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Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » Who or what is Tom Bombadil? (Page 3)
Author Topic: Who or what is Tom Bombadil?
Thranduil
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I really like EL's theory about Bombadil being Tolkien himself. Bombadil is the Master, the Eldest, and so is Tolkien. He created that world!
Maybe his great love for the world he created, made him want to take part in it.
The ring wouldn't have any effect on him. Tolkien ruled the ring, and it's story and destiny. He walked and discovered the hills of his own imaginary land before any other character of the story could come there. Interesting theory...

And what makes you all think that the Ring wouldn't have any effect on a Vala or a Maia?
It did have an effect on Sauron, and he was a Maia. Gandalf didn't dare to touch it, he wa a Maia. Does it say anywhere that the Ainur could control the ring?

Bombadil's description fits with too many. I myself think it fits best with Tulkas. Mostly because of the laughing that they both had in common, and the "moving swiftly". I cannot really picture Tulkas wearing yellow boots, though. Can any of you picture any of the Valar wearing yellow boots?

Probably Tom is an enigma, and maybe even Tolkien himself didn't really know what he was.
I guess we'll never find out.


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Rothrandir
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Although i really have no proof to back it up, i believe that Bombadil was an enigma and that tolkien himself did not even know who he was. Thus would the statment by Goldberry porve true, "Hi is" furthermore, while i believe the bombadil is an enigma and of no real race of being, i believe that Tolkien (consciously or not) made him him much like himself because tolkien wanted to take part in middle earth. Tolkien did not create middle, earth, he just explained to us what it was like. I think that Tolkien really believed in this place.
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Nimruzir
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Probably Tom is an enigma, and maybe even Tolkien himself didn't really know what he was.
I guess we'll never find out.

Hmmmmmmm.

Well at least this much was known to the old boy:

1) he wasn't Eru.
2) he was meant as a personal expression.

and lastly, one that is totally 'new' to some:

[from The War of the Ring AKA HoME vol. 8]

"Together with these earliest manuscripts of 'The Taming of Smeagol' was found a slip bearing the following pencilled notes, which may very well not have been written all at one time (I have added the numbers)...

(2) Tom could have got rid of the Ring all along [? without further]....... - if asked!

Note from CT:

In (2), most frustratingly, I have not been able to form any guess even at the altogether illegible word.

Soooooooooooo.... Tom could have gotten rid of the Ring (unwritten stipulation seems to be 'permanently' i.e. destruction, else the fact that it was written down at all seems superfluous), but wasn't asked to do so.

I think Gandalf would have known if Tom was capable of this if Tom was of the Ainur. Agreed?

This sound like a Maia? Or a Vala for that matter?

IIRC even sending the Ring to Valinor wasn't all THAT correct as an option.

Along with the statement that he ain't Eru... it means he was something else altogether.

[ 11-17-2001: Message edited by: Nimruzir ]


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"The prime motive [of LotR] was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them. As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving, and for many the guide was inevitably often at fault."

J.R.R. Tolkien - Prologue to The Lord of the Rings.


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Orofacion of the Vanyar
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I'm gonna go sorta with Earendilyon on this one and say that Tom is an independent being created by Illuvator not connected to anything in Arda but at the same time lord of his land. He is the oldest, so maybe he came even before the Ainur. What really would be a streach would be that he existed independently from Illuvator himself and was around during the same time as the theme was being sung, but being like he his in ME, careless to pretty much everything and had no desire to interfere or add on to the music. He is an enigma, and as far as him being a manifestation of Tolkien remains to be seen. Basically i think Tolkien put him in there with no real idea himself of what he is, just threw him in there and let people like us debate and debate on what the darn fool is in actuallity
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TulKas
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I've never heard another person mention Tulkas as being a possibility of Bombadil... Why?? They're so similar it's uncanny
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Thranduil
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Forgive me from quoting myself, but I also thought that the first time I read the Silm:

quote:
Bombadil's description fits with too many. I myself think it fits best with Tulkas. Mostly because of the laughing that they both had in common, and the "moving swiftly". I cannot really picture Tulkas wearing yellow boots, though. Can any of you picture any of the Valar wearing yellow boots?
Thranduil

But I found out later that it wasn't such a good idea. Tulkas was this fighting type, Bombadil wasn't so...
There's a lot more differencies, but I would say anyway that it's a good guess. As good as anyone...

