Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

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Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby TheGreenWizard » Thu May 07, 2015 9:36 am

I pose just one question: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

"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."

The question of what Tom Bombadil actually is has long been debated. He certainly seems to have an omnipresence, if only in his particular domain. Twice Bombadil seems to manifest from thin air, once in the Old Forest and once in the Barrow Downs.

His refusal to mingle in the affairs of the Ring draws a paralell to the Western notion of God; an omnipotent being that allows for free will to dictate the events of the world.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this subject?
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Billobob » Thu May 07, 2015 11:56 am

Well Eru Illuvatar created Middle earth and his personality does resemble the Christian God's personality. So I beleive out of anyone in Tolkien's works Eru is most like God. Here's a link to a thread I made about how Eru is like God.http://forums.theonering.com/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=107144
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby RoseMorninStar » Thu May 07, 2015 1:32 pm

I agree with Billobob, Eru Ilúvatar is the Creation God and supreme being of Middle Earth.


I believe Tom is an enigma 'intentionally so' as Tolkien has stated in his Letters.
"As a story, I think it is good that there should be a lot of things unexplained (especially if an explanation actually exists);
... And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally)."
(The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 174)
As a philologist, Tolkien studied languages from the written record, myths, history, linguistics, etc.. As a scholar of these ancient languages & cultures he almost inevitably came across holes in the record -enigmas/puzzles- which were impossible to verify the origins of the source. As such, he felt that it was perfectly suited in his creation myth that such enigmas would also exist.

Here is a Wikia page with interesting theories regarding Tom Bombadil.

Personally I think Tolkien began writing LotR in the same vein as 'The Hobbit' (as a children's tale) and it became something more; it expanded to include his larger mythology and so it created some inconsistencies which he was not especially bothered by due to his opinion on the subject.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Billobob » Thu May 07, 2015 2:39 pm

I believe that Tom Bombadill was put in to the story without any thought to the larger universe and later just used it as an opportunity to give some mysterious depth to middle earth.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby TheGreenWizard » Fri May 08, 2015 9:45 am

Interesting. I'm not familiar with Eru Illuvatar, I'm assuming that information is located in the Silmaralion, of which I have not read.

Do you guys see any correlation between Bombadil and Jesus Christ of Christian mythology? I've never heard of any self-admitted Christian allegory from Tolkien, though it is almost impossible that Christian lore would have had no effect on him considering the group of writers he hung around.

It is interesting to think about and compare, even if Tolkien did not deliberately make these similarities.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Billobob » Fri May 08, 2015 10:49 am

I did see a small correlation but there are some crucial differences: God is all seeing and has no boundaries(Tom sets boundaries for himself within the area of the old forest), God is very interested in what people do (while Tom is uninterested in the affairs of the free people's, and God (at least in Old Testament times) does judge his people so they will turn away from sin (Tom does nothing like this)
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby RoseMorninStar » Fri May 08, 2015 2:25 pm

The Silmarillion is the book Tolkien had most wanted published and was his-long-in-the-making mythology, but publishers felt it was too off the beaten path and too long for publication (and indeed was finished by his son Christopher and not published until after Tolkiens death). It is Tolkiens creation myth. It begins,
"There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar ; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and thy were with him before aught else was made."
It has a very biblical feel to it.


That said, Tolkien writes (and this is in the forward of my copy of 'The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring' and is probably in the Forward of most copies, I would think), -in part-
"As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. (...) Other arrangements could be devised according to the tastes or views of those who like allegory or topical reference. But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other is in the purposed domination of the author."


So, to answer your question GreenWizard, no, I do not believe Tolkien intended any correlation to Tom Bombadil and Christ or any other being. Tolkien was very much a practicing Catholic, however, and I do think his upbringing and experiences play a part in his world view and the world view of his mythology.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Billobob » Fri May 08, 2015 2:33 pm

So I think what we can get from this is: Eru is meant to be God and Tom Bombadil is an enigma.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby TheGreenWizard » Fri May 08, 2015 4:20 pm

RoseMorninStar, your posts have provided me much clarification on the matter, thank you for your insight. There does seem to be an intentional lack of anything religious in tLotR, though it would not be surprising if certain elements crept in unintentionally. I suppose that Tom is such an intriguing character that one naturally tries to fit him into some type of schematic order. Perhaps this very trait of Tom's brings out the beauty of his character even more. I find myself growing more find of Tom's few chapters each subsequent time I read the novel.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Billobob » Fri May 08, 2015 4:25 pm

TheGreenWizard wrote:RoseMorninStar, your posts have provided me much clarification on the matter, thank you for your insight. There does seem to be an intentional lack of anything religious in tLotR, though it would not be surprising if certain elements crept in unintentionally. I suppose that Tom is such an intriguing character that one naturally tries to fit him into some type of schematic order. Perhaps this very trait of Tom's brings out the beauty of his character even more. I find myself growing more find of Tom's few chapters each subsequent time I read the novel.


Im offended I wasted all this time to help you and you are not appreciative, wow.



