Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo! I WILL EAT YOUR SOULS! Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow! I WILL EAT YOUR SOULS! Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo! I WILL EAT YOUR SOULS!
December 16, 2011 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Oldest and Fatherless: The Terrible Secret of Tom Bombadil (previous)
posted by fearfulsymmetry (89 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite

 
Um, Bombadil was Tolkien's invention to tell stories to his kids. He'd need to be a pretty twisted dad to conceive of Bombadil that way.

More likely is that Tom can simply choose to appear to those as he wishes, in what forms he wishes. He's the most powerful character in the book, in a world where powerful characters are prone to disguise (e.g. maiar as old men in robes, sauron as annatar).
posted by leotrotsky at 10:17 AM on December 16, 2011


This gets a favorite for the title of the post alone.

Seriously though, I thought Tolkien sort of vaguely implied at one point in his letters that Tom is a natural spirit in the old sense, a Creature of Nature on a broad scale, the personification of the land that has slowly been encroached upon by civilization until he's left only with a small parcel of his original forest (at some point in FotR it is specifically mentioned that the Old Forest is the only remaining remnant of the forest that covered the Western land before the destruction of Beleriand and the other Western lands.) That would both explain his general benevolence but ultimate neutrality, total unconcern with anything related to the War of the Ring, and why he is bound in a particular area. I don't think it's ever explicitly explained, but that was the impression I took away, anyway.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:19 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


I love it!
posted by odinsdream at 10:24 AM on December 16, 2011


There we go, I knew there was a mythological/archetypal figure I associated with Bombadil. He's Middle Earth's Green Man. Every good world should have one!
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:25 AM on December 16, 2011


He's Middle Earth's Green Man.

Oh, you mean he's an ancient fertility figure, like the black goat with a thousand young?
posted by Artw at 10:27 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I always interpreted Tom Bombadil as a symbol of the sheer expansiveness of Tolkien's universe, which was honestly part of its allure.

There were huge uncharted territories, no one person knew the complete history of anything, and the characters were constantly exploring and discovering new things about the world they lived in. This is one of the things that made the books such a joy to read. Even Gandalf's knowledge had huge gaps in it.

Bombadil was one of those things that nobody really knew about or understood. He wasn't a wizard, human, or elf....he was just Something Else. Possibly a lesser deity (or a time traveler), although that didn't really matter. It just added to the mystery, and it's not particularly important why it was never explained.
posted by schmod at 10:28 AM on December 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


The commentors in the livejournal thread point out, rightfully so, that "dark" and "dangerous" do not equate to "evil".

Nature isn't particularly concerned with the affairs of men. Instead she has good reason to see us all off, whether we are good or evil in our own eyes. This makes Bombadil exceedingly dangerous to us. But he isn't evil.
posted by Xoebe at 10:32 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Exactly like that, Artw. Exactly. Except, you know, 'without swarthy Negroes and various other mongrel types' worshiping him in the woods. Also Bombadil is still sadly without a perfume, while the Goat has hers.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:33 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd have to go back and re-read it, but I think Bombadil's nature was explained at least tangentially, in the Silmarillion. He was a Maiar, one of "lesser" beings that served the Valar (Tolkien's gods). Sauron was a Maiar, so were all the wizards, including Gandalf.
posted by elendil71 at 10:41 AM on December 16, 2011


Um, Bombadil was Tolkien's invention to tell stories to his kids. He'd need to be a pretty twisted dad to conceive of Bombadil that way.