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Roll of Honor Bethberry
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Tolkien did not write Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. That is a medieval narrative which he edited to make available to modern readers.

The Green Knight is a mysterious warrior who is ready to behead Gawain for a vow taken. He isn't at all like Bombadil.

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Imbëar
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*If* Bombadil represented a Holy figure capable of destroying the Ring, then the fact that no one asked him to destroy it is poignant.

It would suggest that humans cleave to their burdens, and fail to discern who can help them and who can not. It would suggest that we are too foolish to give our lives to Eru at the beginning, that we must be purged by fire. Bombadil "gives" the hobbits a prayer to use, but they do not understand its significance. I would even argue that only the relative faithlessness in Tom's "country" kept his "magic" from extending elsewhere. As always, it is my position that we Fell from Eden - Eden did not Fall from us.

I do not believe that Tom was Eru, however.

Imbëar

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TulKas
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Well, Tulkas did love fighting, but Bombadil was whoopin up on them Barrow Wights when it came right down to it
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Roll of Honor Herendil
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I happened to stumble on this in the Sil:

quote:
And so indeed it has since befallen: the One and the Seven and the Nine are destroyed; and the Three have passed away, and with them the Third Age is ended, and the Tales of the Eldar in Middle-earth draw to then-close. Those were the Fading Years, and in them the last flowering of the Elves east of the Sea came to its winter. In that time the Noldor walked still in the Hither Lands, mightiest and fairest of the children of the world, and their tongues were still heard by mortal ears. Many things of beauty and wonder remained on earth in that time, and many things also of evil and dread: Orcs there were and trolls and dragons and fell beasts, and strange creatures old and wise in the woods whose names are forgotten; Dwarves still laboured in the hills and wrought with patient craft works of metal and stone that none now can rival. But the Dominion of Men was preparing and all things were changing, until at last the Dark Lord arose in Mirkwood again.
Is that referring to Tom and Goldberry, the Ents, both, or what?
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Orome
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More specifically bethberry he translated it rather than edited it, though i'm sure he touched up parts where he felt the translation did not do the original justice.
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Roll of Honor Bethberry
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Actually, Orome, I was referring to the official bibliographical reference which identifies JRR Tolkien and EV Gordon as editors.

Here's a link to an online electronic text center from the University of Virginia library. The text I think is from the Oxford Text Archive. Tolkien and Gordon's edition of 'Sir Gawain'

Respectfully,
Bethberry

[ 05-06-2002, 10:34 AM: Message edited by: Bethberry ]

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Orome
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*nods*
my apologies you are quite correct.

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Roll of Honor Linarien
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I was just thinking this the other day!! I reread that part of LotR over and over, and it seems to me that Tom might have been a Vala...I'm not sure, but see the reason being becuase the ring had no effect on him. Plus, he is "master", and is somehow in legue with elves...because Gildor had somehow got the message to him about Frodo coming. And for Goldberry, I always thought she was an elf...the way Tolkien describes her, how could she not be??

quote:
Her long yellow hair rippled down her shoulders; her gown was green, green as young reeds, shot with silver like beads of dew; and her belt was of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lillies set with pale blue eyes of forget-me-nots.
quote:
...like folk that, knocking at a cottage door to beg for food and drink of water, have been ansered by a fair young elf-queen clad in living flowers.
just a few examples...I'm too tired to write more (lol...just got back from soccer) I am convinced she is some elf maiden, that in one with the earth.
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Roll of Honor The Mighty Müsnud
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Well, I just had an inspiration while reading one of the Bombadil threads in the LotR Forum. So I came here to the Library to post it, only to discover that Ensa Lucis had already considered it. []

However, unlike EL, I truly believe that Bombadil is Tolkien writing himself into the narrative. EL has already mentioned several good reasons for this on page 2 of this thread. In addition, Thranduil has backed up that assertion by reiterating the idea that Bombadil was "the eldest."

quote:
Tom says he is the "first", the "eldest", and was there before the elves. Yet Treebeard is described by Gandalf as the oldest living thing in Middle Earth.
Traditionally this idea stands in contrast to the ents' assertion concerning themselves. However, given that Bombadil is Tolkien, then the idea that he is the eldest does not truly contradict the ents' claim.

Additionally, Bombadil's affection for his wife mirrors that of Tolkien's affection for his wife.

