The Annotated LOTR: In the House of Tom Bombadil

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The Annotated LOTR: In the House of Tom Bombadil

Postby Mahima » Wed Sep 15, 2004 12:31 am

This is the latest chapter in the Annotated Lord of the Rings project. See -Rómestámo-'s sticky index: *The Annotated LOTR Index Thread* for other threads. The goal of this project is to provide annotations for passages in Tolkien's LOTR. This thread is devoted to the chapter "The House of Tom Bombadil" in Fellowship of the Ring. Contributions from everyone are welcome.


her gown was green, green as young reeds

Reeds are upright, green, grass-like leaves and are often found at the banks of lakes and rivers.
Common Reed’s scientific name: Phragmites communis

Some reeds can be seen here: http://www.dreamstime.com/reed-image55

; and her belt was of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lilies

“Flag-lily" usually refers to the Blue Flag, Iris versicolor. It is doubtful if this is the flower Tolkien intended, as Iris versicolor is a North American plant not native to England. Tolkien may have just been referring to the iris (British variety) here, while avoiding using the classical name in this rustic context.

The commonest indiginous English variety of iris is the 'yellow water flag' aka flag-lily (*Iris Pseudacorus*), which is a plausible candidate for what Tolkien was referring to, since it is aquatic, and is a suitable colour for a golden belt.

In 'Guide to Names..' Tolkien says of the Gladden Fields:
Gladden is here the name for the 'flag' or iris (Old English glaedene) [...] Translate by sense, but avoid if possible the 'learned' name iris.


set with the pale-blue eyes of forget-me-nots.

A number of species of forget-me-not (genus Myosotis), most of them quite similar, are found in England:

http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Forget-me-not

I am Goldberry, daughter of the River

Goldberry, the wife of Tom Bombadil has been variously identified as one of the Queens of the Valar (Yavanna), or as a Maia. However Tolkien himself said of her:
We are not in 'fairy-land', but in real river-lands in autumn. Goldberry represents the actual seasonal changes in such lands.

Letter 210
, (1958).

Thus she seems to be a being of similar order to Tom (see below), a nature-spirit associated with the River Withywindle (as is her mother, the River-woman). Other similar beings in Tolkien's Legendarium may also include the River of Gondor (Anduin personified, referred to by Aragorn in the 'Departure of Boromir') and Caradhras the Cruel (the mountain personified, mentioned in 'The Ring Goes South'). That Goldberry has a mother all but excludes an identification of her as Yavanna.

Goldberry first appears in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

There his beard dangled long down into the water:
up came Goldberry, the River-woman's daughter;
pulled Tom's hanging hair. In he went a-wallowing
under the water-lilies, bubbling and a-swallowing.

'Hey, Tom Bombadil! Whither are you going?'
said fair Goldberry. 'Bubbles you are blowing,
frightening the finny fish and the brown water-rat,
startling the dabchicks, and drowning your feather-hat!'

'You bring it back again, there's a pretty maiden!'
said Tom Bombadil. 'I do not care for wading.
Go down! Sleep again where the pools are shady
far below willow-roots, little water-lady!'

Back to her mother's house in the deepest hollow
swam young Goldberry. But Tom, he would not follow;
on knotted willow-roots he sat in sunny weather,
drying his yellow boots and his draggled feather.


In the same poem, later on, it is described how Tom marries Goldberry

But one day Tom, he went and caught the River-
daughter,
in green gown, flowing hair, sitting in the rushes,
singing old water-songs to birds upon the bushes.

He caught her, held her fast! Water-rats went scuttering
reeds hissed, herons cried, and her heart was fluttering.
Said Tom Bombadil: 'Here's my pretty maiden!
You shall come home with me! The table is all laden:
yellow cream, honeycomb, white bread and butter;
roses at the window-sill and peeping round the shutter.
You shall come under Hill! Never mind your mother
in her deep weedy pool: there you'll find no lover!'

Old Tom Bombadil had a merry wedding,
crowned all with buttercups, hat and feather shedding;
his bride with forgetmenots and flag-lilies for garland
was robed all in silver-green. He sang like a starling,
hummed like a honey-bee, lilted to the fiddle,
clasping his river-maid round her slender middle.

Lamps gleamed within his house, and white was the
bedding;
in the bright honey-moon Badger-folk came treading,
danced down under Hill, and Old Man Willow
tapped, tapped at window-pane, as they slept on the
pillow,
on the bank in the reeds River-woman sighing
heard old Barrow-wight in his mound crying.

Old Tom Bombadil heeded not the voices,
taps, knocks, dancing feet, all the nightly noises;
slept till the sun arose, then sang like a starling:
'Hey! Come derry-dol, merry-dol, my darling!'
sitting on the door-step chopping sticks of willow,
while fair Goldberry combed her tresses yellow.


He 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.

The delight that Frodo feels is not awe or reverence (as would be evoked by one of the Valier or even a Maia) but something closer to the mortal experience than even elven-kind. Given that mortals live in, and experience Nature, the sense of familiarity that Frodo feels is explained if Goldberry is a personification of aspects of the Natural world.

Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow;
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.


The poem "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" opens with these lines, but with the verbs in the past tense: "Old Tom Bombadil was a merry fellow;/Bright blue his jacket was, and his boots were yellow"

‘Fair lady!’ said Frodo again after a while. ‘Tell me, if my asking does not seem foolish, who is Tom Bombadil?’

‘He is,’ said Goldberry, staying her swift movements and smiling.


Peter Hastings, manager of a Catholic bookshop in Oxford felt that Goldberry's description of Bombadil by the words 'He is' implied that Bombadil was God. He felt that Tolkien had 'over-stepped the mark in metaphysical matters'. In response, Tolkien drafted a letter although it remained unsent (as he felt It seemed to be taking myself too importantly). With that caveat, it is instructive to see how Tolkien replied to this criticism:
[...] Goldberry and Tom are referring to the mystery of names. See and ponder Tom's words in Vol. I p. 142. [' "Don't you know my name yet? That's the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?" '].

You may be able to conceive of your unique relation to the Creator without a name – can you: for in such a relation pronouns become proper nouns? But as soon as you are in a world of other finites with a similar, if each unique and different, relation to Prime Being, who are you? Frodo has asked not 'what is Tom Bombadil' but 'Who is he'. We and he no doubt often laxly confuse the questions. Goldberry gives what I think is the correct answer. We need not go into the sublimities of 'I am that am' [a translation of the Hebrew ineffable name of God in the Bible (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetragrammaton )] – which is quite different from he is.*
    * [Footnote] Only the first person (of worlds or anything) can be unique. If you say he is there must be more than one, and created (sub) existence is implied. I can say 'he is' of Winston Churchill as well as of Tom Bombadil, surely?
Letter 153, (1954).

So Tolkien refutes any implication that Tom Bombadil is God (Ilúvatar / Eru / The One) and shows his interest in the 'mystery of names' (as one might expect in a Philologist :!: ).

Frodo looked at her questioningly. ‘He is, as you have seen him,’ she said in answer to his look. ‘He is the Master of wood, water, and hill.’

‘Then all this strange land belongs to him?’

‘No indeed!’ she answered, and her smile faded. ‘That would indeed be a burden,’ she added in a low voice, as if to herself. ‘The trees and the grasses and all things growing or living in the land belong each to themselves. Tom Bombadil is the Master


Tolkien explains and elaborates on this idea in his Letters:
[...] He [Bombadil] is master in a peculiar way: he has no fear, and no desire of possession or domination at all. He merely knows and understands about such things as concern him in his natural little realm. He hardly even judges, and as far as can be seen makes no effort to reform or remove even the Willow.

