Tom Bombadil

Gregory Souza '07, English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

The first part of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, tells the story of the Hobbit Frodo and his initial journeys with the One Ring. While traveling thourgh the Old Forest, Frodo and his companions are aided by a mysterious and jolly man named Tom Bombadil, who is Master of the Forest. The Hobbits Merry and Pippin are trapped by an old willow tree, and Tom comes running through the woods to help them, all the while singing a merry song.

There was another burst of song, and then suddenly, hopping and dancing along the path, there appeared above the reeds an old battered hat with a tall crown and a long blue feather stuck in the band. With another hop and a bound there came into view a man, or so it seemed. At any rate he was too large and heavy for a hobbit, if not quite tall enough for one of the Big People, though he made enough noise for one, stumping along with great yellow boots on his thick legs, and charging through the grass and rushes like a cow going down to drink. He had a blue coat and a long brown beard; his eyes were blue and bright, and his face was red as a rupe apple, but creased into a hundred wrinkles of laughter. In his hands he carried on a large leaf as on a tray a small pile of white water-lillies. [117]

Tom takes the Hobbits into his house, a wonderful place where they are fed and cared for. Tom shares many old stories, and Frodo eventually musters up the courage to ask "Who are you, Master?" to which Tom replies:

"Don't you know my name yet? That's the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless? But you are young and I am old. Eldest, that's what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindop and the first acorn." [129]

Questions

1. What is the reader's first impression of Tom? What effect do his mannerisms, his bright colors, and the comparison of him to things such as apples and cows have?

2. What does the reader eventually learn about Tom, and does this change the reader's opinion of Tom? Does he seem to represent anything or anyone?

3. What characters could Tom Bombadil be compared to from Phantastes and The Chronicles of Narnia.

4. Song is prevalent throughout the books. For example, Tom Bombadil loves to sing, and there is a power in his songs. Compare the role of song in The Lord of the Rings to Phantastes and Dragonsong.

References

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


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Last modified 25 February 2004