question of "Who is Tom Bombadil?" is a really nice one. I can not remember having read anything about him in the Simarillion or the Unfinished Tales.

      Some people argue he could be Aule and Goldberry Yvanna. This argument could be supported by the following: 
      Aule of all the Vala most dearly loved all the Children of Iluvatar, that's why he made the Dwarves...
      The reason he was not affected by the ring was he was more powerful than Sauron but could not challenge him because his part in the affairs of Middle Earth were dictated by the Ainulindale. Much as Ulmo could only help Turgon and Tuor but could not actively oppose Morgoth because he had not sung that part in the Beginning... 
       

      • Re: Aule and Yavanna - Malbeth 
        I'm of two (or more) minds regarding whether T&G might be Valar (see post below), but Aule in particular doesn't seem to me to match up with Tom's personality. Aule was a smith, a maker of artificial things, where Tom is utterly natural. Also, Aule is proactive; he couldn't standa waiting for the Children of Iluvatar and thus created the dwarves, while Tom is more patient. Finally, I would think that Aule as Tom would be fascinated by the ring. Rings of power trace back to Celebrimbor, pupil of Feanor, pupil of Aule.

        Just my opinion, any thoughts? 
         

        • True, - GaladrielTX 
          and Goldberry doesn't seem much like Yavanna.  Yavanna is deeply troubled by the hurts that Morgoth and his servants inflicted on the living things of Arda.  Goldberry seems much too carefree to be the same entity.  (Although I did notice on this read that both she and Yavanna wear green dresses.  Coincidence?  Hmm.)
           

          • Posting on the wrong thread again! - GaladrielTX 
            I should have posted this above with all the *@@&()%%@# Goldberry stuff.
             

    • Discussion Thread - Aelric 
      Ok, debate away! 
       

      • One rather quirky idea that struck me: - Kimi 
        Tom says:

        "Eldest, that's what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees [....] He was here before the Kings and the graves and the barrow-wights."

        Apart from its relatively-obvious obvious meaning, is it just possible that there's a little joke here? Tom as a character was written before LOTR was begun. He could be called "Eldest" in that sense, too.

        I know that some of "The Silmarillion" was written earlier than "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil", but still...

        I have no idea if this is true or not, it's just a bit of fun. 
         

        • hehe neat idea - wandering

      • My jumbled thoughts on Tom (and Lady Goldberry) - EowynII 
        I've never been sure what to think.  I've read in numerous places that Tolkien disliked allegory of any kind, so this leads me to think that Tom does not necessarily represent Eru, or even one of the Valar.  That being said, however, I will state that Goldberry's description of Tom does lead one to believe that he is an entity of the highest order...and if you think about it, isn't God really at one mysterious and familiar?  (This can apply to Goldberry too, per Frodo's reaction to her.)  Besides, Tolkien was a staunch Catholic, and I can't help but think that his faith may have somewhat pervaded his writing, even if he didn't want to admit it.  Still...after reading the Silmarillion, it seems odd that Eru would come to Middle Earth...and also that he would have a "spouse", being at once surrounded by Ainur but also lofty and solitary...so....still, Tom mentions "his making and his doing"...and...Elrond speaks of Tom reverently, but no as if he was Eru, or God, if you will....ACK. What am I saying?

        Okay...say if Tom is not Eru, but a Valar?  Which one, then?  His character doesn't fit or match with any of the Valar, at least how they are described in the Sil., and neither does Goldberry, really.  I'm not satisfied with saying Tom is Aule and Goldberry is Yavanna...but I cannot suggest alternatives.

        Are they Maiar?  Hmmmmm.  Not sure on this...remember that Gandalf was Maiar, and was worried about the effect the Ring might have on him if he possessed it...the Ring has no power over Tom.  Goldberry could possibly be, though...she has a "Melian-esque" vibe about her...

        What does it mean when it's said that Tom is "Eldest" and "First"?  He came before all things (except maybe the Ents) If he was not God/Eru, then we must assume that he was created by Eru at some point...but the Sil. is silent on this.  Where did Tom come from, then?

        Maybe we're just not meant to really know.

        I'm totally confused, darn it. 
         

      • What I think about Tom. - Eledhwen 
        I don't subscribe to the Maia view and I'm not at all sure about the Valar one. I'll have to think about that. When I brought this up in Barliman's, Gandalf there suggested that Tom is, quite simply, the Earth. He is of it, is it, what you like, but he is a separate being, with no relation except in shape to anyone else. This would explain why the Ring has no power over him - he is too great. If he were Maia or Valar, I think it would - remember Sauron is a Maia and the Ring has power over him, because he made it; and Morgoth was ensnared by love of power. The Ring affects everything but Tom. Therefore he must be greater, more primeval, and after all, the Earth, Arda itself, was there first. 
         

        • But later on, in the council of Elrond... - Patty 
          when he is mentioned I believe Elrond actually says something to the extent of..oh yeah, I forgot about him...I don't think, if he were all that powerful he would have been forgotten to be bidden to the council..at least Galadriel wasn't there because she was "forgotten".
           

          • True. - Eledhwen 
            But Elrond is thinking about people - Sauron, the Elves, the D�nedain, and so on. In times of crisis not many people remember the lands we live in, and certainly never separate from the peoples who live there. Tom worries about, and in my theory, IS nature, and he cares little for people. So it's natural that each party would forget the other. 
             

          • Yes, but Galadriel and the others of the White Council - GaladrielTX 
            took a more active interest in the affairs of ME, compared with Tom.  It doesn't seem likely that Tom would leave the Old Forest for the Council of Elrond.  That doesn't mean he wasn't more powerful than the greatest elves.
             

            • No, but my point is that Elrond had actually forgotten him.  It doesn't... - Patty 
              seem likely that he could be a power and that Elrond would have forgotten him. 
               

              • Yes, but - GaladrielTX 
                I suspect that, although powerful, Bombadil might have slipped Elrond's mind as an invitee simply because he'd never really been involved in the affairs of the wider world.  He's not one of the "usual suspects" that Elrond would naturally think of to call upon.

                Oh, who knows?  *shrugging*  It's all so vague!
                 

                • Usual suspects?   I like it !  :o)  !!  If only... - Patty 
                  the author of Casablanca had known when he wrote that how often it would be sooooo appropriate !!!!!
                   

      • "He is" and I am. - septembrist 
        I have always been struck by Goldberry's response to Frodo's question of Bombadil's identity.  It is exactly the same response that God gives to Moses' question - "I Am".  It is a statement of existence with no beginning or end, a statement of timelessness.  Thus, I am led to believe that Tom is Valar if not Eru himself who is master but does not possess. 
        I am afraid I cannot offer any supporting proof or references.  I only have my LOTR and my Sil is packed in a box somewhere. 
        I eagerly await everyone's comments.
         

      • How they "feel" to the hobbits... - Malbeth 
        Are they Valar, Maiar, or some other such 'holy' being? How would a Vala or a Maia seem to a hobbit? Here's how Frodo felt about Goldberry, and it probably would apply to Tom as well.

        "He stood as he had at times stood enchanted by fair elven-voices; but the spell that was now laid upon him was different: less keen and lofty was the delight, but deeper and nearer to mortal heart; marvelous and yet not strange."

        Wouldn't a Vala or a Maia seem more distant than an Elf, because he or she is a higher-level being? Maybe that's not true; Valar and Maiar are presumably similar in some way to Il�vatar, and both Elves and Men (and hobbits?) are equally the Children of Il�vatar. Certainly Gandalf, especially Gandalf the Grey, didn't feel too "keen and lofty" to the hobbits. Help, I'm confusing myself! Anyone???
         

    • Reference Thread - Aelric 
      This is just so folks can go over some references that they may not have.  Save your is discussion for above.  : )  Please tell us where your reference comes from! 
       

