Bombadil Goes Boating

From Tolkien Gateway

Bombadil Goes Boating is a poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien and was published in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.[1]

As part of the Shire-lore recorded in the Red Book, the poem was composed after the War of the Ring in Buckland, displaying knowledge of the geography around it.[2] However it possibly refers to a time before 22 September T.A. 3018[3] when troublesome news reached the Shire from around its borders.[4]


One autumn Tom Bombadil decides to go boating down the Withywindle and starts mending and preparing his cockle-boat. A Little Bird (willow-wren) starts conversing and teasing him. Then Bombadil starts boating in order to go to the Brandywine and meet some hobbits he knows there and the wren flies to notify Farmer Maggot. He meets and teases a King's Fisher, which leaves behind a blue feather, which Tom puts onto his hat (replacing his old swan feather). He also meets Whisker-lad (an otter) and the Old Swan of the Elvet-isle.

The Withy-weir pulls Tom to the Grindwall where he lands his boat; some Bucklanders of Haysend and Breredon tease him and shoot three arrows into his hat. Tom asks someone to ferry him over Brandywine by Shirebourn as the water is so swift for his own boat.

At sunset Tom climbs the Mithe Steps and walks along the Causeway towards Rushey. Farmer Maggot, on his wagon, mockingly asks his business, saying that a beggar won't find any beer to buy and drink. Tom teases him back boarding the cart and they are off to Bamfurlong laughing.

There Maggot's family greet and serve Tom, and his daughters dance the Springle-ring. After they fall asleep, Tom and the Farmer spend the night exchanging all kind of news and gossip:

old Tom and Muddy-feet, swapping all the tidings
from Barrow-downs to Tower Hills: of walkings and of ridings;
of wheat-ear and barley-corn, of sowing and of reaping;
queer tales from Bree, and talk at smithy, mill, and cheaping;
rumours in whispering trees, south-wind in the larches,
tall Watchers by the Ford, Shadows on the marches.

When dawn comes, Tom has mysteriously vanished without leaving any trace; his boat is untouched at the Grindwall for three days. Then the abovementioned animals decide to pull it back to Tom's creek, around the Old Man Willow's crooked roots. But they have forgotten the oars that lay behind waiting for Tom to collect them.


J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the poem preparing for the publication of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and he aimed to connect the collection better with the legendarium of The Lord of the Rings.[5]

It seems to be based on a very old poem written in early 1930s, where the name "Tom Bombadil" is first mentioned, who goes boating. There some names are mentioned, including "Bill Willoughby" and "Harry Larraby" which also appear in a first draft of the poem. Early titles of the poem included the word "Fliting", as it was centered in good-humored exchange of teasings and insults, a contest appearing in Norse and medieval poetry.[6]

See also[edit]