who or what is Tom Bombadil?

Discussion in 'Books' started by Turambar, Feb 26, 2004.

  1. Turambar

    Turambar Harebrained Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2004
    Messages:
    8,207
    Likes Received:
    206
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Not in Amsterdam :)
    Ratings:
    +316 / 2 / -0
    I guess this topic has raged many a forum, but I am fairly new in this world of global discussions. This question burns me for year, though. Who or what is Tom Bombadil. I cannot place him somwhere in the Tolkien hierarchy. He i'sn't human, for he is immortal. Same goes for Orc and Dwaven. Then maybe he is an elf... But his power is far too great, appearing from thin air, weelding the Ring as if it were a powerless piece of jewellery. Than maybe he is a Maia, the helpers of the Valar, as are the Istari and Sauron, for instance. But then again, even Gandalf and Saruman were affected strongly by the Ring of Power. Only conclusion could be that he is one of the Valar. But didn''t they all stay in the West? (save Melkor, maybe). And whats more, I can't fit the description of the two (Tom and Goldberry), if they were. There aren't too many Valar and they are all described in the Sil, but none fits a couple like Tom and Goldberry. Furthermore, Elrond knows him too, though by a different name; Iarwain Ben-adar. In that chapter, Gandalf describes Tom also to be reckless enough to lose the Ring. Not much of a Vala to me... What remains is an Ent and althoug Tom loves nature as much as Treebeard, I don't think he is...

    Any opinions?
     
  2. Radagast

    Radagast Art House Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2003
    Messages:
    3,058
    Likes Received:
    18
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Saskatchewan, Canada.
    Ratings:
    +18 / 0 / -0
    Just old Tom to me. He's an engima to the book, and a race of his own.
     
  3. dwarf tosser

    dwarf tosser "What the Deuce?"

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2003
    Messages:
    1,793
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    NYC
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0
    OK when middle earth was created tom was there. He appeared when it was created. Some say that he is one of the valar. The reason that the ring did not effect him was because he is older than sauron and was around when morgoth had the war of wrath. He just is.

    -dt
     
  4. Turambar

    Turambar Harebrained Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2004
    Messages:
    8,207
    Likes Received:
    206
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Not in Amsterdam :)
    Ratings:
    +316 / 2 / -0
    OK... No certainty about that guy.
    But does anyone speak a bit Elfish, Sindarin I guess? I have tried to translate Iarwain Ben-Adan, so far I know that It means Old-something, Somting-Man (as in human). And, I've checked HOME index and there an other name was used: Just Iaur (old). Does anyone know the stories referred to and why another name was used?
     
  5. Cromat

    Cromat Ash nazg durbatuluk

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    It means "Oldest and fatherless".
    Tom is meant to represent a pacifist way of life, not caring about power and only enjoying things for what they are. He isn't really anything. If you insist on giving him a specific race, then the best match is Aule the Valar, since he too enjoys making and not owning things, and Yavanna, Aule's wife, fits Goldberry quite nicely.

    Here's an essay about who is Tom Bombadil:
    http://www.cas.unt.edu/~hargrove/bombadil.html
     
  6. Turambar

    Turambar Harebrained Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2004
    Messages:
    8,207
    Likes Received:
    206
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Not in Amsterdam :)
    Ratings:
    +316 / 2 / -0
    Thanks Cromat, the article was really helpfull. Indeed the Aule/Yavanna theory is strong. Still I wonder why Tolkien left such a gap in his otherwise structurised world...
     
  7. Turin

    Turin Valar Morghulis

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2003
    Messages:
    5,496
    Likes Received:
    24
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    BFE
    Ratings:
    +24 / 0 / -0
    Maybe he's really Jimmy Hoffa!!
     
  8. fcatzpaw

    fcatzpaw New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2004
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    >who or what is Tom Bombadil?

    Nobody really knows who Tom Bambadil is. Because Tolkien never answered that question no matter how fans ask him--it's not mentioned in any of hims book nor in any of his fan letters. So who Tom Bambadil remained to be a mystery n continuously guessed by his fans.

    Some guessed that he is "the one true god" in Tolkien's world because he's not affected by the ring and he claimed himself to be there before anything existed. Some guessed that he's an elf (unlikely because even one of the wisest elf like Galadriel is affected by the ring). Some guessed that he's a very "humanized" ent because he has power over the Old-Man Willow. So yea continue to guess but i dun think anyone can really answer it.
     
