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Five Great Tom Bombadil Theories | Tolkien Theory

Apr 17, 2024
Tom Bombadil: Perhaps the

great

est of the many mysteries of Middle-earth. Today we are going to cover 5 of the most popular

theories

about who or what Tom Bombadil is. This topic was recently chosen by my Patreon supporters and is a common request on the channel, so I'm excited to dig deeper. First, let's establish some of what we know about Tom Bombadil from Tolkien's text. We know that the name Tom Bombadil is actually the name by which the hobbits of Buckland know him. And as with many names Bucklanders use, it is untranslatable. Their other names, however, are translatable.
five great tom bombadil theories tolkien theory
The Elves and Dúnedain call him by the Sindarin name Iarwain Ben-adar which means "Old and Fatherless", the literal translation of "Iarwain" is "Old-young". The Men of the Vales of Anduin and Rohan know it by the Rohiric name Orald, which translates as "very ancient." Among the dwarves, he is known as Forn; now, in the real world, in Old Norse this means "(belonging to) ancient (days)." So obviously, just from his names, we get the feeling that Tom is very, very old. How old is he? Well, we need look no further than Tom's own words when the hobbits arrive at his house. “Who are you, Master?” he asked. 'Eh what?' Tom said sitting up and his eyes shining in the dark. 'You still don't know my name?
five great tom bombadil theories tolkien theory

More Interesting Facts About,

five great tom bombadil theories tolkien theory...

That's the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless? But you are young and I am old. The oldest, that's what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first drop of rain and the first acorn. He made roads before the Big Town, and saw the small Town arrive. He stood here before the kings, the tombs and the tumuli. When the Elves passed to the west, Tom was already here, before the seas folded. "He knew the darkness under the stars when he was fearless, before the Dark Lord came from Outside." We also know that while Tom's nature is a mystery, he was not completely isolated from the world by any means.
five great tom bombadil theories tolkien theory
Tom meets farmer Maggot, whom he considers a more important person than the hobbits had imagined. 'There is dirt under his old feet and clay in his toes; wisdom in his bones, and both eyes are open. We also know that he had dealings with elves, as he had received news from Gildor about Frodo's escape from the Shire before the hobbits reached the Old Forest. Another important detail is that the ring affects him differently than anyone we meet in Middle Earth, or rather that it doesn't affect him, as we see in the story... 'Show me the precious Ring!' suddenly in the middle of the story: and Frodo, to his own astonishment, took the chain out of his pocket, and, unclasping the Ring, handed it at once to Tom.
five great tom bombadil theories tolkien theory
He seemed to grow larger as he stood for a moment on his large, brown-skinned hand. Then suddenly he put it to his eye and laughed. For a second, the hobbits had a vision, both comical and alarming, of his brilliant blue eye shining through a circle of gold. Then Tom put the Ring on the tip of his little finger and held it up to the light of the candle. For a moment the hobbits did not notice anything strange about this. Then they were out of breath. There was no sign of Tom missing! Tom laughed again and then spun the Ring in the air and it disappeared with a flash.
Frodo screamed and Tom leaned forward and smiled back. Shortly after this, Frodo decides to check that the ring Tom gives him is actually his. When Frodo puts on the ring and disappears, we learn something else about Tom: he can see that its bearer is invisible. Theory 1: Tom Bombadil is Eru Illuvatar. I admit that I really like this

