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A little-known Tom Bombadil poem?
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squire
Valinor


Feb 19 2007, 5:54am

Post #1 of 47 (1883 views)
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A little-known Tom Bombadil poem? Can't Post

While burrowing through the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, I came across a reference to a late Tolkien poem about Tom Bombadil and Goldberry that I had never heard of before. It was evidently first published in a children's poetry book in 1965, and is also in a 1969 anthology by Lin Carter. Both are long out of print. It was relatively easy to find on the web, using Shippey's hint that it introduced the "lintips".

This may have been discussed on TORn before, but if it was I missed it. So sorry if this has been talked to death already, but I thought I'd put it up and see what people think it means. Does or doesn't it add to our knowledge and understanding of Tom and Goldberry?


ONCE UPON A TIME

Once upon a day on the fields of May
there was snow in the summer where the blossom lay;
the buttercups tall sent up their light
in a stream of gold, and wide and white
there opened in the green grass-skies
the earth-stars with their steady eyes
watching the Sun climb up and down.
Goldberry was there with a wild-rose crown,
Goldberry was there in a lady-smock
blowing away a dandelion clock,
stooping over a lily-pool
and twiddling the water green and cool
to see it sparkle round her hand:
once upon a time in elvish land.

Once upon a night in the cockshut light
the grass was grey but the dew was white;
shadows were dark, and the Sun was gone,
the earth-stars shut, but the high stars shone,
one to another winking their eyes
as they waited for the Moon to rise.
Up he came, and on leaf and grass
his white beams turned to twinkling glass,
and silver dripped from stem and stalk
down to where the lintips walk
through the grass-forests gathering dew.
Tom was there without boot or shoe,
with moonshine wetting his big, brown toes:
once upon a time, the story goes.

Once upon a moon on the brink of June
a-dewing the lintips went too soon.
Tom stopped and listened, and down he knelt:
"Ha! Little lads! So it was you I smelt?
What a mousy smell! Well, the dew is sweet,
so drink it up, but mind my feet!"
The lintips laughed and stole away,
but old Tom said: "I wish they'd stay!
The only things that won't talk to me,
say what they do or what they be.
I wonder what they have got to hide?
Down from the Moon maybe they slide,
or come in star-winks, I don't know:"
once upon a time and long ago.

-J. R. R. Tolkien, c. 1965





squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Patty
Immortal


Feb 19 2007, 6:33am

Post #2 of 47 (829 views)
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I don't know if it's been talked about before.. [In reply to] Can't Post

but it's new to me.

Tom was never my favorite subject, and I was very glad when he was left out of the movies. However, I surprised myself during a recent re-read of Fellowship, and found him to be much better in sync with the storyline than I had previously thought. I actually found myself wishing his bit had been in there. Thanks for posting this.

Lord Peter Wimsey's Main Squeeze


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Feb 19 2007, 7:31am

Post #3 of 47 (798 views)
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Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, the search function isn't bringing up a previous discussion of the poem here. (*resists applying smiley*)

After reading Shippey's article, I'd made a note to look for Winter's Tales for Children, but hadn't thought to simply check the note. How curious: what are those "lintips"?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Feb. 19-25: The Hobbit.


a.s.
Valinor


Feb 19 2007, 1:07pm

Post #4 of 47 (813 views)
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does it add to our knowledge of Tom B? [In reply to] Can't Post

Does or doesn't it add to our knowledge and understanding of Tom and Goldberry?

Well, it does make me wonder about the line "once upon a time in elvish land". From my "knowledge" of Tom (and Goldberry), they are nature spirits particular to a specific place. Does this poem tell us that their specific geographical place was "elvish land" once upon a time? Or that once upon a time before they were in the Old Forest environs, they were in an "elvish land" themselves? Valinor?

Interesting.

I find this poem irritating to my ear because it's like a chant: DUH-duh-duh-duh-DUH-duh-duh-DUH-DUH-DUH. Each line is a variation of that, ending in three strongly stressed syllables, almost like drum beats at the end. In fact, it lends itself to rap (try it!:Yo, Tom Bombadil!) The rhythm seems forced, but conversely makes me want to tap my toes or tap out the rhythm with my hands on the desktop while I read it, kind of like an Irish traditional jig like "Drops of Brandy" (not the same rhythm, I mean the tendency to make one's body want to tap fingers or toes on hearing it).

a.s.

"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


(This post was edited by a.s. on Feb 19 2007, 1:08pm)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Feb 19 2007, 4:55pm

Post #5 of 47 (815 views)
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"Once upon a time in elvish land". [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Curious or dna will have a field day dissecting (to use FoP's metaphor on Main) this little poem. For the moment, I'm wondering about the title, and how the matter of time relates to your question. Isn't Tom described somewhere in LotR as withdrawn into a little space? If once he walked farther than the Downs, the Forest and the Marish, perhaps he strayed as far as Elvish lands? And where were those? Remember Gildor telling Frodo that the Shire was not always the land of hobbits? Certainly the Woody End, not far from Farmer Maggot's (where Tom is known to visit) has an Elvish character. And when and where did Elrond know Tom?

