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Please Explain Tom Bombadil

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Please Explain Tom Bombadil

Old 01-09-04, 10:30 AM
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Please Explain Tom Bombadil

I have read the books, but can not figure out for the life of me the point or interest in Tom Bombadil. When I got to the TT and Merry and Pip are in the forrest I was sure they would drop his name, but no. So what was the whole reason to mention him, let alone give a whole chapter of the book to? And why do people love this part of the book so, and get so mad at PJ for skipping it?

Anyone have an idea or insight?
Old 01-09-04, 11:35 AM
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This is from Sparknotes.com, it's the best thing I could find.

If Tom Bombadil does not quite seem to fit with the rest of the novel thus far, it may be because Tolkien created the character as early as 1933, years before he began The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien clearly liked the idea of Tom, and he even tossed around the prospect of making Tom the hero of the sequel to The Hobbit. (Eventually Tolkien would write The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, a collection of poems, in 1961.) Ultimately, Tolkien ended up transplanting Tom into The Lord of the Rings. However, as the novel progresses and grows darker, Tom, in retrospect, may seem to belong more in the children’s story of The Hobbit than in the more threatening world of The Lord of the Rings. Nonetheless, Tolkien did not regret his decision to keep Tom in the final edit of The Lord of the Rings; the author later said, “I kept [Tom] in, and as he was, because he represents certain things otherwise left out.”

These “certain things” Tom represents are a matter of great debate among Tolkien scholars, as Tom is indeed a mysterious figure. Perhaps the only thing we know definitively about him is that he is joyously immune to the power of the Ring, and therefore a unique, neutral third party in the wider landscape of the War of the Ring that is to come. Tom is something like a male personification of Mother Nature, the master of the land and its creatures, albeit only within his own territory. He clearly has great powers, and the Ring does not affect him, perhaps because he was around before Sauron ever came to Middle-earth. However, Tom refuses to go with the hobbits to fight Sauron, and we get the feeling that Tom’s power has perhaps diminished somewhat in the later ages of Middle-earth. Tom’s presence, like that of the Elves, contributes to the overall tone of elegy in The Lord of the Rings, a sadness for the lost past. Like the Elves, Tom has a power that is closely linked to nature, but with Tom the link is even more explicit. Frodo’s feeling when he first steps into Tom’s house—that the place has a demeanor that is “less keen and lofty,” but “deeper”—suggests this distinction between Tom and the Elves.

The importance and characteristics of Tom Bombadil also give clues about Tolkien’s conception of nature. When the hobbits arrive at Tom’s house, Goldberry tells them that now they need not worry about “untame things.” This wording, combined with the perfectly manicured landscape around Tom’s house, suggests that Tolkien does not necessarily view nature as the same thing as wildness or pristine wilderness. Nature, without the controlling hand of man, is unruly and perhaps even unsafe. The most idyllic places in Tolkien’s world—whether the comfortable confines of the Shire, the magical bower of the High Elves, or Tom’s domain—are places where nature has been tamed. This idea of a domesticated, softened nature is often cited in literature, music, and the visual arts as the ideal of the pastoral. For Tolkien, the pastoral has a powerful appeal.

Tom speaks briefly to the hobbits about the kings of Westernesse, some of whom held kingdoms and fought battles where the Barrow-downs now lie. Westernesse is the land west of Middle-earth, given by the Valar (the angelic gods of Middle-earth) as a reward to the men who fought against Morgoth, the Great Enemy (and Sauron’s master), in the First Age. The land of Westernesse is also known as Númenor. Because some of its inhabitants grew restless and proud, they sailed back to Middle-earth and a few fell under the rule of Sauron. Still, they were considered the greatest race of Men in the world. Isildur, who took the Ring from Sauron, was a Númenorean, and it was Númenóreans who lived in the North near the Barrow-downs and fought Sauron’s servants from the ancient northern realm of Angmar. Now, however, there are but a few Men of pure Westernesse blood left. As we see later, those who remain have a crucial role to play in the story of The Lord of the Rings.
Old 01-09-04, 12:28 PM
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http://flyingmoose.org/tolksarc/theories/bombadil.htm
Old 01-09-04, 02:07 PM
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I don't buy Tom being the Witch King at all. He held the ring in his hand. If he was really the Witch King, his true self would have emerged, he would have squished the little hobbits and ran straight home with the ring. Or, he would have let the Wights have their way with em, then take the ring when they were done.
Old 01-09-04, 02:34 PM
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Originally posted by necros
I don't buy Tom being the Witch King at all.
You did notice that it was on a page called "Tolkien Crackpot Theories", right?
Old 01-09-04, 04:57 PM
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That is a good article DGib, but what about the love so many fans showed for this character?
Old 01-09-04, 05:13 PM
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You did notice that it was on a page called "Tolkien Crackpot Theories", right?
actually no

