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Minas Tirith Forums » Lord of the Rings » Who or what was Goldberry? (Page 1)
Author Topic: Who or what was Goldberry?
Roll of Honor theWhiteLady
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I have often run across related discussion about good 'ole Tom, but I have lately come to wonder who or what was Goldberry? Forgive me if this has been discussed to death, but I'd like to hear some theories. []
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Sir Dolenbalion
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Goldberry is, I believe, Tom's wife. At least she lives with him. Here's what she looks like:
quote:
Her long yellow hair rippled down her shoulders; her gown was green, green as young reeds, shot with silver beads of dew; and her belt was of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lilies set with the pale blue eyes of forget-me-nots.
And she tells Frodo and his companions:
quote:
I am Goldberry, daughter or the River.


[ 02-02-2003, 12:19 AM: Message edited by: Sir Dolenbalion ]

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Warg
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I dont Believe Goldberry is an Elf.

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GreyLady
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Ok, here's my theory.

She says she's the daughter of the River. The River may have some sort of life force either attached to it, like a guardian, or within it like a soul. In any case, some sort of spirit. I'll assume this force is a female. It would be possible for one of the other spirit beings, such as a Maiar, to "mate" with the river and produce Goldberry. How's that?

GreyLady

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Roll of Honor theWhiteLady
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I did not have time last night to go into my own thoughts, as my mother was yelling at me to get off the comp... parents [] But anyway, I have always assumed Goldberry was a Maiar. 'Daughter of the River.' But I suppose my question also includes 'who is Tom?' For, if Tom is a personification or representitive of M-e, as I have often heard, it doesn't make much sense that he would marry someone that he, in a way, personifies... does it? [] So, perhaps Goldberry 'is' as Tom 'is?' And neither are Maiar, or representitives of M-e, and therefore cannot be explained but are simply just character's that Tolkien put in the story to please his children...

(As you can see, I am mightily confused [] )

[ 08-02-2002, 08:49 AM: Message edited by: theWhiteLady ]

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Sir Dolenbalion
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Oops..... yeah, she's not an elf. I read to fast, Frodo was comparing seeing her to a "fair young elf-queen." []
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Roll of Honor Swift Asfaloth
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My thoughts on Goldberry are similar to GreyLady's, however I think she was pure Maiar, in the service of the Vala Ulmo. He was concerned with all the waters of Arda, and had Maiar "helpers" to watch over rivers, streams, lakes, etc., while he focused his attention on seas and oceans. In many mythologies, there are spirits concerned with individual rivers, streams, trees, and mountains, and Middle Earth would be no different. I'd always just assumed that Goldberry was a Maia overseeing the river. We could use a few Maiar to protect our rivers and seas-they're awfully polluted, and we don't seem to have much respect for them.
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Roll of Honor Fingolfin of the Noldor
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I think it is important to remember that Goldberry was the child of a denizen of the Old Forest called 'River-women':

quote:
There his beard dangled long down into the water:
up came Goldberry, the River-woman's daughter...
-The Adventures of Tom BOmbadil

As she was a 'decendant' there is really no way she could have been a Maia as the Ainur were created solely by Eru and could not as a rule reproduce/multiply. They could have incarnated children as can be seen in the case of Melian(luthien) and probably Ungoliant(Shelob) but there was no way they could have children which were intern Maiar. Rerpoduction was a function of the incarnate soley Ainur. This qulifier can also be see to have been used in the context of the great eagles of lotr in one of TOlkien's later essays on Orcs:

quote:
But true 'rational' creatures, 'speaking peoples', are all od human/'humanoid' form. Only the Valar and Maiar are intelligences that can assume forms of Arda at will. Huan and Sorontar could be Maiar - emissaries of Manwë. But unfortunately in The Lord of the Rings Gwaehir and Landroval are said to be descendants of Sorontar[Quenya form of the more familiar Sindarin: Thorondor]. -pg 410 'Orcs' Morgoth's Ring
quote:
There came Gwaihir the Windlord, and Lanroval his brother, greatest of all the Eagles of the North, mightiest of the descendants of Old Thorondor- The Field of COrmallen RotK
So while it is certainly possible the River-woman, her mother, was a Maiar and had a child as Goldberrry was herself a child it is not possible that she was one at least in the environment of the later forms of the legendarium(in out-dated and archiac drafts of the silmarillion traditions Ainur having children which were intern Ainur themselves was quite common placve but this concept w2as later rejected in its entirety.