I don't think Tom needs philosophizing about, and is not improved by it. But many have found him an odd or indeed discordant ingredient. In historical fact I put him in because I had already 'invented' him independently (he first appeared in the Oxford Magazine) and wanted an 'adventure' on the way. But I kept him in, and as he was, because he represents certain things otherwise left out. I do not mean him to be an allegory – or I should not have given him so particular, individual, and ridiculous a name – but 'allegory' is the only mode of exhibiting certain functions: he is then an 'allegory', or an exemplar, a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are 'other' and wholly independent of the enquiring mind, a spirit coeval with the rational mind, and entirely unconcerned with 'doing' anything with the knowledge: Zoology and Botany not Cattle-breeding or Agriculture . Even the Elves hardly show this : they are primarily artists. Also T.B. exhibits another point in his attitude to the Ring, and its failure to affect him. You must concentrate on some part, probably relatively small, of the World (Universe), whether to tell a tale, however long, or to learn anything however fundamental – and therefore much will from that 'point of view' be left out, distorted on the circumference, or seem a discordant oddity. The power of the Ring over all concerned, even the Wizards or Emissaries, is not a delusion – but it is not the whole picture, even of the then state and content of that part of the Universe.
    i.e. the poem 'The Adventures of Tom Bombadil' was first published in that magazine in 1934.
Letter 153, (1954).
Tolkien acknowledges that some readers find this episode a jarring or irrelevant one. However he retains it in the story as an example of the 'whole picture' of which the Tale of the Ring is but a part.
Tom Bombadil is not an important person- to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a 'comment'. I mean, I do not really write like that: he is just an invention (who first appeared in the Oxford Magazine about 1933), and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function. I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on; but both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, want a measure of control, but if you have, as it were taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless. It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is a war. But the view of Rivendell seems to be that it is an excellent thing to have represented, but that there are in fact things whith which it cannot cope; and upon which its existence nonetheless depends. Ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive. Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron.

Letter 144, (1954).

So Tom Bombadil is a natural pacifist, a pure 'scientist' who has no fear because of his knowledge of the Songs that control the perils within 'his' Land. Yet while he is the Master, Tom mostly does not utilise his mastery to exert power or continuing control over the creatures he encounters. Thus while he rescues the hobbits from the Willow, he does not punish or re-educate it (he does banish the Barrow-wight however (see 'Fog on the Barrow-downs' )


No-one has ever caught old Tom walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hill-tops under light and shadow.

This comment of Goldberry’s also seems to be from the poem The adventures of Tom Bombadil
None ever caught old Tom in upland or in dingle,
walking the forest-paths, or by the Withywindle,
or out on the lily-pools in boat upon the water.


‘Who are you, Master?’ he asked.

Tom gently rebukes Frodo (‘Don’t you know my name yet? That’s the only answer.')... Who is Tom? Tom is Tom ;) !

However he then answers the implied question ('What are you?'). This is one of the most hotly debated questions in Tolkien Scholarship and may never be satisfactorily resolved.

Tom Bombadil is purposely "an enigma". Tolkien said as much in his Letters:
And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are.
Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).

Letter 144, (1954).
Despite this statement, it is possible to exclude categories of being that Tom is not.

He is not the Creator God (The One / Eru / Ilúvatar). If Tolkien's implied denial is not enough (see above), he explicitly rules out this possibility:
There is no 'embodiment' of the Creator anywhere in this story or mythology.

Letter 181, (1956).

He is not one of the Valar - the Council of Elrond (see *The Annotated LOTR - The Council of Elrond* http://forums.tolkienonline.com/viewtopic.php?t=78578 ) makes it clear that Tom is less powerful than Sauron, and Tom's comments tell us that he predates even Morgoth entering into Arda (see below).
`But in any case,' said Glorfindel, `to send the Ring to him [Bombadil] would only postpone the day of evil. He is far away. We could not now take it back to him, unguessed, unmarked by any spy. And even if we could, soon or late the Lord of the Rings would learn of its hiding place and would bend all his power towards it. Could that power be defied by Bombadil alone? I think not. I think that in the end, if all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First; and then Night will come.'

`I know little of Iarwain save the name,' said Galdor; `but Glorfindel, I think, is right. Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself. And yet we see that Sauron can torture and destroy the very hills. [...]'

'The Council of Elrond', The Fellowship of the Ring.

Tom predates the Elves and clearly regards himself as apart from them (and also apart from Men (the 'Big People' ) and hobbits (the 'little People' ):
‘Who are you, Master?’ he asked.

‘Eh, what?’ said Tom sitting up, and his eyes glinting in the gloom. ‘Don’t you know my name yet? That’s the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless? But you are young and I am old. 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. He was here before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from Outside.’

'In the House of Tom Bombadil', ibid.

This final sentence suggests that Tom was in Arda before the Ainur entered into it at the beginning of Time.
Then there was unrest among the Ainur; but Ilúvatar called to them, and said: 'I know the desire of your minds that what ye have seen should verily be, not only in your thought, but even as ye yourselves are, and yet other. Therefore I say: ! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be; and those of you that will may go down into it. And suddenly the Ainur saw afar off a light, as it were a cloud with a living heart of flame; and they knew that this was no vision only, but that Ilúvatar had made a new thing: Eä, the World that Is.

Thus it came to pass that of the Ainur some abode still with Ilúvatar beyond the confines of the World; but others, and among them many of the greatest and most fair, took the leave of Ilúvatar and descended into it. But this condition Ilúvatar made, or it is the necessity of their love, that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs.

'Ainulindalë', The Silmarillion,

suggesting also that he is not a Maia. Tolkien suggested in one of his essays that creatures could have arisen within the realm of Arda directly from the Music of the Ainur, so that they would be present in Arda once Ilúvatar brought physical Creation into being.
Out of the discords of the Music — sc. not directly out of either of the themes, Eru's or Melkor's, but of their dissonance with regard one to another - evil things appeared in Arda, which did not descend from any direct plan or vision of Melkor: they were not 'his children'; and therefore, since all evil hates, hated him too. The progeniture of things was corrupted. Hence Orcs? Part of the Elf-Man idea gone wrong. Though as for Orcs, the Eldar believed Morgoth had actually 'bred' them by capturing Men, (and Elves) early and increasing to the utmost any corrupt tendencies they possessed.
    The Three Themes of Ilúvatar in the Music of the Ainur are here treated as a single theme, in opposition to the discordant 'theme' of Melkor.
Myths Transformed, Text VII, Notes on motives in The Silmarillion, (iii), Morgoth's Ring.

While Tom would not have arisen from the discords within the music (instead these would most likely be creatures such as the Nameless Things (mentioned by Gandalf in 'The White Rider' ) and/or the Watcher in the Water (see 'A Journey in the Dark' )), the fact that such creatures may have been present when Eä was brought into being supports the existence of other Primeval beings within Arda such as Tom Bombadil. Tolkien refers to Tom in Letter 153 as Eldest in Time. (While the Ainur clearly existed before Eä was created, they did not 'enter into Time' until they descended into Eä. Thus by the count of time within the physical creation, Tom could well have experienced the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from Outside.)

Tom is clearly is too longaeval to be a Man, Dwarf or Hobbit. He is obviously not an Ent, Troll or Orc.

Given Tolkien's own comment (Do you think Tom Bombadil, the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside, could be made into the hero of a story? Letter 19, (1937)), and his identification of Goldberry as a being of similar sort (see above), it is most likely that Tom Bombadil is a spirit of the Natural world. However Tolkien never explicitly spells this out in The Lord of the Rings in order to preserve his 'enigma'.