Personally, I didn't care much for the Tom Bombadil parts.. to me it just seemed like a big detour on the way to the real story and when all was said and done it didn't seem to be something that really mattered. I felt I could have just skipped that whole part and not missed anything but a bunch of songs and poems (which are good and all, but still).
Old 01-09-04, 06:21 PM
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Originally posted by necros
Personally, I didn't care much for the Tom Bombadil parts.. to me it just seemed like a big detour on the way to the real story and when all was said and done it didn't seem to be something that really mattered. I felt I could have just skipped that whole part and not missed anything but a bunch of songs and poems (which are good and all, but still).
I agree. It was enjoyable enough, but kind of pointless. I'm glad it was cut in the movie.
Old 01-09-04, 07:29 PM
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Tom Bombadil is an enigma, but he offers a lot of development to some of the major themes (technology v. nature and the examination of power and politics.)

I think the reasons fans like the chapters containing Bombadil revolve around the development of these themes, the way he fleshes out the culture of Middle-Earth (with poetry and song,) and the fact that he does create so many questions and opportunities for discussion.

However, I think most fans of the books understand and accept that he wouldn't work in a film. He's a very memorable part of the books (as is 'Old Man Willow') but was far more a literary character than a film character.

That said, it's unfortunate that omitting him meant omitting the Barrow Downs...
Old 01-09-04, 08:27 PM
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Originally posted by jim_cook87
I think the reasons fans like the chapters containing Bombadil revolve around the development of these themes, the way he fleshes out the culture of Middle-Earth (with poetry and song,) and the fact that he does create so many questions and opportunities for discussion.
I can't speak for all fans, but here is why I like the Bombadil character, and that section of the story. First and foremost, his character demonstrates that the Ring is not as all-powerful as we have been led to believe. He has no interest in it whatsoever, he doesn't become affected by it in any way when he wears it, and he can see Frodo when he wears it. This clearly shows that Bombadil is a creature of at least equal power to Sauron, though perhaps his power is of a radically different variety (so, perhaps, rather than say he is "equal" to Sauron, maybe it is better to say that he is "beyond" Sauron's power/influence). The second reason I find that section interesting is that I believe it has an effect on Frodo, and the way he looks at the Ring and, eventually, his quest. And finally, I do love the depth he adds to the tapestry of Middle-earth, through the enigma he presents, and through the songs and poetry we "hear."

Originally posted by jim_cook87
However, I think most fans of the books understand and accept that he wouldn't work in a film. He's a very memorable part of the books (as is 'Old Man Willow') but was far more a literary character than a film character.
I do accept the change made for the movie (like I have a choice? ), but that doesn't mean I necessarily agree with or understand it.
Old 01-10-04, 04:04 PM
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Originally posted by Cusm
That is a good article DGib, but what about the love so many fans showed for this character?
I dunno. Most of my friends won't touch the book, but my brother hated that Tom was gone.

It really didn't bother me, the only big thing in all 3 movies was Aragorn's little sequence in Towers (after he falls off the cliff).

That was more distracting than the omission of Tom.
Old 01-11-04, 11:02 AM
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I think Tom is absolutely necessary for the books. He's proof that in Middle-Earth, there's always something bigger and more powerful than you. Tom appears to be the most "powerful" being in Middle-Earth, though I wouldn't say it definitely because Tolkien's world is so deep. There might be an "evil" creature lurking somewhere that could take him.

And Tolkien makes him pursposefully more interesting precisely because he doesn't care about the Ring. I think he is truly "not altogether on anybody's side".

Tom's existence also lends support to the importance of the Ring. If I remember correctly, at the Council of Elrond, doesn't Frodo recommend that they give the Ring to Tom? Gandalf knows that's not an option because even though Tom is powerful and immune to the evil of the Ring, he knows that Middle Earth would be ripped apart by the struggle for it. Sauron would still go after the Ring no matter who had it.

When I first read the trilogy, I hoped througout that Tom would show up somewhere else to serenade Orcs into submission, after finishing, I'm glad Tolkien left him a mystery.
Old 01-11-04, 11:18 PM
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Bombadil does come up at the council, but it isn't Frodo's suggestion to take the Ring to him. It is Erestor's idea:
'But within those bounds nothing seems to dismay him,' said Erestor. 'Would he not take the Ring and keep it there, for ever harmless?'
'No,' said Gandalf, 'not willingly. He might do so, if all the free folk of the world begged him, but he would not understand the need. And if he were given the Ring, he would soon forget it, or most likely throw it away. Such things have no hold on his mind. He would be a most unsafe guardian; and that alone is answer enough.'
Old 01-15-04, 04:06 AM
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i found tom to be the most forgetable part of the book.. which is why I was glad he was left out of the film.

j

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