  9. fcatzpaw

    fcatzpaw New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2004
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    and as for the comment on "Oldest and fatherless", just want to say there's a lot of stuff in Tolkien's world that is claimed "oldest" and "was there before anything's there." haha.. a bit of inconsistency :p so i don't really think when Tolkien say something's "oldest of all," he really meant it as "Really really BLOODY old." umm and one more thing that people guess Bombadil as an elf's was that supposedly elves are first living things sent to (or created) in Tolkien's world. (and some guessed Bombadil is an elf is that one of the valar (dun remember his name) created the drawves just for fun before the elves come to be.) sori this's getting confusing.. the issue with elves and drawves's another issue...
     
  10. ElvishTwin

    ElvishTwin Left-handed Scribe

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2004
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    California
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    factzpaw, Aule created the dwarves "just for fun" before the elves came to be. Personally, I don't think that Tom, or Iarwain Ben-Adar, was around before Eru, also called Illuvatar, but this is just my theory. It's a common theory that Tom is one of the Maiar, like Sauron, Gandalf or Saruman. This very well could be so.

    However, I am forced to agree with Radagast. Tom Bombadil is a mystery to anyone who might try to figure him out, so it'd be better to leave him how he is. Really, I am only concerned with how he interacts with the others in the books, not who or what he is or anything like that.
     
  11. Elan Morin Tedronai

    Elan Morin Tedronai The Forsaken

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2004
    Messages:
    7,747
    Likes Received:
    47
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Sydney
    Ratings:
    +47 / 0 / -0
    I agree with Dwarf Tosser, "he just is." Like Goldberry said. However, in the "Bestiary Of Tolkien" an awesome book i picked up for $20, it claims he is possibly one of the Maia.
     
  12. Renzokuken

    Renzokuken You have failed this city!

    Joined:
    May 6, 2004
    Messages:
    6,277
    Likes Received:
    83
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Sydney
    Ratings:
    +83 / 0 / -0
    Yeah, I agree with Elan. "He just is". Hes there, a little happy singing chap who helps the lost wanderers. It sucked he wasnt in the movie, btw.
     
  13. Elan Morin Tedronai

    Elan Morin Tedronai The Forsaken

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2004
    Messages:
    7,747
    Likes Received:
    47
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Sydney
    Ratings:
    +47 / 0 / -0
    Sucked he wasn't even the movie ? God, it would have wrecked it if he was ! It would have alienated the newcomers, he just doesn't fit in but i guess thats the reason Tolkien put him there.
     
  14. Reeve

    Reeve New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2004
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    I'm fairly sure he was an Ent.

    Note: *was*

    Treebeard explains there is a spectrum from Ent'ish to Tree'ish. The Trees are silent and rooted while those more Entish are active.

    Treebeard seems to use himself as the benchmark for Entish, yet among other things he no longer remembers who or what the Entwives were. Hinting basically that he himself may not remember what an Ent truly is, but simply see's himself as he always has.

    Knowing all we do of Tom already, note the words of this part of his song about Goldberry:

    "By that pool long ago I found the River-daughter,
    fair young Goldberry sitting in the rushes.
    Sweet was her singing then, and her heart was beating!"

    He opened his eyes and looked at them with a sudden glint of blue:

    "And that proved well for you - for now I shall no longer
    go down deep again along the forest water,
    not while the year is old. Nor shall I be passing
    Old Man Willow's house this side of spring-time,
    not till the merry spring, when the River-daughter
    dances down the withy-path to bathe in the water."

    There are many a folktale about immortal creatures lessening themselves when they fall in love with a mortal. In the first paragraph I personally see a major clue. Treebeard often talked of "Hearts" and how he could perceive them in Ents. Here we have Tom presumably an Ent, and he falls in love with this woman, "And her heart was beating!" note the exclaimation. There's no other in the song. So he in turn transcended what Treebeard considers Ent. When you think about it, the whole Ent-Tree'ish scale, is really based on 'human' qualities.

    There is also a ton of other supplemental things to go with this, including Gandalf describing both Tom and Treebeard as the oldest things etc.etc..

    Anyways, just my theory. And of course it raises a much bigger question: Who was Goldberry!

    Tolkien was very familiar with folktales, and he even used the same device with Arawen/Lorien in a way.


    My other theory is far far longer but revolves around Tom being the planet itself. There's plenty of evidence to support that when he describes himself...

    "Eldest that's what I am. Mark my words my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. He made paths before the Big People, and saw the little people arriving."