[*What is Tom Bombadil?* ( http://tolkien.slimy.com/essays/Bombadil.html by Steuard Jensen) offers one of the best discussions (fully supported by references) on Tom Bombadil available online although it does not go as far in its conclusions as I have above].
Last edited by Mahima on Wed Oct 13, 2004 4:16 am, edited 8 times in total.
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Postby Mahima » Wed Sep 15, 2004 12:36 am

I see yellow cream and honeycomb, and white bread, and butter; milk, cheese, and green herbs and ripe berries gathered.

Evidently Tom and Goldberry, like Beorn in The Hobbit are vegetarians (though not vegans).
Additionally, butter and cream indicate that Tom has either sheep, cows or goats (as does the short grass outside his house).

They came to a low room with a sloping roof (a penthouse, it seemed, built on to the north end of the house).

Penthouse here of course means a sloping building appended to the wall of another, not the modern meaning of a roof-top structure. (Alteration of Middle English pentis, pentace = "shed, lean-to", influenced by French pente = "slope").

The floor was flagged and strewn with fresh green rushes.

A picture of a flagged floor:
http://www.armatura.connectfree.co.uk/c ... /flags.htm

There was a fire in the wide hearth before them, and it was burning with a sweet smell, as if it were built of apple-wood.

Burning apple-wood famously gives off a sweet scent, as in this doggerel verse of fire-wood lore:
Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room,
Cherry logs across the dogs,
Smell like flowers in bloom


There was a noise like a strong wind blowing, and on it was borne the sound of hoofs, galloping, galloping, galloping from the east.

In the first phase, the Hobbits were to be invited to his house after the barrow-wight adventure (See *Annotated Chapter: The Old Forest*), with several wights in hot pursuit.

They get through to end of forest as evening comes on, and climb on to the downs. It gets very cold - mist is followed by a chilly drizzle. They shelter under a big barrow. Barrow-wight takes them inside. They wake to find themselves buried alive. They shout. At last Marmaduke and Bingo begin a song. An answering song outside. Tom Bombadil opens the stone door and lets them out. They go to his house for the night - two Barrow-wights come [?galloping] after them, but stop every time Tom Bombadil turns and looks at them. (HoME 6, The Old Forest and the Withywindle)


Marmaduke is Merry and Bingo is Frodo.

During the night Frodo (then Bingo) also hears galloping horses around Tom Bombadil’s house.

In the dead night Bingo woke and heard noises: a sudden fear came over him [?so that] he did not speak but lay listening breathless. He heard a sound like a strong wind curling round the house and shaking it, and down the wind came a galloping, a galloping: hooves seemed to come charging down the hillside from the east, up to the walls and round and round, hooves thudding and wind blowing, and then dying away back up the hill and into the darkness.

"Black riders," thought Bingo. "Black riders, a black host of riders," and he wondered if he would ever again have the courage even in the morning to leave the safety of these good stone walls. He lay and listened for a while, but all had become quiet again, and after a while he fell asleep. (HoME 6, Tom Bombadil)



It was the sound of water that Merry heard falling into his quiet sleep

It is tempting to read this dream as a foreshadowing of the incident, narrated in Bk. III ch. 9, where Merry and Pippin are almost trapped by rising waters in the gatehouse of Isengard. However, the dream appears almost verbatim in the earliest draft of this chapter, written long before Isengard had been imagined. HoME v. VI, "The Return of the Shadow," p. 118. (In the draft, it was "Frodo Took" who had this dream; this character later dropped out and his name was transferred to the hero, who was still at this stage called "Bingo Bolger-Baggins.")


As far as he could remember, Sam slept through the night in deep content, if logs are contented.

To point out the obvious joke, Sam has evidently used the English saying "I slept like a log" to indicate that he slept well.


And the red flowers on the beans began to glow against the wet green leaves

One of JRR Tolkien’illustrations, New Lodge, Stonyhurst is conjectured to be related to this description of Tom Bombadil’s garden. In this sketch of the backside of the New Lodge and the garden, on the right are shown beans climbing up stakes, with red flowers standing out.

Source: The Book JRR Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator.

But none were more dangerous than the Great Willow

In a letter criticizing the 1955 BBC radio adaptation of LotR, Tolkien wrote:
I thought Tom Bombadil dreadful - but worse still was the announcer's preliminary remarks that Goldberry was his daughter (!) and that Willowman was an ally of Mordor (!!). Cannot people imagine things hostile to men and hobbits who prey on them without being in league with the Devil!


On the other hand, Tolkien later entertained the idea that Old Man Willow, if not under Sauron's direction, was at least susceptible to his influence. One of the writings collected in Unfinished Tales as "The Hunt for the Ring" is reported by Christopher Tolkien as saying that the Lord of the Nazgûl visited the Barrow-Downs while others invaded the Shire:
it is said that the Black Captain stayed there for some days, and the Barrow-wights were roused, and all things of evil spirit, hostile to Elves and Men, were on the watch with malice in the Old Forest and on the Barrow-downs.

UT, p. 364 (1st paperback ed.).

Gold was piled on the biers of dead kings and queens; and mounds covered them, and the stone doors were shut; and the grass grew over all... A shadow came out of the dark places far away, and the bones were stirred in the mounds. Barrow-wights walked in the hollow places with a clink of rings on cold fingers, and gold chains in the wind.

The origin of the mounds is given in Appendix A:

In the days of Argeleb II the plague came into Eriador from the South-east, and most of the people of Cardolan perished, especially in Minhiriath. The Hobbits and all other peoples suffered greatly, but the plague lessened as it passed northwards, and the northern parts of Arthedain were little affected. It was at this time that an end came of the Dúnedain of Cardolan, and evil spirits out of Angmar and Rhudaur entered into the deserted mounds and dwelt there.

'It is said that the mounds of Tyrn Gorthad, as the Barrow-downs were called of old, are very ancient, and that many were built in the days of the old world of the First Age by the forefathers of the Edain, before they crossed the Blue Mountains into Beleriand, of which Lindon is all that now remains. Those hills were therefore revered by the Dúnedain after their return; and there many of their lords and kngs were buried. [Some say that the mound in which the Ring-bearer was imprisoned had been the grave of the last prince of Cardolan, who fell in the war of 1409.]'

'The North-kingdom and the Dúnedain', Appendix A, The Lord of the Rings


... he made no secret that he owed his recent knowledge largely to Farmer Maggot, whom he seemed to regard as a person of more importance than they had imagined.

The connection between Tom and Maggot is present in the early drafts, when JRRT had played with the idea of making Maggot some other species than a hobbit:

...He turns out to know Farmer Maggot. (Make Maggot not a hobbit, but some other kind of creature - not dwarf, but akin to Tom Bombadil)

Home Vol 6



There is more about their adventures in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil:

When others went to bed in hay, fern, or feather,
close in the inglenook they laid their heads together,
old Tom and Muddy-feet, swapping all the tidings
from Barrow-downs to Tower Hills: of walkings and of ridings;
of wheat-ear and barley-corn, of sowing and of reaping;
queer tales from Bree, and talk at smithy, mill, and cheaping;
rumours in whispering trees, south-wind in the larches,
tall Watchers by the Ford, Shadows on the marches.


Muddy-feet being a nickname for Maggot.


It was also clear that Tom had dealings with the Elves, and it seemed that in some fashion, news had reached him from Gildor concerning the flight of Frodo.

This is consistent with what Gildor told Frodo near the end of Chapter 3: "In the morning we shall have gone; but we will send our messages through the lands. The Wandering Companies shall know of your journey, and those that have power for good shall be on the watch." It also explains Tom's statement, early in this chapter, that "I was waiting for you . . ." However, it makes Elrond's admission in Bk. II, ch2 that "I had forgotten Bombadil, if indeed this is still the same that walked the woods and hills long ago" a little hard to understand.

