Tolkien Gateway

Forum:Tom Bombadil, Man or Maia?

Revision as of 17:21, 24 August 2008 by Matthew (Talk | contribs)
Tolkien Gateway > Council > Tom Bombadil, Man or Maia?

I have read numerous articles about Tom Bombadil and who exactly he is. But there are SO many different opinions, I still can't figure it out. I am a Tolkien fan under 20, and would really like a good strong opinion using facts to help me figure out who he really is. Below are some opinions i have heard:

1. Tom Bombadil is a "retired" Maia.

2. Tom Bombadil is just a crazy man.

3. Tom Bombadil was a fictional character from bedtime stories that Tolkien would make up for his children. Then he was later added to LoTR for no reason, just as an enigma.

Please help me out here. Thanks.

Well, young fan. First off, our article on ol' Tom is a wreck - I'm planning to rewrite that. As for the opinions - #3 is the right one. -- Ederchil 03:21, 19 July 2008 (EDT)
He's not a Maia or indeed a Vala because he says he was in Middle Earth before even Melkor. Obviously he's not a man, for a start he's immune to the ring's effects (which since Gandalf and Saruman aren't would be another reason he's not a Maia) and he's many thousands of years too old. Number 3 is correct, but that doesn't mean he can't be placed in Middle earth's cosmology. The way I see it, since we can't fit him in to any other categories and because of his unequivocal claim to being "Oldest" he is an integral part of the Music of the Ainur; a natural force of Middle earth, a hröa without a fëa. --Aule the Smith 13:42, 7 August 2008 (EDT)
Can't agree more. It's exactly my opinion about Tom since years. Nice going, Aule. Sage 17:27, 7 August 2008 (EDT)
could it possibly be that Tom B. is an avatar of Illúvatar? I have seen this tossed around by a few Tolkien scholars. In many forms of myth, some avatars of greater gods are not even aware that this is what they are. Japanese Myth for instance is replete with characters who are the avatars of great spirits who have no idea that this is their origin. Joseph Campbell talks about this in relation to primitive societies where the avatars must live among mankind in order to understand their suffering before they are allowed to enter into "Heaven" to take their place among the motive forces of the universe.
Maybe this is what Tom B. is. I am pretty sure that he would have been unaware of Campbell (due to Campbell not yet having written most of his works and just being a student of Jung at the time. Being such a creature would give him the insights into the world and a flighty short attention span.
Of course, it is just another theory, and it is far more likely that Tom is just an accident in the writing of The Lord of the Rings when he still had a vision of it as a more thorough children's story than The Hobbit. As such, he is the mystery of the far off towers in the mist which hold the promise of adventure for some and peril for others.