      • My ideas, with a reference this time.... - Jester_rm 
        Don't usually use references, and this one is not "canon", but it coincides with my impressions.

        The Tolkien Bestiary (by David Day) under the listing for Maiar..

        "Many other good and stron spirits came to inhabit Middle-Earth.  These were perhaps Maiar, like Melian, yet from the histories this cannot be learned.  Chief of these, in the tales of Middle Earth, is he whom the Grey-elves named Iarwain Ben-adar, which means both "old" and "without father".  By Dwarves he was named Forn, by Men Orald, and by Hobbits he was called Tom Bombadil.  He was a very strange and merry spirit.  He was a short stout Man, with blue eyes, red face and brown beard.  He wore a blue coat, a tall battered hat with a blue feather, and great yellow boots.  Always singing or speaking in rhymes, he seemed a nonsensical and eccentric being, yet he was absolute master of the Old Forest of Eriador where he lived, and o evil within the World was strong enough to touch him within his realm.

        Other spirits, who may have been servants of the Vala Ulmo, also lived within the Old Forest.  One of these was the River-Woman of teh Withywindle, and another was her daughter Goldberry, who was Bombadil's spouse."

        This ties in with my impression that there were other spirits at the time of the Song of the Ainur other than the Valar and Maiar, which would have included both Tom Bombadil and Ungoliant (a creature of the "outer darkness") I think Tom was a spirit from "outside" the limits of Ea, who was called or came upon Middle Earth and decided to stay.  Since his origin was actually from beyond the specific creation that was Middle Earth, nothing created therin would have a hold or pull over him. 
         

      • Thanks for the info, Kimi - Malbeth 
        The "cameo appearance" theory is looking stronger and stronger. 
         

      • From "J.R.R. Tolkien: A biography": - Kimi 
        "Among other stories begun but soon abandoned was the tale of Tom Bombadil, which is set in 'the days of King Bonhedig' and describes a character who is clearly to be the hero of the tale: 'Tom Bombadil was the name of one of the oldest inhabitants of the kingdom; but he was a hale and hearty fellow. Four foot high in his boots he was, and three feet broad. He wore a tall hat with a blue feather, his jacket was blue, and his boots were yellow.'

        "Tom Bombadil was a well-known figure in the Tolkien family, for the character was based on a Dutch doll that belonged to Michael. The doll looked very splendid with the feather in its hat, but John did not like it and one day stuffed it down the lavatory. Tom was rescued, and survived to become the hero of a poem by the children's father, 'The Adventures of Tom Bombadil', which was published in the Oxford Magazine in 1934. [summary of poem follows: see Blue Wizard's post] By itself, the poem seems like a sketch for something longer, and when possible successors to The Hobbit were being discussed in 1937 Tolkien suggested to his publishers that he might expand it into a more substantial tale, explaining that Tom Bombadil was intended to represent 'the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside'. This idea was not taken up by the publishers, but Tom and his adventures subsequently found their way into The Lord of the Rings."

         

      • A few references from "Letters": - Kimi 
        (1937) �Tom Bombadil, the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside�

        (1954) �Tom Bombadil is one [enigma] intentionally.� �Tom Bombadil is not an important person � to the narrative.� My paraphrase of the next section here: both sides, good and evil, want a measure of �control�. Tom has no desire whatever to control. He represents a pacifist view.

        (1954 � another letter) �I put him in because I had already �invented� him [�] and wanted an �adventure� on the way.� [Annael�s �cameo�!] �[he is] a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are �other� and wholly independent of the enquiring mind[�.]�

        And last but not least (from the same letter):

        �I don�t think Tom needs philosophizing about, and is not improved by it.�

        Not that that should stop our discussing him!

Return to Book I Discussion Index 

  • Chapter 7 3. Discussion:  Who the $%$^&* is Goldberry?! - Aelric 
    The Hobbits looked at her in wonder; and she looked at each of them and smiled.  "Fair lady Goldberry!" said Frodo at last, feeling his heart moved with a joy that he did not understand. He stodd as he had at times stood enchanted by fair elven-voices; but the spell that was now laid upon him was different: less keen and lofty was the delight, but deeper and nearer to mortal heart; marvellous and yet not strange.  "Fair lady Goldberry!" he said again. "Now the joy that was hidden in the songs we heard is made plain to me.

           O slender as a willow-wand! O clearer than clear water!
           O reed by living pool!  Fair River-daughter!
           O spring-time and summer-time, and spring again after!
           O wind on the waterfall, and the leaves laughter!

                       -------------------------------------------

    Again, who is this person?  There is even less to go on here than with Tom Bombadil.  She has a magical air, but she is no elf.  So who is she?  What the heck does "River-daughter" mean anyhow?  A daughter of Ulmo then?  Yavanna?  A Maiar?
    Just as before, I will set up a separate reference thread.  Any help is more than welcome!

    • The Mysterious Cameo of the Embodiment of Nature- - Robin Smallburrow 
      My speculation lies in three areas, all covered my members of this esteemed board. 

      That Tom and Goldberry are the physical manifestations of Nature in Middle Earth-Blue notes Puck, et al. Supported by his harmonious life in the Old Forest and Elronds hints at the Council.

      The idea of the Cameo as proposed by Annael. Kimi supports this by stating in Tolkiens letters that Tom was ready-made character whom he desired to use in a story.

      Malbeths idea of a Mystery, I feel has merit, only because of Tolkiens background in Catholicism.  This is not to say that Mysteries are wholly or originally Catholic-but given Tolkiens background I feel this does have some affect on his writing.  Tolkien alludes to many things, but ultimately concludes with-Tom and Goldberry are Tom and Goldberry, and that's that. 
       

    • There is a bit more information - Blue Wizard 
      about Goldberry in "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil", one of Tolkien's poems:

       

      Old Tom Bombadil was a merry fellow; 
      bright blue his jacket was and his boots were yellow, 
      green were his girdle and his breeches all of leather; 
      he wore in his tall hat a swan-wing feather. 
      He lived up under Hill, where the Withywindle 
      ran from a grassy well down into the dingle.

       

      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.

       

      Up woke Willow-man, begun upon his singing, 
      sang Tom fast asleep under branches swinging; 
      in a crack caught him tight: snick! it closed together, 
      trapped Tom Bombadil, coat and hat and feather.

       

      "Ha, Tom Bombadil! What be you a-thinking, 
      peeping inside my tree, watching me a-drinking 
      deep in my wooden house, tickling me with feather, 
      dipping wet down my face like a rainy weather?"

       

      "You let me out again, Old Man Willow! 
      I am stiff lying here; they're not sort of pillow, 
      your hard crooked roots. Drink your river-water! 
      Go back sleep again like the River-daughter!"


      Willow-man let him loose when he heard him speaking; 
      locked fast his wooden house, muttering and creaking, 
      whispering inside the tree. Out from willow-dingle
      Tom went walking on up the Withywindle.

      Under the forest-caves he sat a while a listening: 
      on the boughs piping birds were chirruping and whistling. 
      Butterflies about is head went quivering and winking, 
      until gray clouds came up, as the sun was sinking.

       

      Then Tom hurried on. Rain began to shiver, 
      round rings spattering in the running river; 
      a wind blew, shaken leaves chilly drops were dripping; 
      into a sheltering hole Old Tom went skipping.

       

      Out came Badger-brock with his snowy forehead 
      and his dark blinking eyes. In the hill he quarried 
      with his wife and many sons. By the coat they caught him, 
      pulled him inside their earth, down their tunnels brought him.

       

      Inside their secret house, there they sat a-mumbling: 
      "Ho, Tom Bombadil! Where have you come tumbling, 
      bursting in the front-door? Badger-folk have caught you. 
      You will never find it out, the way that we have brought you!"