theory

, although I don't think it is probable. The idea of ​​the creator of the universe spending much of his days in the Old Forest, waiting for the world to be rebuilt, helping out a little here and there, but generally letting the story unfold as he will, is fun.
Not to mention, it's fun to think that since Gandalf was probably resurrected by Eru himself, Gandalf would have a revelation that Eru was inhabiting Middle-earth all this time, like Tom Bombadil. It certainly makes the fact that Gandalf spends two years talking to Tom before sailing west even more interesting. 'Beautiful lady!' said Frodo again after a while. "It is," Goldberry said, stopping his rapid movements and smiling. Frodo looked at her questioningly. she replied, and her smile faded. she added quietly, as if to herself. One connection here is Goldberry's use of the phrase "He is" in response to Frodo's question who Tom Bombadil is.
In Christianity, God refers to himself as “I am,” so it is easy to draw the parallel. We also know that the Christian faith takes priority in God coming to earth to live among its inhabitants. And since Tolkien is a devout Catholic, he is not exaggerated in any way. Now I could make an entire video about Tolkien, his faith, allegory and inspiration, but the quickest and most direct way to refute this

theory

comes in Tolkien's letter #181 where he states that there is no incarnation of the One, of God, who Only It is directly accessible to the Valar.
And while there are other holes in this theory, like Tom saying he's not a weather master (clearly Eru could control the weather if he wanted to) and the elves of Rivendell claiming that even Tom would eventually fall to Sauron, Eru himself clearly doesn't. would fall to Sauron, even if the latter had the One Ring. He is simply beyond anything else in the universe. With these examples, combined with Tolkien's own statement, we can safely refute this theory. Theory 2: Tom Bombadil is one of the Valar. This is an interesting theory and another that could explain why the Ring has no influence on Tom Bombadil.
However, I think the more we look at the facts surrounding Tom and the Valar, the faster this argument falls apart. For one thing, we know every Valar in existence by name, so this would mean that, for Tom to be one of the Valar, he would have to be one we already know in disguise. While searching for

