Thursday, November 30, 2017

Another LOTR Read-Along: In the House of Tom Bombadil (FOTR 1, 7)

For many years, I was not a huge fan of this section of the book. I knew a lot of people loved it, and so every time I read it, I felt like I was missing something. I kept getting hung up on the religious imagery I saw, but couldn't figure out how it all tied together with the rest of the story.

For instance, at the end of the previous chapter, Tom hops away singing, "Tom's going on ahead candles for to kindle" and "Fear neither root nor bough! Tom goes on before you" (p. 118). To me. that sounds so much like when Christ told his followers, "I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2b). And when the hobbits ask Goldberry who Tom Bombadil is, she simply says, "He is" (p. 122), which sounds an awful lot like God telling Moses that his name is I Am (Exodus 3:14). And then, when the hobbits leave, Tom teaches them something to say if they get in trouble that sounds awfully prayer-like, ending with "Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!" (p. 131).

So I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who Tom Bombadil was supposed to represent, what this section was supposed to mean, and so on. I knew Tolkien had said this wasn't an allegory, but Tom Bombadil just didn't make sense in my head. Some people said he was based on a figure from Norse mythology, basically a guardian of the woods. And I think probably Tolkien wove that into this story, as he was fascinated with Norse mythology.

But the book Finding God in the Lord of the Rings by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware suggests that he's also in some ways a personification of hope. "Hope" is a huge theme in this book. It delves a lot into what it means to hope, how one deals with losing hope, what someone does if their hope seems pointless, and how people behave if there seems to be no reason to hope anymore. And I do like the idea of Tom Bombadil being hope personified, because I think it shows that hope can be separate from what's going on in the world, even if it's also subject to the effects of events.

So anyway, we have a peaceful interlude here, which is nice. Also, reading about all that yummy food makes me hungry :-)

Favorite Lines:

The sound of her footsteps was like a stream falling gently away downhill over cool stones in the quiet of the night (p. 123).

As far as he could remember, Sam slept through the night in deep content, if logs are contented (p. 126).

Discussion Questions:

Any thoughts on Tom Bombadil, or Goldberry? Did they strike you as being more meaningful than just random cool people they run into?


  1. I am almost caught up to you. I am listening to an audio reading (complete with sound effects) while following along in my copy. This makes it really intense. In fact, finding Tom was the best thing b/c chapter 6 (The Old Forest) gave me the chills.

    This part reminded me of Pilgrim's Progress, where Christian was in trouble several times, and out of the blue someone was there to rescue him, pull him out of the bog, or send him in the right direction, etc. It does change the emotion of the story, even temporarily. It is like hope. Maybe Tom is more like the Holy Spirit, the Helper. ???

    1. OK, I just finished chapter 7 and understand why Tom is perceived as Christ-like. He was before everyone and everything. He knows all. And the ring had no power over him. Interesting.

      One thing is for certain, being a Hobbit, I would not have wanted to leave Tom's and Goldberry's dwelling b/c it was safety and protection from everything unknown.

    2. Ruth, so cool you're reading-and-listening! I've heard of people doing that, but never tried it myself.

      "The Old Forest" is just a freaky chapter. I don't like it myself.

      You're right, it does have a lot of similarities to Pilgrim's Progress in this section.

      I would never want to leave their house either. It's so peaceful!

  2. I love Goldberry. I don't know why; I just do. And her dresses sound so beautiful! XD I like the idea of Tom personified as hope; I never thought of it that way but I think you're right! Yes, all the yummy food. *sighs* :-D

  3. MEM, we knew a girl in college who said that if she could be anybody in LOTR, she would be Goldberry. Cowboy never understood why, but I did. She's got a devoted husband and a safe home and clothes that suit her so perfectly. What a great life!

    AND all that yummy food :-9

  4. I, being not religious, have always just taken Tom in a very straightforward way, as he is presented. Eldest, untouched by Sauron's evil, protector of his realm, happy, cheerful, hopeful, helpful. Very much in love with his lady. I like that we don't know who or what he is beyond what he tells us, and it never occurs to me to wonder any farther.

    1. DKoren, a much more comfortable approach to Tom, I expect!


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