       

      "Now, old Badger-brock, do you hear me talking? 
      You show me out at once! I must be a-walking. 
      Show me to your backdoor under briar-roses; 
      then clean grimy paws, wipe your earthy noses! 
      Go back to sleep again on your straw pillow, 
      like fair Goldberry and Old Man Willow!"

       

      Then all Badger-folk said: "We beg your pardon!" 
      They showed Tom out again to their thorny garden, 
      went back and hid themselves, a-shivering and a-shaking, 
      blocked up all their doors, earth together raking.

       

      Rain had passed. The sky was clear, and in the summer-gloaming 
      Old Tom Bombadil laughed as he came homing, 
      unlocked his door again, and opened up a shutter. 
      In the kitchen round the lamp moths began to flutter; 
      Tom through the window saw walking stars come winking, 
      and the new slender moon early westward sinking.

       

      Dark came under Hill. Tom, he lit a candle; 
      upstairs creaking went, turned the door-handle.

      "Hoo, Tom Bombadil! Look what night has brought you! 
      I'm here behind the door. Now at last I've caught you!

      You'd forgotten Barrow-wight dwelling in old mound 
      up there on hill-top with the ring of stones around. 
      He's got loose again. Under earth he'll take you. 
      Poor Tom Bombadil, pale and cold he'll make you!"

       

      "Go out! Shut the door, and never come back after! 
      Take away gleaming eyes, take your hollow laughter! 
      Go back to grassy mound, on your stony pillow 
      lay down your bony head, like Old Man Willow, 
      like young Goldberry, and Badger-folk in burrow! 
      Go back to buried gold and forgotten sorrow!"

       

      Out fled Barrow-wight through the window leaping, 
      through the yard, over the wall like a shadow sweeping, 
      up hill wailing went back to leaning stone-rings, 
      back under lonely mound, rattling his bone-rings.

       

      Old Tom Bombadil lay upon his pillow 
      sweeter that Goldberry, quieter than the Willow, 
      snugger that the Badger-folk or the Barrow-dwellers; 
      slept like a humming-top, snored like a bellows.

       

      He woke up in morning light, whistled like a starling, 
      sang, 'Come, derry-dol, merry-dol, my darling!' 
      He clapped on his battered hat, boots, and coat and feather; 
      opened the window wide to the sunny weather.

       

      Wise old Bombadil, he was wary fellow;
      bright blue his jacket was, and his boots were yellow.
      None ever caught old Tom upland or in dingle,
      walking the forest-paths, or by the Wythywindle,
      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 scattering,
      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 forgetmenots 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.

       

      lamps gleamed within his house, and white was the bedding;
      in the bright honey-moon Badger-folk came treading,
      danced down under Hill, and Old Man Willow
      tapped, tapped at window-pane, as they slept on the pillow,
      on the bank in the reeds River-woman sighing
      heard old Barrow-wight in his mound crying.

       

      Old Tom Bombadil heeded not the voices, 
      taps, knocks, dancing feet, all the nightly noises;
      slept till the sun arose, the sung like a starling;
      "Hey! Come derry-dol, merry-dol, my darling!"
      sitting on the door-step chopping sticks of willow,
      while fair Goldberry combed her tresses yellow.
       

      • Does anyone know..? - Aradan 
        ...if "The adventures of Tom Bombadil" were written before or after the Lord of the Rings? (Publishing date doesn't count, because the poems could have sat in a box under the professor's bed for years before being sent to the publisher.) My theory is that Bombadil and Goldberry belong to an earlier, more flippant, phase of the professor's writings and he simply didn't know how to incorporate them into his overall vision.
         

      • Well, who the $%$^&* is the River-woman? - Idril Celebrindal 
        If you're going to discuss Goldberry's origins, you also need to discuss her mother's.  Goldberry is clearly identified in LOTR and the Adventures of Tom Bombadil as the River-woman's daughter. 

        So who is the River-woman?  She sounds like a water spirit that has taken on physical form.  My guess is that she's one of the less powerful followers of Ulmo who, for reasons known only to herself, embodied herself as a woman and dwelt by the River Withywindle.  Goldberry is her child by an unknown father. (Perhaps one of the Dunedain?) 

        Of course, this is pure speculation that's backed up by the flimsiest of textevd.  Tolkien may have intended all three -- Tom Bombadil, the River-woman, and Goldberry -- to be mysteries. 
         

        • Mysteries - Malbeth 
          Idril, I've had the same thought today - that they are SUPPOSED to be mysteries; maybe even to Tolkien himself. One of the beauties of LOTR, especially pre-Silmarillion, were the many references to past events and people that the reader didn't really know much about. The fact that was such a deep history that the characters knew but we the readers didn't, somehow added something, at least for me.

          But to Tolkien, all this history was very real and intimately known. Perhaps he didn't want to explain Tom and Goldberry even to himself. I assume there's nothing substantive on the subject in his letters or other sources I haven't read (like HoME series), or one of our esteemed TORNadoes would have posted it already. 
           

          • There isn't. - Eledhwen 
            I don't think Tolkien knew himself what Tom and Goldberry were. 
             

      • But what does it tell us? - Lorgalis 
        In the end we see, they should not be Aule and Yvanna, because they have been living near the river and Old Man Willow far too long to be in Valinor all the time as well.
        What strikes me is the other part in this chapter, when it comes to Tom telling stories about old times. He was already there when the elves went westwards!

        I always thought of the two as being maia. But What then with the putting on of the ring? And Tom could also see Frodo though he put on the ring and turned invisible. That is something I do not remeber even Gandalf being able to.

        Still the question remains: Who are they? 
         

        • I'm of the "Maia" idea.... - Jester_rm 
          or another spirit similar to the Maia.  Maiar were of different strengths, as were the Valar...One may be more powerful than another.  If Tom was a Maia, his power may exceed that of the rings to corrupt him.  Although I believe that Gandalf says that he would put it aside and forget it....could that be the extent of the rings ability to influence him?  Not strong enough to corrupt, but strong enough to misdirect?

          As to hiding from Gandalf, I don't believe the situation was ever addressed.  For the majority of the story, Frodo and Gandalf are apart.  The only time spent together before the destruction of the Ring is from Rivendel to Moria, and Frodo does not use the ring during that period.  Also, I don't believe there is a case of Bilbo using the ring to "hide" from Gandalf, except after getting out of the goblin caves and sneaking past Balin into the camp, which could be just that he was not expected or noticed, not that he was invisible.  Hobbits were clever and able to hide themselves rather well, and walk quietly when necessary, invisible or not. 
           

          • Maia, I'm with you, Jester, and a lesser one at that.. - Patty 
            see my post below about his being "forgotten" by Elrond to be bid to the council.
              TB and wife have always been my least favorite of all Tolkien.  I don't mind enigmas, but if they are going to be so light-weight as to sing tra la lillie all day then they need to be fleshed out. 
             

    • Discussion Thread - Aelric 
      Go for it! 
       

      • I love Malbeth's comments below. - Kimi 
        I think Goldberry is a water nymph. Descriptions of her frequently use water imagery:

        "The sound of her footsteps was like a stream falling gently away..."

        "She held a candle, shielding its flame from the draught with her hand; and the light flowed through it, like sunlight through a white shell."

        "Her shoes were like fishes' mail."

        As I said for Tom, though, she doesn't fit all that neatly into Tolkien's cosmology. I see from the poem that Blue Wizard posted that Goldberry, like Tom, pre-dates LOTR.
         

      • Above all, they're natural. - Malbeth 
        Reading this chapter more analytically than before, I noticed something for the first time. Virtually every description of colors or sounds concerning Goldberry or Tom use comparisons with nature. For example:

        "...her gown was green, green as young reeds, shot with silver like beads of dew..."

        "...and as she ran her gown rustled softly, like the wind in the flowering borders of a river."

