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Tom Bombadil

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The name Tom refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Tom (disambiguation).
"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."
― Tom Bombadil, In the House of Tom Bombadil.

Tom Bombadil was an enigmatic figure that lived throughout the history of Arda. Living in the depths of the Old Forest, he seemed to possess unequaled power in the land around his dwelling. Although seemingly benevolent, he was not allied to the Free peoples.

His existence passed into Hobbit lore and was referenced in poems such as The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.




Tom Bombadil by John Howe.
"He is a strange creature."
Elrond, The Council of Elrond

The origins and nature of Tom Bombadil are unknown; however, he already existed when the Dark Lord came to Arda,[1] signifying he was alive even before the coming of the Valar.

His role and nature in the Elder Days is unknown, but he must have witnessed most of the major events and battles. He also witnessed the reducing of the great forests that covered all Middle-earth, and perhaps of his powers.[2]

The level of his interactions with the outside world is also unclear; however, he seemed to have a name among many peoples and perhaps became a folkloric figure in the traditions and legends of Elves, Dwarves and Men.[2][3]

During the Third Age, Tom Bombadil lived in a little house by the river Withywindle in the Old Forest, together with his lovely wife Goldberry. He had contact with the Bucklanders[3] and Farmer Maggot, and perhaps it was this to which he owed his jolly and whimsical attitude.

However, since he was merry and benevolent, some of the Free Peoples considered him a potential ally (for example, Elrond and Erestor considered that he should be present at the Council of Elrond). However, according to Gandalf, Tom Bombadil was perhaps not fully aware of the struggle of Light and Darkness and could not prove useful to their causes.[2]

War of the Ring

Bombadil rescues the hobbits from the Old Man Willow.

On September 26, T.A. 3018, he encountered four hobbits while he was searching for water-lilies for his wife. Two of those Hobbits, Merry and Pippin, had been captured by Old Man Willow. Tom, who was the master of the Old Forest, rescued them, and took all four of them to his house.[4]

The four hobbits stayed two nights, and he told them many tales and songs. Apparently, Gildor Inglorion had been to Tom's house, as he knew the hobbits were fleeing the Shire. With cunning questions, he made Frodo tell him of the Ring. When Tom tried it on nothing happened but he then took it off and flipped it in the air and made the ring itself disappear showing that indeed within his realm Tom was master. However, when Frodo put the ring on Tom could still see him. He bade the Hobbit to come back and sit down; his hand was fairer without the ring.

The following morning, Tom warned his guests of the Barrow-downs, and advised them to pass any barrow on the western side. He also taught them a song, should they come to peril.[1]

And they did come to peril. Tom chased off a wight with song, and broke the spells on the barrow in which the four hobbits were captured. While he sent the Hobbits into calm down, he went for provisions. He also brought the ponies that had belonged to Merry. After that, he broke the spells of the barrow. From the barrow's mighty hoard, he took a brooch for Goldberry, and gave a dagger to each of the hobbits. He then advised them to make for The Prancing Pony in Bree.[5]

The peril of the hobbits was not over; an attack on their lives was carried out, and their ponies were set loose. The ponies apparently remembered the care they were given in the house of Tom Bombadil, and returned to stay beside Tom's own pony, Fatty Lumpkin. He returned them to Barliman Butterbur, the proprietor of The Prancing Pony. Since he had paid eighteen pence as compensation for the loss, he was now the owner of five fine ponies.[6]


Tom Bombadil was inspired primarily from a doll Tolkien's son, Michael, toyed with; it also may have been inspired by the character Väinämöinen (spelt 'Wainamoinen' in English) in the Finnish national epic Kalevala, or Father Francis Xavier Morgan at the Birmingham Oratory:

"... Father Francis Xavier Morgan, then aged forty-three, who shortly after the Tolkiens moved into the district [Edgbaston] took over the duties of parish priest and came to call. In him Mabel soon found not only a sympathetic priest but a valuable friend. Half Welsh and half Anglo-Spanish (his mother’s family were prominent in the sherry trade), Francis Morgan was not a man of great intellect, but he had an immense fund of kindness and humour and a flamboyance that was often attributed to his Spanish connections. Indeed he was a very noisy man, loud and affectionate, embarrassing to small children at first but hugely lovable when they got to know him."
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

Etymology and other names

Tom Bombadil went by many names:

  • To the Elves and Dúnedain, he was known as Iarwain Ben-adar, which translated to "oldest and fatherless".[2]
  • To Men of the Vales of Anduin and Rohan, he was known as Orald.[2] This is an Old English word meaning "very ancient.[7]
  • The Dwarves knew him as Forn. This too is a reference to his age: it is Old Norse for "(belonging to) ancient (days)".[7] In some imprints of The History of Middle-earth Index, this name was accidentally spelled with a "P" as the first letter.[8]
  • Tom Bombadil is said to be a Bucklandish name, added by Hobbit chroniclers to his many older ones. It is, like many names of the Bucklanders, untranslatable.[3]

Portrayal in Adaptions

Because he is left out of the three major adaptations (Ralph Bakshi, BBC's 1981 series and Peter Jackson's), Tom Bombadil's main role (providing the Barrow-blades) is omitted. He does have several appearances in other adaptations, though.

1955: BBC Radio's The Lord of the Rings:

Norman Shelley voiced Bombadil, and Tolkien thought his portrayal "dreadful". Goldberry was portrayed as his daughter, rather than his wife[9].

1979: Mind's Eye's The Lord of the Rings:

In this series, Tom was voiced by Bernard Mayes. Like Norman Shelley before him, he also voiced Gandalf.

1988: J.R.R. Tolkien's War in Middle Earth:

Tom Bombadil can be found outside his house in the Old Forest.

1992: BBC Radio's Tales from the Perilous Realm:

When he adapted the 1981 radio series, Brian Sibley deeply regretted cutting Bombadil from the radio series.[10] When he made Tales from the Perilous Realm into a radio series, he decided to change the section "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil". Rather than several (unadaptable) Hobbitish poems, Sibley adapted the chapters from The Fellowship of the Ring. Bombadil is voiced by Ian Hogg.

2002: Vivendi's The Fellowship of the Ring:

Daran Norris portrayed Bombadil with a Scottish accent. His role is much like that in the book, and as one of the few characters in this video game, he keeps most of his songs.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

In the extended edition, some of Bombadil's poems are transferred to Treebeard, and so is his encounter with Old Man Willow.

2006: EA's The Battle for Middle-earth II:

Bombadil is a summonable power. Once summoned, he can plow through enemy lines. His most powerful weapon is a "Sonic Song". As soon as EA secured the rights to the books, it was decided that Tom Bombadil should be in it; his appearance is kept close to his description in the book.[11]


In April 2008, Gentle Giant released the Tom Bombadil Mini Bust.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "In the House of Tom Bombadil"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "Preface"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Old Forest"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Fog on the Barrow-downs"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Knife in the Dark"
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p, 761
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The History of Middle-earth Index, "Tom Bombadil (VII)", p. 435
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 175, (dated 30 November 1955)
  10. Brian Sibley, The Ring Goes Ever On
  11. The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth II Q&A - Enter Tom Bombadil,

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