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Crtical Analysis of Tom Bombadil: Lesson Learned
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Dirhaval
The Shire

May 26 2013, 8:21pm

Post #1 of 36 (630 views)
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Crtical Analysis of Tom Bombadil: Lesson Learned Can't Post

Greetings. I like to share my point of Tom's origins. First, I have not read anything like my own analysis. Second,
I have read some other viewpoints of Tom on this site, but searching every thread about him is too much for me, so I have
not read everything. Third, Tom is a mystery that will be unsolved due to Tolkien's designs.

My readings: major writings of LOTR, Letters, autobiographies of Tolkien, all 12 volumes of the Historys (cure for insomnia),
Ralph Wood gospel (please watch his hour length seminar on utube, something about time or terror.

I have read analyses of Tom stating Tom is Middle-Earth incarnate, which explains his detachment of the Ring
and of his singing. Well, sorry I do not get any life lesson from that explanation; I will discard it for now.

PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I GO AMISS!

Gandalf states somewhere that there are two reasons why folks seek power: to control others, or to protect the weak.
Also, I believe the wizard says the best use of power is not to use it.

First, I feel Tom is the most powerful of the Maiar, which explains why he would be the last to be defeated by Sauron
and why he is still around not defeated by balrogs during Melkor's rehab in the Halls of Mandos.
I feel that each maia is attached to some element or ability. I feel Tom is one of the earth spirits, which explains
his power with the land and attraction to water.

He is the Oldest. That means he was the first ainur to enter into Ea. I feel that when Illuvatar showed Middle-Earth
to the Ainur explaining to them what it was Tom is running with glee towards it like a kid seeing an ice-cream truck.
Since Middle-Earth has "time" those outside of it cannot know the time elapsed until one enters into it. Thus, when the
others ainur entered "later" into Middle-Earth, Tom has already been there for who-knows-how-long. It could have been a million
"years" already. This is the lesson I get from my analysis, and why the Ring has no power over Tom. It seems that
every other ainur shows respect to Tom, even the more powerful Valar. Is that what you do when you enter
a new playground: have a sense of respect to those already there?

Think about it: You are a child who gets to play with every lego model ever made. You do this by yourself for ten years in isolation.
You build everything conceivable thing with the legos, but you cannot leave the space, let's say the size of a 20,000 seat arena.
But all the while you sing, since that is what you were doing before you enter Middle-Earth and you are by yourself. You
see you have power of the land, air and water. [Now I am not saying Tom reformed Middle-Earth to the extent of the later Valar,
but Tom could shape the land if desired, but I doubt he had that desire]. Life Lesson: it is good to share.

Then one day your cousins arrive. They start do this and that with the Land/Legos. Since you have already "owned" the Land
and had your joy with it, the Land has no power over you. "Go ahead and sink that land under the water, I grew every tree
on that land, so do was you wish. You cannot have what I had with it; full control and ownership with no one to challenge me."
Thus, you do not care much what happens to it. Tom goes about
life bored until he meets Goldberry! Tolkien was writing about, in my opinion, about his wife with Goldberry. Let me throw in
a true, but frazzle statement: Reality is boring. Think about it. How long would you long for another individual in your life
if you were lock away in a library with every book? It would happen eventually. Tom got bored in a way with Middle-Earth.
But with Goldberry, which he mentions frequently, he has a purpose. Life Lesson: Thus your purpose with others is to care for them.
May be Sam Gamgee was thinking about Rose at this point.

Why then did the Ring not have power of him? Tom had no desire to control or protect others. He did save the hobbits.
Tom has a conscience, which I have not read from anyone, but is missed. He did allow the Hobbits to mistakenly
travel to the Barrow-downs, which would have ended the quest. And it was by chance that Tom arrived in time to save them again.

Think about it: Tom put on the ring and did not disappear. The ring had no power, since Tom desired no power, since
Tom already lived on Middle-Earth before anyone else. Also, why Tom would be a poor caretaker of the Ring. He would
fight back Sauron, but would not care too much if defeated. Tom had no fear. The One Ring provides many powers.
The most powerful: Fear on the ringbearer. That is another topic that I have not read anywhere.
Remember, Tom let the Barrow-wights dwell nigh the Old Forest. He allowed evil to exist; evil has a right to "possibility" exist.