        There are many examples for Tom also. They are more natural than anyone or anything else in LOTR. I think that is the reason for Tom's 'power' over the ring; it's not a matter of power, but the fact that the ring is unnatural and therefore not even in the same realm as Tom.
         

        • Definitely. - Eledhwen 
          If anyone's had the time or patience to read the 'Faerie Realm of ME' that Rue and I wrote, then you'll see that we decided that Goldberry was effectively a 'faery'. Not of the same kind as our hero Isheen (he's a Brownie), but nevertheless of the faerie world and not of ours. Here's what Rue wrote when we were discussing this originally:

          "Goldberry, the River's Daughter...she is the Daughter of a Nym! Granted this would be a somewhat of a shinto/kami slant on Tolkien, yet he wrote of kami when he made Ents...so there. ;)"

          So there. By Nym Rue means a powerful spirit, of each element I believe, therefore 'Riverdaughter' = daughter of the Nym of the water, attracted therefore to water but not dependent on it. Naturally this theory is tangled up in what you believe Tolkien thought about 'faeries' or 'fairies', but I reckon he believed in them, there are enough poems and things relating to the subject, many relating also to Bombadil.

          Link to story below. 
           

    • Reference Thread - Aelric 
      Post any references here so that everyone can get a look at them.  Please state where the reference comes from!  Thanks! 

Return to Book I Discussion Index

  • Chapter 7 4. Discussion:  Dreams - Aelric 
    After traveling for only a week, the hobbits have endured hardships and have been hunted.  And seemingly by chance, they come across Bombadil and they are safe at least for a couple of days.  They are given food and rest, and afforded the chance at their last peaceful night's sleep until Rivendell.  Yet their dreams are disturbed by visions:  Pippin and Merry of one sort, Frodo of quite another and Sam the log.

    How do these different "visions" (or in Sam's case, "non-vision") help to futher define the characters, up to this point and also beyond this point?

    More specifically, how is the dream of Frodo's explained?  Pure premonition here or something else?  The Ring?

    • Dreams theory - Pteppic 
      I just had a thought(gasp!). The evil creatures around Tom and Goldberry's house (Old Man Willow, barrow wights and such) all seem to have power over sleep. Could it be that some malicious "beast" outside the house was influencing the dreams of the hobbits, drawing on their biggest fears? Merry and Pippin were obviously pretty shaken by their experience with Old Man Willow, and Frodo was very concerned about Gandalf's whereabouts, so that could account for their dreams. Sam was (if we go along with this theory) a tougher nut to crack. This could be because Sam wasn't that afraid of anything specific. As Blue says: "he now knows that he has some part to play, although he does not know what it is. And that is sufficient for Sam." Sure, there probably were aspects of the future that worried him, but those would be vague, due to their being in the future.

      I don't know, this might very well be a lot of toothless drivel, after all it's past midnight and I'm rather tired (worn out is more like it), so my brain isn't working properly. Deal with it as you may. 
       

    • Goldberry's warning . . . - Annael 
      not to heed noises, and that nothing could pass within the doors or windows, was interesting. Were folks who stayed at Bombadil's prone to scary dreams or visions, and if so, why? 
       

      • The house of Tom Bombadil... - Pteppic 
        ...is surrounded by danger. There're the barrow wights, the trees, and probably other things we never learn about. I'm with Blue on this one. I think Goldberry is simply assuring them that whatever lurks outside the walls can't reach them. 
         

      • Scary dreams - Malbeth 
        Tom could read the "dark and strange" thoughts of the trees, and probably the other living things, of the Old Forest. Maybe these thoughts affect the dreams of those sleeping nearby. Of course, it would be normal for Merry and Pippin to have nightmares about Old Man Willow, but Goldberry's warning seems to indicate something more. 
         

      • I think she understood... - Aradan 
        ...the trepdition that the hobbits must be feeling on what was their first ever trip outside the Shire. 
         

      • Hobbit nature! - Eledhwen 
        She knew they'd probably dream, and was merely reassuring that it was only dreams and nothing tangible could come in. 
         

      • I don't think she was referring to dreams necessarily - Blue Wizard 
        But rather, she knew that the trees and wights and other beings might approach the house in the night, but could not enter. Also, I think that she was speaking of the mysterious activities and duties which she and Tom must perform. Tom awoke before Goldberry to do something, probably connected with the change of seasons as the gathering of water lillies. And Goldberry herself is connected with the rain and dew - whether she causes it is something of a mystery. 
         

    • Dreams - Blue Wizard 
      Interesting contrast between the four hobbits and their dreams.

      Merry and Pippin are basically having nightmares about their encounter with Old Man Willow. In some ways it speaks to their immaturity and youth - their dreams are something like a child's nightmares.

      Frodo's dream is clearly Gandalf excaping from Orthanc, which actually occurred prior to the time the Hobbits set out from Hobbiton. Of course, we don't know this at the time we read this. To me, Frodo's dreams involve a certain ambiguity as to what is going on. It may be that people like Gandalf, and later Galadriel, who we find out have telepathic powers, are trying to communicate with him. Gandalf may be trying to send Frodo the message that he has escaped and is coming to his assistance. It may be that the power of the Ring is at work. Frodo is desperately anxious that Gandalf has still not appeared, his unexplained absence clearly worries the elves, and he unconsciously is using the power of the Ring to reveal where Gandalf is. The fact that the Ring would give Sauron the power to reveal the Three, one of which Gandalf is holding secretly, has this make some sense to me. And, it may be that some of both is at work here.

      Sam sleeping peacefully and uninterrupted by dreams is an interesting contrast. It speaks to me of Sam's relative simplicity and contentment, but also that, contrary to his attitude when he initially set out on this adventure, he has now "lost his dreams". He is no longer dreaming of a great adventure, but rather he now knows that he has some part to play, although he does not know what it is. And that is sufficient for Sam. 
       

      • Not so much simplicity... - MikeyMonty 
        but rather Sam's eminent practicality and steadfastness. Sam isn't going to lose sleep over long off ethereal dangers, he's going to take his rest where he can get it, that's the practical thing to do. He'll worry about those dangers when he comes to them; no need being anxious about them now.

        It also displays his steadiness that he doesn't let such things bother him, and his honesty in that he allows Goldberry and Bombadil to reassure him to such a degree.

        I like the idea that Frodo through his worry is subconciously using the power of the ring to determine Gandalf's whereabouts through the Elven ring. I never thought of that, that's a clever idea.

        MikeyMonty
         

      • "Almost exactly what I thought myself" (to quote Merry) - EowynII 
        I could try to elaborate, but it would probably be redundant.  
         

      • Interesting. - Eledhwen 
        I think you're probably right about Frodo trying to find Gandalf, and also about Gandalf and Galadriel attempting to contact Frodo, especially as at the end of ROTK the three Rings communicate telepathically. Frodo's dreams always seem Elvish in some way. I love the poem in 'The Adventures of TB' about the lonely beach - haven't got it on me, but it's the one where there's a note subtitling it 'Frodo's Dreme'. 
         

    • When I first started reading LOTR - Bard 
      I thought that Sam was stupid and therefore too stupid too dream. It didn't help that I imagined him like a Sam I knew at school who had ginger curly hair and had a bit of a lisp.

      • Sam is hardly "stupid". - Nenya 
        Though I think I know what you are trying to say.  Sam is stolid and somewhat unimaginative.  Same is practical.  Sam would discount his dreams in deference to real life experience.  I think Sam didn't dream because Sam didn't need to - he alone was completely following his heart on this quest as friend and servant to Frodo.  
         

        • Yes, - Bard 
          I was 8 when I read LOTR so I hope you can forgive me for not understanding some of its subtleties and themes when I was that old. Re reading it has helped clear most of them.

