- "Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow! Bright Blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow!"
- —Tom Bombadil
Tom Bombadil was an enigmatic figure that lived throughout the history of Arda. He was known by the Elves as Iarwain Ben-adar ("Oldest and Fatherless" in Sindarin), who dwelt in the valley of the river Withywindle, east of the Shire.
A mysterious being, Tom lived in the depths of the Old Forest, close to the Barrow Downs. His lands were not particularly extensive, but within his domain his power over virtually everything in it was extraordinary. Tom was a paradoxical creature, one moment defeating ancient forces with hardly an effort, the next capering and singing nonsensical songs. He lived with his wife Goldberry, "Daughter of the River," far from any other settlement. Although seemingly benevolent, he took no stance against the Dark Lords.
- "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 (The Lord of the Rings)
The origin and nature of Tom Bombadil are unknown; however, he already existed when the Dark Lord came to Arda, signifying he may have been alive even before the coming of the Valar. However, he may have been speaking in this instance of Melkor's second entry into Arda after he was driven out by the arrival of Tulkas. In any case, he is insinuated to have been the first living creature to inhabit Arda, having witnessed the emergence of the forests and the rain. Tom also claims to live in the west before the Elves came and the tides were folded.
First & Second AgesEdit
His role and nature in the first and second ages is unknown, but he must have witnessed most of the major events and battles. He also witnessed the reducing of the great forests that covered all Middle-earth, and perhaps of his powers.
The level of his interactions with the outside world is also unclear; however, he seemed to have a name among many people and perhaps became a folkloric figure in the traditions and legends of Elves, Dwarves and Men.
- "But I had forgotten Bombadil, if indeed this is still the same that walked the woods and hills long ago, and even then was older than the old. That was not then his name. Iarwain Ben-adar we called him, oldest and fatherless. But many another name he has since been given by other folk: Forn by the Dwarves, Orald by Northern Men, and other names beside. He is a strange creature..."
- —Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring
It is not known when Tom settled into his domain outside the Old Forest, but it is clear, by the time of the War of the Ring, that he has been there for quite some time. Farmer Maggot of Marish in the Eastfarthing and a few Bucklanders knew him and were friendly with him.
It was likely sometime in this period that he met the River-daughter, Goldberry, when she pulled Tom by his beard under the water-lilies out of mischief, but he ordered her to let him free. The next day he came to the River-woman and asked Goldberry to be his wife, and the creatures of the Old Forest (the badger-folk and other animals) attended their wedding.
War of the RingEdit
In TA 3018, Frodo and his company had a chance meeting with Bombadil in the Old Forest after a nearly disastrous encounter with Old Man Willow. Frodo, who had fled from the tree looking for help, enlisted Bombadil, who had been out gathering water lilies. Bombadil went immediately with Frodo to the tree and commanded it to release its prisoners, Merry and Pippin, which it immediately did. He then invited Frodo and his companions to his home, where the Hobbits had an almost dreamlike stay, feasting and making merry with Tom. In this state, Frodo rather inadvertently told Tom all about the Ring and his quest, and when Tom asked to inspect the Ring, Frodo, without question and without any of the reluctance that tended to accompany giving the Ring to another, allowed him to. Tom then put the Ring on his finger, yet not only did he not disappear, but the Ring appeared to have no effect on him at all. After making the Ring itself vanish with a sleight-of-hand trick, he returned it to Frodo, who, slightly suspicious that it had not made Tom vanish, put it on to make sure it was the genuine Ring. Tom surprised him yet again by revealing that he could see Frodo even with the Ring on, and told Frodo to remove it, stating that his hand was fairer without it.
After two days resting and feasting at Tom's home, the Hobbits set out again, only to be captured the next day by Wights on the Barrow-downs. Fortunately, Tom once again came to their rescue, dispersing the Wights and breaking open their tomb. After this, he escorted the Hobbits to the borders of his land and left them there.
The peril of the hobbits was not over; an attack on their lives was carried out, and their ponies were set loose. The ponies apparently remembered the care they were given in the house of Tom Bombadil, and returned to stay beside Tom's own pony, Fatty Lumpkin. He returned them to Barliman Butterbur, the proprietor of The Prancing Pony. Since he had paid eighteen pence as compensation for the loss, he was now the owner of five fine ponies.
