Tolkien fact 11 – Tom Bombadil-O

[Originally posted on March 13th, 2015]

Another (very famous) enigma in Tolkien’s world is that of a character named Tom Bombadil.
Cut from the movie, Tom plays a(n) (arguably) significant role in the narrative of the book. Once the four hobbits leave the Shire, they make their way through the Old Forest: a dark, tangled wood to the East. Strange rumors surround the Forest and many avoid entering it, fearing the trees are sentient, malicious, and dangerous. The hobbits choose this road reluctantly to attempt a shortcut and to avoid the Black Riders. Inside they meet Tom and he saves them from being trapped by a wayward tree named Old Man Willow (yeah, it’s literally just a mean tree, though it did almost kill them). Tom takes care of them in his house, telling stories of ancient days and alluding to small facts about himself that he is very old and very powerful, but keeps only to the area inside the Forest. Eventually, as stories are told, the Ring is brought up and even brought out by Frodo. Without resistance, he hands Tom the Ring and he puts it on. He doesn’t disappear! Frodo attempts to put the Ring on as a joke and slip away and Tom is able to see him. After they leave Tom’s house they attempt to go through the haunted Barrow Downs. They are captured by a dreadful Barrow Wight and call for Tom to help them against all hope. Somehow he hears the summons and comes to their rescue. He is able to sing the barrow down and scare the wight away. None of his powers or his peculiar age is ever explained. He is even brought up at the Council of Elrond as a possible solution to the Ring; maybe giving it to him for safe keeping would work. This idea is thrown out as it was feared since he had no interest in those kind of things he would forget about it or lose it. It’s not even considered a main concern that he would think to use it for evil or be corrupted by it, but forget it existed. Many theories have been crafted as to what Tom actually is; everything has been hypothesized from him representing the reader, God, time itself, the author, etc. While these are all interesting thoughts, we may never know the story behind the strange character.


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