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***Favorite Chapters- In the House of Tom Bombadil
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Solicitr
Rohan


Dec 23 2019, 3:13pm

Post #1 of 76 (1221 views)
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***Favorite Chapters- In the House of Tom Bombadil Can't Post

The Bombadil chapters tend to get skimmed or skipped. For most readers Tim Benzedrene is too weird and his whole existence too anomalous. His versifying is downright annoying, and most readers feel that Tolkien, still writing an episodic story a la The Hobbit, simply misfired: Tom is no Beorn. I can't really disagree here. Much as I dislike the movies, I can't fault PJ for skipping straight to Bree.

However, the chapters, especially the middle one of the three, really are very important for the reader experience. If for a moment one can put oneself back in the mental space of a first-time reader, knowing nothing of the further story or the world in which it is set, Bombadil is a key transition for Frodo - and through him the reader - moving beyond the parochial Shire into a world which is much, much bigger not just in area and peoples but also in time. One of the literary effects which Tolkien does so uniquely well is to evoke a sense of the vast gulf of ancientry, and Bombadil (far more than Gandalf in Chapter 2) invites us to peer down into it, as if we with Frodo have walked unexpecting up to the lip of the Grand Canyon.

The most obvious passage is this, Tom directly dealing with time:

Quote
"Eldest, that's what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. He made paths before the Big People, and saw the Little People arriving. He was here before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless-- before the Dark Lord came from Outside.


But the passage which to me really brings out that specifically Tolkien feel of great age is this one:


Quote
They heard of the Great Barrows, and the green mounds, and the stone-rings upon the hills and in the hollows among the hills. Sheep were bleating in flocks. Green walls and white walls rose. There were fortresses on the heights. Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords.There was victory and defeat; and towers fell, fortresses were burned, and the flames went up into the sky. Gold was piled on the biers of dead kings and queens; and mounds covered them, and the stone doors were shut; and the grass grew over all. Sheep walked for a while biting the grass, but soon the hills were empty again.


This is a marvelous passage, bracketed by the sheep. Distant time, viewed as if through a telescope; and it has a certain ubi sunt feel but unlike, say, The Wanderer or Tolkien's adaptation Where now the horse and the rider, there is nothing in the foreground, nothing in the present or recent past that has any immediacy, making everything distant and tiny, as if to emphasize the triviality of existence- kings of little kingdoms, all forgotten. And all told in very simple words, like a children's story; but those words are carefully chosen with a poet's ear. The sheep are biting the grass: not grazing, not eating the grass, but biting it, an auditory word, a word that invites you to hear that percussive sound... and thus emphasize the deep, empty silence in which sheep's teeth could be heard.

But let's resume the paragraph:

Quote
A shadow came out of dark places far away, and the bones were stirred in the mounds. Barrow-wights walked in the hollow places with a clink of rings on cold fingers, and gold chains in the wind. Stone rings grinned out of the ground like broken teeth.


Now, while artfully repeating "hollow places" and "stone rings", Tolkien sets up the next chapter with requisite creepiness. At this point he turns back to the reader-avatars: "The hobbits shuddered. Even in the Shire, the rumour of the Barrow-wights..." As if to imply that rumours of similar horrors lay in the reader's mind as well, and to invite him to recall them out of childhood nightmares.

____________________________________

This leads to another point to be made about this chapter: the fine writing. Tolkien of course had been writing prose for over 30 years by this point, and novelistic prose since around 1930; but these chapters represent I think the first point in the Lord of the Rings where he allows himself to merge his new, day-by-day close focus with the 'heigh stile' of the latter part of The Hobbit and behind that Quenta Silmarillion- yet held in check, not wanting to overwhelm the still-small frame. The grandeur of the prose of the Battle of the Pelennor is for later. An example (actually from the start of the next chapter):

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Eastward the Barrow-downs rose, ridge behind ridge into the morning, and vanished out of eyesight into a guess: it was no more than a guess of blue and a remote white glimmer blending with the hem of the sky, but it spoke to them, out of memory and old tales, of the high and distant mountains.