Over a month later, Tom became a topic of discussion at the Council of Elrond. There, Elrond, who had apparently met Tom in times long past, reminisced about him briefly before the question was put before the Council of whether or not to give the Ring to Tom, as it appeared as though Tom may have had power over even the Ring within his lands. However, Gandalf quickly dismissed the idea, saying that rather than Tom having power over the Ring, the Ring simply had no power over Tom. He was immune to its influence, but he could not alter it. There is however evidence of Tom's ability to affect the rings power over others, as Frodo freely gave the ring to Tom without his usual hesitation or protective behaviors. Additionally, it was believed by Gandalf that while Tom might be willing to take the Ring if asked by all the Free People of the world, he might do so, but would not understand the reason. Due to this, Tom would have likely either forgot about it or thrown it away, as such things had little relevance to him. It was also mentioned that taking the Ring back to him would be impossible to accomplish without it becoming known to Sauron, and that sooner or later, Sauron would bend all his power towards Tom's realm to take the Ring back. Despite his mastery within his realm, it was assumed that Tom would not have cared or been able to keep the Ring contained to his realm.
Four years after the One Ring was destroyed, Gandalf spent some time with Bombadil. It is unknown how the meeting involved or what was discussed. Gandalf remarked to the Hobbits that Bombadil would doubtless have little interest in the tales of their adventures, except perhaps their encounters with the Ents.
Interpretations and descriptionEdit
- "He is a strange creature."
- —Elrond on Bombadil in "The Council of Elrond"
His clothing consisted of a blue jacket and yellow boots, and he wore an old and battered hat, surmounted by a feather. He seems to have preferred to wear a swan-feather in his hat, but before he met Frodo and company on the banks of the Withywindle, he had acquired the feather of a kingfisher instead. In his own house, rather than a hat, he wore a crown of autumn leaves.
In his preface to The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Tolkien mentions that Tom's name is "Bucklandish in form," and suggests that it was given to him by the Hobbits of that region, as he has many other names. The resemblance of the -dil ending to the common Elvish (n)dil, "friend," may or may not be coincidental. Despite seeming to be a rather whimsical and nonsensical being, he was well known to many powerful beings in Middle-earth, including Elrond and Gandalf, and he could be serious if the need arose.
Proclaimed to be "the oldest in existence," Tom Bombadil was apparently immortal and possesses a range of enigmatic powers able to give full control over his domains, seen by Goldberry that described Tom as being "Master of wood, water and hill". He was also referenced as being impossible to be captured or imprisoned by anyone who was.
Another extraordinary capacity Bombadil was his immunity to the One Ring; he could see Frodo when Frodo wore it, and could wear it himself with no effect. He even tossed the Ring in the air, making it vanish, then produced it from his other hand. He noticed evil nature of the Ring (like Gandalf), warning Frodo not to use it, because his hand "looked more beautiful without him". While this seems to demonstrate that he has unique and mysterious power over the Ring, the idea of giving him the Ring for safekeeping is rejected in the Council of Elrond as Gandalf says, rather, that "the Ring has no power over [Tom Bombadil]...", and believed that Tom would not find the Ring to be very important, and so might simply misplace it.
Tom Bombadil went by many names:
- To Elves and Dúnedain he was known as Iarwain Ben-adar, which translates to "oldest and fatherless". Iarwain literally means "Old-young".
- To Men of the Vales of Anduin and Rohan, he was known as Orald. This is an Old English word meaning "very ancient.
- The Dwarves knew him as Forn. This too is a reference to his age: it is Old Norse for "(belonging to) ancient (days)".
- Tom Bombadil is said to be a Bucklandish name, added by Hobbit chroniclers to his many older ones. Like most Bucklandish names, its translation is unknown.
Tom Bombadil was inspired primarily from a doll Tolkien's son, Michael, toyed with.
Paula Marmor notes that bobadil is an archaic word meaning "braggart", as seen in the character "Captain Bobadill" in the English play Every Man in His Humour. Because of its Bucklandish form, An Introduction to Elvish lists the name Bombadil under the "Celtic-sounding names". However, it is said that the word derives from Boabdil, the Spaniard name of Abu Abdillah Muhammad XII, the last Moorish ruler of Granada.
John D. Rateliff has noted a theory launched by scholar Justin Noetzel. In the latter's paper "Beorn and Tom Bombadil: Mythology, Narrative, and The Most (Non) Essential Characters in Middle-earth", Noetzel suggests an association of Tom Bombadil with the Celtic Otherworld and tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
In The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Tolkien describes Goldberry as the seasonal changes in nature, and Tom Bombadil as the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside, meaning that Tom is the countryside existing in Time, alive and embodied; However, this letter was in reference to works which pre-dated the writing of The Lord of The Rings, and thus may not be true of Tom in canon.