Tom could see Frodo with the Ring on Frodo's finger. How? Evil has to imbed itself into the material plane to act. That is to be seen
by the eyes, "it" must be attached to an object. We can be deceived by the eye. Since the land
had no power of old Tom, the evil in the Ring was impotent to Tom's vision, but Tom was aware of the evil.

Goldberry to me is more of a mystery than Tom. Daughter of the River. So she is a water maia?

One last point of Tom: Tom set his own boundaries in the Forest. Now, why would he do that?
That is easy. Tom is expressing his near omnipotent power by limiting himself. There are
not many ways to show power than to limit oneself using it. Tom is so powerful, he is saying:
"The limits I place on myself are not really limits at all. If you take away from something, that something
must be less than the missing part, unless all parts are equal. Two = Two. If you take away a "Two",
then you have either nothing or everything. Life Lesson: To get everything, you must take it away from yourself.

Enjoy!

Summary:
Tom Bombadil is an enigma left for us to unravel. My analysis of Tom supplies me with life lessons.
I have not read anything like most of what is above. My intuition was right before. When I read
Legolas and Gimli sailing west for the first time in year 1996; I predicted all three movies to be released
on the silver screen in ten years. Liv Tyler though was a sight unforeseen.

Will they film the First Age; Geez are you kidding? cha-ching.


geordie
Tol Eressea

May 26 2013, 9:35pm

Post #2 of 36 (306 views)
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Interesting - [In reply to] Can't Post

- you say:

"Gandalf states somewhere that there are two reasons why folks seek power: to control others, or to protect the weak. Also, I believe the wizard says the best use of power is not to use it."

Can you tell us where Gandalf says these things, please?
.





dik-dik
Lorien


May 26 2013, 10:27pm

Post #3 of 36 (281 views)
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Welcome to TORN, Dirhaval! :) An intersting analysis. My two cents on your Bombadil observations: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
First, I feel Tom is the most powerful of the Maiar, which explains why he would be the last to be defeated by Sauron and why he is still around not defeated by balrogs during Melkor's rehab in the Halls of Mandos.


I am also in the 'Bombadil is a Maia' camp. I am not sure he is the most powerful one among them, but he certainly appears to be one of the strongest left in Middle-earth, by the Third Age anyway. More powerful than the Istari, quite possibly.
I am not sure the balrogs and other servants of Morgoth did much while their master was imprisoned - anyway, I imagine Tom was roaming the world at will at that time, so he wouldn't make for an easy target. ;)


In Reply To
I feel that each maia is attached to some element or ability. I feel Tom is one of the earth spirits, which explains his power with the land and attraction to water.


I feel the same way.


In Reply To
He is the Oldest. That means he was the first ainur to enter into Ea.


That's my reading as well. Perhaps he was initially disembodied or something, to explain the accounts of Treebeard who is described very similarly (as the 'oldest of living creatures', I believe?).


In Reply To
It seems that every other ainur shows respect to Tom, even the more powerful Valar.


Valar? Where does that statement come from? *is curious*


In Reply To
Tom goes about life bored until he meets Goldberry!


I don't know, he seemed pretty content to me... what are you basing this observation on?


In Reply To
Why then did the Ring not have power of him? Tom had no desire to control or protect others.


Yes. In other words, because he did not seek power, was content with the life he had, and the Ring didn't have anything to offer to him.


In Reply To
And it was by chance that Tom arrived in time to save them again.


I don't know, I always took that part to mean that Frodo's chanting brought him from whatever place he had been at, with superquick speed. If balrogs who supposedly don't have wings after all, could make it across Ard-galen, Mithrim and Hithlum in time to save Morgoth from being suffocated, then I guess Tom could be very quick if he wanted to as well. Wink


In Reply To
Think about it: Tom put on the ring and did not disappear. The ring had no power, since Tom desired no power, since Tom already lived on Middle-Earth before anyone else.