:wink: Just kidding Rosemorninstar provided much more extensive answers than me.
If you have any other questions about middle earth you can put them in this forum.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby RoseMorninStar » Fri May 08, 2015 4:55 pm

Billobob: :shock: No offense intended. :wink: :D

What I find most intriguing about LOTR (and the Silmarillion) is that, as a scholar, Tolkien studied ancient stories from many countries and he found them compelling and rich.. both for their historical significance, language, and culture. Because England had been overrun by others and it's native peoples had been assimilated into those cultures.. they lost their own history, their own ancient stories & lore. Tolkien felt it was a great loss so he set out to create a Mythology just as rich as Beowolf or the Finnish Kalevala, etc..
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Billobob » Fri May 08, 2015 5:00 pm

RoseMorninStar wrote:Billobob: :shock: No offense intended. :wink: :D

What I find most intriguing about LOTR (and the Silmarillion) is that, as a scholar, Tolkien studied ancient stories from many countries and he found them compelling and rich.. both for their historical significance, language, and culture. Because England had been overrun by others and it's native peoples had been assimilated into those cultures.. they lost their own history, their own ancient stories & lore. Tolkien felt it was a great loss so he set out to create a Mythology just as rich as Beowolf or the Finnish Kalevala, etc..


None taken.

As to the rest I've always found it fascinating that Tolkien made his world for the language. I just wish he had made other languages besides Sindarin and Quenya. But we don't want to get to off topic right :D.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby RoseMorninStar » Fri May 08, 2015 5:09 pm

I just wish he had made other languages besides Sindarin and Quenya.


I'll keep this short as I do not want to be off-topic either, but Tolkien did create, I think, 16 or so languages. Some of them are not complete. There is a book, but I'm not sure how good or accurate it is. It would be better to ask someone in one of the language forums.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby TheGreenWizard » Fri May 08, 2015 5:27 pm

LOL! Billobob, I was simply referring to RoseMorninStar's excerpts from some of Tolkien's other works. It is a given that I appreciate yours and everyone else's responses at TORC. That's why we come here!

Now that I think of it, it seems kind of ridiculous that I have not read The Silmaralion, considering I've read tLotR roughly ten times. It is on my to-do list.

RoseMorninStar, I noticed you quoted one of Tolkien's letters. I have seen these quoted several times on TORC. Where can I view these letters? Are they in book format, or somewhere online that I may be able to view them?
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby RoseMorninStar » Fri May 08, 2015 6:26 pm

RoseMorninStar, I noticed you quoted one of Tolkien's letters. I have seen these quoted several times on TORC. Where can I view these letters? Are they in book format, or somewhere online that I may be able to view them?
Yup. There's a book. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. A must have for any Tolkien nerd. ;)

The Sil isn't an easy read, but well worth the effort. As I said earlier, it wasn't finished by Tolkien, so I don't know how different it would have been had he been able to publish it in his lifetime.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Morwenna » Sat May 09, 2015 6:16 am

Part of the problem with Tolkien is that he was forever revising bits of his mythology, so that by the time LOTR was published, he was up to his eyebrows in versions, and as a result of what he had already published, he was constrained by that when it came to revising even more. And he was much older than when he started. It proved to be too much. So his son got the jolly task of sifting through several versions of the same stories, and making a coherent whole out of them.

If you ever get that far, there is also Unfinished Tales, which gives a glimpse of some of the rest of it. And if you really get into it, there is the History of Middle-earth series (which after all these years I have barely begun to touch), which gives a lot more of the development of his mythology (again edited by his son).

Back on topic: do get the letters. One of them (at least) says that he envisioned Tom Bombadil as the spirit of the English countryside. And it seems that the original Tom Bombadil poem predated LOTR.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby swirusek » Mon May 11, 2015 6:02 am

i think Tom Bombadil is one of the most mysterious character on
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Billobob » Wed May 13, 2015 1:11 pm

swirusek wrote:i think Tom Bombadil is one of the most mysterious character on


Were you about to say in middle earth?
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby LleuLlewGyffes » Sat May 16, 2015 4:03 am

Tolkien synthesised a mythology, or more correctly, mythologies. Mythological narratives do not run true. For example, in the Greek myths, there are disparate versions of tales of Prometheus, or Pandora, depending on whose recordings are referenced. Hesiod and Ovid may well present the crux of a tale consistently, but within their separate tellings reside idiosyncrasies and contradictions. Such is the way of myth.

The history of Middle Earth is presented through an Elvish prism; it is their mythology, with their interpretations. Tom Bombadil exists outside their narrative. He is a residual force that predates the Elves' awakening. Tolkien claimed to dislike allegory, yet the Elves' creation myth of Middle Earth is recognisably "Christian", and my feeling is that the coming of the firstborn heralded the birth of “Christian” Middle Earth. In this context, it is tenable that Tom Bombadil represents pre-Christian paganism, a residue of a near-forgotten past, like the Green Man of English folklore.

So to give my answer to the original question; is Tom Bombadil “God”? No, but he is a “god”.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Billobob » Mon May 18, 2015 8:41 am

So you are basically saying that we have no info on Tom because he is outside the elvish history and that he may have represented paganism or some older more primeval force in middle earth?
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Morwenna » Mon May 18, 2015 11:20 am

Actually, that sounds pretty plausible! The mythology is from an elven standpoint, after all.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby Billobob » Mon May 18, 2015 11:37 am

Which also brings up the point what else in middle earth wasn't in elvish history? If only Tolkien hadn't died before he finished all his work, then we would have a much mor complete picture of middle earth.
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Re: Is Tom Bombadil "God"?

Postby basti255 » Sat Aug 29, 2015 10:18 am

Billobob wrote:Which also brings up the point what else in middle earth wasn't in elvish history? If only Tolkien hadn't died before he finished all his work, then we would have a much mor complete picture of middle earth.


Amen to that.
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