- "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 (The Fellowship of the Ring)
- "Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow, Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow. None have ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master: His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster."
- —The Fellowship of the Ring
- "He is."
- —Goldberry, upon being asked who Tom Bombadil is.
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, a book of verse published in 1962, purported to contain a selection of Hobbit poems, two of which were about Tom Bombadil and include his adventure with Badger folk. He also appears in the poem The Stone Troll, supposedly composed by Sam Gamgee and recorded in the Red Book of Westmarch, in which Tom mentions his "nuncle" Tim, on whose bones the troll is feeding, and he also mentions his father.
Portrayals in adaptationsEdit
The Lord of the Rings film trilogyEdit
In many film and radio adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, Bombadil is notable by his absence, possibly because nobody knows quite what to do with him. Peter Jackson justified his omission of Bombadil from the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by pointing out that the character had little to do with the grand story-line, and did not advance the Hobbits' progress towards Rivendell. However, much of Bombadil's dialogue, and the scene in which the hobbits meet Old Man Willow, are transplanted into scenes that Merry and Pippin share with Treebeard in the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
- Tom Bombadil is a major character in the early quest progression and story-line of The Lord of the Rings Online role-playing game.
- Tom Bombadil is a hero, summoned through his respective power, in The Battle for Middle-earth II and in the game's expansion pack, The Rise of the Witch-king.
- In the Games Workshops' Lord of the Rings strategy game, Tom Bombadil is a hero along with his wife, Goldberry. If they enter a fight, they automatically win, although they can not strike blows; nor can he or Goldberry be killed by shooting or magical powers.
- Tom Bombadil is an unlockable character in LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game and in LEGO The Hobbit.
- In April 2008, 3D entertainment model producer Gentle Giant Studios, Inc., headquartered in Burbank, California, released an exclusive sculpted Tom Bombadil bust, limited to 1000 pieces, for the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con. It was licensed under New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings franchise.
- Bombadil appeared in the 1979 Mind's Eye radio adaptation of the books.
- He was voiced by Norman Shelley in the 1955–1956 BBC radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.
- He was later portrayed by Esko Hukkanen in the 1993 Finnish miniseries Hobitit.
- The Spanish band "Saurom Lamberth" once dedicated a song to the character.
- "Bombadil" is the name of a folk-pop band from Durham, North Carolina. (Paste Magazine)
- Because of the imprecision of his true identity or nature, Tom Bombadil is considered to be the most mysterious character created by Tolkien.
- Both Tom and Treebeard were referred to as the oldest living creatures of Arda, though it is not clear which of the two is the oldest. However, according to Tolkien's letters, it is implied that Bombadil was the oldest living being in Middle-earth.
- The Fellowship of the Ring
- The Two Towers (Mentioned only)
- The Return of the King (Mentioned only)
- The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
- The Lord of the Rings Online
- The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II
- LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game
Translations around the worldEdit
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Том Бомбаділ|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Том Бомбадил|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||湯姆·龐巴迪|
|Kazakh||Том Бомбаділ (Cyrillic) Tom Bombadil (Latin)|
|Kyrgyz Cyrillic||Том Бомбадил|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Том Бомбадил|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Том Бомбадил|
|Tajik Cyrillic||Том Бомбадил|
|Ukrainian Cyrillic||Том Бомбадил|
|Uzbek||Том Бомбадил (Cyrillic) Tom Bombadil (Latin)|
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter VII: "In the House of Tom Bombadil"
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter II: "The Council of Elrond"
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "Preface"
- ↑ The poem "Once Upon A Time" is apparently set during this period. Tom and Goldberry are in a field, and Tom is resting his feet in the dew. He stays there as the days go by, when the Lintips come to visit.
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter XI: "A Knife in the Dark"
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pg. 128; quoting an unpublished letter by Tolkien
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pg. 761
- ↑ Jim Allan, An Introduction to Elvish, "Giving of Names"
- ↑ "Valparaiso, Day Three" dated 12 March 2013, Sacnoth's Scriptorium (accessed 14 March 2013)
- ↑ The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
- ↑ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Bombadil (accessed 15 December, 2018)
- Entry in the Encyclopedia of Arda (a concise overview of the discussion)
- Who is Tom Bombadil? (an analysis of the various theories of who/what Tom is)