But I feel the most convincing argument is simply that it's not entirely uncommon for writers to write themselves into their narratives. Even the Bible has examples of this (according to many scholars), as Mark is said to have made a reference to himself in Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Mark, in order to indicate his presence during Jesus' arrest at Gethsemane.

Tolkien's inclusion of himself in the story seems quite apparent through the portrayal of Bombadil. Any "enigmas" presented by the good professor need not have been enigmas to himself. []

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Roll of Honor Adulithien
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I would never have wandered into this thread if not for Mighty Müs, here. (Thanks)

quote:
Iarwain: In that essay it suggested that Tom could have been Aule and Goldberry Yavanna his wife. This then would explain why the ring had no effect over Tom. It's only a theory though, although an interesting one. What do you think?
I find it interesting, despite the fact that Tom most certainly is meant to be an enigma (whether he is Tolkien-written-in or not). One thing, though. If Tom were any Vala, he would certainly not be Aulë. It has been mentioned many places before that all Aulë's creations/pupils (Dwarves, Saruman, etc.), seem to be easily corruptible by one thing or another. Even Aulë couldn't contain himself long enough to keep from creating the Dwarves without permission.

The notion of Aulë as Tom would completely preclude Tom's purity, IMO.

[ 01-22-2003, 04:07 AM: Message edited by: Adulithien ]

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
No fighting in this thread-- take it outside!
All your insights are appreciated here

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Bilbo Baggins
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It seems like Bombadil is some sort of powerful necromancer whose power lays in the roots of plants and anything to do with nature. so therefore i think he has some connection with the ents.
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Luin Eriol
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When we are discussing what is Iarwain Ben-adar, I feel first the need to say that yes, Tolkien himself stated that he does not know who Tom is.

Let us start by stating what he is not. He is not Eru/Illuvitar, for he never took physical form in Arda.

He is most certainly not a Maia either, for even the Maia in Middle Earth at this time were bound by some means or sense to the Ring. He was not.
quote:
Then Tom put the Ring round the end of his little finger and held it up to the candlelight... There was no sign of Tom disappearing!
He is not bound by the power of the Ring, nor its corruption or the greed to make him want to keep it. He hands it back to Frodo "with a smile."

He is definitely not an Elf.
quote:
"When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already..." -Tom Bombadil
He is not a Man, Hobbit, or any other mortal race, for that selfsame reason. He is not mortal at all, at least in the sense that man is mortal (Elves are "immortal" unless killed by heartbreak or battle, and their souls then took up residence in Mandos' halls). He spoke the above quote nearly six ages after the event occurred (the Great Journey).

Was he a Valar? We know the names of all the Valar, and none of his names (Iarwain Ben-adar, Forn, Orald) are ranked among them.
BUT:
quote:
[the Valar] have other names in the speech of the Elves in Middle-earth, and their names among Men are manifold
Is it possible that he was one of the fourteen known Valar living "undercover" in Middle Earth?

I don't believe so.

quote:
"Eldest, that's what I am... Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn... He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from Outside." -Tom Bombadil
"Before the Dark Lord came from Outside". If in this passage Tom is referring to Sauron, then the Valar theory is still plausible. If by Dark Lord he means Morgoth, then he was in Middle Earth before Morgoth, who was clearly stated as being the first of the Valar to visit ME. "Outside"... The dwelling of Eru, the Valar and Maia, before Arda and the Great Song?

But if we look back, not all came into Arda from the Halls of Illuvatar.
quote:
...in majesty they are peers, surpassing beyond compare all others, whether of the Valar and the Maiar, or of any other order that Ilúvatar has sent into Eä...
Also, I realize that the Books of Lost Tales truly have little to do with the in-story history of ME, I would like to include this quote:

quote:
...brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns, and what else are they not called, for their number is very great... they were born before the world and are older than its oldest, and are not of it, but laugh at it much...
I like what Goldberry said about Tom the most.

quote:
"He is." -Goldberry


[ 01-27-2003, 02:28 PM: Message edited by: Luin Eriol ]

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Viscount Værtalion
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Bombadil is very very powerfull,
he is one of the most powerfull creatures on the face of middle earth.
some people think he's not bothered with what happens outside his own borders but remeber when the hobbits turned back to the Shire after everything? Gandalf refused to go with them he said he would have a loooong talk with Tom instead(one might argue that he didn't go with the hobbits because he's time as guardian was over)

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Fool, prate not to me about covenants.
There can be no covenants between men and lions,
wolves and lambs can never be of one mind, but
hate each other out and out and through.