Authorial intention doesn't matter. Authors often unwittingly create monsters. Hey! Come derry dol!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:48 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


I kind of thought that Tom is Aule. (Warning: 1997 wants its tiled background back.)
posted by gauche at 10:49 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


I really like playful/thought-provoking counter-readings like this one. A more scholarly but also interesting one is Franco Moretti's Dialectic of Fear:

At the end of Dracula the vampire’s defeat is complete. Dracula and his lovers are destroyed, Mina Harker is saved at the last moment. Only one cloud darkens the happy ending. In killing Dracula, Quincy P. Morris, the American who has been helping his British friends to save their nation, dies too, almost by accident. The occurrence seems inexplicable, extraneous to the logic of the narrative, yet it fits perfectly into Stoker’s sociological design. The American, Morris, must die, because Morris is a vampire. From his first appearance he is shrouded in mystery (a friendly sort of mystery, it is true—but isn’t Count Dracula himself likeable, at the beginning?). ‘He is such a nice fellow, an American from Texas, and he looks so young and so fresh that it seems almost impossible that he has been to so many places and has had such adventures.’ What places? What adventures? Where does all his money come from? What does Mr Morris do? Where does he live? Nobody knows any of this. But nobody suspects. Nobody suspects even when Lucy dies—and then turns into a vampire—immediately after receiving a blood transfusion from Morris. Nobody suspects when Morris, shortly afterwards, tells the story of his mare, sucked dry of blood in the Pampas by ‘one of those big bats that they call vampires’.

It is the first time that the name ‘vampire’ is mentioned in the novel: but there is no reaction. And there is no reaction a few lines further on when Morris, ‘coming close to me, . . . spoke in a fierce half-whisper: “What took it [the blood] out?”’ But Dr Seaward shakes his head; he hasn’t the slightest idea. And Morris, reassured, promises to help. Nobody, finally, suspects when, in the course of the meeting to plan the vampire hunt, Morris leaves the room to take a shot—missing, naturally—at the big bat on the window-ledge listening to the preparations; or when, after Dracula bursts into the household, Morris hides among the trees, the only effect of which is that he loses sight of Dracula and invites the others to call off the hunt for the night. This is pretty well all Morris does in Dracula. He would be a totally superfluous character if, unlike the others, he were not characterized by this mysterious connivance with the world of the vampires. So long as things go well for Dracula, Morris acts like an accomplice. As soon as there is a reversal of fortunes, he turns into his staunchest enemy. Morris enters into competition with Dracula; he would like to replace him in the conquest of the Old World. He does not succeed in the novel but he will succeed, in ‘real’ history, a few years afterwards.


The intent isn't, I think, to argue that Tolkien is really writing a Horror Story of the Trees, or that Stoker really intended us to read Morris as a vampire; it's to consider the unintended, internal logic of the novel and look at what that logic tells us either about the novel or about the assumptions that undergirded its writing.
posted by Frowner at 10:52 AM on December 16, 2011 [29 favorites]


Or pissing about playing silly games with ideas and concepts, which is good enough a justification for me TBH.
posted by Artw at 10:58 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Love it. Don't think it was what Tolkien intended, but it is an interesting interpretation of the character.

I've never been a big Bombadil fan myself - the whole encounter just seems off and out of place for me - but I have plenty of friends who are, and are still miffed he was left out of the movies. I will be sure to foward this to them.
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:58 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


'without swarthy Negroes and various other mongrel types'

Maybe not, but maybe he is worshipped by the ""Swarthy Men" who came to Beleriand who were "short and broad, long and strong in the arm; their skins were swart (dark) or sallow (yellowish), and their hair was dark as were their eyes" - Silmarillion
posted by dibblda at 11:04 AM on December 16, 2011


Wait, so Tom Bombadil is Cthulu?
posted by R. Schlock at 11:05 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


possibly a lesser deity (or a time traveler)

So between Tolkien and Lewis with his intradimensional Wardrobe we basically have the roots of Doctor Who...
posted by Artw at 11:06 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Do fans really hate Tom Bombadil? I don't understand.

Now Radagast the Brown; this guy needs some fleshing out.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:07 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Bombadil comes from the storytelling side of the universe, not the contents-of-story side of the universe. Iluvatar, Aule, the Mayar, Frodo, everything, they are the constructed things, the things made of bricks and mortar, but Bombadil is a different thing, he is the builder's favorite trowel.

