13 April 2022
So here is yesterday’s Tolkien Tuesday post today…on a Wednesday…I know…Sigh… And tomorrow, I shall catch-up with previous week’s comments…Another sigh!
The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts
I’m continuing on with this edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, illustrated by Alan Lee. This week I read the whole of Chapter 7: In The House of Tom Bombadil, because I still had one week to catch up on after my time away from blogging.
The four hobbits have been rescued from Old Man Willow by Tom Bombadil, who has directed them to his house, where they will be safe. When they arrive, they find a beautiful woman there, Goldberry, the River’s Daughter, and wife of Tom. And here they spend a few days in sanctuary, an enclave of peace and safety in the middle of the ancient, dangerous Old Forest.
Whilst there, they rest and recover from the trials of the journey so far. And although they are only a few days out from the Shire, their adventure has already been adventurous. A proper baptism of fire. Their first experience of the world outside of their home has not been an easy one. But Tom does his best to prepare them for what’s ahead.
One of the standouts (from last week’s chapter and this one) is the mental strength of Sam. He is least affected by Old Man Willow’s evil whispers, and also when the others dream, he sleeps soundly.
Next week, we begin Chapter 8: Fog on the Barrow-Downs…which just so happens to be one of my favourite chapters in the whole of The Lord of the Rings! Yippee!!
Middle Earth Musings and Meditations
Unsurprisingly, I think, my musings followed the same path as Chapter 7…
There is an element of fairy tale surrounding the part of the book set in the Old Forest. First the forest itself, as we discussed last time. Then there is the magical cottage at it’s heart: the home of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, where the dangerous things outside (whether physical or magical in origin) cannot cross the threshold. Within, all are safe. And this is a potent image.
Combine this with the characters which inhabit this space: an elemental woman (the daughter of the river, who is evidently connected to the element of water) and a powerful, magical figure who alone can save the hobbits from harm (Could Tom possibly be an elemental himself? An earth elemental, perhaps, given his connection to the forest and landscape?)
Throw into the mix the spell-like magic which is present: the dreams, the plentiful food at meal times, Tom’s immunity to the ring, the inability to follow the passage of time. Then there is the aspect of storytelling, of sharing lore and myth and legend, and history. Knowledge, and power therein, of many things, including warnings of the dangers which lurk “out there”, beyond the safety of the cottage.
All these things come together to give us the enchantment of a fairy tale. And if the reader happens to be a writer, a lesson in writing one.
This week has all been about Tom Bombadil, so I returned to The Tolkien Society website and re-read the FAQs pertaining to him.
You can find that here: https://www.tolkiensociety.org/author/faq/
The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:
This week’s question is an easy one (probably…maybe…perhaps… 🙂 ). Do you like Tom Bombadil? Why? Why not?
I have an interesting history with Tom Bombadil. When I first read The Lord of the Rings aged 9 or 10 (I was in year 5 at school), I didn’t mind him. I thought he was fun, with his singing and his dancing, and his blue jacket and yellow boots. However, as I got a little older, I found him a little jarring, with his “Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!” etc. He seemed a little silly, a little childish. Something I had to endure to get to the Barrow-Downs! Naturally, I had missed the point.
It wasn’t until my late teens that I became aware of his importance as a character. Up to this point he had been a means of safety, a provider of sanctuary, to the hobbits. But he is the oldest living thing in Middle Earth!
“Eldest, that’s what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn.”
And that is what makes him amazing. How I would love to sit before the hearth in his home and listen to the stories of what the world was like when it was young, before the Elves had crossed the sea, before Old Man Williow had become bitter…
Yet more than that, Tom Bombadil is a magical enigma. He’s clearly powerful, long-lived / immortal but who or what is he? What is his purpose in Middle Earth? When Frodo asks Goldberry, “Who is Tom Bombadil?”, she answers, “He is.” And that answer says it all, doesn’t it?