I rather think that the non-disappearance was caused by Tom being a powerful Ainu, much like Sauron who also was very much visible in the Last Alliance. ;) I also believe that it was simply part of Tom's nature to be selfless and the opposite of power-thirsty; that this wasn't just caused by him already having all power he could dream of.


In Reply To
Also, why Tom would be a poor caretaker of the Ring. He would fight back Sauron, but would not care too much if defeated.


I'm not at all sure Tom would go as far as to fight. In my reading, the Council agreed that he simply wouldn't understand warfare and such (true, I can't imagine Tom actively rallying allies!), and would eventually forget about the Ring.


In Reply To
Tom could see Frodo with the Ring on Frodo's finger. How?


IMO, that was because as a powerful Ainu, he could see both the seen and the unseen.


In Reply To
Goldberry to me is more of a mystery than Tom. Daughter of the River. So she is a water maia?


That's possible. Or maybe one of the tawari (spelling?), or some other order, given that there are no attested children for Maiar and Valar in the later writings, except for Melian; and Goldberry is called 'River-woman's daughter', so it would seem she did have parents, unless Tom was using a figure of speech... most puzzling.


In Reply To
One last point of Tom: Tom set his own boundaries in the Forest. Now, why would he do that?
That is easy. Tom is expressing his near omnipotent power by limiting himself.


My impression was that he simply found a place he grew so fond of that he made it his home, settled there, and stopped roaming the rest of Middle-earth. Tom actually reminds me of Sam somewhat: they both strike me as very unassuming, quiet fellows who are content with having their own little corner and playing no big role on the world stage, having had their share of adventures and sights.

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


CuriousG
Valinor


May 27 2013, 7:59pm

Post #4 of 36 (240 views)
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Your only comment is to ask for page references?? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


geordie
Tol Eressea

May 27 2013, 8:34pm

Post #5 of 36 (228 views)
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yes. Why do you ask? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

May 27 2013, 10:52pm

Post #6 of 36 (226 views)
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He was a big fish in a little pond [In reply to] Can't Post

He was good in the Old Forrest. But he for whatever reason wouldn't pass its borders. He wouldn't even go to the Inn at Bree even when he recommended it and Tom would get a free pint!


elostirion74
Rohan

May 28 2013, 9:20pm

Post #7 of 36 (208 views)
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some thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas about Tom Bombadil, heīs certainly a very fascinating character.

I agree with you that Tom is a Maia, or a spirit of the same order. I wouldnīt say that he is older than the other Ainur or the first Ainu to enter Eä or the most powerful, itīs enough for me that he is among the Ainur who enter Eä at an early stage. My view of Tom Bombadil is shaped mainly by my reading of the Silmarillion and also by how he works as a continuaton and deepening of the themes brought up in the first parts of FoTR. Tom seems to be prone to singing, as if itīs as natural as talking, which reminds me about the Song of the Ainur and Tolkienīs association between creation and music. Tom embodies these primary qualities of the nature of Middle Earth through his singing and his talking in verse.

Tomīs stories provide the hobbits with a wider perspective on themselves, a sense of the passing of history, how the world about them is far older than their race and about the relationship between a land/country and the ones who live in it. Gildor started this process some chapters before by talking about how others lived in the Shire before the hobbits. Tom has become deeply attached to his local area, even more than the hobbits to the Shire, but neither he nor the hobbits own the land theyīre living in or the creatures living in it.

I agree with you that there is a lot to learn from Tom, especially his desire not to have power over others, which is the chief reason why he is not concerned about the Ring and it holds no attraction for him.

