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Tom Bombadil

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"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 is an enigma in The Lord of the Rings and the Adventures of Tom Bombadil.


Third Age

Tom Bombadil lived on the river Withywindle in the Old Forest, together with his lovely wife Goldberry. 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 houseTemplate:Ref.

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, and when Frodo put it on, Tom could still see him.

The following morning, Tom warned his guests of the Barrow Downs, and advised them to pass any barrow on the western side. He also tought them a song, should they come to perilTemplate:Ref.

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 BreeTemplate:Ref.

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 poniesTemplate:Ref.

Tom Bombadil's Nature

Tom Bombadil by John Howe.

Tom Bombadil's mythological origins in the cosmology of Middle-earth have puzzled even erudite fans. Speculative ideas about his true nature range from simply a wise Elven hermit to an angelic being (a Maia or Vala), to the creator, that is, God, who is called Eru Ilúvatar in J.R.R. Tolkien's mythology. Tolkien explicitly denied this last possibility.

Tom seems to have unlimited power inside the boundaries that he set for himself. The most common theory is that Bombadil is a Maia, and perhaps the reason of why he has such powers might be the fact that he set himself limits in which he is master. "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." The Dark Lord that Bombadil refers to is probably Melkor and not Sauron. But in that case, Tom was already there even before the Valar entered the world, dismissing the theory that he is a Maia. Bombadil could be part of the Music of the Ainur and that would explain why he was there in the beginning, but if he was indeed part of the music, it is not said why he exists.

Other possibilities (compatible with the above theory) are that he is an abstract, a concept; possibly the embodiment of Arda itself, a "Father Nature" if you will, or some kind of 'spirit' which (unlike the Maiar) was of non-divine nature. Not only does the Ring have no effect on him, Tom himself seems unable to affect the Ring in return which shows that Tom was outside the divine plan and struggle and had no position in it. When Goldberry was asked by Frodo Baggins who he was, she simply said "He is". This is echoed by the following excerpt from Tom's songs:

Etymology and other names

Tom Bombadil went by many names:

  • 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, untranslatableTemplate:Ref.
  • To the Elves and Dúnedain, he was known as Iarwain Ben-adar, which translated to "oldest and fatherless"Template:Ref.
  • To Men (of Rohan and Bree), he was known as Orald. This is an Old English word meaning "very ancientTemplate:Ref.
  • The Dwarves knew him as Forn. This too is a reference too his age: it is Old Norse for "(belonging to) ancient (days)"Template:Ref. In some imprints of The History of Middle-earth Index, this name was accidentally spelled with a "P" as the first letterTemplate:Ref.

Portrayal in Adaptions

Tom Bombadil, as he appeared in EA's The Battle for Middle-earth II

One of the few things known about the 1956 radio series of The Lord of the Rings is that Norman Shelley voiced him, and Tolkien thought his portrayal "dreadful". Goldberry was portrayed as his daughter, rather than his wifeTemplate:Ref.

In Mind's Eye's 1979 radio series of The Lord of the Rings, Bernard Mayes voiced Tom Bombadil.

He was deleted from the 1981 radio series, Ralph Bakshi's movie and Peter Jackson's movies. He contributed little to the storyline. The obtaining of the Barrow-blades is omitted or retold in all. Brian Sibley deeply regretted cutting him from the radio seriesTemplate:Ref, and included the "deleted scenes" as the episode "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" in the 1992 Tales from the Perilous Realm radio series. He is voiced by Ian Hogg.

In the Recorded Books Inc recorded book that Rob Inglis narrated, he sang Tom's songs in a rollicking Scottish style.

In the 2001 video game The Fellowship of the Ring by Vivendi, Tom Bombadil was voiced by Daran Norris. Here, he is also portrayed with a Scottish accent, though not as rollicking as Inglis'.

Bombadil is a character in EA's The Battle for Middle-earth II. Unlike his nature in the book, he is shown strong and battleready, and plows through enemy lines whilst merrily singing. His most powerful weapon is a "Sonic Song", and all his other weapons are inspired by song and dance.


Tom Bombadil 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
Preceded by:
Frodo Baggins
September 26, III 3018 (briefly)
Followed by:
Frodo Baggins

See also


  1. Template:Note The Fellowship of the Ring, The Old Forest
  2. Template:Note The Fellowship of the Ring, In the House of Tom Bombadil
  3. Template:Note The Fellowship of the Ring, Fog on the Barrow-downs
  4. Template:Note The Fellowship of the Ring, A Knife in the Dark
  5. Template:Note The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Preface
  6. Template:Note The Fellowship of the Ring, The Council of Elrond
  7. Template:Note J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings", published in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion (by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull), page 761.
  8. Template:Note J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings", published in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion (by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull), page 761.
  9. Template:Note The History of Middle-earth: Index, "Tom Bombadil (VII)", page 435 (HarperCollins 2000 Paperback)
  10. Template:Note The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 175 (November 30, 1955)
  11. Template:Note Brian Sibley, The Ring Goes Ever On

External Links