Posts Tagged ‘Tom Bombadil’

I’m still tramping along the Road with the hobbits, somewhere in the bleak country between the Prancing Pony and Rivendell; but I wanted to say a word about Tom Bombadil. For those who have seen the movies but haven’t yet delved into the books, Bombadil lives in the Old Forest, on the borders of Buckland. The hobbits lose their way in the forest and get trapped by Old Man Willow; Tom comes along, singing, and helps them out of trouble. They spend several days with him and his “fair lady,” Goldberry, who has a beauty that is “less keen and lofty” than an Elf’s, but “deeper and nearer to mortal heart.”

This interlude would be merely a pleasant stop on a perilous journey, except for Tom’s reaction to the Ring. He knows all about it, of course (Frodo is continually surprised in these chapters to meet people who know more about his situation than he does himself), but he (Bombadil) does not seem to care. Instead of vanishing when he puts the Ring on, he makes the Ring itself vanish – then laughs at Frodo’s astonishment.

Every other character we meet in the books cares about the Ring, whether desiring it (Gollum, Sauron and Saruman) or hating and fearing it (Gandalf, the hobbits and the rest). All the races of Middle-earth feel its power, though they may not understand it, and recognize the great potential it holds for danger. Bombadil, though obviously on the side of good, cares little for evil even while cautioning Frodo against it. It is tough to reconcile this carelessness with Gandalf’s lined brow or Aragorn’s serious warnings. Tom’s merry heart and skill in the ways of the forest make him a good friend to the hobbits, but he is the only friend they have who does not seem affected by their greatest burden.


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