When it comes to Tom not disappearing when wearing it, I agree with dik-dik that this is because he is a Maia. People with great power, who live at once in the Seen as well as the Unseen world, will not become invisible when wearing the Ring; to me it seems like the invisibility effect only applies to mortals. The same order of people will also be able to see the mortals who put the Ring on their finger, since they can see both the Seen and the Unseen at the same time.


axewielder
The Shire

May 29 2013, 12:58pm

Post #8 of 36 (190 views)
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Thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

These are some good thoughts. I must admit I was of this view until recently. This article voices a lot of good reasons as to why Tom cannot be a Maia http://whoistombombadil.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-case-against-maiar-theory.html I believe he mentions in here that the Valar are the first ones into Arda not any of the Maiar. Moreover, Gandalf corrects the thoughts of the Elves in The Council of Elrond about the power of Tom, one of them says (paraphrase), "It seems that he (tom) has power over the Ring" Gandalf corrects this by saying, "No, say rather that the Ring has no power over him." In other words it is not Tom being powerful that allows him to not be affected by the Ring, indeed this just begs the question of how the ring actually works it would seem that the more powerful one is the more they would be affected by the Ring hence the choice of a Hobbit, Tom is not affected because he is outside of its power and we already know that the Maiar are under power of the Ring (Sauron, Gandalf, Saruman). I recommend you give this theory a thorough read, it is worth it in my opinion.


(This post was edited by axewielder on May 29 2013, 1:05pm)


CuriousG
Valinor


May 29 2013, 2:12pm

Post #9 of 36 (181 views)
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Doubts [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome to the Reading Room, Dirhaval and Axewielder! Thanks for the OP, Dirhaval (and I won't ask you for citations), and for the link to that article, Axe.

I'm never sure myself of Tom's identity, but I'm less sure that the article in that blog rests on solid ground. The author keeps comparing Tom to Saruman and Gandalf, which isn't valid at all since the Istari are "Maiar Lite" with deliberately shackled powers. Sauron and Melian are the only Maiar we get much information about, so they should be the comparisons to Bombadil. Would Melian be tempted by the Ring? Well, the Silmarils had no hold over her, so I doubt it, but of course can't be sure. Could Melian have dispersed a Barrow Wight? Maybe. Did all Maiar have identical powers? Certainly not, so maybe one could disperse a dead spirit and another couldn't.

I think there's also a flaw in expecting a Valinor Elf to know all about the Maiar. Olorin walked unseen among the Elves, and they remained unaware that he was the origin of "the fair promptings of wisdom" that he put in their hearts. They didn't seem to say: "Ah, I just had an epiphany. Must have come from invisible Olorin." I think there's a lot about the Ainur that the Calaquendi don't know, even if they were neighbors.

Tolkien makes exceptions to his own rules when he wants to and finds ways to explain them away (Dwarves were not part of the Great Music but still get adopted as Children of Iluvatar, e.g.). I find it plausible that Bombadil could have been the very first Ainu to enter Arda. Or Bombadil and the Council could be speaking in hyperbole, which Tolkien often employs, and maybe Bombadil was merely among the first Ainur (they all came before there were any acorns, etc) and before Melkor.

Flaws in reason aside, I prefer the theory that Bombadil is an expression of the Great Music for its esthetic appeal and because it fits the facts in a number of ways. Or maybe he's a hybrid being, part Ainu and part Music. Whatever he is, he seems one of a kind.


dik-dik
Lorien


May 29 2013, 2:19pm

Post #10 of 36 (186 views)
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I must say that theory doesn't convince me. [In reply to] Can't Post

Random observations:

- I don't know where the theory about 'Valar first, Maiar next' comes from. Can someone point me to a source? I skimmed through the Ainulindale, and cannot find any evidence that Valar equates firstcomers before other Ainur. I believe the title, or rank, merely refers to their greatness. Melkor entered Arda after them, I believe.

- given how little we know of Maiar and Ainur in general, I find the author's certainty about what the Valar and Maiar could, or could not do, highly subjective. The only Maiar the author compares to Bombadil are emissaries with limited powers, and Sauron. Not the most typical examples.

- the Ring matter and singing vs. spells may merely be quirks of Tom's character, we don't know. Lúthien put Morgoth to sleep with her singing, and she wasn't even a full-blooded Maia. Tom seems to me like the epitome of the 'primitive innocence' that JRRT uses concerning Elves. I think the same description may also fit the early Ainur after the completion of the world. Perhaps I should amend that for me, Tom with his independence may not necessarily be a Maia, a spirit that serves the Valar, but he sure seems like an Ainu to me.