[ 08-02-2002, 12:48 PM: Message edited by: Fingolfin of the Noldor ]

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Roll of Honor Mahanaxar
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Fingolfin to save the day as always. []

To be honest, I always thought of her as an elf if I thought of her at all.

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Roll of Honor Bethberry
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Mum.

Bethberry

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Roll of Honor Wandering Tuor
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Which means Tom Bombadil is your Da ???

It's all becoming clear . . .

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Roll of Honor Herendil
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Isn't it possible that 'Daughter of the River' and 'the River-woman's daughter' just means that she grew up beside the river? That the river has played a large role in her life?
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Roll of Honor Swift Asfaloth
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Bethberry -I always suspected as much...

Isildur-I interpret "River-woman's daughter" figuratively, rather than literally, so I favor your view that the river was an important part of her life. By the same token, Goldberry's existence would be important to the river, and their fates would be intertwined.

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Roll of Honor Herendil
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But 'the daughter of the River' and 'the River-woman's daughter' do remind me of Nimrodel:
quote:
she dwelt alone beside the falls of the river Nimrodel to which she gave her name.
But to speculate that Goldberry was the daughter of Nimrodel or even Nimrodel herself is to go too far. []

[ 08-02-2002, 08:10 PM: Message edited by: Isildur of the Númenóreans ]

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Mrs. Frodo
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I always figured that she was his wife. I guess it could be a metaphore for something else cuz alot of toliens work is like that but its really all about what u think.
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Elladan
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Daughter of the River sounds like she may have just lived life beside the river before she met Tom.
But Daughter of the River-women is more specific. This women probably lived life beside the river, and in some way came to have Goldberry, which would make her the river-women's daughter. []

[ 08-02-2002, 11:28 PM: Message edited by: Elladan ]

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Roll of Honor theWhiteLady
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Hullo Bethberry [] *waves a greeting before turning to the subject at hand*

Okay, let's recap...

We have established that Goldberry is not, or it is doubtful she is, a Maiar.
We know that she is not of the Elven race; since she was like a fair young elf, she must not be one.
And last, she could be a mortal though that seems extremely unlikely...

Allow me to introduce this quote: '[Frodo] 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; marvellous and yet not strange.'

What would be 'nearer to mortal heart'? Half-elven? But there were only 2 times that had happened and the direct descendants were accounted for, weren't they? If not that, Half-Maiar? Another 'Melian and Thingol' perhaps... that seems the only real possibility that I can think of...

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Aiwrendel
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quote:
The sound of her footsteps was like a stream falling gently away downhill over cool stones in the quiet of night. FotR, In the House of Tom Bombadil
“River Daughter” to me means she is really part of the river; not a figurative river dweller. It’s as if Tom looked into the water and saw beauty beyond anything he had seen and fell in love. Since he is the master of the earth (or a manifestation of the earth itself) he was able to reach in and pluck out part of the river, gently toss it into the air before him, and then, at his will, watch it transform into Goldberry. After all, what is the earth without water?

A bit fanciful, but I think it fits with the genre of Professor Tolkien’s ME works.

However, Tom said this of Goldberry:
quote:
...in a wide pool, deep and clear, far down Withywindle;
there [water-lilies] open first in spring and there they linger latest.
By that pool long ago I found the River-daughter,
fair young Goldberry sitting in the rushes.
Sweet was her singing then, and her heart was beating!

So, maybe I’m wrong. []

Oh, the River Woman? I think she is the River. She is all the rivers and all the waters of ME. Um, maybe. I’m not sure.

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GreyLady
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"...and her heart was beating."

Some sort of mortal, if we take that statement at it's face value.

Perhap, if she is full mortal, Tom has a magical effect on her like the Ring: delaying age and illness. Nature in Tolkien is full of 'magic' which can affect mortals, such as the Entdraught and it's effects on Merry and Pip.

Here's going way out on a limb: Perhaps she is a full mortal who, through being orphaned or just getting really lost, grew up beside the river. Fearing other humanoids, she would hide in the river whenever one approached. But when Tom approached and she 'got a sense' of him (his beard hanging into the water), she was not afraid and revealed herself.