"Out of memory and old tales." How Tolkienian is that? These are the touches with which he weaves his magic: that mountains - the mountains - are matters of old tales remembered. Compared to most fantasy authors Tolkien displays very, very little overt magic; rather, as Sam would say of Lorien, "It's right down deep, where I can't lay my hands on it."


noWizardme
Half-elven


Dec 23 2019, 6:44pm

Post #2 of 76 (1055 views)
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I've really enjoyed reading this.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Dec 23 2019, 6:54pm

Post #3 of 76 (1057 views)
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I've come to like the Bombadil chapter more too [In reply to] Can't Post

At first, I felt I didn't understand it. I was expecting it to have a lot to do with the plot of Frodo's adventure, but didn't see how it fitted in with that Now I feel that to ask how the Tom chapter furthers Frodo's adventure might be to ask the wrong question. I suspect that Tom doesn't have much to do with Frodo's adventure, but has a lot to do with Middle-earth.

What I'm now thinking, havng read Solicitr's OP, is that we go from the socially-cloying Shire to the aggressively-cloying will-kill-you-if-it-can Old Forest. But now here is Middle-earth stretched out before us, in time as much as in space. But perhaps the distinction between time and space in Middle-earth is not quite what it is for us.

I'm also now thinking about how Tom's story-fying is somehow a little like the visions seen in Galadriel's mirror. But I'm not sure what those thoughts mean (if they mean anything)....

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Dec 23 2019, 8:47pm

Post #4 of 76 (1054 views)
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yes yes [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting that you zero right in on those words, that image, sheep biting the grass. It's stuck in my head for years. Tells us something about Tom and his worldview, too, that there's a continuity of sheep, they have their own narrative arc—and that and the history of kings and kingdoms are, perhaps, almost equally distant to eternal Tom. (Which maybe echoes in Lindir's poke at Bilbo in the Hall of Fire?)

Of course Tom seems to invest rather a lot of brainspace in keeping track of all these annals of the doings of men, elves, and even hobbits through the ages, for someone so withdrawn. It is said at Rivendell that he used to have a wider ambit, and his restricting himself to only the heart of his former territory seems one more repetition of "the long defeat," the slow dying of the light of bygone ages. So maybe his isolationism is a more recent development. He has a bird's-eye view of it all, I suppose, but he manages to carry a great deal of nostalgia for earlier ages despite his hermitage.


A little side-note, since that made me remember that he's one of the outsiders who seems most familiar with the hobbits' own insular world—who is Maggot, anyway? I have a ghost of an old uncertainty in my head whether he's a hobbit or a human, for one thing, though these days I assume the former, at least in the pages of LOTR. But if Tom is a sort of spirit of the land, and hobbits are noble but unassuming Englishmen, it seems significant that Tom seems to regard Maggot as somehow important, and the fact that Maggot has been imported from older scraps of the author's work nags at me like a confirmation of his archetypical importance. Just an exemplary farmer? Or so much so, perhaps, as to be himself a sort of mortal version of the countryside personified?


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Dec 23 2019, 9:20pm

Post #5 of 76 (1046 views)
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hobbits who find themselves singing [In reply to] Can't Post

I sat and stewed for a while, at one point, at how you might go about bringing the Tom chapters to the screen without flatly alienating the audience. For some travelers to be taken in to a strange and magical table is no great wonder, in that older fairy-story canon from which the professor had drunk so deeply for so long. Involuntary singing in the presence of a magical woodland sage is an atmospheric event at home among with the twelve dancing princesses, where Bran's head lives on as long as it lives in the past, in a world where covetousness can transform your outward form and Vasilisa's mother's love can become a person in its own right, like the written name of God. I feel like I understand the mood in which he wrote of Bombdil's house and the transported state in which the hobbits stay there, and it works for me. But I fear a movie audience would just eyeroll hard enough to throw off the earth's rotation.