theories

online, I discovered that the most common line of thought was that he could be Aule, which would make his wife Yavanna Goldberry. While Tom and Goldberry being Valar would also fit the description of being the eldest and fatherless, there's not much else that fits.
For one thing, while Yavanna is the Vala of nature, Aule is a blacksmith and doesn't seem to be as in tune with nature as Tom Bombadil seems to be. While being one of the Valar would explain why the ring has no influence over him, Tom also has no interest in it. Gandalf describes this when Elrond, Gandalf, and Erestor discuss the possibility of Tom Bombadil taking the ring himself... There are a couple of things here that I'll conclude this theory with: on the one hand, the aforementioned selflessness that Tom has for the ring. If anyone could recognize what that ring was, it would surely be Aule, the blacksmith of the Valar.
Not only because of his ability, but also because of the fact that Sauron was originally a maia who served him. Sauron probably learned a lot from Aule that he would later use in the creation of The One Ring. It's also worth noting that Aule is the one who sends Saruman to Middle Earth. I know, he talks about making a big O-fer with your maiar, right? Still, he does this specifically to combat the threat of Sauron. It's hard to imagine that a Vala so invested in defeating evil would spend a vacation in Middle-earth, where he has no interest in the Ruling Ring on which the fate of the world depends.
He is away. Now we couldn't give it back to him, without any spy having guessed it or marked it. What power remains is in our hands, here in Imladris, or in Cirdan in the Havens, or in Lorien. But do they have the strength, do we here have the strength to resist the Enemy, the coming of Sauron at the end, when everything else has been overthrown? "I have no strength," said Elrond; 'them neither.' It is difficult to imagine that a Vala like Aule, who possesses the ring, who has no control over it, would be unable to protect herself from Sauron, a Maia, who did not have the ring.
But Glorfindel, Galdor, and Elrond agree that Bombadil, though he would last longer, would fall into Sauron's hands even if he possessed the ring. Much the same goes for any Vala you can place in Tom's place. The other couple I came across from Tom and Goldberry is Orome, the hunter and his wife Vana, Yavanna's younger sister, who had influence on the flora and fauna of Middle Earth. In truth, this couple seems like a more natural connection than Aule and Yavanna, however, once again, we find contradictory personalities. While Orome is described as a lover of horses, dogs, and trees, he is also described as delighting in hunting monsters and evil creatures.
He is also known for his terrible anger. Tom Bombadil is anything but a vengeful monster hunter, so once again, I think we can safely rule out cheerful Tom being one of the Valar. Theory 3: Tom Bombadil is one of the Maiar Once again, we see a theory that initially seems promising. The Maiar are more numerous and we know fewer of them by name. The Balrogs, for example, were all Maiar corrupted by Melkor. So we have a small chance for Tom to be an unknown or unnamed Maia. A maia living in Middle-earth also has priority. She was Melian, the Maia, queen of Doriath and wife of the elven king Thingol in the First Age.
Melian protected the kingdom of Doriath with a magical enchantment known as the Girdle of Melian. This bears at least a slight resemblance to the effect that Tom Bombadil seemed to have on the land of his Old Forest home, which he owns. However, this theory also falls apart when we look at the other Maiar. On the one hand, we return to the point that the ring has no effect on Tom Bombadil. This is in stark contrast to other Maiar, such as Sauron, Saruman, and even Gandalf. Saruman comes to desire the ring and rule Middle Earth and Gandalf hints at what would happen if he took possession of the ring and this is clearly not the case for Tom Bombadil.
Another reason Tom is unlikely to be Maia is the description of how long he has been around. Bombadil, his eldest and fatherless, is said to have been in Middle-earth even before the Dark Lord arrived from outside. The Dark Lord Tom is referring to here is Morgoth. The Valar and Maiar, collectively known as the Ainur, help Eru create the universe through his Music, so they would be first among all creation. However, we know from Tolkien's texts, specifically the Silmarillion, that the Valar were the first of Ilúvatar's creation to reach Middle-earth. If Tom Bombadil, the first and eldest, was in Middle-earth before the Dark Lord, who was a Vala, he could not be one of the Maiar.
Once again, we have a debunked theory. Theory 4: Tom Bombadil is the music of the Ainur This is a theory that really pleased me during my research. In my research, I came across a blog series appropriately called "Who is Tom Bombadil?" which contributed a lot to convincing me of this. I'll link to it in the description if you're interested in going deeper into this, but I'll do my best to summarize it here. It's actually a pretty cool theory. First, let's delve a little deeper into the Music of the Ainur. The Music of the Ainur takes place before time begins, after Eru conceives the Valar and Maiar from his thoughts.
Eru teaches these beings, known collectively as the Ainur, how to make music. We could now, and probably will one day, devote an entire video to Music, but to summarize, the Ainur make their music, in which Melkor sows discord. Through this Music, Eru creates Ea, the universe in which the world of Arda exists. - within the world of Arda, the land of Middle Earth exists. Now, this theory says that Tom Bombadil is the incarnate spirit of the Music of the Ainur. According to the theorist, this explains why Tom has the power in his voice to save the hobbits from Old Willow and the Barrows.
Both are examples of things created in the music of the Ainur, but corrupted by the discord of Melkor. Being the embodiment of Music itself, he knows the melodies that can confront and “correct” them. There is also the amusing connection that Tom sings constantly and even when he speaks, much of his speech is musical or lyrical in nature. Now, although Tom seems to have power over Old Man Willow and the barrows, he explicitly states that he doesn't have that power over the Ringwraiths... Well, the theory has an explanation for that too. The theory goes that this is because Sauron is a Maiar: being one of the Ainur, he is not linked to the Music he helped create.
The Ringwraiths, in turn, draw their power (and their very essence) from Sauron himself and the ring from him. Now the Discord of Melkor gives life to the thoughts of the future Dark Lord and is in conflict with the rest of the Music of the Ainur. In this way, Tom Bombadil may be in conflict with the discords of Melkor, but neither dominates nor defeats the other: they simply compete with each other. Now, I know this would naturally bring up the objection: why doesn't Tom take a more active role in fighting the darkness if he is capable of competing with it?
Well, Tom simply knows that he doesn't have the power todefeat Discord things; However, he is also aware that Ilúvatar has assigned an end to Discord. Bombadil, being the Eldest and the First, has seen the first Dark Lord rise and fall; Twice, he has seen the reshaping of the world and the arrival of the second, lesser Dark Lord, who to this point has fallen once before. While the stakes are high for those who have shorter lifespans or are young in comparison - not just mortals, but many elves as well - in Tom's opinion, Arda could be close to the Second Music of the Ainur - when the Ainur, together with Elves and Men they will make a Music even

