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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:43 pm 
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his oversight or caretaker role toward the forest at large, 'walking wide, leaping on the hill-tops ... nosing wind and weather'. He is constantly going here and there seeing to tasks, keeping things right within his domain, as he did in his rescue of the hobbits.


I don't see Tom having any such role. Caretaker? More of a disinterested spectator, I think, letting the Forest take care of itself. He only rescued the Hobbits because Frodo asked him to.

As to Tom's household- well, that's looking out for himself, not a broader imperium- and somehow I suspect that the "taut ship" had a lot to do with Goldberry. Can you imagine Tom as a bachelor......? :D


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:10 am 
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Ken is a nice word. ;) Just saying.

(Fascinating discussion. I don't have anything to add, but I'm reading.)


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 4:52 pm 
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A couple of interesting notes about the history of this chapter. Tom, of course, already existed before LOTR was even conceived, along with Goldberry, Old Man Willow, and the Barrow-wights. All appeared in Tolkien's poem "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" (also called "The History of Tom Bombadil" that was published in The Oxford Magazine. As I mentioned in the discussion of the last chapter, Tolkien's initial conception was that the hobbits first encounter with Tom was to be brief, and they would not be his guests until after their escape from the barrow, but that apparently never made it into narrative.

More interesting is the fact that when he did draft the first text for this chapter, he was still unsure of who or what the Black Riders were, and speculated that perhaps they were horsed Barrow-wights! Moreover, it appears that what became the element of Frodo's dream in which he hears the Black Riders galloping was actually real in the original version, with the Black Riders/Barrow-wights actually surrounding Tom's house in the middle of night. In the morning Bingo finds the ground marked by hoofs, and is then moved to seek help and advice from Tom, who expresses surprise:

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Tom looked at him. 'Horsemen,' he said. 'Dead men [?riding the wind. 'Tis long since they came hence.] What ails the Barrow-wights to leave their old mounds? You are strange folk to come out of the Shire, [?even stranger than my news told me.] Now you had best tell me all - and I will give you counsel.


This ends the first version of the text. In the second version, it is still ambiguous as to whether the dream is real or not, and Bingo still sees the ground marked by hoofs, but (as Christopher says) "this now no more than a way of emphasizing the vividness of his experience in the night."

Interestingly, the incident with the Ring that we have been discussing is told from the beginning in virtually the same words that appear in the final version.

The only thing worth mentioning regarding the 'second phase' version of this chapter is that their was a text marked to be inserted just before the dreams about the house in Crickhollow (which at this point was considered to be empty) being invaded by the Black Riders, who were driven off by the appearance of Gandalf. Tolkien wrote a note next to this saying "This will require altering if Odo is left behind." As Christopher says, "the significance of this will become clear later." ;)

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 2:27 am 
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I think it is approaching the time to move on, yes?

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 5:40 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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Seems like it, but I did think your last post was interesting.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 6:20 pm 
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Thanks! I do find the history of the writing of the book very fascinating.

I'll put it out again to anyone who wants to take a shot at starting a new thread, and I'll do it if no one else has been moved to do so by the time I am so moved. With the caveat that of course I encourage people to continue to comment about this chapter.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:25 am 
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I am at a loss with a lot of the speculation because I have only dabbled in the HOME series. So really I don't have a lot to add to that particular discussion. I have read Letters and especially Unfinished Tales pretty extensively though so if something comes up that was in UT I can maybe add more.

In any case I think it would be good to start a new chapter and I nominate Impy because I miss the Virtual Tolkien Study Group. Short of that Voronwë can do it. :P

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2009 11:53 am 
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I recently began rereading The Book of Lost Tales.

When I came to the following passage, I immediately thought of Tom and Goldberry:

"About them fared a great host who are the sprites of trees and woods, of dale and forest and mountain-side, or those that sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve. These are the Nermir and the Tavari, Nandini and Orossi, brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns, and what else are they not called, for their number is very great: yet must they not be confused with the Eldar, for they were born before the world and are older than its oldest, and are not of it, but laugh at it much, for had they not somewhat to do with its making, so that it is for the most part a play for them;"

So far as I am aware, this host of nature spirits is never mentioned again after the Book of Lost Tales (although, the published Silmarillion does make reference to "the Valar and the Maiar, or of any other order that Ilúvatar has sent into Eä"), but neither is there any place where Tolkien specifically rejects their existance.

Could it be that they are still a real and legitimate (but unmentioned) part of the final form of the mythology?

If so, could Tom be one of them?


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:49 pm 
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I don't think so. I was reading The Old Forest and In Bombadil's House again last night. Every time I read those two chapters I think again what I have thought for many years: Bombadil is a gateway, or a portal, or something of that nature. Maybe that's not what JRRT meant by Tom, but it's how Tom seems to me.

Up until then, up until they get caught by Old Man Willow and are rescued by Tom, there is still a Hobbit-like tweeness about the story. They have baths together and dance and sing and are NOT anything like the Hobbits they are after they have visited with Tom. There was that talking fox, for instance. The chance meeting (if it was chance!) with Gildor was about the only hint of the tale to come, after Bombadil's house.

Even the Black Riders aren't the same as they are after Tom's house. It was obviously a Black Rider that accosted old Gamgee, just as Frodo and the gang had left. A "real" Black Rider would have had everything out of the Gaffer in about 2 heartbeats. A Black Rider tried to buy information from Farmer Maggot - when he could have just forced it. Why? Likewise when the Hobbits got across at Bucklebury and Merry tells Frodo that the Black Riders will surely be turned away at the North Gate. The Black Riders? Who could turn them away? So near the Ring?

Not only does Tom rescue them from The Willow Man, he rescues them from the Barrow Wights. Those 2 things seem, to me, to "turn" the Hobbits from the ninnies from the Shire to the Hobbits who become 4 ninths of the Fellowship.
Then the "real" story begins, as far as I'm concerned. They get to Bree and we're off. After that, no more silly tweeness, no more Hobbity foolishness.

The only "slip up" comes at The Prancing Pony - but that's another chapter.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:20 pm 
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Bombadil is sort of interesting as an unexplained enigma, but I'm not a fan of his poetry or way of speaking, and his carefree silliness does feel like a pretty big tonal break just when things are getting darker and more serious. Yes, Tolkien frequently has lighter moments in between, especially in Book I, but there's so much of it here with Bombadil and it really does feel almost like a different book. Goldberry is kind of overdone too, like a Galadriel knockoff almost. If Tolkien had dialed Bombadil and his wife down a bit, it would have worked better.

There are some moments I like though. The Hobbits' dreams are very evocative, as is the description of the Barrow-downs' history.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:34 pm 
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There's an oft-quoted letter in which JRRT says that Tom is meant as a representation of the spirit of the English countryside. If so, then the countryside itself is to be seen as poetic!


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 1:42 am 
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Fascinating to read vison's take on this chapter. :love:

What was she referring to when she mentioned the "slip-up" at Bree?

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:43 am 
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Frodo putting on the Ring, I think.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:05 pm 
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You can take a number of different views of Tom, there is the consideration that he is not very well concieved in the context of the rest of the story, or that perhaps he is a naive, something that is not so self-aware as was currently the fashion in Eng lit at the time.

Tolkiens view of a simple beaucholic countryside is well known, and the notion of the unexplained or inexplicable sits very well with his catholic faith, so maybe Bombadil is the anthropomorphasising(sp) of the countryside of the English midlands, which of itself lacks the granduer or starkness of more evocative locations, but yet within itself lies great and lasting power.

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