Return to Book I Discussion Index

  • Chapter 7 5. Discussion:  History - Aelric 
    The bulk of this chapter takes place in Tom B's sitting room.  The hoobits are made comfortable and are content.  Tom relays much to them of how the world was and is, of nature and its ways, and somewhat of the history that surrounds them.  This is great info for the hobbits and ties Tom to the rest of the story for the reader.  How does this serve the hobbits later on?  Does it effect their minds sets when dealing with future events (ie, Old Man Willow vs Fangorn)?  
     

    • Widening horizons - Aradan 
      The shire is very enclosed and inward looking, as are nearly all its inhabitants. Scince the hobbits left the Shire, their horizons have been growing a a little wider with each chapter. Now with Tom's tales, their horizons are not just expanding geographically, but historically, too. 
      It is the first indication to the reader (other than hints in the prologue) that the Shire and its environs has a history that does not necessarilly only include hobbits.
       

    • Tom's tales - Blue Wizard 
      In last week's discussion, I said that, in some ways the reaction of Merry and Pippin to Fangorn Forest and Treebeard is inexplicable absent these chapters. Tom's tales are an important part of that. The hobbits understand, after listening to Tom, the lives of the trees in particular. In some very important ways, having that understanding removes much of their fear.

      Fangorn Forest is every bit as frightening a place as the Old Forest, and undoubtedly every bit as dangerous to those who walk on two feet. But, Merry and Pippin are not frightened of it, and remark on how "treeish" it is. This is in stark contrast to a real fear of the Old Forest. Forests and trees are frightening and threatening things to hobbits, it would seem. But Tom's stories make them less so.

      More immediately, I think that Tom's stories about the history of his little part of the world also make possible their excape from the Barrow Downs.  A great deal of their rescue is attributable to the deeply-buried bravery inherent in all hobbits, and Frodo in particular, but, if they are paying attention, they know what the Barrow Downs are and something of the nature of the peril, whereas before the Downs were simply an abstract fear. 
       

      • Part of something larger. - Annael 
        Frodo has already gotten a glimpse of the larger story he's fallen into; I think this is where the other hobbits begin to get the same world-expanding ideas. Although it takes Sam until Mordor to get it. 
         

        • But when Sam finally gets it... - Malbeth 
          ...I think he "gets it" better than anyone else. His musings about what it was like for the people inside the old tales, and the fact that all these stories are interconnected, is one of my favorite passages. 
           

          • Indeed! - Aelric 
            That is one of my favorite passages!  I think the others "get it", but they don't look at it the same way Sam does.  He is a Romantic.  He wants to be in the old stories and then suddenly realises, he IS in one of those stories.  At the end Sam does see it more clearly than any of them. 
             

            • I want to hear about Sam, dad! - Eledhwen 
              I love that bit too. There are huge numbers of references to the larger history throughout really - especially re Gandalf, and how he dropped out of the story (Merry and Pippin to Treebeard). But Sam really sums it all up. 

Return to Book I Discussion Index

  • Chapter 7 6. Discussion:  Detail and Description - Aelric 
    In re-reading this section a few times, I really began to notice the skill in which Tolkien masters the art of detail and description within a setting.  Tolkien's imagery is what draws a lot of his readers (including myself) and it is fantastic throughout the entire story.  But here it seemed to take a life of it's own, pulling the reader in until one feels he is actually seated at the table, with white and yellow candles blazing, and Tom and Goldberry dancing about.  It is all very dreamlike, unlike any other part of the story except for Lorien.

    Compare and contrast the times spent in Tom Bombadil's house to that of the stay in Lorien, not in so much as concerns the Ring, but more to the feelings evoked in both the hobbits and in the reader.

    • I guess all those who, like Tom, are so in tune with the earth... - Patty 
      are vegetarians.  Couldn't help noticing that at Gildor's "table" and again now at Bombadil's there is NO meat.  Honey, cream, bread, cheese...would this satisfy hobbits used to a good coney?
       

      • "Looking ahead"  I see they score some real food at the Pony... - Patty 
        it must be that the etereal elves and whoever or whatever Bombadil and Goldberry are can exist on just cheese, bread, apples and cream.  Nuts to that. 
         

      • I'd say that the Hobbits - Blue Wizard 
        were pretty close to the earth, and were pretty fond of bacon. Come to think of it, the Hobbit diet seems to include of all of the major food groups - bacon, beer and tobacco.

        The only glaring omission is chocolate.

        And donuts.

        Chocolate-covered donuts in particular. 
         

        • DOH!!  with sprinkles, can't forget the sprinkles. - wandering

        • Tsk tsk, Blue . . . - Annael 
          You left out ice cream. 
           

        • Stewed rabbit, too. - Malbeth

          • I almost forgot - Blue Wizard 
            Sam mentions chips (ie french fries) to Gollum, another of the basic food groups.

            The fact that Gollum rejects the idea of "nasssty chips" is the key indication that he has, in fact, lost all touch with reality and has become totally and irrevocably insane. 
             

    • Tolkien in general - RosieLass 
      This comment isn't specifically related to this chapter (sorry) but one of the things that always blew me away about JRRT is his meticulous attention to detail. Especially things that I don't know squat about, like plants and flowers and stuff. But not in so much minutiae that you felt like you were reading a text book.

      I'm reminded of Jules Verne's "2000 Leagues Under the Sea" and Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," both of whom went off on long tangents about fish or the history of whaling or whatever. They are not what I would call "good" examples of how to insert scientific knowledge into your book. :-D

      RosieLass
      ___________________________
      I remember being 20-something and having a body like that.
      Wait a minute...no, I don't.
       

      • I agree, RosieLass! We have a name for that: - Kimi 
        The "Flint Chipping" phenomenon. Some years ago we read "The Clan of the Cave Bear". The author had obviously done vast amounts of research into, among other things, how to chip flint, and wanted to share her knowledge. It was interesting, for a while. But page after page... As you say, it begins to sound like a text book.

        I wanted to mention the Highland Clearances in a novel, and knew only a little about them. I read three different reference books, and ended up writing about two sentences on the subject. But it was part of the back-story of a major character, and was worth the effort. 
         

        • Advice to writers - Aradan 
          I can't remember who originally said this, but I can assure you that it was a highly respected writer.

          "Write the first story first, then do the research."

          The idea is that then, you only research the things you need to fill the gaps in your story, rather than be tempted to include all that research that you've spent so much time gathering.

          In Tolkien's case, I don't think he needed to do much research. I think that on most of these subjects he was already very knowledgeable, so just dropped in facts as he went along.
           

          • I think you're right about Tolkien - Kimi 
            He researched details such as what time sunrise would be on particular dates, and how moonrise relates to phases of the moon, but the "big" things were already well and truly within his knowledge.

            That's good advice you quote for anyone who might be tempted to "share" too much of their research! 
             

        • In my own writing I need to be very careful about this. - Annael 
          My job is to take medical stuff & turn it into patient education handouts. I'm always asking myself "is this MINK - 'more information than I need to know!'?" 
           

    • The House of Tom Bombadil / Lorien / Rivendell - Blue Wizard 
      Tom and Goldberry may not be elves, but their house has elements of the faerie realm common to all three places. The most obvious, as people have already mentioned, is the effect of stopped or slowed time. In each place, the Hobbits lose all track of time; hours, days and even weeks pass swiftly and unnoticed by them. The effect seems to be most prominent in Lorien, where an entire month passes unknown to them.  This is a common part of the folklore of mortals who enter the faerie realm, with many variations on a similar story. The mortal enters a fairy ring, or dwelling, and by partaking of food there they become captive. Meals are prominent features of all three places. The mortal believes that a single night has passed, but when they leave, they find that seven years have gone by in the outside world.

      Aside from the displaced time elements, there is the matter of song. Song is most obvious in Tom's House - not only does Tom sing as naturally as breathing, but even the Hobbits find themselves doing so, quite unconsciously. Song is prominent in Rivendell as well - the elves sing long into the night and even Bilbo seems to spend most of his times composing verses.  But, while they are enchanted by it, the hobbits are less taken up into it. The same is true of Lorien, although elven singing is less promient in the tale here.