- Gandalf's words in Treason of Isengard in my reading may also refer to their respective times of entering Arda, or to their time of embodiment. Actually, Gandalf's quote about TB being a 'moss-gatherer' while he himself is a 'stone doomed to rolling', speaks of a certain parallel to me between these two. Gandalf in the Council also appears to know TB's thinking quite well (unlike the Elves), as if they were of the same, or similar, order.

Good theory though. It's just not convincing enough for me.

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


(This post was edited by dik-dik on May 29 2013, 2:24pm)


CuriousG
Valinor


May 29 2013, 2:40pm

Post #11 of 36 (177 views)
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Thinking alike, Dik-Dik [In reply to] Can't Post

I like your point about Gandalf and Bombadil's similarity. Not only does Gandalf tell the hobbits that he's going to visit Tom and is certain that they'll have much to say to each other (as if old friends and confidants), he knows enough about him to tell the hobbits that Tom would be interested in hearing about their adventures with the Ents, but not much else. Gandalf has strong bonds with Elrond and Galadriel, and he's not an Elf, but with Tom there seems a deeper affinity that seems built-in, and as you say, he clearly understands Tom better than the Elves do. Leaning toward the Ainu connection between them, I certainly get the feeling that Gandalf will tell things to Bombadil that he wouldn't tell anyone else, even knowing that Tom won't be all that concerned about who sits on Gondor's throne.

Even that last point is in question. Tom's silly banter is deceptive and conceals the deep side to him, revealed both in his understanding of the Ring and his personal knowledge of Arnor's rulers when he had a sentimental moment with the jewelry from the Barrow mound that he chose for Goldberry in memory of its original owner, a woman he clearly knew and admired.


axewielder
The Shire

May 29 2013, 3:20pm

Post #12 of 36 (168 views)
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Maiar-lite? [In reply to] Can't Post

I am curious, CuriousG, where you get that term or better why you think the wizards are Maiar-lite? I have not heard that before and I find that thought intriguing...


dik-dik
Lorien


May 29 2013, 3:50pm

Post #13 of 36 (166 views)
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*shakes hands with CuriousG* ;) [In reply to] Can't Post

I am wondering if maybe, beside his knowledge of foul things going on in the Shire, Gandalf's motivation for sending the hobbits off could partly be a desire to speak to Tom without witnesses. If Gandalf disclosed his former name to Faramir prior to the Ring quest, I wonder what all he would have spoken to with someone like Bombadil when he prepares to sail back.

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


CuriousG
Valinor


May 29 2013, 4:02pm

Post #14 of 36 (166 views)
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I made up the "Maiar-lite" [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't recall the exact source, maybe "The Istari" in Unfinished Tales, but also references to them in LOTR appendices describe the Istari as Maiar disguised in Men's bodies to be wizards, mortal in the sense that they can be killed and that they age (though only slowly), and that their powers are intentionally inhibited to prevent any temptation to daunt the peoples of MEarth and instead lead them through persuasion and inspiration. They can no longer cast aside their bodies as Maiar can and are stuck in mortal flesh. Maiar never needed staffs to channel their powers, but Wizards do. There are all kinds of limitations on them. I think it was partly due to their limitations, and his memory of how great he had been pre-Istari, that made Sarumn crave power to the point of his undoing.


Brethil
Half-elven


May 29 2013, 5:37pm

Post #15 of 36 (162 views)
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Maiar-Lite exceptionally apt term CG [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know how clear he makes that point in Texts. In Sil he discusses their comings as old men, aging slowly. In Letters he mentions much more clearly many times that as Incarnate beings they were prone to failings in judgment, of pain and weariness, and of being 'killed'. And that their mandate is not to display their powers in ME but to instruct and guide, to bring out the best in the peoples they interact with to resist Sauron. (#156) Their dimmed memories of Valinor seems very familiar and correct to me, I can remember reading it, sorry but I can't quite find the quotes. Your point about Saruman feels spot-on, craving that old unrestricted power and glory.

