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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Does Nimrodel count as a water spirit also?

squire
Valinor


Oct 22 2012, 7:34pm


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Does Nimrodel count as a water spirit also? [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree that Tolkien was drawing on the very common idea of water-nymphs and nature-sprites, in his evocative but unclear language about Goldberry's identity. But your quotes also made me think of Nimrodel, the lost Elven maid of Lothlorien whose voice is said to be preserved in the burbling river and falls that the Fellowship cross on their way into the Golden Wood. But Nimrodel is not said to be embodied in the river, only her voice. Does that count?

Also, although I appreciate the literary effort made by the anonymous writer of the quote that you first gave, I wouldn't say it is "non-canonical". As I see it, to use that term is to assert that it was indeed written by Tolkien -- but was not published by him, or else is contradicted by some competing piece of writing, thus is not actually "canon". But if Tolkien didn't even write it, it doesn't matter who did or how much it may be true to his style or ideas - it's still not Tolkien and shouldn't be offered as being relevant to an analysis of his writing. As you and Geordie showed quite quickly, there is plenty of Tolkien's writing on Goldberry that is perfectly relevant to your point about the multiple occurrences of seasonal water-spirits in western literary culture.

Here is another, much earlier, pre-LotR perspective on Goldberry that emphasizes her riverine spirit rather than her atmospheric one:
There his beard dangled long down into the water:
up came Goldberry, the River-woman's daughter;
pulled Tom's hanging hair. In he went a-wallowing
under the water-lilies, bubbling and a-swallowing.

'Hey, Tom Bombadil! Whither are you going?'
said fair Goldberry. 'Bubbles you are blowing,
frightening the finny fish and the brown water-rat,
startling the dab-chicks, and drowning your feather-hat!'

'You bring it back again, there's a pretty maiden!'
said Tom Bombadil. 'I do not care for wading.
Go down! Sleep again where the pools are shady
far below willow-roots, little water-lady!'

Back to her mother's house in the deepest hollow
swam young Goldberry. But Tom, he would not follow;
on knotted willow-roots he sat in sunny weather,
drying his yellow boots and his draggled feather.
And here is the rape scene:
But one day Tom, he went and caught the River-daughter,
in green gown, flowing hair, sitting in the rushes,
singing old water-songs to birds upon the bushes.

He caught her, held her fast! Water-rats went scuttering
reeds hissed, herons cried, and her heart was fluttering.
Said Tom Bombadil: 'Here's my pretty maiden!
You shall come home with me! The table is all laden:
yellow cream, honeycomb, white bread and butter;
roses at the window-sill and peeping round the shutter.
You shall come under Hill! Never mind your mother
in her deep weedy pool: there you'll find no lover!'
from: "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" The Oxford Magazine (1934); reprinted in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962); reprinted in The Tolkien Reader (1966).

That Goldberry is watery is plain. But in The Fellowship of the Ring, as witnessed by the hobbits, her primary connection to the waters of the world seems to be as a rain goddess, and as you say, there is a clear seasonal connection with the fall rains, washing her household as well as feeding the river of her birth at its source. But in the earlier poem that I have quoted from, she is purely a river-nymph, living deep under water. In a later passage not quoted here, it is notable that only after Tom bids farewell to Goldberry does it rain, which forces him to hide in a hole and confront the Badger. There is no connection of this unlucky wet weather with the singing or even presence of Goldberry. And at the end, the songs she is singing when he captures her are "old water-songs", evidently about her beloved river rather than the capricious rains.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Subject User Time
Goldberry and similar historic examples Eruonen Send a private message to Eruonen Oct 22 2012, 3:58pm
    Sorry, I didn't recognize that quote - geordie Send a private message to geordie Oct 22 2012, 5:14pm
        The source is non-canonical but the spirit seems accurate Eruonen Send a private message to Eruonen Oct 22 2012, 6:40pm
            Does Nimrodel count as a water spirit also? squire Send a private message to squire Oct 22 2012, 7:34pm
                Oh, come now - 'rape scene'? geordie Send a private message to geordie Oct 22 2012, 8:13pm
                    You are right squire Send a private message to squire Oct 22 2012, 8:35pm
                        Well, geordie Send a private message to geordie Oct 22 2012, 8:43pm
                I think you protect too much... Eruonen Send a private message to Eruonen Oct 22 2012, 8:43pm
                The elves had some water power as illustrated Eruonen Send a private message to Eruonen Oct 22 2012, 9:49pm
                    Identity of figure and forms... Evernight Send a private message to Evernight Oct 25 2012, 1:29am
            I may be in a minority here - geordie Send a private message to geordie Oct 22 2012, 8:00pm
                A minority of two Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Oct 22 2012, 8:10pm
                    Thanks! geordie Send a private message to geordie Oct 22 2012, 9:22pm
                Possible but his line by Tolkien is odd - Eruonen Send a private message to Eruonen Oct 22 2012, 8:21pm
                    Ah, no - at least, I don't think so - geordie Send a private message to geordie Oct 22 2012, 8:40pm
                        How do we interpret "represents the actual seasonal changes" Eruonen Send a private message to Eruonen Oct 22 2012, 9:15pm
                It's left a little unclear just what she is washing, or how, or where squire Send a private message to squire Oct 22 2012, 8:48pm
    I wonder if Tolkien took some influences Elenorflower Send a private message to Elenorflower Oct 22 2012, 9:31pm

 
 
 

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