He is of the story, not of the world. Yet there can be no world without the story, and Tolkien would never want you to forget that. *bonghit*
posted by fleacircus at 11:13 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on December 16, 2011


Maybe Tom Bombadil is the improvisational jazz of Illuvatar's song. Even Illuvatar himself didn't anticipate him.
posted by clockzero at 11:17 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, not only have I always assumed that Tom Bombadil = Illuvatar but I also assumed that EVERYONE thought this.
posted by Cosine at 11:22 AM on December 16, 2011


I've gotta admit even while reading it as a kid I wondered why Hippy Dippy Tom hung out in the Forest Of Fucking Evil Trees
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:23 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Have you met hippies? They always hang out in evil forests.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:28 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


My first rule of LOTR scholarship: don't take it seriously if the writer can't spell "Tolkien".
posted by dfan at 11:29 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Embezzler: Helen, never trust a hippie.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:29 AM on December 16, 2011


That was the longest treatise on Tom Bombadil I've ever read.

Something about that makes me sad, but whatever it is I'm certain it has nothing to do with me. So that's settled.

And Gandalf tells Legolas that when he talks with Treebeard he will be talking with the oldest blah blah blah, so Treebeard and Bombadil apparently need to have some kind of an "oldest" smackdown.

But all of this pales in comparison to the fact that, as Gandalf himself shows at the climax of the series, they could have just gone to the Misty Mountains, rented a goddam eagle, and FLOWN the freaking ring to Mount Doom in, like, 30 minutes.

And even so, I still read it and yes I still love it, and no, that doesn't have anything to do with me either. So that's settled.
posted by Empty Planet at 11:29 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


You mean this Empty Planet?
posted by dibblda at 11:33 AM on December 16, 2011


For George RR Martin fans we have the Merling conspiracy theory (SPOILERS EVERYWHERE FOR EVERYTHING), which is pretty amazing.

But all of this pales in comparison to the fact that, as Gandalf himself shows at the climax of the series, they could have just gone to the Misty Mountains, rented a goddam eagle, and FLOWN the freaking ring to Mount Doom in, like, 30 minutes.

I think the Nazgul might have ruined that plan, since they seem to be able to fly pretty well themselves.
posted by melissam at 11:34 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


maybe the angry huorns and Barrow-Wights are the ones that Bombadil is protecting from all these supposed good hobbits, men, and elves and such. They were probably perfectly nice people/trees until the were killed/chopped down. Bombadill lets everyone believe that the old forest is evil so that they will keep the hell out of his nature preserve.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:38 AM on December 16, 2011 [13 favorites]



Waahh. Thanks for that, dibblda.
posted by Empty Planet at 11:40 AM on December 16, 2011


on the other hand, maybe the huorns are actually the missing entwives, and Tom is hiding them to be, like goldberry, his sex slaves!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:42 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now Radagast the Brown; this guy needs some fleshing out.

Ever since I've become a fan of Ween, any character whose honorific is "the Brown" strikes me as a particularly awesome fellow.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:44 AM on December 16, 2011


Or this, Empty Planet, dibblda? (Trigger warning: infinite rape jokes.)
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:46 AM on December 16, 2011


ooh and the barrow wights are men he killed himself and buried there to act as eunochs to guard his harem!

ok I'm in a silly mood.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:47 AM on December 16, 2011


Three words: Attention deficit disorder.

What was I going to do today. Oh yeah. Take care of the barrow wights. That's right. Today for sure. Heads toward barrows, comes across hobbits. "Oh yeah, I need to talk to the emo trees and tell them not to be so emo. Well, whatever it was, I need to get these guys heads out of this Willow. Oh hey, lunch time!

Don't ask me how I know this.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:47 AM on December 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


For George RR Martin fans we have the Merling conspiracy theory (SPOILERS EVERYWHERE FOR EVERYTHING), which is pretty amazing.

