In the House of Tom Bombadil

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In the House of Tom Bombadil
Chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring
EventFrodo and company stay at the house of Tom Bombadil.
Date26-27 September 3018
LocationThe Old Forest
<  The Old Forest
Fog on the Barrow-downs  >

In the House of Tom Bombadil is the seventh chapter of the first book in The Fellowship of the Ring.

In this chapter, the Hobbits eat supper and speak with Tom Bombadil and his wife Goldberry at their house. They sleep comfortably, though each Hobbit except Sam has nightmares. The next day, Tom speaks about Old Man Willow and then demonstrates that he is unaffected by The One Ring. Tom teaches the Hobbits a rhyme to summon his help, and they go to sleep again.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The Hobbits enter Tom Bombadil's house to find a fair woman with flowing, golden hair sitting at the far end of the room, surrounded by pots of water containing white water-lilies. She leaps up gracefully and introduces herself as Goldberry, inviting the Hobbits in to laugh and be merry. She closes the door behind them, bidding the Hobbits to leave their fears outside. Frodo recognizes her as a character in a song he'd once heard. Feeling as though under a powerful spell, he suddenly begins singing it.

"O slender as a willow-wand! O clearer than clear water!
O reed by the living pool! Fair River-daughter!
O spring-time and summer-time, and spring again after!
O wind on the waterfall, and the leaves' laughter!
Frodo Baggins

Goldberry recognizes Frodo as an Elf-friend. She asks her guests to sit at the table as she gets it ready for supper. The Hobbits can hear Tom Bombadil outside, tending to their ponies. Frodo asks Goldberry who Tom Bombadil is.

"He is."

When Frodo presses the question, Goldberry elaborates that Tom is a "Master of wood, water, and hill", but adds that the land does not "belong" to him. She explains that Tom does not wish to own anything, nor fears anything.

Tom finally enters, now wearing a crown of autumn leaves. He leads the Hobbits into another room, where they find soft mattresses on the floor and four washing basins. After cleaning themselves, the Hobbits return to the main hall and dine with Tom and Goldberry. The dinner is quite merry, and the Hobbits discover to their surprise that it is easier for them to sing than to talk.

After the meal, the Hobbits are sat in comfortable chairs in front of the fireplace. Goldberry bids them a good night's sleep, promising that no danger can enter the house. Tom Bombadil sits with the Hobbits in silence. Frodo asks Tom whether he'd heard Frodo's call for help. Tom answers negatively, chalking their encounter up to chance - though he does add that he was expecting the Hobbits' arrival. He continues by singing a verse about his "errand" to collect water-lilies for Goldberry, which just so happened to lead him past the spot where the Hobbits were attacked by Old Man Willow.

Frodo asks Tom to explain what Old Man Willow is, but Merry and Pippin protest, refusing to hear of it until morning. Tom agrees with them. He leads the Hobbits to their guest-room, where they all fall asleep almost as soon as they lie down on their soft mattresses.

That night, each of the Hobbits has a strange nightmare, except for Sam who sleeps comfortably throughout.

In Frodo's dream, he sees the moon rising over a circle of hills surrounding a plain, with a tall tower at its center. At the top of this tower stands a white-haired figure, and from the plain below come fell voices and the howls of wolves. The figure raises a staff, causing a bright flash. Suddenly, a mighty eagle swoops across the moon and snatches the figure from the tower, bearing it away as the voices below turn into yammers. Frodo then hears the sound of hooves coming from the east, recognizing them as Black Riders. This wakes him up, and he lies in bed wondering whether he has the courage to go on with his quest.

Pippin sleeps pleasantly for a while, but then dreams that he's woken up to sounds of branches tapping and scratching at the walls and windows. He suddenly feels as though he's once again inside Old Man Willow, who laughs at his misery. He wakes up in a panic, quickly realizing that he's still in Tom Bombadil's house. As he tries to get back to sleep, he imagines hearing a soft voice repeating to him what Tom and Goldberry had said earlier, about putting fears away and heeding no nightly noises.

In Merry's dream, he begins to hear the sounds of running water. At first a trickle, the water quickly begins to pool around the house, to the point where Merry is sure that it will soon break through the windows and drown him. He springs out of bed to realize it was only a dream. As he lies back down, he too hears a faint voice repeating Goldberry's assurance that nothing can enter Tom's house except the light of the moon and the stars.