Tom was telling an absurd story about badgers and their queer ways

"The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" tells of Tom's capture and release by a family of badgers led by "Badger-brock":
Out came Badger-brock with his snowy forehead
and his dark blinking eyes. In the hill he quarried
with his wife and many sons. By the coat they caught him,
pulled him inside their earth, down their tunnels brought him.


Here is a web page about badgers in England:

http://www.mammal.org.uk/badger.htm

"Brock," in "Badger-brock," is the original name of the animal (Old English brocc). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origin of "badger" is uncertain, but it may be a nickname derived from the white mark or "badge" on its face.


and he advised them to pass barrows by on the west-side, if they chanced to stray near one.

Although the presence of evil creatures in burial mounds is a common theme in folklore (see the annotations to the next chapter), none of the available sources suggest that it is dangerous to approach such a mound from a particular direction.

There may, however, be an echo here of the Northern English ballad of "Childe Rowland and Burd Helen."
Helen disappeared one day because she unwisely went around a church "widdershins," or counterclockwise. Her two elder brothers went in search of her in turn, and also disappeared. Childe Rowland, the youngest brother, took up the search after getting advice from the wizard Merlin; he came to a "high green hill," which he was able to enter by going three times about it widdershins. Inside he found the King of Elfland, and by defeating him in a swordfight, obtained the release of his sister and brothers.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/eft/eft22.htm
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Postby Mahima » Wed Sep 15, 2004 2:04 am

There was a noise like a strong wind blowing, and on it was borne the sound of hoofs, galloping, galloping, galloping from the east

In the First phase, when Tolkien was writing the sequel to The Hobbit , the hobbits were only to hear Tom Bombadil’s song during the willow-adventure and there were to be invited to his house after the barrow-wight adventure, with several wights in hot pursuit. During the night Frodo (then Bingo) also hears galloping horses around Tom Bombadil’s house. This feature was maintained into the finished Lord of the Rings, but here they are heard in Frodo’s dream, in the first version Bingo is wide awake.

Note: If anyone else has the accurate quotes from HoME for the above, could you please supply them? My information is from a paper written on the basis of HoME.
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Postby rowanberry » Wed Sep 15, 2004 11:19 am

First, something about the willow-adventure and the barrow-wight adventure:

Odo and Bingo cannot go on without a rest. they sit down with their backs to a great willow, while Frodo and Marmaduke attend to the ponies. Willowman traps Bingo and Odo. Suddenly, a singing is heard in the distance. (Tom Bombadil not named.) The Willow relaxes its hold.

They get through to end of forest as evening comes on, and climb on to the downs. It gets very cold - mist is followed by a chilly drizzle. They shelter under a big barrow. Barrow-wight takes them inside. They wake to find themselves buried alive. They shout. At last Marmaduke and Bingo begin a song. An answering song outside. Tom Bombadil opens the stone door and lets them out. They go to his house for the night - two Barrow-wights come [?galloping] after them, but stop every time Tom Bombadil turns and looks at them. (HoME 6, The Old Forest and the Withywindle)


And, about the galloping horses:

In the dead night Bingo woke and heard noises: a sudden fear came over him [?so that] he did not speak but lay listening breathless. He heard a sound like a strong wind curling round the house and shaking it, and down the wind came a galloping, a galloping: hooves seemed to come charging down the hillside from the east, up to the walls and round and round, hooves thudding and wind blowing, and then dying away back up the hill and into the darkness.

"Black riders," thought Bingo. "Bladk riders, a black host of riders," and he wondered if he would ever again have the courage even in the morning to leave the safety of these good stone walls. He lay and listenedfor a while, but all had ecome quiet again, and after a while he fell asleep. (HoME 6, Tom Bombadil)
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Postby roaccarcsson » Wed Sep 15, 2004 7:57 pm

her belt was of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lilies

An Internet search for "flag-lily" produces only references to the Blue Flag, Iris versicolor. If this is the flower Tolkien intended, it is an anachronism, as Iris versicolor is a North American plant not native to England.

http://www.rook.org/earl/bwca/nature/aquatics/irisver.html

set with the pale blue eyes of forget-me-nots.

A number of species of forget-me-not (genus Myosotis), most of them quite similar, are found in England:

http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Forget-me-not

I see yellow cream and honeycomb, and white bread, and butter; milk, cheese, and green herbs and ripe berries gathered.

Evidently Tom and Goldberry, like Beorn in The Hobbit are vegetarians (though not vegans).

It was the sound of water that Merry heard falling into his quiet sleep

It is tempting to read this dream as a foreshadowing of the incident, narrated in Bk. III ch. 9, where Merry and Pippin are almost trapped by rising waters in the gatehouse of Isengard. However, the dream appears almost verbatim in the earliest draft of this chapter, written long before Isengard had been imagined. HoME v. VI, "The Return of the Shadow," p. 118. (In the draft, it was "Frodo Took" who had this dream; this character later dropped out and his name was transferred to the hero, who was still at this stage called "Bingo Bolger-Baggins.")

As far as he could remember, Sam slept through the night in deep content, if logs are contented.

In the first draft, it was Merry who did not dream. HoME v. VI, "The Return of the Shadow," p. 119. Sam had not yet made his appearance at this stage. Christopher Tolkien notes that this is the earliest point where "Meriadoc" appears as the character's name in a manuscript as first written, instead of the earlier "Marmaduke." Id. at p. 123 n.1.
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Postby Iarwain~Ben-adar » Wed Sep 15, 2004 9:42 pm

As one who has a great interest, obviously, in Tom Bombadil I have considered whether he and Goldberry were vegetarians as the meals they serve the hobbits contain no meat. However, in "Tom Bombadil Goes Boating", Old Tom threatens Willow-wren:

No names, you tell-tale, or I'll skin and eat you,
babbling in every ear things that don't concern you!
If you tell Willow-man where I've gone, I'll burn you,
roast you on a willow-spit. That'll end your prying!


Of course, like all of Old Tom's threats--to climb on Whisker-lad's back and ride him down the river, give the entire otter family over to the Barrow-wights, or call the 'orks' on the hobbits in Breredon--his threat to roast, skin, and eat Willow-wren is an idle one. Even so, the very fact that he said he might makes you consider whether or not he actually would eat animal flesh in a given situation.
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Postby Mahima » Wed Sep 15, 2004 11:38 pm

Thanks for the quotes roac.

Shouldn't the Willow-adventure quote be included in the last chapter annotation?
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Postby roaccarcsson » Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:54 pm

Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow;
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.


The poem "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" opens with these lines, but with the verbs in the past tense: "Old Tom Bombadil was a merry fellow;/Bright blue his jacket was, and his boots were yellow"

Tom was telling an absurd story about badgers and their queer ways

"The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" tells of Tom's capture and release by a family of badgers led by "Badger-brock":
Out came Badger-brock with his snowy forehead
and his dark blinking eyes. In the hill he quarried
with his wife and many sons. By the coat they caught him,
pulled him inside their earth, down their tunnels brought him.


Here is a web page about badgers in England:

http://www.mammal.org.uk/badger.htm

"Brock," in "Badger-brock," is the original name of the animal (Old English brocc). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origin of "badger" is uncertain, but it may be a nickname derived from the white mark or "badge" on its face.
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Postby roaccarcsson » Fri Sep 17, 2004 3:51 pm

But none were more dangerous than the Great Willow

In a letter criticizing the 1955 BBC radio adaptation of LotR, Tolkien wrote:
I thought Tom Bombadil dreadful - but worse still was the announcer's preliminary remarks that Goldberry was his daughter (!) and that Willowman was an ally of Mordor (!!). Cannot people imagine things hostile to men and hobbits who prey on them without being in league with the Devil!


