Arielle Glatman Zaretsky '07, English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

In most fantasy novels, there is a character who serves as a guide. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are several. Tom Bombadil and Treebeard are two of these guides. Both serve as leaders in their respective communities: powerful voices of reason in their respective populations. In his own land, each is omnipotent and all knowing, although each is clear on the reaches of his control.

The trees and the grasses and all things growing or living in the land belong each to themselves. Tom Bombadil is the Master . . . He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master. [122]

Eldest, that's what I am. . . .Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn . . . Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless—before the Dark Lord came from Outside. [129]

We keep off strangers and the foolhardy; and we train and we teach, we walk and we weed

We are tree-herds . . . Sheep get like shepherd, and shepherds like sheep . . . . It is quicker and closer with trees and Ents. [457]

When you see Treebeard, you will learn much. For Treebeard is Fangorn, the eldest and chief of the Ents, and when you speak with him you will hear the speech of the oldest of all living things. [545]


1. How do Tom Bombadil and Treebeard fulfill the same role? How is that different from the role that Gandalf plays?

2. Why does Tom Bombadil refuse to leave the boundaries of his land whereas Treebeard leaves his to fight at Isengard?

3. Does Aslan treat his land in the way that Tom Bombadil and Treebeard do, or is that more similar to Gandalf?

4. Do all guides serve as symbols of God? Is there another reason to include them? Why is the role of a guide so commonly used in fantasy literature?


Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1966.

Victorian Web Overview J. R. R. Tolkien Victorian courses

Last modified 25 February 2004