All four Hobbits wake up together in the morning, to find Tom Bombadil whistling and drawing the curtains. They get up, feeling refreshed despite their troubled sleep. Frodo and Pippin rush to the windows to check for traces of the things they had dreamed, finding only a soothing morning landscape. Tom seems to know that the Hobbits had had trouble sleeping that night, but bids them to forget and come eat breakfast.

The Hobbits have breakfast alone, without Tom and Goldberry. They see rain outside, realizing that they cannot continue their journey just yet, which comes as a relief to Frodo. From far away, they can faintly hear Goldberry singing a song about the rain.

Tom returns from outside, appearing strangely untouched by the rain. He tells the Hobbits that this is Goldberry's "washing day", and confirms that they can't go on in this weather. Instead, he bids them sit and talk. He begins by telling them marvelous stories about the natural world, occasionally singing, and even getting up and dancing.

Tom's stories include many references to Old Man Willow and the Old Forest. He describes the Forest as ancient, and explains that the trees there have dark hearts and a hatred for all walking beings. He says that Old Man Willow is particularly malicious, drawing power from the earth and spreading its influence over nearly all of the trees in the Old Forest.

Tom then tells the Hobbits about the history of the Barrow Downs, describing the wars that took place there and the kings that were buried with their riches inside great mounds. He explains that an evil spirit came from far away and awakened their bones, which have haunted the barrows ever since. The Hobbits are terrified by this story, suddenly remembering the dangers that lurk just outside of Tom's comfortable house.

Tom finally begins speaking of truly ancient things, when only Elves roamed the lands of Middle-earth, indicating that he is somewhat of an ancient entity himself. As he speaks, he starts nodding off, and it seems to the Hobbits that time itself is standing still. Frodo feels as though whole days are passing as he silently waits for Tom to wake up, though he feels neither hunger nor want. Finally, at night-time, he asks Tom who he is. Tom does not reply directly to the question, but claims that he was there to see the first rain drop, the Elves' arrival, and even the coming of Sauron from "Outside".

Goldberry appears, announcing that the rains have ended. Tom calls the Hobbits to yet another meal; he and Goldberry perform an elaborate and flawless dance as they set the table. The Hobbits notice that both Tom and Goldberry have changed their clothes, now wearing bright-blue and gleaming silver, respectively.

The Hobbits find themselves famished, and the meal is the best one they had eaten in Tom's house so far. After dinner, Goldberry sings fantastic songs about pools of water and skies full of stars, enchanting the Hobbits, before bidding them farewell once again.

It is now Tom's turn to ask the Hobbits many questions, though he already appears to know much about their lives, their families, and the history of The Shire. He chalks much of this knowledge up to conversations he's had with Farmer Maggot.

"There's earth under his old feet, and clay on his fingers; wisdom in his bones, and both his eyes are open."
Tom Bombadil, speaking about Farmer Maggot

Tom seems to have learned of Frodo's journey directly from Gildor Inglorion. Frodo finds himself opening up, telling Tom all about Bilbo, and confiding about his own hopes and fears. When Frodo mentions the Black Riders, Tom suddenly asks to see The One Ring, which Frodo hands over to him without question.

Tom peers through the Ring, which seems to grow larger in his hands. He puts it on, and to the Hobbits' amazement, is wholly unaffected by it. He tosses the Ring into the air, and it disappears in a bright flash, greatly distressing Frodo; however Tom then hands the Ring back to Frodo as though nothing had happened. Suspicious that some slight-of-hand may have occurred, Frodo finds an opportunity to slip the Ring on his finger in order to test it. He is relieved to discover that he's turned invisible. However, Tom appears to see right through his invisibility, and bids him take off the Ring.

"Hey! Come Frodo, there! Where be you a-going? Old Tom Bombadil's not as blind as that yet. Take off your golden ring! Your hand's more fair without it."
Tom Bombadil

Tom advises the Hobbits to leave early the next morning in order to make good use of the coming sunny weather. He tells them not to go straight north from his house towards the East Road, but instead to go through the Barrow Downs. He reassures them that they will be safe so long as they avoid any barrow mounds and always pass them on the western side. For added safety, he also teaches them a rhyme to summon his help. The Hobbits repeat the rhyme to show that they'd learned it.

Tom takes the Hobbits back to their guest-room for one last night at his house.