On the other hand, Tolkien later entertained the idea that Old Man Willow, if not under Sauron's direction, was at least susceptible to his influence. One of the writings collected in Unfinished Tales as "The Hunt for the Ring" is reported by Christopher Tolkien as saying that the Lord of the Nazgûl visited the Barrow-Downs while others invaded the Shire:
it is said that the Black Captain stayed there for some days, and the Barrow-wights were roused, and all things of evil spirit, hostile to Elves and Men, were on the watch with malice in the Old Forest and on the Barrow-downs.

UT, p. 364 (1st paperback ed.).

and he advised them to pass barrows by on the west-side, if they chanced to stray near one.

Although the presence of evil creatures in burial mounds is a common theme in folklore (see the annotations to the next chapter), none of the available sources suggest that it is dangerous to approach such a mound from a particular direction.

There may, however, be an echo here of the Northern English ballad of "Childe Rowland and Burd Helen." Helen disappeared one day because she unwisely went around a church "widdershins," or counterclockwise. Her two elder brothers went in search of her in turn, and also disappeared. Childe Rowland, the youngest brother, took up the search after getting advice from the wizard Merlin; he came to a "high green hill," which he was able to enter by going three times about it widdershins. Inside he found the King of Elfland, and by defeating him in a swordfight, obtained the release of his sister and brothers.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/eft/eft22.htm

[Note here also a possible influence on Lewis's The Silver Chair - though probably we don't want to go that far afield.]
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Postby Queen_Beruthiel » Sun Sep 19, 2004 7:17 am

Tolkien has this to say about Goldberry (Letter 210):

We are not in 'fairy-land', but in real river-lands in autumn. Goldberry represents the seasonal changes in such lands.


And about Tom: (Letter 144).

Tom Bombadil is not an important person - to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a 'comment'. I mean, I do not really write like that: he is just an invention (who first appeared in the Oxford Magazine about 1933 and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in if he did not have some kind of function. I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on; but both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, want a measure of control. But if you have, as it were taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control become quite meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless. It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in th mind when there is a war...



In Letter 153 he has this to say:

I don't thimk Tom needs philosophising about, and is not improved by it. .... In historical fact I put him in because I had already 'invented' him independently (he first appeared in the Oxford Magazine) and wanted an 'adventure' on the way. But I kept him in, and as he was, because he represents certain things otherwise left out. I do not mean him to be an allegory - or I should not have given him so particular, individual and ridiculous a name - but 'allegory' is the only mode of exhibiting certain functions: he is then an 'allegory', or an exemplar, a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are 'other' and wholly independent of the enquiring mind, a spirit coeval with the rational mind, and entirely unconcerned with 'doing' anything with the knowledge: Zoology and Botany not Cattle-breeding or Agriculture. Even the Elves hardly show this: they are primarily artists. Also T.B. exhibits another point in his attitude to the Ring, and its failure to affect him. You must concentrate on some part, probably relatively small, of the World (Universe), whether to tell a tale, however long, or to learn anything, however fundamental - and therefore much will from that 'point of view' be left out, distorted on the circumference, or seem a discordant oddity. The power of the Ring over all concerned, even the Wizards or Emissaries, is not a delusion - but it is not the whole picture, even of the then state and content of that part of the Universe.
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Postby -Rómestámo- » Sun Sep 19, 2004 1:29 pm

'[...] I am Goldberry, daughter of the River.'

Goldberry, the wife of Tom Bombadil has been variously identified as one of the Queens of the Valar (Yavanna), or as a Maia. However Tolkien himself said of her:
We are not in 'fairy-land', but in real river-lands in autumn. Goldberry represents the actual seasonal changes in such lands.

Letter 210
, (1958).

Thus she seems to be a being of similar order to Tom (see below), a nature-spirit associated with the River Withywindle (as is her mother, the River-woman). Other similar beings in Tolkien's Legendarium may also include the River of Gondor (Anduin personified, referred to by Aragorn in the 'Departure of Boromir') and Caradhras the Cruel (the mountain personified, mentioned in 'The Ring Goes South'). That Goldberry has a mother all but excludes an identification of her as Yavanna.
    ----------
He 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.

The delight that Frodo feels is not awe or reverence (as would be evoked by one of the Valier or even a Maia) but something closer to the mortal experience than even elven-kind. Given that mortals live in, and experience Nature, the sense of familiarity that Frodo feels is explained if Goldberry is a personification of aspects of the Natural world.
    ----------
‘Fair lady!’ said Frodo again after a while. ‘Tell me, if my asking does not seem foolish, who is Tom Bombadil?’

‘He is,’ said Goldberry, staying her swift movements and smiling.


Peter Hastings, manager of a Catholic bookshop in Oxford felt that Goldberry's description of Bombadil by the words 'He is' implied that Bombadil was God. He felt that Tolkien had 'over-stepped the mark in metaphysical matters'. In response, Tolkien drafted a letter although it remained unsent (as he felt It seemed to be taking myself too importantly). With that caveat, it is instructive to see how Tolkien replied to this criticism:
[...] Goldberry and Tom are referring to the mystery of names. See and ponder Tom's words in Vol. I p. 142. [' "Don't you know my name yet? That's the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?" '].

You may be able to conceive of your unique relation to the Creator without a name – can you: for in such a relation pronouns become proper nouns? But as soon as you are in a world of other finites with a similar, if each unique and different, relation to Prime Being, who are you? Frodo has asked not 'what is Tom Bombadil' but 'Who is he'. We and he no doubt often laxly confuse the questions. Goldberry gives what I think is the correct answer. We need not go into the sublimities of 'I am that am' [a translation of the Hebrew ineffable name of God in the Bible (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetragrammaton )] – which is quite different from he is.*
    * [Footnote] Only the first person (of worlds or anything) can be unique. If you say he is there must be more than one, and created (sub) existence is implied. I can say 'he is' of Winston Churchill as well as of Tom Bombadil, surely?
Letter 153, (1954).

So Tolkien refutes any implication that Tom Bombadil is God (Ilúvatar / Eru / The One) and shows his interest in the 'mystery of names' (as one might expect in a Philologist :!: ).
    ----------
Frodo looked at her questioningly. ‘He is, as you have seen him,’ she said in answer to his look. ‘He is the Master of wood, water, and hill.’

‘Then all this strange land belongs to him?’

‘No indeed!’ she answered, and her smile faded. ‘That would indeed be a burden,’ she added in a low voice, as if to herself. ‘The trees and the grasses and all things growing or living in the land belong each to themselves. Tom Bombadil is the Master. No one has ever caught old Tom walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hill-tops under light and shadow. He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master.’


Tolkien explains and elaborates on this idea in his Letters:
[...] He [Bombadil] is master in a peculiar way: he has no fear, and no desire of possession or domination at all. He merely knows and understands about such things as concern him in his natural little realm. He hardly even judges, and as far as can be seen makes no effort to reform or remove even the Willow.