That sort of reminded me of a D&D treatise I read once where it was pointed out that the race of sentient evil shark-people actually had a significantly higher average intelligence than humans, elves, or any other species present in quantity, and must be ruling the seas. If only human-centric storytelling didn't privilege land-based narratives.
posted by Copronymus at 11:50 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Old Tom Bombadil. Possibly the least liked character in The Lord of the Rings. A childish figure so disliked by fans of the book that few object to his absence from all adaptations of the story.

what
Frankly I stopped reading right there. I suppose based on the comments here I may go back, but what a foolish and wildly inaccurate way to begin.
posted by Glinn at 11:54 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I kind of want to spend a weekend writing a defense of Tom Bombadil as an avatar of Juche, just to be a dickhead.
posted by COBRA! at 11:57 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Tim Benzedrino section of Bored of the Rings is so great that I can never really take Tom Bombadil discussions out of that context.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:06 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sorry, that's not to say that I don't read every Tom Bombadil discussion I come accross. I eat this shit up.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2011


Ever since I've become a fan of Ween, any character whose honorific is "the Brown" strikes me as a particularly awesome fellow.

Actually, Tom Bombadil would have been improved greatly had he sung nothing but Ween songs in LOTR.

EX:
"Eldest, that's what I am...Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn...he knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless — before the Dark Lord came from Outside.."

And then he sang:

Mister, would you please help my pony?
He's over there behind the tree
He's down in the dirt, would ya help him?
I think it's his lung

Mister would you please help my pony?
He's over there lookin' at me
He's cryin' like a baby, would you help him?
I think it's his lung

Mister, would you please help my pony?
He's down and he ain't gettin' up
He coughed up snot in the driveway
And I think his lung's fucked up


"That's the saddest song I ever did hear, Mr. Frodo," Sam said through thick hobbity tears.
I'll be finishing my "Fellowship of the Ween" mash-up in the coming months.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:15 PM on December 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


Possibly the least liked character in The Lord of the Rings. A childish figure so disliked by fans of the book that few object to his absence from all adaptations of the story.

Is this really true? Bombadil is one of my favorite parts of The Fellowship of the Ring (just as Beorn is my favorite ancillary character in The Hobbit). Great Old Things, which are slowly leaving this world - they are a powerful theme in Middle Earth.

I quite like this thought experiment but I disagree with his characterization of the Old Forest - surely it seems quite dangerous to the civilized hobbits that are so unused to adventure, but I imagine that to other races (races which did not cut down the forest to increase their crop land), it is considered to be quite tame.

There's an interesting parallel here, between the hobbits and Old Forest, and Saruman and Fangorn.
posted by muddgirl at 12:20 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, "tame" is probably a bit strong. Strider would probably be wary of it, and treat it with some respect, but he would not consider it to be the second-most dangerous place in Middle Earth.
posted by muddgirl at 12:25 PM on December 16, 2011


I thought everyone knew that Tom was really the Witch-king.
posted by wilko at 12:32 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Bombadil-lovers, but I'm with China Mieville when he described Tom Bombadil as "the tooth-achingly awful character Tom Bombadil, a cod-folk nature spirit whose soliloquies sound like the ramblings of a village idiot." This is the first interpretation of the character that makes me want to actually read the chapters that he's in.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:40 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I thought everyone knew that Tom was really the Witch-king.

Bullshit. He would have kept the Ring when he held it, if this were true.