I think they are supposed to 'nudge' and not do all the work for the People's of ME, thus the 'lite' aspect: sort of re-directing the folks in Arda to get back to the work at hand, after all those silly distractions.
I love the thought of Gandalf and Tom sitting down for a week long talk, with Goldberry dancing in and out, just to catch up on old times. Smile

Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."


axewielder
The Shire

May 29 2013, 5:56pm

Post #16 of 36 (162 views)
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This is all well and true yet it seems to help to point out that Tom is not a Maiar [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes the Istari are limited in their physical form to physical ailments but they still possess both free-will and access to their Maiar powers. Hence why Saruman is tempted, as you pointed out, because through the Ring he can again be powerful. There would be no need for Saruman to desire the Ring if he would not be affected by it. Also, there is no reason why Gandalf would warn Frodo not to give him the Ring if it would not affect him. The Istari are commanded to not use their full power and to not seek to rule over men, we know for sure that Saruman broke this command on at least one level. Gandlaf says that "through me it (the Ring) would wield a power to great and terrible to imagine..." this is not just his Istari limited self but the whole that is Olorin.

In other word,s there is a difference from being commanded or forbidden from using your powers and actually having them removed. It appears that the Istari could still break their commands and orders because they had free-will as Saruman demonstrates. He then seeks out the Ring to be able to fully channel his power and even increase it precisely because the Ring has an impact on Maiar. And for the same reason, Gandalf rejects the Ring which was freely offered not because "his maiar-lite" powers are so intimidating but because the Ring and his full power would be a terrible sight. Indeed, several times in The Two Towers and Return of the King Gandalf muses that if Frodo were in reach then they may be able to use the Ring to guarantee their victory, but in the end he recognizes that it is better that it is out of his reach.


CuriousG
Valinor


May 29 2013, 6:21pm

Post #17 of 36 (156 views)
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Free will within constraints [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for your reply, Axe, and I appreciate your points. I guess my own perspective remains somewhere in between. The Istari most certainly have free will, but I don't think that includes the power to break out of their diminished status. When the hobbits and Elves encounter Saruman on the road in Dunland, he is clearly a hungry beggar (vs. when they see him again at Bag End, when he's described as looking well-fed). Ainur can't starve because they don't eat, and they only take on bodily form to eat when they're around "bodied" people like Elves and want to join the same feast (as in Valinor). So if Saruman had truly broken free of the limits put on Wizards, he could have "walked unseen" and not worried about the hunger, then taken shape again at will when it suited him (such as terrorizing the Shire). It certainly did him no good staying in a body as a beggar in Dunland.

Gandalf the White was more than Maiar-lite, particularly since he commented that no weapon could harm him (I think he said that to Gimli in The White Rider chapter). He came back supercharged as the only Istari out of 5 who had remained true to his mission, and it remains murky how far off he was from having his regular Maia abilities, but I suppose it says something about his limits that he had to take a ship back to Valinor and didn't travel there spiritually (which Melian did after Thingol died, and would "The Straight Road" really matter to an Ainu?). But as Gandalf the Grey, he pined a bit to Pippin that he'd like to look into a palantir and see Valinor again: clearly his memory was dimmed and he had no other means of seeing it through internal vision.


Brethil
Half-elven


May 29 2013, 6:30pm

Post #18 of 36 (154 views)
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I like your extension of the logic here Axewielder! [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree on all your points. That is why Gandalf 'passed all the tests' from the moral standpoint, and Saruman did not: that matter of Free Will and how to exercise it in either staying true or seeking power.

I haven't weighed in here yet, being a bit tied up earlier this week, but I do come down on the non-Maiar side of the Tom debate. I have come to feel that there simply is no 'literal' or pigeon-holed place for Tom: he is something else altogether. I have to take JRRT's words very seriously when he describes Tom as an intentional enigma, whose meaning is beyond the legendarium. I think his true meaning is external to the universe of ME as we understand it (ie: having been provided by the author). His own understanding of Tom is one of reason, observation and 'science' (in the sense of studying Life) unfettered by possession, and acting simply for the joy of seeing and interacting with the natural world.