I don't think Tom needs philosophizing about, and is not improved by it. But many have found him an odd or indeed discordant ingredient. In historical fact I put him in because I had already 'invented' him independently (he first appeared in the Oxford Magazine) and wanted an 'adventure' on the way. But I kept him in, and as he was, because he represents certain things otherwise left out. I do not mean him to be an allegory – or I should not have given him so particular, individual, and ridiculous a name – but 'allegory' is the only mode of exhibiting certain functions: he is then an 'allegory', or an exemplar, a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are 'other' and wholly independent of the enquiring mind, a spirit coeval with the rational mind, and entirely unconcerned with 'doing' anything with the knowledge: Zoology and Botany not Cattle-breeding or Agriculture . Even the Elves hardly show this : they are primarily artists. Also T.B. exhibits another point in his attitude to the Ring, and its failure to affect him. You must concentrate on some part, probably relatively small, of the World (Universe), whether to tell a tale, however long, or to learn anything however fundamental – and therefore much will from that 'point of view' be left out, distorted on the circumference, or seem a discordant oddity. The power of the Ring over all concerned, even the Wizards or Emissaries, is not a delusion – but it is not the whole picture, even of the then state and content of that part of the Universe.
    i.e. the poem 'The Adventures of Tom Bombadil' was first published in that magazine in 1934.
Letter 153, (1954).
Tolkien acknowledges that some readers find this episode a jarring or irrelevant one. However he retains it in the story as an example of the 'whole picture' of which the Tale of the Ring is but a part.
Tom Bombadil is not an important person- to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a 'comment'. I mean, I do not really write like that: he is just an invention (who first appeared in the Oxford Magazine about 1933), and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function. I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on; but both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, want a measure of control, but if you have, as it were taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless. It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is a war. But the view of Rivendell seems to be that it is an excellent thing to have represented, but that there are in fact things whith which it cannot cope; and upon which its existence nonetheless depends. Ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive. Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron.

Letter 144, (1954).

So Tom Bombadil is a natural pacifist, a pure 'scientist' who has no fear because of his knowledge of the Songs that control the perils within 'his' Land. Yet while he is the Master, Tom mostly does not utilise his mastery to exert power or continuing control over the creatures he encounters. Thus while he rescues the hobbits from the Willow, he does not punish or re-educate it (he does banish the Barrow-wight however (see 'Fog on the Barrow-downs' ).
    ----------
‘Who are you, Master?’ he asked.

Tom gently rebukes Frodo (‘Don’t you know my name yet? That’s the only answer.')... Who is Tom? Tom is Tom ;) !

However he then answers the implied question ('What are you?'). This is one of the most hotly debated questions in Tolkien Scholarship and may never be satisfactorily resolved.

Tom Bombadil is purposely "an enigma". Tolkien said as much in his Letters:
And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are.
Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).

Letter 144, (1954).
Despite this statement, it is possible to exclude categories of being that Tom is not.

He is not the Creator God (The One / Eru / Ilúvatar). If Tolkien's implied denial is not enough (see above), he explicitly rules out this possibility:
There is no 'embodiment' of the Creator anywhere in this story or mythology.

Letter 181, (1956).

He is not one of the Valar - the Council of Elrond (see *The Annotated LOTR - The Council of Elrond* http://forums.tolkienonline.com/viewtopic.php?t=78578 ) makes it clear that Tom is less powerful than Sauron, and Tom's comments tell us that he predates even Morgoth entering into Arda (see below).
`But in any case,' said Glorfindel, `to send the Ring to him [Bombadil] would only postpone the day of evil. He is far away. We could not now take it back to him, unguessed, unmarked by any spy. And even if we could, soon or late the Lord of the Rings would learn of its hiding place and would bend all his power towards it. Could that power be defied by Bombadil alone? I think not. I think that in the end, if all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First; and then Night will come.'

`I know little of Iarwain save the name,' said Galdor; `but Glorfindel, I think, is right. Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself. And yet we see that Sauron can torture and destroy the very hills. [...]'

'The Council of Elrond', The Fellowship of the Ring.

Tom predates the Elves and clearly regards himself as apart from them (and also apart from Men (the 'Big People' ) and hobbits (the 'little People' ):
‘Who are you, Master?’ he asked.

‘Eh, what?’ said Tom sitting up, and his eyes glinting in the gloom. ‘Don’t you know my name yet? That’s the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless? But you are young and I am old. 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. He was here before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from Outside.’

'In the House of Tom Bombadil', ibid.

This final sentence suggests that Tom was in Arda before the Ainur entered into it at the beginning of Time.
Then there was unrest among the Ainur; but Ilúvatar called to them, and said: 'I know the desire of your minds that what ye have seen should verily be, not only in your thought, but even as ye yourselves are, and yet other. Therefore I say: ! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be; and those of you that will may go down into it. And suddenly the Ainur saw afar off a light, as it were a cloud with a living heart of flame; and they knew that this was no vision only, but that Ilúvatar had made a new thing: Eä, the World that Is.

Thus it came to pass that of the Ainur some abode still with Ilúvatar beyond the confines of the World; but others, and among them many of the greatest and most fair, took the leave of Ilúvatar and descended into it. But this condition Ilúvatar made, or it is the necessity of their love, that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs.

'Ainulindalë', The Silmarillion,

suggesting also that he is not a Maia. Tolkien suggested in one of his essays that creatures could have arisen within the realm of Arda directly from the Music of the Ainur, so that they would be present in Arda once Ilúvatar brought physical Creation into being.
Out of the discords of the Music — sc. not directly out of either of the themes, Eru's or Melkor's, but of their dissonance with regard one to another - evil things appeared in Arda, which did not descend from any direct plan or vision of Melkor: they were not 'his children'; and therefore, since all evil hates, hated him too. The progeniture of things was corrupted. Hence Orcs? Part of the Elf-Man idea gone wrong. Though as for Orcs, the Eldar believed Morgoth had actually 'bred' them by capturing Men, (and Elves) early and increasing to the utmost any corrupt tendencies they possessed.
    The Three Themes of Ilúvatar in the Music of the Ainur are here treated as a single theme, in opposition to the discordant 'theme' of Melkor.
Myths Transformed, Text VII, Notes on motives in The Silmarillion, (iii), Morgoth's Ring.

While Tom would not have arisen from the discords within the music (instead these would most likely be creatures such as the Nameless Things (mentioned by Gandalf in 'The White Rider' ) and/or the Watcher in the Water (see 'A Journey in the Dark' )), the fact that such creatures may have been present when Eä was brought into being supports the existence of other Primeval beings within Arda such as Tom Bombadil. Tolkien refers to Tom in Letter 153 as Eldest in Time. (While the Ainur clearly existed before Eä was created, they did not 'enter into Time' until they descended into Eä. Thus by the count of time within the physical creation, Tom could well have experienced the dark under the stars when it was fearless - before the Dark Lord came from Outside.)

Tom is clearly is too longaeval to be a Man, Dwarf or Hobbit. He is obviously not an Ent, Troll or Orc.

Given Tolkien's own comment (Do you think Tom Bombadil, the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside, could be made into the hero of a story? Letter 19, (1937)), and his identification of Goldberry as a being of similar sort (see above), it is most likely that Tom Bombadil is a spirit of the Natural world. However Tolkien never explicitly spells this out in The Lord of the Rings in order to preserve his 'enigma'.

[*What is Tom Bombadil?* ( http://tolkien.slimy.com/essays/Bombadil.html by Steuard Jensen) offers one of the best discussions (fully supported by references) on Tom Bombadil available online although it does not go as far in its conclusions as I have above].

[Edit: OT. Apologies for 'doubling up' on recent posts... The Editor of this thread is free to pick-and-choose from the above when assembling the summary posts 8) ].
Last edited by -Rómestámo- on Sun Sep 19, 2004 2:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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hi

Postby Kemi39 » Sun Sep 19, 2004 1:34 pm

Hi everyone how do you get an alliance? :o :wink: :lol:
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Postby Mahima » Sun Sep 19, 2004 10:20 pm

Welcome to TORC, and Books(Tolkien) forum, Kemi39.