      But it is interesting, in contrasting these places, what the songs are about. Tom's songs may be distinguished from those of the elves in that they are about the present and the world around him; whereas theirs are principally about the past. This underscores a similarity between Tom's House and Lorien and a contrast between Lorien and Rivendell. Tom lives in the present, while remembering a long past time. Rivendell is largely about preserving memories of the glorious elven past. Lorien, through the power of Galadriel's Ring, preserves, displaced in time, that past itself as a present reality. The elves of Rivendell remember their past; those of Lorien are actually living that past. Lorien in particular is a physical manifestation of the observation about elven dreams - that they are as real to them as the physical world.  And in each place, the Hobbits feel, to one extent or another, that they have stepped inside a dream. 
       

      • Fairy characteristics - jehovoid 
        i read a poem by john keats, la belle dame sans merci, that on some level has these same characteristics of food and song and losing track of time. it's more dramatized because keats is that kind of person, but it strengthens your arguement, blue.

        Final answer?
         

      • Hmmm,� I know this is Hobbit and not LOTR proper ... - Nenya 
        Where does Beorn's home (if it had a name it escapes me at the moment) fit in with all this?  It was like and yet unlike Bombadil's home, a darker and more ominous place, yet still a haven from the wilds. Beorn, like the elves and Bombadil, has an "timeless" feel about him, and is very much a mysterious unknown to all but Gandalf.  There may not have been song and that "timeless" aspect that Blue mentions, but it almost seems like it merited mention in this thread. 
         

        • I agree about Beorn - Blue Wizard 
          Beorn, with his ability to change form from a man to a bear, is a character who definitely fits in with discussion of Tom Bombadil.  And, he's not just in the Hobbit. Gloin tells Frodo that it is by the Beornings that the East-West Road is kept open, though he complains of their high tolls. And Gilmi remarks that the lembas are better than the honey-cakes of the Beornings. So, Beorn isn't just some character unique to The Hobbit; Tolkien intends to firmly include him as a part of the overall pattern of Middle Earth.

          Like Tom, Beorn seems to be an enigma. It would appear that he is indeed a man, or at the very least mortal, whereas Tom is clearly immortal (or at least so incredibly long-lived that his life-span would appear to coincide with that of the earth itself) Yet he has powers not known to be possessed by any human other than his own descendents, as well as the ability to communicate with animals. To say nothing of being an unsurpassed pastry chef (sorry Aelric).

          Beorn strikes me as being very like Tom in the sense that, while it is difficult to place him in Tolkien's cosmology, it is relatively easy to place him in our folklore. Ancient folklore in every culture in which bears are found view them as being very human; in particular, given the source materials Tolkien was working form, Beorn particularly suggests the Beserkers, who donned bear skins in battle and were supposedly possessed in a battle frenzy by the spirit of the bear, making them virtually undefeatable by their enemies. This whole legend/tradition ties into the very common notion of werewolves (or werebears in this case).  Beorn is obviously the "source" for our legends and folklore, as Tom might be for any number of characters in European folklore. 
           

          • Probably just a minor point, but - GaladrielTX 
            at both Tom and Beorn's houses, some of the hobbits have troubled dreams and are told not to worry about noises outside.  *Shrugs*  Just thought it was an interesting coincidence.

             

          • As an aside... - Aelric 
            You amaze me, Blue.  Personally, since I have been here (October), my depth of knowledge of LOTR has increased by leaps and bounds, and you, my friend, have played a HUGE part in that.  I would like to thank you for your insights and wonderfully intelligent comments over the past seven months.

            Much appreciation and thanks!  *bows low* 
             

            • Just don't get too enthusiastic with praise and go confurring honorary titles on him... - Patty

              • No problem, Patty! - Aelric 
                I could never top yours anyway except to put the word Royal infront of it!  : )~ 
                 

              • Call me anything - but please don't call me. . . - Blue Wizard 
                late for dinner. 
                 

                • HaHaaaa...But it's true, Blue... - Patty 
                  Your posts are most insightful, learned and thought provoking...that's really what I wanted to say a few weeks ago when, too enthusiastic, I posted that disaster.  Thanks for sharing your ideas..they broaden our understanding of Tolkien.
                   

      • Living in the past - Malbeth 
        You got me thinking about preserving and/or living in the past at Rivendell and Lorien. Do you think the fading of the elves in Middle-earth is related to always thinking of the past rather thean the future? Is this an inevitable consequence of immortality? 
         

      • Time flows at a different speed for elves... - Aradan 
        ...because of their exceptionally long life span. It seems that when mortals enter those places where the elves have the greatest influence (Rivendell, Lorien) their own sense of time slows down to match that of their hosts. The same seems to be true of Bombadil's House, although, as you say, he is not an elf; but he is "eldest". Perhaps this "timelessness" is, in part, a consequence of a very long life span.

        Thanks, Blue, for your insights. They are very thought provoking.

         

      • You rule, Blue.  (Sorry, but I had to say it...you continually impress me with your insightful, thoughtful responses.) - EowynII

       

    • I see these places--Rivendell, Tom's House, Lothlorien--as oases... - EowynII 
      ...of light (notice how much light is discussed/described--fire, candlelight, sunlight) and magic in a world that is increasingly possessed by men (for better and for worse), a world that is darkening...for instance, this is clearly shown in the way JRRT describes Tom's house and environs--the river bubbling, the white path, the light and good wholesome food, all surrounded by things threatening and/or evil (Old Forest, Barrowdowns)...Tom's house is a place of respite, somewhere to rest and gather strength, of replenishment and cleansing, and of learning, so that one can go on.... 
       

      • The Shire too . . - Annael 
        I see the Shire as a sunny, bright, ordered oasis in the wilderness as well. And I also see the Hobbits as a bit out of sync with the world of men, although in their case it's more obliviousness than a choice to turn away and dwell in the past. Still, it explains in part why the Hobbits felt so at home and relaxed in Rivendell and Lorien. Contrast that with Pippin in Minas Tirith. 
         

    • Tolkien's Imagination - Aradan 
      I am sure that Tolkien's imagination was primarilly visual. I beleive that he could actually see these places in his mind's eye, just as though they were real places, and then described in words what he was looking at.

      There are few better writers of landscape description in the English language.
       

      • I recall reading that. . . - Blue Wizard 
        Tolkien, as he was writing these stories, had already drawn the maps, at least in rough, because he needed to see the maps in order to put together the story. And, in filling in the details about the positions of the stars, that he took celestial maps from 1942 and followed them precisely - so precisely that, for example, it is noted in The Encyclopedia of Arda that the elves in Gildor's company began singing just as Menelgavor (Orion) appeared over the rim of the world, which on September 15 would be at 1:10am GMT (which we can, I suppose, take to be the same as Shire Mean Time).

        I think that the descriptions of places are in some cases so precise, that Tolkien was either describing real places with which he was familiar, or he had already sketched them - consistent with his meticulous approach to writing these stories. 
         

    • Out of time - Malbeth 
      I agree with Lorgalis about adding Rivendell to the mix. All three are timeless in many ways. The first thing I thought of was the way the hobbits would seem to drift into some kind of dreamlike state while listening to a song or tale, and suddenly realize they had no idea how much time had passed; minutes, hours, days; they had no idea. Sorry about that sentence - two semi-colons??? That can't be good! 
       

    • There is a third similar place... - Lorgalis 
      ...which is called Rivendell.
      I have always seen the whole thing in the chronology of light following darkness and so on. There are minor light situations, like at farmer Maggots place, Bree etc.