I CALL SHENANIGANS.
posted by grubi at 12:46 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not buying it, hate to be pedantic but from the illustration on page 15 of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil he is clearly not fat. Do some research internet smart guy!!
posted by Ad hominem at 1:01 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sometimes you just have to let art flow over you.
posted by digitalprimate at 1:12 PM on December 16, 2011


These mentions of Doctor Who are reminding me: from the first time I read The Fellowship, I pictured Tom Baker as Bombadil.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:19 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


That sort of reminded me of a D&D treatise I read once

This one?
posted by fings at 1:22 PM on December 16, 2011


Tom Baker as Gandalf makes more sense to me.
posted by grubi at 1:26 PM on December 16, 2011


Here is a reddit comment about Bombadil from a perspective of "spiritual awakening," samsara, nirvana, lila, maya, and so on.
posted by mbrock at 1:31 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


That sort of reminded me of a D&D treatise I read once

This one?


Yep, that's the one. Another part of it threw me into a deep crisis regarding the alignment system, making it so that I'm now That Guy for a topic that's already some fairly obscure nerdery.

The pdf is great though. Everyone should read it.
posted by Copronymus at 1:33 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Possibly the least liked character in The Lord of the Rings. A childish figure so disliked by fans of the book that few object to his absence from all adaptations of the story.


Umm, for anyone who takes that seriously (and maybe those of you who seem to are just having us on a bit) this is irony. So obviously untrue hat it's meant to serve as a signal that the remainder of the article is tongue-in-cheek
posted by tyllwin at 1:34 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


All the bits about elves singing suck as well.
posted by Artw at 1:36 PM on December 16, 2011


Huh, I always took Tom Bombadil as an odd, enigmatic fellow and nothing more, but maybe that's just me.

Not always, I used to think he was really Eru, but I was thirteen years old then
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:45 PM on December 16, 2011


Umm, for anyone who takes that seriously (and maybe those of you who seem to are just having us on a bit) this is irony.

It's clear that many fans don't like Bombadil all that much (which is a shame). It's true that I'd forgotten about the general outcry when it was revealed that he wouldn't be in the movies, but to me it seemed that fans were much more angry at, say, the fact that they increased the role of Arwen.
posted by muddgirl at 1:45 PM on December 16, 2011


BTW They couldn't have just flown on an eagle into Mordor. Gandalf clearly states that there are evil birds in the service of Sauron. Are you telling me the evil birds wouldn't have spotted the eagle flying into Mordor?

Radagast the Brown does need some fleshing out. He is especially adept at talking to birds. He could have lent a hand with the evil bird situation, but he is nowhere to be seen.

Where are the other wizards? What kind of council or order has three members, hardly seems worth it. They could have just had a club, no need to stand on ceremony.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:50 PM on December 16, 2011


Then again, "If you want him, come and claim him!" is one of my favourite Tolkien quotes. It has a bit more melody in the original Westron, of course.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:50 PM on December 16, 2011


Then again, "If you want him, come and claim him!" is one of my favourite Tolkien quotes.

Where is that quote? As near as I can tell, it's only in the movie. Arwen isn't even at the Ford of Bruinen.
posted by grubi at 1:54 PM on December 16, 2011


I'm thinking The Eye of Sauron acted kind of like an anti-air tower in a tower defense game.
posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Man, all these Bombadil-haters are just mad jealous because the guy lives on a river woth a beautiful dryad/naiad, wanting for nothing, high as a kite 24/7. (Hey, maybe he's John Fogerty. Does he ever choogle in canon?) Like Elrond, y'all need to learn to hate the game, not the player.
posted by No-sword at 2:09 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


We need a treatise on farmer Maggot, another enigmatic character thoughtlessly cut by Jackson. We know farmer Maggot kept dogs, hobbits in general do not seem disposed to keep pets. Why was Maggot one of the few hobbits with pets. Farmer Maggot was known to Bombadil, as the linked article points out Gandalf, Elrond and Treebeard had only vague knowledge of Bombadil yet this obscure farmer seemed to be BFFs with the guy.Farmer Maggot was able to lie to one of the Nazgul.

Just who is farmer Maggot?
posted by Ad hominem at 2:50 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Arwen isn't even at the Ford of Bruinen.
Nope, they merged her with Glorfindel. It was his white horse, too. But yeah, not sure if he said the line they gave her.
posted by Glinn at 2:57 PM on December 16, 2011


Ad hominem: "Just who is farmer Maggot?"

