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Forum:Tom Bombadil, Man or Maia?

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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)
Yes, I also agree with Aule. Tom Bombadil could be part of the Music of the Ainur. He could be made with Arda at the beginning of Time. However I'm not completely sure, because the assumption don't clarify why Tom, made together with Arda, is free to the Ring's evil effects, whilst the Ainur (like the Maiar) made by Ilúvatar before the Creation are not free. We can't forget that Arda is not immune from the evil effects of Morgoth's (and Sauron's) power. So the supposition that Tom Bombadil is part of the Middle-Earth and at the same time immune from the Ring's power could be a little paradox. Finrod Felagund 13:09, 6 September 2008 (UTC)
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.
Matthew 17:21, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
I reckon Tom is basicaly a god. I think that he's the creator of everything natural, hence his power over trees. As he is a 'god' he is not affected by age or the ring.
--Pand. 21:50, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
Another suggestion I have heard is that he is a personification of Middle-earth: the ring doesn't affect him because the Ring affects people and not the land itself. This also might help to explain Goldberry's connection with him as she comes from Middle-earth itself (the Withywindle).
But, ultimately, as Tolkien said in Letter 144, "And even in a mythical age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally)." (In fact, Letter 144 is probably the most interesting and important with regards to Tolkien's thinking on Bombadil).
With regards to the article on Tom, I think we should just state all the relevant points of view, with evidence and leave it at that. --Mith 14:20, 2 September 2008 (UTC)
I don't know what you think,but I believe that he is some form or avatar of Iluvatar himself stationed to watvh over Arda.Unsigned comment by Beres (talk • contribs).


My preferred solution to the enigma of Tom is that he is the author incarnate, the creator of the universe and world of Arda who has taken bodily form to enter and live inside his own creation. In other words, he is Tolkien himself.

This interpretation is consistent with most of the textual references, and flows naturally from Tolkien's strong Christian beliefs. As the creator he is of course older than anything in the created world, and because he actually has an existence outside his creation in a wholly different dimension the powerful evils of Middle Earth do not hold sway over him.

Finally, the author of a story generally tries to let his characters run their own lives and make their own decisions, rather then forcing them to act according to his own wishes. This explains why Bombadil lives an isolated life, away from and unconcerned with all the important persons and events of Middle-earth, and can not be relied upon as the solution to the problem of the One Ring.