That is why I think his relationship with Old Man Willow is so incredibly significant, really a cornerstone, of understanding who Tom is: for he seeks not to change the Willow, who is clearly Dark at heart; where Tom, who is powerful enough to harm the Willow, is clearly Good at heart. Its a rather unique relationship in ME, where (as we are discussing in the fascinating Law and Arda article by Doug Kane discussion) Good and Evil are generally more clear-cut, visibly so, and one has rather a moral mandate to defeat the other. Not so here, which I think is a telling dynamic left in quite intentionally and artfully by JRRT.

I think Tom's being 'oldest' and 'first' relate to the force of the Creation itself coming first, rather than a seniority element. Perhaps that is JRRT's statement about the origins of life: the reason it is all here, for the sheer joy of existence on the part of the Creator, Eru. Though I think in the case of Tom it transcends the books, and delves into JRRT's own deep love of the natural world in its pristine self and how that relates back to his understanding of God.

Great thread all! Thanks Dirhaval for that OP!

Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."


axewielder
The Shire

May 29 2013, 6:30pm

Post #19 of 36 (150 views)
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agreed [In reply to] Can't Post

I believe that there are some physical restraints like you said, but as far as power of being goes I believe they still had access to that being that they were commanded to not use it, it seems to imply that they could use their powers especially if they took the Ring, which is where the argument lies, for even Tommy is in physical form and eats and sleeps. But I do not think Gandalf's very essence, his Maiar power is gone, he is just charged with not using it. For who could really take that power Away? Only Eru himself which is what appears to happen to Saruman when Gandalf the white, sent by Eru back into ME, delivers that charge. Obviously taking on a flesh means that certain physical limitations are taken but that does not make them less powerful. I think a good demonstration of this is Sauron himself after he dies with the Numemoraens he is not able to change to a fair appearance and thus deceive as easily but he still possesses his central power.

So, it appears that both Gandalf and Saruman recognize that their full powers with the Ring would equal victory, this is not likely if they had lost in their essence most of their powers. It does make sense if they are merely limited physically and are under a command to not use their full powers but are still able to do so.


elostirion74
Rohan

May 29 2013, 7:02pm

Post #20 of 36 (148 views)
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some further thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

Hmm, I find that Gandalf and Tom are quite different as characters, but their backgrounds are similar in that they have been around for way longer time than any of the Elves. This gives them both a unique sense of perspective and shared understanding which the Elves donīt have access to, and since they have taken different roles in the history of Middle Earth, they can still also learn much from each other. Gandalf has probably also spoken to Tom several times before - like you say they are old friends/confidants - while the Elves merely know him by name.


CuriousG
Valinor


May 29 2013, 7:22pm

Post #21 of 36 (145 views)
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Tom's social circle [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Gandalf has probably also spoken to Tom several times before - like you say they are old friends/confidants - while the Elves merely know him by name.

So my next question is, who are Tom's friends? He's friends with a hobbit (Farmer Maggot), and apparently with Butterbur (or he has some connection with Bree), he knew something of the "princess" (or whoever) in Arnor with the jewelry in the tomb, and he's friends with Gandalf. Why do the Elves only know him by name? Don't Gildor and the Wandering Companies see him as a fellow nature-lover and someone to visit on occasion? Why does Elrond only know him as a distant memory, even though he's near the Road to the Havens, where Elvish messengers travel back and forth and there might be a stopover to say hello from Imladris?

It's not a big deal, I just wonder why the Elves don't know him better. Maybe as an intentional enigma, if everyone knew him, he wouldn't be enigmatic, so the story has to keep him on the sidelines.