And why "Once upon a time", the title and thrice used phrase? Doesn't Tolkien specifically address that phrase in "On Fairy-stories"?

Hmm... does Verlyn Flieger ever discuss this poem in her comments on time?



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Feb. 19-25: The Hobbit.


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Feb 19 2007, 4:56pm

Post #6 of 47 (759 views)
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Interesting. The elvish land I imagined [In reply to] Can't Post

was Eregion long, long ago, before the Elves went west into Beleriand and to Valinor for the first time. In other words, just about where Tom had always lived.

~~~~~~~~

I used to be GaladrielTX, but then TX seceded.



GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Feb 19 2007, 4:58pm

Post #7 of 47 (806 views)
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Lintips [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
How curious: what are those "lintips"?


Are they mice drinking the dew? I wouldn't want them biting my toes.

~~~~~~~~

I used to be GaladrielTX, but then TX seceded.



Daeorn Aldalómë
Bree


Feb 19 2007, 9:51pm

Post #8 of 47 (786 views)
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The Mystery of Tom [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, I really enjoy this poem. I for one think that Tom is a major player. I know it's not the most accepted theory but I still think he and Goldberry are "earthly" forms of Aule and Yavanna.



a.s.
Valinor


Feb 19 2007, 10:59pm

Post #9 of 47 (786 views)
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you're both right, of course [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, his land did shrink and yes, it "belonged" to the Elves, at one time. But somehow, to my brain, "once upon a time in Elvish land" makes me think of a separate place, rather than a separate time in the same place.

Maybe it's just the way the words affect me, though.

NEB: I think he repeats the line "Once upon a time in Elvish lands" so much because of the peculiar rhythm to it, so necessary to this poem. He must have noticed that phrase has three strongly accented syllables at the end. Maybe he even built the whole poem around that one line...

Just a thought.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


a.s.
Valinor


Feb 19 2007, 11:26pm

Post #10 of 47 (779 views)
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speaking of Scull and Hammond [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Well, the search function isn't bringing up a previous discussion of the poem here. (*resists applying smiley*)

After reading Shippey's article, I'd made a note to look for Winter's Tales for Children, but hadn't thought to simply check the note. How curious: what are those "lintips"?



Now, WHY would you resist applying a smiley...oh yeah, squire's thread. Got it.

(also resists smiley with difficulty)

I found one discussion of this poem on LOTR Fanatics Plaza, which references an old discussion on theonering.com:

(for an additional suggestion on ‘lintips’ one might try this link
http://forums.theonering.com/viewtopic2.php?t=87502
where someone has found the word ‘lintip’ in a old Celtic poem.)

But I can't get that link at theonering.com to come up.

The word is not in the OED.

Scull and Hammond have a brief entry on "Once Upon a Time":

"In the third [[stanza]]...Tom speaks to the 'lintips', but they are 'the only things that won't talk to me, say what they do or what they be'....Readers have failed to identify a souce of the 'lintips', which may be no more than undefined invented creatures like those in The Mewlips"

I really love the little mystery of these lintips. The only creatures that puzzle Tom B are puzzling, indeed.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 20 2007, 1:40am

Post #11 of 47 (777 views)
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The poem referred to [In reply to] Can't Post

is, I think, this one.




Promises to Keep: a novel set in 19th Century New Zealand.

The Passing of Mistress Rose

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


a.s.
Valinor


Feb 20 2007, 10:46am

Post #12 of 47 (757 views)
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wow, Kimi! now, paging Fionnan [In reply to] Can't Post

How did you find it, you are amazing.

But reading line by line with the English translation, it seems "lintip" in this context means either wave or ford. Curses, but it's not in my (totally basic) Gaelic-English primer.

If so, it's a coincidence, surely, that Tolkien used the same word? Or there's a connection to something we haven't discovered yet.

Maybe Fionnan can figure it out, if she makes it here...anyone seen her yet?

a.s.

"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 20 2007, 4:49pm

Post #13 of 47 (725 views)
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I know that "ford" [In reply to] Can't Post

in that line will be "atha" (the Irish name of Dublin, Baile Atha Cliath, means "town of the ford of hurdles").

The Irish word "linn" means pool of water, but whether this has anything to do with "lintip" I don't know. I meant to try and learn some Irish when we moved here, but it turns out to be more of a challenge than I imagined!

Checking the member list, Fionnan has registered, but he's never logged on so far. Hope he comes by to shed some light on this (though I suspect Tolkien's word must be of some other origin anyway - maybe we need an Old English scholar to drop by.)