Obviously he must be the restless ghost of Déagol. See here
posted by Copronymus at 3:07 PM on December 16, 2011


The more I think about it, the more this reads like high fantasy as written by corporate management consultants.

"Mr. Baggins, there is only one item on your goals this year, dispose of the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. While this is specific, it includes no due dates or quality metrics. Also, the ring weighs well under a pound so this is hardly a stretch goal. I'm afraid this is quite unacceptable."

So, sure, let's replace Bombadil with Tulkas - a real go getter. The Barrow wights would be bagged and tagged while Frodo et al were still crossing the Brandywine. By time they're getting the hardwood vise grip treatment, Tulkas will be off in Mirkwood opening a can of woopass on some trolls or spiders or something. One of the Nazgul would find the One Ring, in the mud, amid a pile of tiny bones by chapter 11.

This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:20 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


All the bits about elves singing suck as well.

As I've mentioned, I'd replace all the Tom Bombadil songs with Ween songs.

I'd replace all the elf songs with Erasure songs:
As the boats pulled away from the shore, the fellowship her Galadriel singing sadly.

How can I explain
When there are few words I can choose
How can I explain
When words get broken

Do you remember
There was a time ahaha
When people on the streets
Were walking hand in hand in hand
They used to talk about the wheather
Making plans together
Days would last forever

Come to me, cover me, hold me
Together we´ll break these chains of love
Don´t give up, don´t give up
Together with me and my baby
Break these chains of love


"Oh, Mr. Frodo, the song sounds happy, but it is truly the saddest song that ever I heard," wept Samwise Gamgee through lembas scented tears.
I'm going to make a gadzillion dollars.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:48 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


(her=heard - I blame Tom Bombadil)
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:49 PM on December 16, 2011


Now Radagast the Brown; this guy needs some fleshing out.

It turns out that Radagast is a Time Lord.
posted by homunculus at 4:40 PM on December 16, 2011


Omg enough with the "they could have flown on eagles" shit. It makes for a moderately funny YouTube vid. But weve all heard it and Sauron would have seen it and scrambled some Nazgul or smote the fuck out of them or just looked directly at Frodo in midair and corrupted him or some shit. Yes, Eagles were able to fly in solo at the end. Sauron probably glanced at them and m thought "no ring, those fuckers can wait."
posted by nathancaswell at 6:03 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


A+ comment and participation on my part
posted by nathancaswell at 6:05 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ill give you that the eagles could have flown them 85% there. Also I apologize for typos my phone is weird and I can't see what I'm writing.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:10 PM on December 16, 2011


Well, the class I took in college which looked at LOTR through the lens of Tolkien being Catholic pretty much said that Bombadil is the power of Nature made incarnate. He's always existed, he is unaffected by the ring, he's present yet always overlooked, and he is vulnerable despite being quite powerful.

We spent a full lecture on it. I could probably dig out the notes if I really looked for them.

I've appreciated Bombadil much more since I took that class. Up until then, that encounter felt really non-sequitous with the rest of the adventure. Taken in the light of an encounter with the incarnation of the power of the Created Earth (or whatever), it makes a lot more sense that Tolkien would want to have the hobbits encounter that power before they continue out across vast stretches of Middle Earth. The world will continue no matter how the current conflicts resolve themselves. Bombadil has always been, and will always be.
posted by hippybear at 6:20 PM on December 16, 2011


But all of this pales in comparison to the fact that, as Gandalf himself shows at the climax of the series, they could have just gone to the Misty Mountains, rented a goddam eagle, and FLOWN the freaking ring to Mount Doom in, like, 30 minutes.

are you under the impression that eagles are some kind of supersonic jet with feathers?