      And there are the places of the immortals, where the time seems of little importance, here singing and dancing are common and no threat seem to exist. It is the ancient view of the world, the meddling of men is unimportant to most of them. Even with Elrond, where only few elves get involved in this whole story. It relates to them as the friendly folk. It represents the elvish nature, I think. 

Return to Book I Discussion Index

  • Chapter 7 7. Discussion: Movie Talk and Final Thoughts - Aelric 
    This is a very short chapter, but a most descriptive one.  The hobbits find their first refuge and it proves to be an adventurous one.  And above all, we the readers get to experience and enjoy Tom Bombadil; as the hobbits learn, we also learn.  But as movie goers, we understand why Tom is not going to be in the LotR Films.  But could it have a place?  I don't want to get into what happens in chapter eight, but up until this point, is Tom valuable to the plot?  How about character develoment?  Could he be made into a stronger character so as to be included in the movies?

    Personally, I enjoy Tom and I will miss him and Goldberry when the movies come out.  I know that there are some that dislike Tom and are therefore happy with this (to use the purist words) "admissible change".  I feel that Tom was a character that Tolkien loved, so much so that he made a place him in LotR, even though he doesn't quite fit.  He is a model to us: carefree, lover of the earth, happy and content to handle his own affairs; just a free spirit of the world.  Maybe he then serves as the same model for the hobbits, a beacon to show what life is like without the cares of the world resting on their shoulders.  What would life be like as a moss-gatherer? 
     

    • Thanks, Aelric for a most enjoyable discussion!!! - Patty

    • Almost forgot to say thank you! - Kimi 
      Thank you, Aelric, for a very interesting set of discussions. Who would have guessed we could come up with some new thoughts about Tom and Goldberry?

      Well done, and many thanks. 
       

      • Yes!  An enjoyable discussion!  Hooray for our Steward! - GaladrielTX

    • Why Tom and Goldberry can't be in the films - Kimi 
      There, felt like writing a controversial title!

      Though I am serious (reasonably, anyway). How does this look: an elderly (the words "old man" are used of him when seen through the hobbits' eyes; his face has a hundred wrinkles), fat (even if you take my mitigating suggestion that "three feet broad" might mean around the waist, he's still not a candidate for the cover of Men's Health) man living with a stunningly beautiful young blonde, whom he lured away from her mother. Not exactly PC, is it?

      I agree that Goldberry is a very sexy character, and not in any remote, ethereal sense. Frodo's reaction sums this up:

      "'Fair lady Goldberry!' said Frodo at last, feeling his heart moved with a joy that he did not understand. He stood as he had at times stood enchanted by fair elven-voices; but the spell that was now laid on his was different: less keen and lofty was the delight, but deeper and nearer to mortal heart; marvellous and yet not strange. 'Fair lady Goldberry!' he said again. 'Now the joy that was hidden in the songs we heard is made plain to me.'"

      This is no virgin goddess, IMHO. Goldberry is a water nymph. There's a clue in her association with white water lilies, which have the botanical name nymphaea alba. Given Tolkien's love of language, this seems, IMHO, unlikely to be a coincidence.

      Tom's references to Goldberry in his songs, and the explicit references to how he won her in the long poem that Blue quoted, make it clear that he finds her alluring.

      I guess she loves him for his personality... 
       

      • Wait a minute! - Blue Wizard 
        I've suddenly had a flash of inspiration.

        Tom and Goldberry could be played by

        Billy Joel and Christy Brinkley
        or
        Rod Stuart and Rachel Hunter

        • An even better idea!!! - Blue Wizard 
          I posted that before reading the paper today.

          Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie

          Go figure. 
           

          • An interesting phenomenon - Kimi 
            I had to check out the net to see who BBT is. I see what you mean.

            Then there's Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall. 
             

    • Thanks and well done, Aelric! - Eledhwen 
      Haven't had time to think about this as much as I would have liked, but the discussion has helped with the enigmas that are Tom and his lady. Ta! 
       

      • Yes. Thanks Aelric and those who participated. - septembrist 
        It has helped me accept the mysteries of Tom and Goldberry.
         

    • Excellent summation, Steward - Blue Wizard 
      Chapter 7 does very little to move the plot, but it lends tremendous depth to the story.  We have here a great deal of history, in very abridged form, of this part of Middle Earth, related to the Hobbits in Tom's story. We have a great deal of depth in Tom relating the lives of plants and trees, such that the Hobbits realize, for the first time, that they are the strangers in this land, which they think of as their own.  We have a true sense of the "other" in so many ways in Tom's house, with the ulti-layered mysteries of Tom and Goldberry, their identity and purpose and powers.  Even the elves had a certain familiarity to the hobbits and the Black Riders appear only to be men to them so far; Old Man Willow, Tom and Goldberry are the first real "surprises" to them.

      I view the omission of these chapters from a film of the books as a regrettable but probably necessary step. I would not say that Tom is extraneous or even that he "doesn't fit", but rather that he is a bit of a side-track, or even perhaps a distraction. There are just so many themes, major and minor, that one can include in a film without it becoming cluttered; some things that reward a careful reader who has the liberty of rereading, and flipping backward and forward, are either lost on a film viewer, or are simply confusing.  The things that Tom and Goldberry contribute to the books may be in that general category.

      Now, I will also go on record again that Goldberry is, hands down, the sexiest female character in the book. Arwen and Galadriel are beautiful but remote; Eowyn is beautiful but heavily armed; everybody else is an old lady or has hairy feet (or both). Losing her will be a major loss as far as I'm concerned. As for casting Goldberry, you could go down Robin's list on the Main Board of "babes who look like elves/prospective dates" and pick almost any one of the blondes.

      Here's an idea! For those folks who can't stand Bombadil, leave these chapters in, but combine the Bombadil and Goldberry characters, leaving just her! Yeah, that's the ticket!
       

      • Tom and Goldberry - GaladrielTX 
        Tom and Goldberry are, for me, a welcome relief from miles of trudging along the road or through the countryside, intermittently hiding from Black Riders.  I think the book would have been a bit too bleak without their colorful presence at that point, so I hope that the pace of the movie will make their omission acceptable.  I don't want each of the movies to be just two hours of trudging through the wilds with just one or two stops in elven lands to provide a little beauty and depth.
         

      • Ok...combine Goldberry and Tom's characters and play them back in a minor key.  I like it!!!! - Patty

      • Yeah! - Aelric 
        She's got that earthy-crunchy hippy style to her!  Sweet! 
         

        • Goldberry has that "earthy-crunchy hippy style to her"? - Nenya 
          sigh You make her sound like Joan Baez or Calista Flockhart or something.  That isn't how I picture Goldberry at all.  I'm not even sure I see her as "major babe" material (although I will grant that I'm working from the opposite side of the fence here).  I see her as being above all that.

          Major babe material, I should think, comes with the prerequisite that you guys would stand even an infinitesimally small chance of getting her to even notice you.  Maybe Eowyn, perhaps Galadriel (snicker) but no chance Goldberry. 

          Goldberry is goddess stuff.  She's as much "babe" material as would be Athena or Hera or Isis.  What you need here is a classic Shakespearean actress, like one of the Redgrave clan.  Not one of your "babes".   [smirk] 
           

          • Whatever.... - Aelric 
            IMHO Joan Baez and Calista Flockhart are NO WHERE NEAR what I'm talking about!  I'm talking about natural.  Let me take you to a Phish show sometime and I'll show you what I mean.

            And I have to disagree with you on the "goddess" thing.  Goldberry comes across to me as a wonder of nature, completely down to earth.  Athena would never have treated the hobbits as Goldberry did, let alone bring them into her house with Zues.  Neither would Hera for that matter.

            Goldberry may not be "babe" material, as far as that modern word is used, but she is, to me, the most attractive woman in the books. 
             

            • You tell her Aelric - Blue Wizard 
              Joan Baez is all wrong.