Elanor
Bree

Feb 20 2007, 7:14pm

Post #14 of 47 (753 views)
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I've always loved Tom Bombadil [In reply to] Can't Post

from the first time I met him on my first reading of The Lord of the Rings as a child. I was - and still am - enchanted by the idea of a character so easy with himself, so at one with his surroundings, so pure in heart, as to be completely unaffected by the power of the ring. And there has to be something wonderful about someone whose chief care is taking undamaged flowers home to his lady ("Don't you crush my lilies.").

But this poem speaks of something not quite right in his world - lintips that he doesn't understand and who won't stay and talk to him. It doesn't seem right to talk of him usually being "in control" of his world - more that he is in tune with it. But somehow here he isn't and it troubles him. It's an aspect of him I don't think we see in the book.

But lovely. I can picture Goldberry with her crown and smock, surrounded by flowers; I'm intrigued about what lintips are.

"Frodo thought for a moment. 'Well, Sam, what about elanor, the sun-star, you remember the little golden flower in the grass of Lothlorien?'"


Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 20 2007, 9:03pm

Post #15 of 47 (734 views)
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I am catted in my determination [In reply to] Can't Post

(Cats are far more determined than dogs).

Thinking about this a bit more:

lin is Sindarin for pool or mere. It's also, whether coincidentally or otherwise, close to Irish linn, Scots Gaelic linne and Welsh llyn. Linn survives in many Scottish placenames. Perhaps lintips are things one finds near the edges of pools, lapping at the water when they can't get dew (or toes).




Promises to Keep: a novel set in 19th Century New Zealand.

The Passing of Mistress Rose

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


Aerlinn
Lorien


Feb 20 2007, 9:11pm

Post #16 of 47 (708 views)
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*ears burning* {nt} [In reply to] Can't Post

 


TheOneRing.net – where everybody knows your name!
And J.R.R. Tolkien’s middle names… and the name of his publisher’s son … and the name of Aragorn’s great-great-great- grandfather on his mother’s side… and what Frodo’s name almost was…


FingonOfPittsburgh
Lorien


Feb 20 2007, 9:15pm

Post #17 of 47 (688 views)
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re [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Does or doesn't it add to our knowledge and understanding of Tom and Goldberry?

Well, it does make me wonder about the line "once upon a time in elvish land". From my "knowledge" of Tom (and Goldberry), they are nature spirits particular to a specific place. Does this poem tell us that their specific geographical place was "elvish land" once upon a time? Or that once upon a time before they were in the Old Forest environs, they were in an "elvish land" themselves? Valinor?


Couldn't it be said, though, that once upon a time most of Middle-Earth was "Elvish land"? We're going way back here: before the Elves taught the Ents to talk; before Men awoke in the East. I don't think we need to assume this means to say Tom and GB once lived in Thingol's realm, for example.

So what do we think these lintips are? This is fascinating to me. What exactly is a mousy smell? Does that word have a different meaning outside of the obvious "like a mouse"?


Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.

--J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter #43, to his son Michael


Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 20 2007, 9:23pm

Post #18 of 47 (682 views)
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:-) [In reply to] Can't Post

It took me longer than it should have to get your doubly-witty pun, EarAerlinn :-)




Promises to Keep: a novel set in 19th Century New Zealand.

The Passing of Mistress Rose

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 20 2007, 9:24pm

Post #19 of 47 (708 views)
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Lady-smock [In reply to] Can't Post

This is an interesting choice of garment for Goldberry. A smock is, of course, a real item of clothing, but "Lady's Smock" is an old name for the flower of Cardamine pratensis.



Like several other plants with "Lady" in the name, it was formerly associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It's interesting to see Goldberry in "Flower Fairy" mode, and at the same time with a possible hint of Marian associations.




Promises to Keep: a novel set in 19th Century New Zealand.

The Passing of Mistress Rose

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


a.s.
Valinor


Feb 21 2007, 1:19am

Post #20 of 47 (757 views)
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tantalizing vagueness [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
from the first time I met him on my first reading of The Lord of the Rings as a child. I was - and still am - enchanted by the idea of a character so easy with himself, so at one with his surroundings, so pure in heart, as to be completely unaffected by the power of the ring. And there has to be something wonderful about someone whose chief care is taking undamaged flowers home to his lady ("Don't you crush my lilies.").

I guess this is not a good time to reprint my Tom B poem, is it? (it's not complimentary). I like Tom much better in theory than in actuality. Sly


It doesn't seem right to talk of him usually being "in control" of his world - more that he is in tune with it. But somehow here he isn't and it troubles him. It's an aspect of him I don't think we see in the book....I'm intrigued about what lintips are.


Good point. This is the only time we ever see Tom acknowledge that he doesn't know something about a living creature walking on the earth, especially in his "space". It is really intriguing. I mean, the man talks to trees but not to these little creatures. How tantalizingly vague Tolkien can be, at times!