CuriousG
Valinor


May 29 2013, 7:33pm

Post #22 of 36 (139 views)
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Trenchant observation, Brethil! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
That is why I think his relationship with Old Man Willow is so incredibly significant, really a cornerstone, of understanding who Tom is: for he seeks not to change the Willow, who is clearly Dark at heart; where Tom, who is powerful enough to harm the Willow, is clearly Good at heart. Its a rather unique relationship in ME, where (as we are discussing in the fascinating Law and Arda article by Doug Kane discussion) Good and Evil are generally more clear-cut, visibly so, and one has rather a moral mandate to defeat the other. Not so here, which I think is a telling dynamic left in quite intentionally and artfully by JRRT.

That feeds into our "Law and Arda" discussion, where I think there is a moral mandate for good to actively defeat evil, yet that rule is suspended with Bombadil and Old Man Willow. As a character, I think Tolkien approves of everything about Tom, so it's not a flaw for the silly but powerful "man" to tolerate an evil willow. Instead, like Treebeard, who knows of dark trees in Fangorn still afflicted by the Shadow and doesn't cull them out, Tom is content to act as a shepherd to OM Willow, scolding him when he's naughty, but not putting an end to his murderous inclinations. That may be the luxury of enjoying bountiful power: you can tra-la-la about a murderous tree in your little realm because it's easy enough to sing and counter his moves and it's never a threat. Tom wouldn't see a need to cleanse the neighboring Barrow Downs of spirits because he can always get rid of any that happen to cause trouble, and they're never a threat to him either. Good and Evil can coexist when Good clearly outweighs Evil. It's like keeping Sauron on a leash in Valinor (or Melkor in jail).


Brethil
Half-elven


May 29 2013, 8:10pm

Post #23 of 36 (139 views)
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Curious point (haha) ;-) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Quote
Gandalf has probably also spoken to Tom several times before - like you say they are old friends/confidants - while the Elves merely know him by name.

So my next question is, who are Tom's friends? He's friends with a hobbit (Farmer Maggot), and apparently with Butterbur (or he has some connection with Bree), he knew something of the "princess" (or whoever) in Arnor with the jewelry in the tomb, and he's friends with Gandalf. Why do the Elves only know him by name? Don't Gildor and the Wandering Companies see him as a fellow nature-lover and someone to visit on occasion? Why does Elrond only know him as a distant memory, even though he's near the Road to the Havens, where Elvish messengers travel back and forth and there might be a stopover to say hello from Imladris? It's not a big deal, I just wonder why the Elves don't know him better. Maybe as an intentional enigma, if everyone knew him, he wouldn't be enigmatic, so the story has to keep him on the sidelines.




I wonder if Tom has selected his circle of friends based on his own tastes - close to the earth and dirt under their fingernails so to speak. Maybe the Elves just aren't Tom's cup of tea? Too much rushing about sub-creating, and concerned with combating Sauron, when Tom simply wants to put up his yellow boots and watch the world go by. I wonder if he wants to just observe and let things be, and not worry about preservation or 'politics'?

Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."


CuriousG
Valinor


May 29 2013, 8:17pm

Post #24 of 36 (136 views)
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Another Switzerland [In reply to] Can't Post

Wiz referred to Doriath as a sort of Switzerland (did it have chocolate and watches and banks where Sauron hid his ill-gotten gains?), and Bombadil seems to fit that mold too. It would make sense, as you say, for him to avoid powerful people and stick to apoliticals. Gandalf sought out the Shire as a refuge from the political world; he probably didn't talk shop when he visited Bombadil from time to time either. Maybe they sang together. (Gandalf singing "Merry dol"?!)


axewielder
The Shire

May 29 2013, 8:21pm

Post #25 of 36 (125 views)
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enigma is the perfect term [In reply to] Can't Post

exactly why I do not feel that the Maiar nor the Valar answer to the Tom question is correct nor satisfying. Tom is perhaps the biggest mystery in LOTR and Tolkien said he is an enigma. The word was chosen carefully as Tolkien often does, it does not mean that there is no answer to who is, but that it is a one of a kind answer to the mystery so when we go looking for an answer Maiar fails miserably at this point, it would make Tom all too common in my opinion, sure one could say his character is enigmatic for a "maia" but that is not what Tolkien is referring to when he uses the word enigma.

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