              From that period, more like:

              Michelle Phillips (in 1967, not now)
              Marianne Faithful (ditto)
              Melanie Safka (ditto, but with blonde hair)
              Linda Ronstadt ( " , " )

              • [insert rolling eye emoticon here] - Nenya 
                Like Aelric said ... whatever. 
                 

                • *big raspberry!*  : )~ - Aelric

                  • Yeah, really! - Blue Wizard 
                    I ask you - Do we give the wimmenfolk here this kind of grief when they start gushing over the male characters and the actors playing them?

                     

                    • Blue - I offer you this challenge - Nenya 
                      If you can historically find even one post on this board that has me gushing over an actor, then you have the right to publicly humiliate me with it in any way you see fit. (Happy hunting.) Meanwhile, I pick my targets as they avail themselves to me.

                      In spite of that, I'm in awe of your posts.  Very well thought out and well written stuff you offer up. 
                       

                  • Whatever.... - Nenya 
                    I'm still trying to figure out what "earthy-crunchy" means. 
                     

                    • Earthy-crunchy - Aelric 
                      Basically it means all natural.  Limited or no make-up.  Free-flowing hair.  Summer dresses.  Not so "refined" but a little jagged on the edges.  Not afraid to get dirty.  Kinda hard to describe I guess.... 
                       

          • This is really pretty simple - Blue Wizard 
            We don't know exactly what Goldberry is in Tolkien's cosmology, but we're all pretty certain that she's what the Greeks would call a Naiad.

            From the Encyclopedia Mythica: (emphasis added)

            The Naiads were nymphs of bodies of fresh water and were one of the three main classes of water nymphs - the others being the Nereids (nymphs of the Mediterranean Sea) and the Oceanids (nymphs of the oceans). The Naiads presided over rivers, streams, brooks, springs, fountains, lakes, ponds, wells, and marshes. They were divided into various subclasses: Crinaeae (fountains), Pegaeae (springs), Eleionomae (marshes), Potameides (rivers), and Limnades or Limnatides (lakes). Roman sources even assigned custody of the rivers of Hades to Naiads classified as Nymphae Infernae Paludis or the Avernales. 
              
            The Naiad was intimately connected to her body of water and her very existence seems to have depended on it. If a stream dried up, its Naiad expired. The waters over which Naiads presided were thought to be endowed with inspirational, medicinal, or prophetic powers. Thus the Naiads were frequently worshipped by the ancient Greeks in association with divinities of fertility and growth.

            The genealogy of the Naiads varies according to geographic region and literary source. Naiads were either daughters of Zeus, daughters of various river gods, or simply part of the vast family of the Titan Oceanus. Like all the nymphs, the Naiads were in many ways female sex symbols of the ancient world and played the part of both the seduced and the seducer. Zeus in particular seems to have enjoyed the favors of countless Naiads and the other gods do not seem to have lagged far behind. The Naiads fell in love with and actively pursued mortals as well. Classical literature abounds with the stories of their love affairs with gods and men and with the tales of their resulting children.

            Stories of the Naiads could take the form of cautionary tales with unhappy endings. The Naiad, Nomia, fell in love with a handsome shepherd named Daphnis and could not do enough for him. He repaid her love with unfaithfulness and she repaid his inconstancy by blinding him. The Naiads of a spring in Bithynia took a liking to Hylas (companion of Heracles) and lured him into their waters. The cautionary element is uncertain here. The fate of Hylas could have been either an abrupt death by drowning or everlasting sexual bliss.

            Other stories of the Naiads were explanations of the origins of immortals and mortals. The sun god Helios mated with the Naiad Aegle (renowned as the most beautiful of the Naiads) to produce the Charites. Melite, a Naiad of the Aegaeus River in Corcyra, had a liaison with Heracles and became the mother of Hyllus. Naiads were the lovers of Endymion, Erichthonius, Magnes, Lelex, Oebalus, Otrynteus, Icarius, and Thyestes and were therefore co-founders of important families.

            Greek towns and cities were called after the names of Naiads. Lilaea, in Phocis, was named for Lilaea, the Naiad of the Cephissus River.

            There is a reference in Homer's Odyssey to a cave, rather than a body of water, that is sacred to the Naiads. It might be assumed, therefore, that this cave in Ithaca may have contained a spring or have been the source of a stream or brook.

            Sounds like Goldberry to me.
             

            • Blue, you're amazing! - Malbeth

              • How about one of Wagner's Rhine Maidens? - Nenya 
                Would that be the same thing, or something different, Blue? 
                 

                • La meme chose - Blue Wizard

      • LOL!! - Malbeth 
        So hairy feet aren't sexy? RosieLass will be so disappointed. 
         

    • Tom is vital to the book, but not, I think to the film. - Nenya 
      Even for those well versed in Tolkien lore, Bombadil remains a mystery.  His origins and existence are apart from the mythology that explains and supports the story of the quest to destroy the one ring.  While the hobbits have adventure and diversion with Bombadil, very little of a vital nature to the plot line occurs there. 

      I love the character of Tom Bombadil.  I really wish Tolkien had given more of his background.  But, given the limitations of movie making, I do feel that he can be omitted from the movie without causing any serious damage to the plot. 
       

    • The Bombadil chapters - Aradan 
      One of the main things that the Bombadil chapters achieve in the book is to create a sense of distance between the Shire and Bree. By the time the Hobbits reach Bree, we already feel that they have travelled. If, in the film, we see the Hobbits leaving the Shire and then arrive in Bree in the very next scene, the audience might be left with the impression that Bree is just another outlying part of the Shire, rather like Buckland.

      In other respects, I don't think that the film will suffer too much by the removal of the Bombadil chapters. They don't actually contribute much to the plot, though they do reveal a little about the hobbits' personalities. On the other hand they do not seemed to have "developed" much by the time they reach Bree. 
       

      • Yes. I hope . . . - Annael 
        that while the movies omit Bombadil, the hobbits still go through the Old Forest and encounter the Barrow-wight. That scene can be changed just a titch to have Frodo manage to free the others. Then Merry can find his knife and they will have had a "growing up" experience. 
         

      • Hobbits' development - Malbeth 
        I agree about the hobbits' lack of development before Bree. I spite of the dangers they've survived, they are still very careless in the Prancing Pony. They must have driven Strider crazy the first few days! 
         

        • Hmmmm...do you think.... - Aelric 
          they would have made a better impression on Aragorn if they hadn't been with Bombadil?  If they had stayed on the road and avoided capture, they may have been better prepared, even slightly.  Was the visit with Tom somewhat of a hinderance in that respect? 
           

          • Yeah, but ... - Nenya 
            The whole point was that the Hobbits and Aragorn didn't start out as a mutual admiration society.  Each had to earn the trust and admiration of the other.  This gave Tolkien an excuse to help unveil parts of Strider/Aragorn's character, and to show how the band of Hobbits matured and developed as they became more caught up in the Fellowship and the quest.

            In that respect, the visit with Tom was just perfect.  It in many ways showed the early naivete the Hobbits were saddled with that they each eventually grew beyond. 
             

            • That's an important point - Blue Wizard 
              I think we tend, particularly having already read the books many, many times, to lose sight of the fact that, even through the attack at Weathertop, the hobbits, particularly Sam, are distrustful of Strider and suspect that he is in league with the Black Riders, or maybe even one of them.

              Frodo decides to trust him in Bree, based on Gandalf's letter and him being a good judge of character; and his trust seems confirmed by Strider saving them from the attack in the night, but I think that we are supposed to have some lingering doubts.  Not until Rivendell is everyone, including Sam, completely convinced. 
               

            • Yeah... - Malbeth 
              I love the introduction of Strider. The hobbits don't know whether to trust him, and neither does the reader (well, the first time, anyway). In fact, Sam wasn't really convinced until they met Glorfindel. 

Return to Book I Discussion Index