Welcome to the RR. Or are you an oldtimer with a new name? Either way, welcome!

a.s.


"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


(This post was edited by a.s. on Feb 21 2007, 1:20am)


Elanor
Bree

Feb 21 2007, 7:01pm

Post #21 of 47 (714 views)
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Thank you, a.s. [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I am new; I've posted an introduction in the thread at Off Topic. I'm new to posting here although I've been a lurker at the old boards for a while. And I'm new to the films, though not to the books.

I'd love to read your Tom Bombadil poem; it sounds as though it's fun, and I love a good laugh. And I don't think Tom took himself altogether seriously either.

Thank you for your welcome.

"Frodo thought for a moment. 'Well, Sam, what about elanor, the sun-star, you remember the little golden flower in the grass of Lothlorien?'"


a.s.
Valinor


Feb 22 2007, 1:15am

Post #22 of 47 (703 views)
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well, she ASKED!! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

I'd love to read your Tom Bombadil poem; it sounds as though it's fun, and I love a good laugh. And I don't think Tom took himself altogether seriously either.

well, then, there are actually two poems just between you and me and anyone else who just MIGHT be interested (the RR has seen these already a time or two---just ignore their groans!!)
I do not like Tom Bombadil.
I do not like him, nerdanel!

I do not like him in his house
I do not like him with his mouse.
I do not like him with a tree,
And do not like that Goldberry!

I do not like his silly hat,
his yellow boots, his welcome mat.
I do not like him here or there (or back again)
I do not like him anywhere.

I do SO not like Tommy B.
And I say skip him, let him be.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To cringe or not to cringe, that is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the "hey dols" and "merry dols" of outrageous dialogue,
Or, by skimming, end them quicker.

To read, to skim. To skim perhaps to miss the worst of the poetry...aye, there's the rub; for in that skim of page what point is missed when we have closed the book, may give us pause.

That makes calamity of so frequent reading; for who can bear the "merry-os" and "berry-os" yet one more time, the yellow boots, the wagging feather, the continuous cheerful singing and a-ringing in the merry-dol badillos?

Which would readers bear, to dance and sing about water lilies ad infinitum, but that the dread of reading yet MORE merry-dols upon the following page.

It truly "puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all"

a.s.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 22 2007, 3:59pm

Post #23 of 47 (670 views)
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It's almost a riddle, this poem [In reply to] Can't Post

isn't it? Besides the hidden meaning of lady-smock, there's the reference to the "earth-stars" in the "green grass-skies" that must be daisies in the grass (because daisies close up at night, as described in the poem, and because they are the traditional pairing with buttercups).

It's reminiscent of Bilbo's riddle:

An eye in a blue face
Saw an eye in a green face...

except that now, the daisies are compared to the stars rather than the sun.

As for the lintips, I think your idea that 'lin' is related to the Sindarin word for 'pool' makes excellent sense. I'm still puzzled by the "mousy smell" though. If they're not actually mice, what else might have a mousy smell? Whatever they are, they seem not to belong to the earth, otherwise Tom should know all about them.

I wonder if Tolkien has gone back to his early imagining of tiny elves or sprites, of the Puck variety? I'm reminded of Puck's verse in A Midsummer Night's Dream:

I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.


Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship's beside the stony wall.


Looking across Dublin Bay from Dún Laoghaire harbour



Elanor
Bree

Feb 22 2007, 6:45pm

Post #24 of 47 (687 views)
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*Sputters coffee all over computer screen* [In reply to] Can't Post

Those are hilarious, a.s.! I particularly like the first one - very catchy!

I felt inspired to write something in praise of Tom, so here it is, with apologies to Rudyard who I can hear turning in his grave. (Do you like Kipling? I don't know - I've never kippled.)

In Defence of Tom

You may talk o' pipes and beer
Hobbit-wanderers out here,
When you're weary, sore and one of you's a Ringer.
But when it comes to trees
He will help you in a squeeze
And you'll lick the yellow boots of this fair singer.

In the Forest's gloomy clime
Where they spent a bit of time
(Frodo, Samwise, Tookish Peregrin and Merry),
Of all the folk they knew
The finest of the crew
Were Tom Bombadil and lady, fair Goldberry.

It was "Tom! Tom! Tom!
With your battered hat and derry-dol-a-dillow.
Though you're teased about your lily
And some think you rather silly
You're a better man than I am, Bombadillow!"


"Frodo thought for a moment. 'Well, Sam, what about elanor, the sun-star, you remember the little golden flower in the grass of Lothlorien?'"


Wynnie
Rohan


Feb 22 2007, 6:57pm

Post #25 of 47 (629 views)
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*applause* /nt [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Owlamoo
ink drawing by JRRT

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