This thread is part of a specific project for the Annotated Lord of The Rings, and hence you will not find your answers here.

I'd suggest you head over to the *Welcome * forum, or get yourself "adopted" at the *Adoptions* forum, where your specific questions will be answered.

Additionally, please read the "Guidelines" posted on the top of each forum, to have an idea about what that particular forum is about.
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Postby Mahima » Mon Sep 20, 2004 4:19 am

How does this look:

There was a noise like a strong wind blowing, and on it was borne the sound of hoofs, galloping, galloping, galloping from the east.

In the first phase, the Hobbits were to be invited to his house after the barrow-wight adventure (See *Annotated Chapter: The Old Forest*), with several wights in hot pursuit.

They get through to end of forest as evening comes on, and climb on to the downs. It gets very cold - mist is followed by a chilly drizzle. They shelter under a big barrow. Barrow-wight takes them inside. They wake to find themselves buried alive. They shout. At last Marmaduke and Bingo begin a song. An answering song outside. Tom Bombadil opens the stone door and lets them out. They go to his house for the night - two Barrow-wights come [?galloping] after them, but stop every time Tom Bombadil turns and looks at them. (HoME 6, The Old Forest and the Withywindle)


Marmaduke is Merry and Bingo is Frodo.

During the night Frodo (then Bingo) also hears galloping horses around Tom Bombadil’s house.

In the dead night Bingo woke and heard noises: a sudden fear came over him [?so that] he did not speak but lay listening breathless. He heard a sound like a strong wind curling round the house and shaking it, and down the wind came a galloping, a galloping: hooves seemed to come charging down the hillside from the east, up to the walls and round and round, hooves thudding and wind blowing, and then dying away back up the hill and into the darkness.

"Black riders," thought Bingo. "Black riders, a black host of riders," and he wondered if he would ever again have the courage even in the morning to leave the safety of these good stone walls. He lay and listened for a while, but all had become quiet again, and after a while he fell asleep. (HoME 6, Tom Bombadil)


---------------

And in the Old Forest annotation we could add:

In the First phase, when Tolkien was writing the sequel to The Hobbit , the hobbits were only to hear Tom Bombadil’s song during the willow-adventure.

Odo and Bingo cannot go on without a rest. they sit down with their backs to a great willow, while Frodo and Marmaduke attend to the ponies. Willowman traps Bingo and Odo. Suddenly, a singing is heard in the distance. (Tom Bombadil not named.) The Willow relaxes its hold.
(HoME 6, The Old Forest and the Withywindle)
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Postby venetia » Tue Sep 21, 2004 7:57 am

Thanks for providing all this information - very thorough and thought provoking.

I read the books after seeing the movies, so was rather baffled by Tom and Goldberry - (I thought initially they represented the spirit of earth and water respectively ) and I was puzzled by their symbolic style - nothing else in the books resembles it, it just sticks out, though it does add mystery and some beautiful images I guess, but I couldn't get a picture of them in my head while I was reading -
No wonder PJ left them out - too hard!!!!
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Postby Almatolmen » Tue Sep 21, 2004 12:15 pm

According to the OED, the term flag-lily is used of the common yellow flag, Iris pseudacorus and other irises.

http://plants.usda.gov/cgi_bin/plant_profile.cgi?symbol=IRPS
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Postby Queen_Beruthiel » Thu Sep 23, 2004 4:23 pm

Gold was piled on the biers of dead kings and queens; and mounds covered them, and the stone doors were shut; and the grass grew over all... A shadow came out of the dark places far away, and the bones were stirred in the mounds. Barrow-wights walked in the hollow places with a clink of rings on cold fingers, and gold chains in the wind.

The origin of the mounds is given in Appendix A:

In the days of Argeleb II the plague came into Eriador from the South-east, and most of the people of Cardolan perished, especially in Minhiriath. The Hobbits and all other peoples suffered greatly, but the plague lessened as it passed northwards, and the northern parts of Arthedain were little affected. It was at this time that an end came of the Dúnedain of Cardolan, and evil spirits out of Angmar and Rhudaur entered into the deserted mounds and dwelt there.

'It is said that the mounds of Tyrn Gorthad, as the Barrow-downs were called of old, are very ancient, and that many were built in the days of the old world of the First Age by the forefathers of the Edain, before they crossed the Blue Mountains into Beleriand, of which Lindon is all that now remains. Those hills were therefore revered by the Dúnedain after their return; and there many of their lords and kngs were buried. [Some say that the mound in which the Ring-bearer was imprisoned had been the grave of the last prince of Cardolan, who fell in the war of 1409.]'


'The North-kingdom and the Dúnedain', Appendix A, The Lord of the Rings
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Postby roaccarcsson » Tue Sep 28, 2004 7:03 pm

It was also clear that Tom had dealings with the Elves, and it seemed that in some fashion, news had reached him from Gildor concerning the flight of Frodo.

This is consistent with what Gildor told Frodo near the end of Chapter 3: "In the morning we shall have gone; but we will send our messages through the lands. The Wandering Companies shall know of your journey, and those that have power for good shall be on the watch." It also explains Tom's statement, early in this chapter, that "I was waiting for you . . ." However, it makes Elrond's admission in Bk. II, ch2 that "I had forgotten Bombadil, if indeed this is still the same that walked the woods and hills long ago" a little hard to understand.
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Postby wilko185 » Wed Sep 29, 2004 1:17 pm

roac wrote:her belt was of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lilies

An Internet search for "flag-lily" produces only references to the Blue Flag, Iris versicolor. If this is the flower Tolkien intended, it is an anachronism, as Iris versicolor is a North American plant not native to England.

http://www.rook.org/earl/bwca/nature/aq ... isver.html

As Almatolmen indicates, Tolkien may have just been referring to the iris (British variety) here, while avoiding using the classical name in this rustic context. The commonest indiginous English variety of iris is the 'yellow water flag' aka flag-lily (Iris Pseudacorus), which is a plausible candidate for what Tolkien was referring to, since it is aquatic, and is a suitable colour for a golden belt. In 'Guide to Names ..' Tolkien says of the Gladden Fields:
Gladden is here the name for the 'flag' or iris (Old English glaedene) [...] Translate by sense, but avoid if possible the 'learned' name iris.



I see yellow cream and honeycomb, and white bread, and butter; milk, cheese, and green herbs and ripe berries gathered.

Evidently Tom and Goldberry, like Beorn in The Hobbit are vegetarians (though not vegans).

I just pointed out the dairy products in an annotation from the end of the previous chapter. This is perhaps a better place for it though.

---



They came to a low room with a sloping roof (a penthouse, it seemed, built on to the north end of the house).

Penthouse here of course means a sloping building appended to the wall of another, not the modern meaning of a roof-top structure. (Alteration of Middle English pentis, pentace = "shed, lean-to", influenced by French pente = "slope").


There was a fire in the wide hearth before them, and it was burning with a sweet smell, as if it were built of apple-wood.

Burning apple-wood famously gives off a sweet scent, as in this doggerel verse of fire-wood lore:
Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room,
Cherry logs across the dogs,
Smell like flowers in bloom


As far as he could remember, Sam slept through the night in deep content, if logs are contented.

To point out the obvious joke, Sam has evidently used the English saying "I slept like a log" to indicate that he slept well.


"When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent"

I don't particularly want to annotate this myself, but the implications for the round-world vs flat-round ideas should probably be mentioned.
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Postby Queen_Beruthiel » Sun Oct 03, 2004 8:01 am

... he made no secret that he owed his recent knowledge largely to Farmer Maggot, whom he seemed to regard as a person of more importance than they had imagined.