In the end, for whatever it's worth, I decided it could be done. I'd want to embrace the full unapologetic goofiness of Tom's almost Seussian meterbabel and frequent dancing, but just cut it fairly short, just the most essential things he says really, imply more without showing much. And literally a second or two of the hobbits laughing uproariously at the table, singing to one another to pass the salt or whatever, with a hard cut to the silence of one hobbit or another in the dead of night with the nightly noises, to emphasize their own distance from the way they felt at that table.

It's a divine sort of effect, really; as though they're still themselves, sure, but deep under the influence of the movement of some other, higher, heart and mind in this place.

It reminds me, actually, of probably my single favorite moment from The Hideous Strength, where the god Mercury himself has entered the house, but the narrative pov is downstairs with the human characters downstairs who weren't invited to meet him. And there, just from being caught in the bow wake of the god's presence, we have a brief glimpse of the characters engaged in some howlingly funny repartee that none of them will ever be able to remember, some sort of escalating wordplay, each topping the last. (Strictly head-canon, but I like to think they partly can't remember it because in the moment they're all speaking languages they don't otherwise know.) A wonderfully memorable depiction fo divine presence, and it often seems to me somewhat parallel to dinner with Tom.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Dec 24 2019, 12:22pm

Post #6 of 76 (1021 views)
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A film audience would have to leave a lot of cultural baggage behind [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I sat and stewed for a while, at one point, at how you might go about bringing the Tom chapters to the screen without flatly alienating the audience. For some travelers to be taken in to a strange and magical table is no great wonder, in that older fairy-story canon from which the professor had drunk so deeply for so long. Involuntary singing in the presence of a magical woodland sage is an atmospheric event at home among with the twelve dancing princesses, where Bran's head lives on as long as it lives in the past, in a world where covetousness can transform your outward form and Vasilisa's mother's love can become a person in its own right, like the written name of God. I feel like I understand the mood in which he wrote of Bombdil's house and the transported state in which the hobbits stay there, and it works for me. But I fear a movie audience would just eyeroll hard enough to throw off the earth's rotation


I agree! I think modern western film audiences would see this as a scene of intoxication. But I don't think Tolkien means intoxication. I think he means something more like inspiration.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 24 2019, 1:05pm

Post #7 of 76 (1019 views)
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Bombadil and the Larger Narrative [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
At first, I felt I didn't understand it. I was expecting it to have a lot to do with the plot of Frodo's adventure, but didn't see how it fitted in with that Now I feel that to ask how the Tom chapter furthers Frodo's adventure might be to ask the wrong question. I suspect that Tom doesn't have much to do with Frodo's adventure, but has a lot to do with Middle-earth.

What I'm now thinking, havng read Solicitr's OP, is that we go from the socially-cloying Shire to the aggressively-cloying will-kill-you-if-it-can Old Forest. But now here is Middle-earth stretched out before us, in time as much as in space. But perhaps the distinction between time and space in Middle-earth is not quite what it is for us.

I'm also now thinking about how Tom's story-fying is somehow a little like the visions seen in Galadriel's mirror. But I'm not sure what those thoughts mean (if they mean anything)....



Yes and no. Tom certainly does feature in the following chapter as he again rescues the hobbits from peril. And we even learn a bit more about him later at the Council of Elrond. At the same time, Tom is far beyond all the petty (to him) geopolitical bickering going on among the Children of Illuvatar and the machinations of that upstart Sauron. He probably shouldn't be so dismissive, though, as his own power has waned greatly outside of the small region that he now oversees.

I do think that Hollywood executives tend to underestimate their audiences to a degree, and that Tom Bombadil and Goldberry could be made to work on film. If if that proved to be too difficult, there are alternate ways of approaching the Wights of the Barrow-downs that would not require Tom to intercede. It might be too much to have the hobbits solve the problem themselves, but I can think of at least two other approaches that could work.