let's look at an authoritative map - here we see that the misty mountains are no closer than 800 miles from mt doom, but in reality, you're going to start from rivendell, which is got to be more like 1200 miles

so, ok, you've got gwaihir the windlord and a couple of others who are willing to do the deed - the flight speed of a bald eagle is 36 to 44 mph - does a great eagle fly faster or slower? - my guess, due to body size, would be slower, especially with a fat hobbit in its claws - and let's remember that this is top speed, not moving-across-half-of-middle-earth-to-get-rid-of-that-damned-ring speed

we can call it 25 mph, which works out to a 48 hour trip - and let's face it, i don't think our eagles are going to be able to fly 48 hours straight, they're going to have to land, eat and sleep and let their passengers do the same - call it a 5 day trip

now of course, they're going to be seen flying by all those nasty crebain and wargs and orcs and what have you - and the nazgul are going to be alarumed in plenty of time - even making the dubious assumption that 3 steroid crazed eagles and an overconfident wizard are going to be able to zap 9 kings 'o eeevil right out of the sky, sauron is going to have a pretty good guess as to what these guys are up to and he'll have enough time to order a shitload of orcs to occupy the entrance to mt doom, and then how does frodo get to the crack 'o doom?

it was in a cave, so you're not going to just fly over the molten lava and throw the little trinket in - no, frodo's going to have to dismount, gandalf's going to have to kick the asses of thousands of orcs and then finally, when the moment comes, frodo's going to dither in front of it and claim the ring for his own and then gandalf's probably just going to throw his ass in, ruining his good guy reputation forever

after all, unless gollum could have persuaded shelob to turn herself into some kind of hideous 8 bladed helicopter, there's no way he would get there in time to bite frodo's finger off and commit a deux ex masticatia

me, i think tolkien could have simplified the narrative a lot more - old biblo, the hobbit, is pigging out at home, opens up a cracker jack box and out comes the one ring to bind them all, as if cracker jacks and cheeze doodles weren't binding enough - then that spoilsport old fart gandalf says, "you can't have that, son", calls the eagles with a dog whistle - he left his eagle whistle at home with radagast the brown - they just swoop over, pick up bilbo and gandalf, dump them in front of mt doom, throw the ring in and biblo vows to write both the manufacturer of cracker jacks and the manager of the local piggly wiggly scathing letters about how his evening stuffing himself sick on the couch while watching shire idol was interrupted by some stupid quest to save the world from a necromancer who would even stoop to food adulteration to have his way

"what if a toddler had gotten the box instead and choked to death on the ring after swallowing it?" bilbo writes indignantly

"that's telling him, my boy," says gandalf - he picks up his dog whistle and blows

"air mail!"
posted by pyramid termite at 6:31 PM on December 16, 2011 [18 favorites]


Wow, not only have I always assumed that Tom Bombadil = Illuvatar but I also assumed that EVERYONE thought this.

I am no LOTR scholar, but I did look to the Illuvatar wikipedia page to see if this was true. The page quotes a letter from the manager of a Catholic bookshop where he complains that Tolkien implies Bombadil is God, but Tolkien writes back and basically says that sounds like the kind of stupid thing a Protestant would say.

So that's one possibility off the table!
posted by Winnemac at 6:35 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where are the other wizards? What kind of council or order has three members, hardly seems worth it. They could have just had a club, no need to stand on ceremony.

Can't quote the page but somewhere in Silmarillion I think, it mentions a Blue wizard as another member of the White Council. So there are others.
posted by scalefree at 9:09 PM on December 16, 2011


I feel like we're all drunk and having a great conversation about Bombadil (maybe that's just me and nathancaswell). Bombadil Bombadel-lo would approve.

