Thursday, March 11, 2010

Who is Tom Bombadil?


Who is Tom Bombadil? This question was the centerpiece of Thursday's literature class on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Tom Bombadil appears in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings as a secondary, quite mysterious being, in contrast to the exacting way used to describe the other characters of Middle-earth. Tom is portrayed as a somewhat provincial and joyous, and is the one character uncorrupted by the power of The Ring.

After considering student research, reading and examining a poem about Tom called The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and listening to a podcast from a medieval scholar from Washington University on Mr. Bombadil, the class as a whole seemed to agree that he is likely a Maiar, which is like a lesser angel.

Tom Bombadil's character was considered within the larger themes of power, corruption and responsibility in Book I of The Lord of the Rings.

If you've seen the movie and have never heard of Mr. Bombadil, it's because filmmaker Peter Jackson omitted him from what would have been an even longer movie.

1 comment:

simon said...

I have had long debates about this with people who love the writings of Tolkien. It is a great example of how Tolkien's tales were beautifully crafted in such a fashion ere all ends were not known. Shrouded in mystery and myth that spans lifetimes, Fantastic!

Tom Bombadil is outside of the narrative when he makes an appearance in the Lord of the Rings, When I first read the book I remember wondering if I had somehow picked up a different book and it seemed out of place almost in the line of the story. It was not until much later on that I began to grasp some of the significance of "in the house of Tom Bombadil"

We could talk for a long time about what or who The Bombadil is. His characteristics allude a place or purpose almost.

I would say that he is a representation of all things Tolkien held as common good, a neutral power of unfathomable understanding and love. To the point that it does not even warrant an explenation. It is written that Tom Bombadil may be the oldest thing in Middle Earth as he was ancient even to the Ents. In which case it is reasonable to assume that if you want to place him, then he must be connected to the first thing that came to Middle Earth, The Secret Fire that Illuvator sent upon the earth and which is unfindable. Tom Bombadil to some Tolkien Scholars is an Incarnation of the spirit of the secret fire.