#FidelityToTolkien


CuriousG
Half-elven


Dec 24 2019, 4:25pm

Post #8 of 76 (1008 views)
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Well, if I'm understanding you correctly [In reply to] Can't Post

you're suggesting that Bombadil would have worked in the films if they played up the magic more:

Quote
It's a divine sort of effect, really; as though they're still themselves, sure, but deep under the influence of the movement of some other, higher, heart and mind in this place.


In the books, Bombadil's house is a regular, physical object, but I glimpsed while reading your post that it should have been a little more fairy-like, such as when characters enter a dark cave and find, instead of more dark caviness, a warm, welcoming home full of light and good food. Or maybe something else: a place of saturated light and fuzzy imagery that's divine and dream-like, or some other variation like that. So in general, a magic portal of some kind to Bombadil's house would have enhanced the sense of magic and history attached to him, and that in turn would have made more sense to movie-goers.

I think that's interesting because usually book fans talk about downplaying Bombadil somehow as the means of shoehorning him into the movie, not "up-playing" him. But I think yeah, it could work. I was envisioning walking out of the theater hearing people mutter, "That Tom guy was trippy but sure was cool." Anyway, fun to think about.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Dec 24 2019, 4:27pm

Post #9 of 76 (1009 views)
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Nice! [In reply to] Can't Post


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I suspect that Tom doesn't have much to do with Frodo's adventure, but has a lot to do with Middle-earth.


You articulated what I never could myself. Unlike a lot of people, I don't think the Bombadil story sticks out like a sore thumb and is instead an integral part of the story. This is why.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Dec 24 2019, 4:28pm

Post #10 of 76 (1006 views)
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Sheep [In reply to] Can't Post

This passage struck me even as a kid on first read: the sheep outlasted the humans and their petty wars and politics, though eventually even the sheep disappeared too. I wanted there to still be sheep, living on their own without shepherds, because it seemed like they belonged there.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Dec 24 2019, 4:39pm

Post #11 of 76 (1007 views)
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That's how I feel [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
One of the literary effects which Tolkien does so uniquely well is to evoke a sense of the vast gulf of ancientry, and Bombadil (far more than Gandalf in Chapter 2) invites us to peer down into it, as if we with Frodo have walked unexpecting up to the lip of the Grand Canyon.

Bombadil is similar to "The Shadow of the Past" and "The Council of Elrond" in revealing layers of the history and nature of Middle-earth and its peoples. While what he says is often confusing, especially if you haven't read The Silmarillion, he produces the right effect. I can't remember the quote closely enough to even search for it, but didn't Tolkien say something in "On Fairy Stories" about glimpsing a far-off horizon without even going there, and that just the long view of the land incited the reader's imagination to feel like they were transported to some place special (vs ordinary)?


Morthoron
Gondor


Dec 25 2019, 5:21am

Post #12 of 76 (975 views)
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Bomadil's parlor trick.... [In reply to] Can't Post

The interplay between Frodo and Bombadil at the dinner table is intriguing, more so since Frodo surrendered the One Ring to Bombadil "at once", without compunction or reluctance, when Tom asked him for it, even though Frodo noted that he had done so "to his own astonishment".

There is, of course, further astonishment when Tom dons the Ring but he does not disappear, and then outright dismay when Bombadil cavalierly spun the Ring into the air and it vanishes. Tom returns the Ring momentarily to Frodo, and only then does the Hobbit display any misgiving or mistrust of Tom (the Ring, evidently, exerting its influence over Frodo once again).

It is the next sequence, in conjunction with Tom's previous interaction with the Ring, that I've always found most interesting. Frodo puts on the Ring, disappears and sneaks away from the table; but Bombadil is not fooled, and, in effect, seems to "see" the invisible Frodo standing by the fireplace.

“Hey! Come Frodo, there! Where you be a-going? Old Tom Bombadil’s not as blind as that yet. Take off your golden ring! Your hand is more fair without it.”