I like to imagine that there were a a bunch of Maiar (aka wizards) around the time that they ran the Necromancer out of Mirkwood, but after that adventure some of them were like, "Job well done, blokes. He'll never bother us again!" but Saruman realized that there was still knowledge left to acquire, Gandalf suspected that Sauron was only gaining in power (and he was probably mocked heavily for believing so), and Radagast was more interested in communing with animals and such. So basically, the wizards left in Middle Earth pre-LoTR were the lovers, the dreamers, and the ready-to-be-corrupted.
posted by muddgirl at 9:57 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't quote the page but somewhere in Silmarillion I think, it mentions a Blue wizard as another member of the White Council.

There were two blue wizards, who went into the East and were never heard from again.

Metafilter, I am disappoint.
posted by rodgerd at 10:19 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey, maybe he's John Fogerty.

Holy shit, it's perfect. The Ballad of Tom Bombadil!
posted by Meatbomb at 10:53 PM on December 16, 2011


"More than 15 years ago Russian scientist Kirill Yeskov tried to settle certain geographical problems in Tolkien's fantasy world. One thing led to another, and he tackled a bigger project - what would happen if we assumed that it's no less real than our world? His conclusion was that in such a case, the story of the Ring of Power is most likely a much-altered heroic retelling of a major war - but what was that war really about?

The result of this re-appraisal was the publication in 1999 of The Last Ring-bearer - a re-thinking of Tolkien's story in real-world terms. Dr. Yeskov, a professional paleontologist whose job is reconstructing long-extinct organisms and their way of life from fossil remnants, performs essentially the same feat in "The Last Ring-bearer", reconstructing the real world of Tolkien's Arda from the heroic tales of the Free Men of the West written in that world. We have a pretty good idea how well heroic tales map to reality from our own world..."
posted by jcruelty at 11:26 PM on December 16, 2011


Blue wizard

There are Blue wizards, who may be on enemy occupied lands. But there are only two of them.

I may discuss many things while drunk, and say many things about them. But LOTR is not one of them.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:25 AM on December 17, 2011


Upon preview rogerd is correct.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:27 AM on December 17, 2011


There were two blue wizards, who went into the East and were never heard from again.

Metafilter, I am disappointed.


Disappointed? It wasn't always like this you know. Sure, the mods do a good job of weeding out spammers, self-linkers and people wanting to grind the same vestigial axes on threadbear gridnstones. In the days of Throbrandur the Blue staff and Iruniel the, uh, Light Blue staff Metafilter was not the tamed land you see before you when the the Ainur first separated the blue from the black.

Why do you think Frodo didn't have to deal with any idiot trolls anyway?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:33 AM on December 17, 2011


Why do you think Frodo didn't have to deal with any idiot trolls anyway?

Cause Gandalf tricked them into arguing about how to best cook thirteen dwarves and one hobbit all night and they turned to stone?
posted by nathancaswell at 8:44 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Bombadil Withywindle wgah'nagl fhtagn.
posted by Scattercat at 10:44 AM on December 18, 2011


Wow, not only have I always assumed that Tom Bombadil = Illuvatar but I also assumed that EVERYONE thought this.

I once floated that idea in a Usenet discussion and someone responded with this quote written by Tolkien in a letter to Michael Straight (my real name(!), but not me):

"There is no embodiment of the One, of God, who indeed remains remote, outside the World, and only directly accessible to the Valar or Rulers."
posted by straight at 1:10 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


But all of this pales in comparison to the fact that, as Gandalf himself shows at the climax of the series, they could have just gone to the Misty Mountains, rented a goddam eagle, and FLOWN the freaking ring to Mount Doom in, like, 30 minutes.

It's also strongly implied that if Sauron's Eye could get a good look at someone carrying the ring (as would certainly happen if an eagle flew into Mordor) Sauron could directly exert his will upon the ringbearer. If someone tried to fly the ring into Mordor, he'd likely find himself flying straight to Barad-dûr and laying the ring at Sauron's feet.
posted by straight at 1:11 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nope, they merged her with Glorfindel. It was his white horse, too. But yeah, not sure if he said the line they gave her.

Glinn, he did not say that line.
posted by grubi at 6:08 AM on December 19, 2011


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