The connection between Tom and Maggot is present in the early drafts, when JRRT had played with the idea of making Maggot some other species than a hobbit:

...He turns out to know Farmer Maggot. (Make Maggot not a hobbit, but some other kind of creature - not dwarf, but akin to Tom Bombadil)


Home Vol 6

There is more about their adventures in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil:

When others went to bed in hay, fern, or feather,
close in the inglenook they laid their heads together,
old Tom and Muddy-feet, swapping all the tidings
from Barrow-downs to Tower Hills: of walkings and of ridings;
of wheat-ear and barley-corn, of sowing and of reaping;
queer tales from Bree, and talk at smithy, mill, and cheaping;
rumours in whispering trees, south-wind in the larches,
tall Watchers by the Ford, Shadows on the marches.


Muddy-feet being a nickname for Maggot.
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Postby Mahima » Mon Oct 04, 2004 1:32 am

To solve the "Flag-lily" annotation, how about this:

her belt was of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lilies

“Flag-lily" usually refers to the Blue Flag, Iris versicolor. It is doubtful if this is the flower Tolkien intended, as Iris versicolor is a North American plant not native to England. Tolkien may have just been referring to the iris (British variety) here, while avoiding using the classical name in this rustic context.

The commonest indiginous English variety of iris is the 'yellow water flag' aka flag-lily (*Iris Pseudacorus*), which is a plausible candidate for what Tolkien was referring to, since it is aquatic, and is a suitable colour for a golden belt.

In 'Guide to Names..' Tolkien says of the Gladden Fields:
Gladden is here the name for the 'flag' or iris (Old English glaedene) [...] Translate by sense, but avoid if possible the 'learned' name iris.
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Postby Mahima » Wed Oct 13, 2004 5:20 am

Okay, I've finally caught up with everyone's posts.

Wilko I've added your comment about butter, cream etc from the last chapter here. We should remove the annotation from there.

This is my first time, so comments, please.
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Postby roaccarcsson » Wed Oct 13, 2004 8:26 pm

Excellent work Mahima!

(There are a couple of stray non-working format codes there. Easy to miss.)
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Postby Mahima » Wed Oct 13, 2004 9:40 pm

Ah, got those. Thanks! :)
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Postby roaccarcsson » Thu Feb 10, 2005 4:25 pm

Pippin looked out of the western window, down into a pool of mist. The Forest was hidden under a fog. It was like looking down on to a sloping cloud-roof from above.

What Pippin is looking at is called "radiation fog." It is caused when the ground surface radiates heat into space on a clear night, causing the layer of air close to the ground to cool below its dewpoint - meaning that water vapor in the air condenses into droplets. If there is no wind, these settle onto the ground as dew. A strong wind will dissipate them into the warmer upper atmosphere. Fog forms when a slight wind stirs the air just enough to prevent the water droplets from settling out, so that they form a layer near the surface.

Tolkien was an acute observer of weather, and the conditions described are ideal for the formation of this kind of fog (which is most common in autumn). The sky was clear when the Hobbits reached Tom's house, and presumably remained so for most of the night. (Clouds act as an insulator and inhibit radiative cooling.) A warm front is arriving from the west, laden with humid air from the sea and raising the dewpoint. Fog forms preferentially in lower areas, because cool air flows downhill. And humidity is elevated in forests due to transpiration from foliage.

http://www.stormdisplay.com/fog.asp

Anybody here a meteorologist? I would like to add that the "plumes and billows" described in the next sentence are caused by convection from the relatively warm surface of the river. But I hesitate because I don't know what I am talking about - all the above is from online sources. I have confidence however that the Prof is describing something he had actually witnessed.

The upper wind settled into the West and deeper and wetter clouds rolled up to spill their laden rain on the bare heads of the Downs.

In western Europe, west winds bring rain from the Atlantic - the opposite of the situation in eastern North America, where it is northeasterly winds that are wet.
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Postby MithLuin » Fri Feb 11, 2005 10:50 pm

roac, I can back up the idea that 'steam' rises from streams and ponds in the morning - I've seen it often enough. (You can tell the course of a stream just by driving by and looking at the plumes of fog.) Though I have taught Earth Science, I am not a meterologist and would hesitate to offer an explanation. I am sure Tolkien based his descriptions on life experiences in this case, as you noted.

the sound of hoofs, galloping, galloping, galloping from the east.

This sentence has been annotated already, but I'd like to add something.
Frodo clearly thinks of the pursuing Black Riders, and does not link the sound of hoofbeats to his dream of Gandalf. Though Frodo does not learn the details until later, Gandalf obtains a horse as soon as he escapes Orthanc, and then gallops to Hobbiton. So, the hoofbeats are an appropriate continuation of his dream about Gandalf imprisoned.
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Postby roaccarcsson » Fri Apr 15, 2005 5:02 pm

They cane to a low room with a sloping roof (a penthouse, it seemed, built on to the north end of the house).

Presumably Tolkien is using "penthouse," not in its usual modern sense of the top floor of an aprtment building, but in its original meaning of a shed built onto an existing building. Yourdictionary.com has this to say about the origin of the word:

The word penthouse goes back to Latin appendere, "to cause to be suspended." In Medieval Latin appendere developed the sense "to belong, depend," a sense that passed into apendre, the Old French development of appendere. From apent, the past participle of apendre, came the derivative apentiz, "low building behind or beside a house," and the Anglo-Norman plural form pentiz. The form without the a- was then borrowed into Middle English, giving us pentis (first recorded about 1300), which was applied to sheds or lean-tos added on to buildings. Because these structures often had sloping roofs, the word was connected with the French word pente, "slope," and the second part of the word changed by folk-etymology to house, which could mean simply "a building for human use." The use of the term with reference to fancy apartments developed from its application to a structure built on a roof to cover such things as a stairway or an elevator shaft. Penthouse then came to mean an apartment built on a rooftop and finally the top floor of an apartment building.
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Postby Old_Tom_Bombadil » Fri Apr 15, 2005 6:14 pm

I thought it might be appropriate to link to Alan Lee's depiction of The House of Tom Bombadil.

Given that Leewas one of the primary conceptual artists and set designers for Peter Jackson's film, if Bombadil had been featured in the film it's very likely this is how his house would have appeared.
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Postby Mahima » Wed Apr 27, 2005 4:37 am

Hey everyone.... thanks for all the inputs! I've been away for a while, but will soon update the new posts.

Frodo clearly thinks of the pursuing Black Riders, and does not link the sound of hoofbeats to his dream of Gandalf. Though Frodo does not learn the details until later, Gandalf obtains a horse as soon as he escapes Orthanc, and then gallops to Hobbiton. So, the hoofbeats are an appropriate continuation of his dream about Gandalf imprisoned.


Mith, am not very sure if we would want to add such a description for the Annotated project.... its more like a supposition that th Hoofs Frodo dreamt of were connected to Gandalf's escape and not to the Black Riders?

What do you think?
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Postby roaccarcsson » Fri May 13, 2005 5:03 pm

”Mind your Ps and Qs, and don’t forget that you are supposed to be escaping in secret, and are still on the high-road and not very far from the Shire!”

There is disagreement about the origin of the phrase “Mind your Ps and Qs” (meaning “Be careful, keep your wits about you”). One leading school of thought, appropriate to the present situation, is that barkeepers recording sales of beer would note the numbers of “Ps and Qs,” for pints and quarts, drunk by each customer. The other school believes that either children learning to write, or compositors setting and distributing type, used to be warned not to confuse the lower-case forms of these two letters, which are mirror images of one another. These theories, along with several others of less plausibility, are discussed at this website:

http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/psandqs.htm
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