A few things here: not only is Bombadil impervious to the effects of the One Ring, he makes light of it as if it were a trinket, a shiny bauble to be played with; however, once Frodo dons the Ring there is a hint of concern in Tom's voice (Tolkien's use of a couple exclamation points as emphasis). That Bombadil can see Frodo even as he wears the Ring seems to indicate that Tom the "moss-gatherer" is not only Master of his engirdled little land, but he's also able to cross into that spirit realm wherein the Ringbearers reside while wearing the Ring.

Another aspect of the exchange is that although Tom does not infer that the Ring is evil (as "good" or "evil" are not really philosophical concerns of his -- his dialogue with the Old Man Willow already showing his indifference to such questions of morality), but he does say that Frodo's "hand is more fair without it", indicating in a wholly Bombadillian manner that perhaps he sees the Ring as not fair at all.

Interesting to ponder.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



(This post was edited by Morthoron on Dec 25 2019, 5:27am)


sador
Half-elven


Dec 25 2019, 9:04am

Post #13 of 76 (958 views)
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Unadaptable Tom [In reply to] Can't Post

The Bombadil chapters tend to get skimmed or skipped.
Not by me! However, I do admit to not always reading all the poetry - but that is true also of Treebeard, and even the end of The Battle of the Pelennor Fields.



Much as I dislike the movies, I can't fault PJ for skipping straight to Bree.
I shudder to think what you would have thought of his take on it. I guess you would have liked it even less than the movie's rendering of the trolls' scene (I don't know what you think about that one, but I can guess...).

On the other hand (as you seem keenly aware), the Bored of the Rings crew did include Tom in their, err, adaption.



If for a moment one can put oneself back in the mental space of a first-time reader, knowing nothing of the further story or the world in which it is set, Bombadil is a key transition for Frodo
But for many first-time readers, this is a put-off. I remember a couple of members confessing to dropping out of their first reading after it.
As a Bakshi-firster, I did have a clear incentive to plough through this chapter. Only after the second or third reading, I did begin to appreciate it.



Bombadil (far more than Gandalf in Chapter 2) invites us to peer down into it, as if we with Frodo have walked unexpecting up to the lip of the Grand Canyon.
Even more than Treebeard.
And I think this is very connected to his quip: "But who are you, alone, yourself and nameless"? which directly precedes it. Tom not only have been around forever, but has kept his name, meaning his identity - even if it is the identity of an observer. See the discussion here.



This is a marvelous passage, bracketed by the sheep.
I didn't notice that before. Thank you!
In The Hobbit, sheep are either eaten (Roast Mutton, in the Eagles' Eyerie, Smaug talking of Girion's people), or not to be eaten (Beorn's). Here - the sheep are eating themselves.
Also, the sheep are observers - like Tom himself.



kings of little kingdoms, all forgotten.
I haven't checked HoME - but I wonder whether this line goes all the way back to the first drafts.
In which case, the obvious association is to Anglo-Saxon England.




As if to imply that rumours of similar horrors lay in the reader's mind as well, and to invite him to recall them out of childhood nightmares.
Also, there are the hobbits' dreams. I might find the time later for a separate post about them.



Compared to most fantasy authors Tolkien displays very, very little overt magic; rather, as Sam would say of Lorien, "It's right down deep, where I can't lay my hands on it."
Ah, but as Curious pointed out often (for instance, in his reply to the post by a.s. I linked to above; see also here) - Tom is flamboyant about his magic - too much so for LotR.

But speaking of Sam - in The Tower of Cirith Ungol he remembers Tom before he thinks of Galadriel. So he does begin with the more flamboyant magic, before he turns to the Priestess of Varda, who can really help him (Elbereth, not Galadriel!).

There might be a point of philosophy, or even theology, here - but I will not enlarge on it; for one thing, it is not a point I personally agree with.