    But I won't bore you with that now =)
     
  15. LOTR Fan

    LOTR Fan Universals v. Particulars

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2004
    Messages:
    330
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    I agree with all who have stated that he likely represents those who are far more affected by nature and ecology as opposed to all bound by their desires for machinery and industry. Again, Tolkein if you read the preface to FoTR carefully states that he despises allegory, and that it exists for weak-minded people; but inevitably one's view of their own times and world shines through their writing. Tom is that ideal, the one who is unmoved in times of change and progress; one who in an albeit careless way see through to the big-picture, and choose to live outside of the ring's appeal.

    BTW I agree that having Tom in the movies would have been very detrimental, at least as PJ directed them. PJ spends so much time portraying the ring as this evil force with which no one can reckon, to have Tom prance in and be immune would have created a major hole (also the case with Faramir as portrayed in the books).

    Faramir however, is much like Tom in the books - they are both lovers of simplicity and ecology and seem to as a result be unswayed by the ring.
     
  16. Elvenblademaster

    Elvenblademaster New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2003
    Messages:
    6,311
    Likes Received:
    6
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +6 / 0 / -0
    Tom was not an Ent, nor and Elf, or Man, or Dwarf. He was not immortal, or mortal. He was not Maia, Vala, Eru, or Planet. He was, Tom Bombadil. You see Tolkien wrote many things before LOTR. He wrote stories for his children which some of were published. The adventures of Tom Bombadil he wrote long before LOTR. He created Bombadil as a bedtime story for his children, you see what most people don't get is that Tolkien died before he finished with his creation, he didn't have all the answers. So when he wrote the Hobbit, Bombadil had no part in it, yet when he wrote the sequal to The Hobbit, his trilogy, he gave Bombadil a part. Look at it not from your point of view, your view being Tolkien as infallible and knowing all, but from the his view, the story teller. You got these hobbits that just escaped the shire where the Nazgul are hunting them, they've gone into this wierd forest where trees move, and talk. The story teller has to created inecscapable trouble, something is going to happen, they can't just make it through the forest, something has to happen. So now you need a hero. The story teller now must create, or dig up a past charater to save the day. Obvioulsy Gandalf is busy and all the others, so he brings in good ol' Tom. But Tom doesn't fit anywhere in Middle Earth. But he has powers, powers of trees, Evil rings, even the rain. Perhaps Tolkien was working on some shocking conclusion for what Bombadil was. Remember in ROTK when the Hobbits and Gandalf are on their way back to the Shire, and just before Bree, Gandalf goes to see Bombadil? Maybe Tolkien had planned to explain Bombadil then, and have him go with Frodo to Valinor, but maybe he couldn't come up with anything.

    Bombadil was no known creature of Middle Earth, Tolkien created him Before Middle Earth. So taken from Tolkien's view, Bombadil was the Oldest, and Fatherless, because he ceated him before LOTR, before the Hobbit, before the Silmarillion, Bombadil was the olderst and his only father could be Tolkien himself.
     
  17. LadyoftheGoldenWood

    LadyoftheGoldenWood Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Messages:
    19,276
    Likes Received:
    89
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    desolation and insanity
    Ratings:
    +98 / 1 / -2
    welll I like it./ I think you got it right EBM!
     
  18. Cirdan

    Cirdan The Pandaren

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2004
    Messages:
    505
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Ratings:
    +7 / 0 / -0
    I think he just is Tom Bombadil. Or maybe some kind of 'mix' from all the 'good' races, including the valar. Or maybe, since he was at the creation of middle earth, he is somehow the 'creator' of Middle Earth.
     
  19. Tilion

    Tilion Was never a

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2003
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Netherlands
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    I've been in a Tom Bombadil discussion once. There was this guy that kept believing Tom was Aulë. Even though we disproved all his theories he just kept on going. Goes to show people will believe what they will.

    I think the answers, if any, can be found in the letters of Tolkien,


    Here we find Tolkien having his own doubts about the future of Bombadil in the storie, but he does give us a very nice description. He stands for something, a nostalgic love for the old landscape that is rapidly dwindling.

    Bombadil is also a riddle (as many of us have found while discussing the matter ;) ). There is a reason for this. Tolkien chose to leave us pondering with no real answer to the question who Tom Bombadil was. It is indeed, _what_ Tom is that is the question that can be answered to some degree of satisfaction.

    So Bombadil stands beyond the bad, beyond the good. It does not matter him, for he is only an observer. He is an outsider, yet Tolkien feels he does "belong".

    The following quote sort of sums it all up.

    Me, I'm pretty satisfied with that.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2004
  20. slash

    slash Guest

    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    tom bombadil wasnt in the movie. hes a rapper in a group called: the lords of the rymes, which can be found at www.atomfilms.com