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Tom Bombadil (chapter in The Return of the Shadow)

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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).


"Tom Bombadil" is the title of the sixth chapter of The Return of the Shadow, the sixth book of The History of Middle-earth series by Christopher Tolkien.

The chapter opens with a short outline of the hobbits' visit to the house of Tom Bombadil: Tom rescues the travelers from the Willow Man; his appearance in the nick of time was by chance since he had been out gathering water-lilies for Goldberry, his wife. Tom knows Farmer Maggot (Tolkien at this point contemplated making Maggot something other than a hobbit, perhaps akin to Tom). The travelers come to Tom's house and stay one night. In the morning he tells them how to leave the Old Forest, warns them about the Barrow-wights, and teach them a song to sing if the barrow-wights frighten them.

Further notes explain that the lilies Tom was seeking for his wife were the last lilies of summer. Tom is described as an "aborigine", preceding Men, Hobbits, Barrow-wights, the Necromancer, and even Elves. Tom is the "master of water, wood, and hill" because he belongs only to himself. A description of Goldberry is given. Tolkien related the Barrow-wights to the Black Riders and asked if the Black Riders were in truth horsed Barrow-wights. In the night the guests hear the galloping of horses round the house.[1]

In the main narrative of this chapter the dreams of the hobbits are described. Bingo awakes and hears a strong wind with hooves thudding around the house. Odo dreams of branches fretting in the wind and scraping against the walls and windows. Frodo hears the sound of water rising and gurgling around the house and under the walls. Meriadoc (renamed here for the first time from Marmaduke[2]) sleeps without any dreams.[note 1]

The next morning dawns cool but sunny and all have a merry breakfast. Bingo, while wishing to tarry in Tom's house, decides they must press on and seeks such help and advice as Tom will give. Bingo tells of hearing horsemen in the night and Tom wonders what ails the Barrow-wights.

At this point Tolkien's text ended and appended notes in pencil. He decided to make it a rainy day so that the hobbits can spend the time telling Tom their story and he can talk about the Willow Man. A piece of text describes Willow Man as a grey thirsty earth-bound spirit who had become imprisoned in the greatest willow of the Forest. Another section of text has Tom calling himself an Aborigine of this land. Various notes talk of Tom's ancient habitation of the Forest, his distant kinship with Farmer Maggot, and other minor differences between this narrative and that of the final version.[1]

Notes

  1. All four hobbits would eventually be renamed; besides Meriadoc change from Maraduke, Bingo Bolger-Baggins becomes Frodo Baggins, Odo Took becomes Peregrin Took, and Frodo Took becomes Samwise Gamgee.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: VI. Tom Bombadil"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: VI. Tom Bombadil, Notes", note 1