Who the heck is Tom Bombadil in The Lord of the Rings?

Gonna email this to my mother, who first read me the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings when I was around 10 years old. Tom is her favorite character by far.


LOTR should really be printed as a 7-volume set, The Hobbit and the 6 “Books,” without the appendices

“Well, I’m back” is the end

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i think it was a brilliant move. very few characters in Tolkien’s world are as old as Bombadil and Treebeard, and they share a deep connection to all living things, particularly trees. letting Treebeard voice Bombadil’s words just really works.

i personally LOVE the idea that he’s the physical embodiment of the music of the Ainur, and that Shelob is his polar opposite, being the physical embodiment of Melkor’s dissonance.

or, a well-needed break after a terrifying experience, layered with world-building mystery! ymmv, of course.


Something I personally appreciate about The Lord of the Rings is how much the tone shifts over the course of the books. It starts with a small-town birthday party, goes to adventures like being in the forest at night, and slowly changes to epic battles deciding the fate of the world, before coming back down to small-town affairs. I guess mileage on that may vary, which I completely understand, but in a way it parallels the arc of the characters themselves, bit by bit discovering the world is bigger than they knew.


This is the best interpretation of that scene I’ve ever read, so thanks for that. I’m not sure if it unseats my distaste for it yet, though.

The cadence of the line seems hasty to me, and therefore out of character for Fangorn. I do appreciate a new way of thinking about it though.


The Old Man Willow-Bombadil-barrow wights section shows how dangerous it is outside the Shire, even before they get to Bree, on the edge of Hobbitspace. (Only Bilbo had ever been beyond in known memory.) It showed why they needed Strider so much, while giving a break from the Nazgul, which need to be saved for bursts of terrifying menace.


IIRC some Tolkien said that if the books were adapted to film that he would be OK with Tom being cut.

This does raise some interesting points, but it seems like in some handwavy way, only certain people ever get to know about Bombadil - presumably those whom he considers trustworthy. I don’t agree on the dark premise, though. Perhaps others who encounter him are “suggested” by spell not to remember, so he doesn’t get snowed under with curious looky-loos.

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And I think that’s sort of the nut of it. Much of that section is sort of reused from the earlier Adventures of Tom Bombadil, a children’s poem he’d published before even The Hobbit was out. The Barrow-wights, Old Man Willow, several of the locations first appear there. Much of Tom’s story about himself in LOTR is likewise repeated from the poem.

I always figured Tolkien sorta recycled and reworked it as the weird and sinister stuff at the borders of The Shire. That’s something he did a lot of, though mostly with unpublished stuff.

If your doing that why not leave Bombadil in? The material had already been published so it’s not gonna fool anyone. Rather than have people wonder if Bombadil was part of Middle Earth, just toss him in too.

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