GreyLady

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Roll of Honor Herendil
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Goldberry has also been discussed in these Tom Bombadil threads:

Who or what is Tom Bombadil?
Chapter Analysis: In The House of Tom Bombadil
Tom Bombadil?
The extent of Iluvatars power

I don't think that the 'River-woman' was Uinen because Uinen's hair is said to spread through the waters of all the world's oceans.

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Imbëar
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Mae govannen! friends long missed!
I am happy to type in such company. It is to be hoped that summer hath girdled ye each in bounteous joy and contentment.
To High Summer's retreat and the glorious dying gold!

At another time,
I jotted these notes down in regard to the House of Tom Bombadil. Looking back, I nod to Aiwrendel and Nimruzir especially.

"As the feminine principle, the source of rebirth, fertility, beauty, and the inferred constancy and comfort of the mother..."

Goldberry represents, for me, the Ideal feminine principle - particularly because she defies the traditional or canonized rôle of Woman.
She is not identified as a wife or mother, which is what confuses many readers.

She is first and foremost the River's daughter, which speaks to me that she lives "in purpose" to serve the water - and water, for me, is the flow of life, the holy feminine principle, inseparable from the living soil.

Therefore, I interpret Goldberry as a self-fulfilled creature, a being in balance.
And by cause of this, she is undiminished in Tom's presence - she is as equal, and part of this comes from her recognition that Tom is Master, her Master, and her Servant.
She is enigmatic, elusive, in that her character glows with innocence, girlishness, womanliness, and grandmotherly wisdom - without neatly fitting into any "stage" in the human female life-cycle.

She is the first to bloom and the last to fade.

I like to think of her sometimes as the feminine aspect of each human. In so many of us, female and male alike, the feminine is withered. I don't pretend to know the exact methods of revitalizing the psyche, but I find special power and beauty in Tom's offering of flowers to Goldberry - securing the feminine through the long winter.
Rambling...

Imbëar

"Hiss, hiss, 'have some fruit. Wet your lips and set the root.'" - Satan

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Sam Gamgee
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I have to agree that i don't think that Goldberry had a mother as in one she was born of. From the hints in Tolkien's books, and from the books of his best friend, Lewis, I think that the idea about the river being a great part or that she came from the river is most likely the most probable. If you look in C.S. Lewis' cronicles of Narnia, Lewis mentions many spirits and beings as son or daughter of. ex. The dwarfs of Narnia were called by aslen "Sons of the Earth." and the same with the tree spirits. My theory is that Goldberry rose from the river, like Lewis' spirits in the Magician's Nephew. Just like many of the beings of Middle Earth came out of the earth. But though Goldberry is immortal, she probably isn't elvish because she lives only with Tom, and she hasn't had any children. But if you look in The Letter's of Tolkien, letter 153, it mantions that Bombadil might have been God. So who could Goldberry be? In letter 175, someone mentions that Goldberry was mentioned as Bombadil's daughter! But in letter 210, Tolkien says that she represents" the actual seasonal changes in such lands." Tolkien also says that "she had far better disappear than make a meaningless appearance." So that brings me to this conclusion. I don't think Tolkien had in mind what creature Goldberry was. He jsut put her in and later didn't say much about her. I'm afraid that we can only guess, unless someone comes up with some definate proof of what she is. As to Bombadil, there's alot more info about him. But I'm sure that's all debated in a different thread.

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Roll of Honor theWhiteLady
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Fascinating... Glad to see you, Imbeär! The poet and philosopher as always []

Perhaps I was wrong to expect an definate explination of Goldberry and her origins. Very interesting thoughts, thank you and especially to Imbeär and Sam Gamgee! I think I am beginning to see more clearly, but I am also still trying to sort this out. I look forward to seeing more thoughts and theories []

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Rhovanion
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my theroy is that Goldberry is Tom's wife/"female tom" because she and tom must have grown up toghether proctecting the forest and river. Tom has been around since the forest was young, but there has to be water for a forest to bloom. so goldberry is possibly older than tom, considering ther fact that she is the river woman.
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Aiwrendel
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Sorry to correct you Rhovanion, but

Goldberry is the River Daughter, not the River Woman. The River Woman is Goldberry's mother.

And Tom is much older than either. He said,

quote:
Eldest, that's what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn.
Tom was around before any other living thing.

[ 08-05-2002, 02:56 PM: Message edited by: Aiwrendel ]

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