The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

From Tolkien Gateway
This article is about the poetry collection titled The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. For the poem by the same name, see The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (poem).
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
and Other Verses from the Red Book
Tom Bombadil 1962.png
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorWayne G. Hammond, Christina Scull (2014 edition)
IllustratorPauline Baynes
PublisherGeorge Allen and Unwin (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Released22 November 1962 (UK)
1963 (US)
FormatHardcover; paperback

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book is a 1962 collection of poetry by J.R.R. Tolkien. The book contains 16 poems, two of which feature Tom Bombadil, the rest of the poems are an assortment of bestiary verse and fairy tale rhyme. Three of the poems appear in The Lord of the Rings as well. The book was originally illustrated by Pauline Baynes.

Contents[edit | edit source]

The book's preface presents the poems as a translation from the Red Book of Westmarch, and gives some background information that is not found elsewhere: e.g. the name of the tower at Dol Amroth and the names of the Seven Rivers of Gondor. The poems carry some fictional backstory, linking them to Hobbit folklore; they are all supposedly works that Hobbits enjoyed and were preserved in the margins of the Red Book, with several of them being attributed to Bilbo Baggins and Sam Gamgee.[1]

The order of the poems form a thematical progress: two poems with the titular character, two "faerie" poems, two with the Man in the Moon, two with Trolls; three "bestiary", and four "atmospheric/emotional". The Mewlips doesn't fit to a category, and placed in the middle as a divider.

Background[edit | edit source]

Tom Bombadil was a figure in J.R.R. Tolkien's mind that appeared in his writings at various times, including a 1937 poem; eventually he became a canonical part of the Legendarium while Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien's aunt Jane Neave enjoyed the figure of Tom in The Fellowship of the Ring and asked him if he could make a book out of him that would make an affordable Christmas present. As Tom was a vague, deliberately unexplained figure, Tolkien didn't feel that anything more could be told about him, but thought that his 1937 poem could be made into an illustrated booklet,[2] with Pauline Baynes in his mind. Rayner Unwin suggested to collect more poems with it so as to be a more publishable book. Tolkien then researched some older, half-forgotten poems (the value of which he doubted)[3][4] and started a laborious process to rediscover, rub up, improve and re-write them; something which, as he wrote to his aunt, he greatly enjoyed.[5]

Tolkien thought (and Baynes agreed) that the poems didn't fit together as a collection.[3] Part of Tolkien's re-writing attempted to make them fit with each other and into Hobbit-lore; he decided to include a Foreword that would make this connection, and wrote a second poem with Tom in order to fit him better into the world of the Shire and Hobbits.[6]


Despite Baynes suggested that his poems were rather "felt", Tolkien insisted that his images were definite, clear and precise.[7] He instructed Baynes that the illustrations "shouldn't be comical". Then she collaborated with art editor Ronald Eames, and finished six illustrations by August 1962. Though there were some criticism from Tolkien to Baynes' work, in the end, Tolkien credited for a large part Baynes for the commercial success of the book.

Extended edition[edit | edit source]

An extended edition was published in 2014, edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull. This edition includes: an introduction by the editors, earlier versions of 13 poems with textual notes, a later 'Bombodil' poem Once upon a Time, a previously unpublished text The Bumpus, the predecessor of Perry-the-Winkle, and the complete fragment of a prose story featuring Tom Bombadil.[8] Some revision history of the poems are as follows:

  • Revised, title unchanged

Publication history and gallery[edit | edit source]

UK editions
1962 hardcover  
1990 hardcover  
1990 paperback  
2014 hardcover  
2024 paperback  
Audio performances

External links[edit | edit source]


Tales from the Perilous Realm
Farmer Giles of Ham · The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · Leaf by Niggle · Smith of Wootton Major
Roverandom (since 2008) · On Fairy-Stories (since 2008)
A J.R.R. Tolkien book guide
Books by or mainly by Tolkien
On Arda Authored by
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
(i.The Fellowship of the Ring · ii.The Two Towers · iii.The Return of the King) ·
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · The Road Goes Ever On · Bilbo's Last Song
Edited by Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion · Unfinished Tales · The History of Middle-earth series
(i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand · iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow · vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring · xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth · Index) ·
The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
Edited by others The Annotated Hobbit · The History of The Hobbit · The Nature of Middle-earth · The Fall of Númenor
Not on Arda Short stories
and others
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major · Letters from Father Christmas ·
Mr. Bliss · Roverandom · Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fictional works The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · The Old English Exodus · Finn and Hengest ·
The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays · Beowulf and the Critics · Tolkien On Fairy-stories ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · A Secret Vice · The Battle of Maldon
Letters & poems The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien · The Collected Poems of J.R.R. Tolkien
academic works
A Middle English Vocabulary · Sir Gawain and the Green Knight · Ancrene Wisse
Books by other authors
Books on Arda The Complete Guide to Middle-earth · The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion ·
The Maps of Middle-earth
Tolkien biographies J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · Tolkien and the Great War
Scholarly books The Road to Middle-earth · The Keys of Middle-earth · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide ·
The Ring of Words · A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien · Tolkien's Lost Chaucer · Tolkien's Library · Tolkien on Chaucer, 1913-1959
Scholarly journals Tolkien Studies · (The Chronology)
Other works by Tolkien
Linguistic journals Vinyar Tengwar various issues · Parma Eldalamberon issue 11-22
Collections of artwork
and manuscripts
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien · J.R.R. Tolkien: Life and Legend · J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator ·
The Art of The Hobbit · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth ·
Tolkien: Treasures · J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript
This list is only a selection, for a fuller bibliography of Tolkien see here or here. See also a timeline and an index.