great

er than the first, with everyone together in harmony, creating the world anew.
Another area where the theory that Tom Bombadil is the embodiment of the Music of Ainur is a strength is the fact that he is the Elder and how he was able to arrive before the Dark Lord arrived from outside. So, if Tom Bombadil is the embodiment of the Music of the Ainur, he would have been created as the universe was created. The dark lord could not have come to earth before said earth was created. Therefore, Tom could rightly say that he was there before the Valar, which includes the first Dark Lord. Now I know this can be a bit more dense and confusing theory, especially if you're not familiar with Music of the Ainur, so again, if you're interested, I suggest you check out the blog post, which I leave in the description to continuation.
As a fairly recent discovery for me, I really enjoy it, it makes a lot of sense and doesn't have some of the bigger holes that previous theories have. It also has the added benefit that it could explain another mysterious character in the same vein as Tom: Ungoliant, Shelob's ancestor. Regarding Ungoliant, the Silmarillion tells us “The Eldar did not know where he came from; but some have said that long before she descended from the darkness surrounding Arda. So although she takes the form of a spider, she is not simply a spider. In fact, it stands to reason with this theory that Ungoliant could very well have been born from the Discord of Melkor.
Like Tom, Ungoliant doesn't take sides too much. She helps Melkor destroy the two trees, but it is not to fight the Valar, but to quench her own thirst and desire; She almost immediately turns against Melkor, who is rescued by the balrogs from him. Likewise, Tom doesn't take sides per se, although I think his kindness leads him to save the hobbits twice. None of these characters position themselves anywhere, but if they are born from Music and Discord respectively, the help they provide makes a lot of sense. As much as I like this theory, I don't think we can trust that this is who Tom Bombadil really is.
When it comes down to it, I think the final theory is the most likely and what Tolkien himself would probably have us believe... Theory 5: Tom Bombadil is Tom Bombadil Now, this may seem like something of a cop-out, but I really think that This is the most probable of all theories. In short, Tom Bombadil is a being in his own right. He very well could have been, and probably was, created during the Music of the Ainur. Another thing we know about music is that it is not the Ainur themselves who create, but rather it is Eru who creates through the use of music.
While Melkor causes discord and causes many things that cause evil and trouble in the future, even these are made to ultimately fulfill Eru's plan, which will eventually lead to the Second Music. All this to say, Eru, he might as well have created Tom Bombadil as he is: He's not there to fight anything or fight anyone; he is only there to be the master of his kingdom and attend to the work he constantly does. referring to, although we don't actually know for sure what he is. Oh, and he sings... he's definitely there to sing. In the end, Tolkien intended Tom Bombadil to be a mystery, and that's what he is.
Possibly the greatest mystery of Middle-earth, among some truly great mysteries. So what do you think? I want to hear your thoughts and theories! I could easily see myself making a future video on another batch of theories if we get enough new theories, or more ideas about the ones I presented here. As I've said many times, part of the reason I love Middle-earth is because it hits this sweet spot where we know a lot about it, but there are still great mysteries, much like our own world. In the end, it's even more fun to discuss and theorize together.
So comment below your opinion on who Tom Bombadil is. As always, a big thank you to my Patreon supporters who chose this topic, including wizard-level patrons: TomDaBombadil19, Skycarcass, JudyiHopps, Jim Limber Davis, Smorzirk, and Matt Schultz. Thank you very much for watching and we'll see you next time. The ring nerd!

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