Thinking about things I don't understand


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Dec 29 2019, 3:56am

Post #14 of 76 (788 views)
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Initiation rites. [In reply to] Can't Post

Many years ago, Curious posted some great comments on the Bombadil chapters (whose magical feeling I adore) and specifically on how the hobbits seem to undergo some rituals as if preparing for knighthood, inclding fasting and an accolade in this chapter.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Dec 29 2019, 5:10am

Post #15 of 76 (779 views)
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o ho [In reply to] Can't Post

I would be very keen to read that. I'll see if I can dig it up I guess but if anybody knew offhand where to find it that'd be nice.


squire
Half-elven


Dec 29 2019, 6:35am

Post #16 of 76 (768 views)
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Why, N E. Brigand can look up that post for you ... or not. [In reply to] Can't Post

I have a pretty good feeling that if NEB had been able to find that cherished post by Curious, he would have. I vaguely remember it, myself. But if it was posted on the Old Boards (note: similarity with the "Old Ones", i.e. mythological beings from a primeval and superior past time), I don' t think it can be 'dug up'. If you succeed, though, please do let us know how you did it!



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'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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squire
Half-elven


Dec 29 2019, 3:10pm

Post #17 of 76 (723 views)
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As a side question, how old does Goldberry look? [In reply to] Can't Post

In an earlier discussion in 2015 I brought this up and didn't get much of a response: Is Goldberry actually described as young, or is she perhaps mature, gracefully aged and filled out, pushing maybe 50 or 60 in appearance? Wouldn't that be a more appropriate companion for Tom the Eldest?

This question came to me back then, I think, because that was the age group I found myself in, and I had noticed that the clear-voiced women pop singers of my youth had aged remarkably, with faces and voices still as pretty as ever. So I illustrated my question with this "picture-thought":



and quote:
"another clear voice, as young and as ancient as Spring,
like the song of a glad water flowing down into the night
from a bright morning in the hills, came falling like silver" - LR I.6 (just before this chapter opens)




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'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Dec 29 2019, 4:39pm

Post #18 of 76 (708 views)
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Beorn again... [In reply to] Can't Post

I was thinking about how Tom B is like an unlike Beorn from The Hobbit, and had a memory of doing a compare when we last read through The Hobbit. And yes, here it is:


Quote
The likeness between Beorn and Tom Bombadill also struck me, reading the chapter this week. The parallels are of course not exact, but in both cases our heroes stay with an enigmatic character who drops out of the story once the guests go outside their borders. People who want to know who or what Beorn is don't get much more answer than those wanting to know who or what Tom Bombadil is. And for me, nowadays, that is perfectly satisfactory: I don't require everything to be tidily explained. A while back we discussed the Stone Giants and suggested that they were the kind of genius loci character that perhaps dropped out of Tolkien's thoughts about Middle-earth during his later tidying-everything-up as the work of Eru phase. That's how I'm seeing Beorn - as a sort of manifestation of nature, and the nature of his particular place.

Reading it that way this time, I did not find Beorn's animal servants annoying and ridiculous. Previously I've seen them as regrettable whimsy; almost a lapse of taste ('get on and write your serious LOTR style, Professor, please - none of your dogs on hinds legs!'). But on this occasion I read a sort of Garden of Eden feel into the arrangement, and it felt oddly appropriate.

Besides , what are you not supposed to ask if you see a dog walking on its hind legs...?.

It all breaks down at night, of course, where the Mr Hyde side of Beorn is highly dangerous and best avoided. I liked that spin on the werewolf trope, though I suppose Beorn is a were-bear (thankfully not a Care Bear) - bears being one of the other animal forms into which berserking warriors would believe themselves changed, I beleive.

