- "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 an 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
War of the Ring
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
- To Men (of Rohan and Bree), he was known as Orald. This is an Old English word meaning "very ancient.
- The Dwarves knew him as Forn. This too is a reference to his age: it is Old Norse for "(belonging to) ancient (days)". In some imprints of The History of Middle-earth Index, this name was accidentally spelled with a "P" as the first letter.
- 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.
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.
- Norman Shelley voiced Bombadil, and Tolkien thought his portrayal "dreadful". Goldberry was portrayed as his daughter, rather than his wife.
- In this series, Tom was voiced by Bernard Mayes. Like Norman Shelley before him, he also voiced Gandalf.
- When he adapted the 1981 radio series, Brian Sibley deeply regretted cutting Bombadil from the radio series. 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.
- 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.
- In the extended edition, some of Bombadil's poems are transferred to Treebeard, and so is his encounter with Old Man Willow.
- 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.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 The Fellowship of the Ring, In the House of Tom Bombadil
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 The Fellowship of the Ring, The Council of Elrond
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Preface
- ↑ The Fellowship of the Ring, The Old Forest
- ↑ The Fellowship of the Ring, Fog on the Barrow-downs
- ↑ The Fellowship of the Ring, A Knife in the Dark
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 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
- ↑ The History of Middle-earth: Index, "Tom Bombadil (VII)", page 435 (HarperCollins 2000 Paperback)
- ↑ The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 175 (November 30, 1955)
- ↑ Brian Sibley, The Ring Goes Ever On
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth II Q&A - Enter Tom Bombadil, GameSpot.com