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Hyarmendacil
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Tom is perhaps one of the greatest enigmas in all of Middle-Earth (save the blue wizards, but that's another thread).

Here is a link to another, excellent, essay on the nature of Tom Bombadil:
web page

Another excellent site explains how the character of Tom Bombadil was based on a doll belonging to one of J.R.R.Tolkien's sons.

web page

I urge anyone interested in this fascinating character to read these.

It seems from these sources that Tom is possibly maiar, or a nature spirit. In any event Tolkien was never perfectly clear about his nature, though he hinted to it in a few letters.

Ultimately, I think the jury is still out and will be indefinitely, leaving it open to speculation, inspiration and imagination which Tolkien would have preferred over pedantic rumination.

My own outlandish, though original, thought is that he is one of the Blue Wizards. I fully confess I cannot prove this conjecture, nor even satisfy some of the discrepancies this theory leaves unresolved.
I admit this is hard to accept in face of the fact that the Ithryn Luin were sent to Middle-Earth in the 3rd age, making it hard for Tom to be "Oldest and Fatherless." But one can use one's imagination to figure ways it could still work. There are many other problems, but I won't go into them.
Well, I don't push this idea on anyone. I'm not even convinced myself. I just suggest it for fun.

In any event, I again highly undorse the aformentioned URLs.

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
"Who is more contemptible than he who scorns knowledge of himself."
-John of Salisbury

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Hyarmendacil
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I apologize for the first URL, I entered it incorrectly.
Here it is in type:

http://tolkien.slimy.com/essays/Bombadil.html

-H

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Teleporno
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I'm rather new around here, but I've been reading Tolkien for twenty-five years. So when I found this thread I thought I'd drop in my favorite theory about Tom, but Ensa Lucis already said it here in May 2001.

Tom is the author himself. He's in the center of the world, yet removed. He's old both among Tolkien's characters, having been dreamt up by JRRT around 1907 (if memory serves). And JRRT knew that when he died, although his Middle-Earth stories would survive, the world would cease to be revealed since he was it's sole creator. So, Tom and Ronald are both "last as they were first".

Plus, all the "Goldberry is waiting" lines make me think about a busy academic whose hobby was writing, but was yet a devoted husband. Goldberry is Mrs. Tolkien.

I've always guessed that JRRT based many of his characters on actual people, although I've never read of who they might've been. Radagast might be Charles Williams. Whoever Saruman was, Tolkien clearly developed contempt for him!

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Earendil's servant
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I once read an interesting essay claiming that the Tom Bombadil part was placed in the book for a reason of literature.
The house of Bombadil was the save haven between the cosy Shire and the evil outside world which was becoming stronger every step. The fact the the ring had no power over Tom gave the reader some relief. In all the future perils, the house of Bombadil could be some save anchor to hold on to. In this essay the autor concluded (based on Toms own riddle about himself) that Tom was represant of the reader (male) and Goldberry of the reader (female). So no crap about Valar and maiar. Tom was the namegiver, a sort of Adam, represant of the human storyreaders of all times.
Interesting theory...

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Turogriest
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Tom Bombadill and Goldberry were Maiar. I am certain of this. The ony other possibility is a secail form of Valar but that woul not make sense, to create a special Valar just to roam in the hills of a certain land. Just look at his powers an all that he did, he did just as all the Maiar did. He controlleda part of the land with absolute power and cocerned himself with it alone. Frodo and company tried to leave the ring there, but he didn;t care for it, it did not matter to him, and therefore he would loose it. He cared more for the land and his Lady. A valar would take the ring to keep it safe and save creation, Ilvatar had n dealing with erth except for on special occasions, he didn't even make the earht, that was the valar's concern. it had to b a Maiar, helping to maintain the land for the valar, as they are the servants, and leaving everything else go on. Doing their job alone.
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Master of Doom
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quote:
he did just as all the Maiar did.
Tom, if he were a Maia, would have been influenced by the Ring, like Saruman, Gandalf, and Sauron all were (who are all Maiar). The Ring had no effect on Tom, and he therefore is not a Maia.
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