Lastly, I notice that this is not the first or last time a band of Tolkien 3rd age heroes will need re-equipping and protection or other support, and will have to talk their way into getting it. Not only Treebeard (who I agree is a bit Beorn like), but Gildor, Theoden (twice), Eomer, Faramir...
I notice that Tolkien often uses the opportunity to give us a new character, and maybe a wholly new kind of creature. I like that - it seems to me to add depth and interest when the plot purpose of re-equipping the party could presumably have been done much more easily (e.g. they arrive at the town of the woodmen, and buy stuff with the gold that it turns out they looted from the Goblin King). Nor can everyone be persuaded to help - as Thorin is going to find in Mirkwood.

NoWizardme, responding to Roverandom's discussion of 'Queer Lodgings' http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=946646#946646


I suppose I'd add to that that both 'Queer Lodgings' and 'In the House of Tom Bombadil' have an 'and then nothing happened' feel. A first-time reader might expect Bilbo &Co. to transgress somehow and be chased away by an enraged bear. Or maybe Tom or Goldberry are going to turn out to be setting soem elborate trap. But both stays seem a bit of a diversion - a chance perhaps to see that Middle-earth mostly goes about its business and isn't all arranged to help or challenge our heroes.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Dec 29 2019, 5:05pm

Post #19 of 76 (708 views)
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'as young and as ancient as Spring' would seem a good answer! [In reply to] Can't Post

I remember this question. I thought (and think again) that it's a good question, but I don't know the answer.

Google images of Goldberry and one sees that a lot of artists have gone for something along the 'generic fantasy babe' line, resulting in many pictures of someone who looks maybe late teens or twenties. There might be a lot of 'male gaze' convention in that choice. But quite aside from what age of person is the conventional 'generic fantasy babe', I think the hobbits' reactions are more 'awe' than 'phwor'.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Dec 29 2019, 6:29pm

Post #20 of 76 (693 views)
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It's a trap! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Or maybe Tom or Goldberry are going to turn out to be setting some elaborate trap.


That's exactly what I thought on first read, thinking this was going to be Hansel & Gretel finding a too-perfect house in the woods with over-friendly inhabitants. The dark dreams the hobbits had at night seemed like a warning. The way Bombadil played with the Ring was another warning. I thought they'd need rescuing from him!

I don't think we're intentionally misled. I think Tolkien just wanted it to seem like a strange place housing strange people with strange abilities.


Solicitr
Rohan


Dec 29 2019, 7:19pm

Post #21 of 76 (691 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I suppose I'd add to that that both 'Queer Lodgings' and 'In the House of Tom Bombadil' have an 'and then nothing happened' feel. A first-time reader might expect Bilbo &Co. to transgress somehow and be chased away by an enraged bear. Or maybe Tom or Goldberry are going to turn out to be setting soem elborate trap. But both stays seem a bit of a diversion - a chance perhaps to see that Middle-earth mostly goes about its business and isn't all arranged to help or challenge our heroes.


Something eventually does happen; in Bombadil's case in the very next chapter; in Beorn's case the payoff is much longer delayed and much more satisfying. (Bombadil turns up on the Pelennor and smooshes the Witch-king? Nah, I don't see it). Again, I don't think Tom is as successful as Beorn, except as Captain Worldbuilder. What they do have in common though is immense power which is hinted at but which the protagonists don't really see until they're really in it and that power comes to their rescue, unexpectedly.


Morthoron
Gondor


Dec 30 2019, 3:17am

Post #22 of 76 (635 views)
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But I think Tom was successful... [In reply to] Can't Post

...and his contributions were as subtle as the manner in which he defeated Old Man Willow (lulling him to sleep), or banished the Barrow-wights (with direct sunlight) -- neither brought down by direct confrontation.


Quote
(Bombadil turns up on the Pelennor and smooshes the Witch-king? Nah, I don't see it)


Bombadil was, in a sense, at Pelennor; and he did, in fact, directly affect the WitchKing:

"For each of the hobbits he chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and keen, of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and gold. They gleamed as he drew them from their black sheaths, wrought of some strange metal, light and strong, and set with many fiery stones. Whether by some virtue in these sheaths or because of the spell that lay on the mound, the blades seemed untouched by time, unrusted, sharp, glittering in the sun."

Bombadil knew the lineage of the blades, and who had wielded them. He most probably knew of their "virtue" and the spells laid on them. What a perfect gift to give Hobbits being chased by Ring-Wraiths, don't you think?

He also knew the "sons of forgotten kings", the Rangers, "guarding from evil things folk that are heedless."And then to send the Hobbits to the Prancing Pony, which was oft frequented by the very Rangers who he had alluded to? It would seem more than coincidence in both cases.

Just another brilliant and subtle addition by Tolkien that weaves seemingly disparate storylines into the web of a greater tale.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



noWizardme
Half-elven


Dec 30 2019, 2:38pm

Post #23 of 76 (582 views)
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And maybe it is (a trap) [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm remembering DanielLB's week discussing the Barrow Downs chapter in our last LOTR read-through - if we assume that Middle-earth's weather works like real-Earth's does, then Goldberry's rain-making was pretty certainly going to lead to fog on the Barrow Downs. Whether someone intended that to be a trap, or exploited the circumstances to make a trap, is harder to say.

Here's DanielLB's chapter discussion http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=833065#833065

and here's his essay, back in the says when we did those, about fog formation in more detail http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=670204#670204


...and of course Fog on the Barrow Downs is an excellent chapter. Surely it's someone's favourite and they'd like to put themselves on the schedule....

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Dec 30 2019, 2:45pm

Post #24 of 76 (583 views)
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And how many legs does Goldberry have? [In reply to] Can't Post

Tom says he's no weather-master and 'neither is aught that goes on two legs'.

But Goldberry is distinctly doing something to the weather....

ergo....?

Or more likely "when it's 'er go, it rains cats and dogs and we stay inside to listen to stories'.Wink

Hmmm - perhaps someone can be a weather-worker without being a weather-master (just as someone can do kung-fu without being a kung-fu master)?

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Dec 30 2019, 3:16pm

Post #25 of 76 (580 views)
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But is Tom 'explained' by the larger narrative? [In reply to] Can't Post

Certainly our current chapter is bracketed by occasions on which Tom rescues the hobbits (from Old man willow, and then from the Barrow). Does that explain him? I'd say not completely, because there seems to be a lot to Tom beyond his role as rescuer and provisoner.

Then, when Tom is discussed in Council of Elrond, it used to read to me that Tolkien was simply plugging the plot-hole he'd made. That is, I used to think that the discussion of 'why we can't hide the Ring' only needed to incldue Tom because readers will remember Tom and wonder whether he could be helpful here. I don't think that now - I think Tolkien is making a point about the limits of passive resistance to evil. If so, then that probably explains the episode in which Frodo hands his Ring over and it has no efect on Tom. As I read it, Tom just is not interested in the Ring so he's Teflon as far as it is concerned: it can't get any purchase on him. Under Tom's enchantment, Frodo is similarly careless about the Ring - for a moment at least.

So it feels to me that there are many things in the current chapter that aren't necessary for the wider plot. And, perhaps that's a common reaction. At least, a lot of reader reaction to Tom seems to be to find him anoying, confusing, or to assume that Tom is a puzzle to solve.

One thing fell into place for me with the OP of this thread - it's the writing.

Then I think that maybe Tolkien really does want to risk possible confusion among his readers to show us part of Middle-earth that really isn't built around Frodo and his adventure.


Of course this chapter could be partly just whimsy - Tolkien includes a bath scene at Crickhollow for no better reason (as far as I can tell) than because he's got a bath song he wants to include. Maybe similar thougths led to the inclusion of Tom and Goldberry? I used to think it was mostly that - that this chapter was a rather self-indulgent misfire - but it does seem out of character for Tolkien.

~~~~~~
The Reading Room 'favourite chapters' project. http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=967482#967482 Each week, someone presents a favourite chapter from The Hobbit, LOTR or the Silmarillion. Just sign yourself up onto the schedule if you can lead a chapter.

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