Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Outline of Sections Regarding Tom Bombadil

Because of the growing popularity of this page and the responses I have been getting I posted an outline which describes each of the eleven sections (with links) for easy navigation. If you have any questions you can first read the related section to see if it is addressed there. (FYI this theory is an attempt to explain Tom's origins from within the created work of Middle Earth as found in the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, etc. Theories which try to explain his significance outside of this world are not addressed.)

Thank you all so much for taking time to read this theory and to interact with it. Please feel free to share this theory with other Tolkien fanatics.


1. Pop-Culture Theories: In this newly added section I explain why certain popular theories are impossibilities--Tom is God, Tom is Tolkien, & Tom is evil. These theories are like a bad disease which will not die despite the fact that they have no real evidence for existing. I also address why we can have hope that an answer does exist.

2. Introduction: In this section I introduced the three major theories and I establish a method to evaluate these theories by establishing three facts or questions which any theory must attempt to answer to be considered legitimate. These three questions are: Tom's unique power and his unique limitations, Tom's relationship with the Ring, and Tom being described as eldest, fatherless, and first.

3. Valar Theory: In this section I weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the Valar theory in light of the three questions. In the end, I argue this theory, though strong on some points, is ultimately flawed for many reasons.

4. Maiar Theory: Here I put forth the case against the Maiar theory of Tom's origins. Again, the three questions are applied to this theory and I argue that there are major problems for this popular theory.

5. Nature Spirit: In this section I weigh the strengths and weaknesses of viewing Tom as either a spirit of the forest or as the Spirit of Arda. Again, the three questions will be applied to this theory and I argue that while there is strength to be found in this theory it possesses some great weaknesses and that it cannot fully answer all of the questions.

6. A Way Forward: In this section I argue for the legitimacy of this conversation and suggest that Tolkien knew exactly who/what Tom was. I introduce Tolkien's description of Tom as an enigma. Being an enigma our theories should view Tom as a one-of-a-kind creature which none of the other theories do. In the end I introduce my theory.

7. Music Theory: In this section I begin by defining my theory. Then I move on to address some initial objections. And finally, I build my theory by looking at what Tolkien has revealed to us about Tom in his writings and what we know of the Music of the Ainur, Ungoliant, and Goldberry.

8. Answering the Questions: Now that the theory has been well established, I apply the same three questions I applied to the other theories and I answer them in light of Tom being the Incarnation of the Music. Here it is demonstrated that this theory can answer all three in a fuller fashion than the other theories and does so with much less baggage.

9. Conclusion: I summarize what we have discovered about Tom and add some closing reflections.

10. Post Script: I added a section to address the growing popularity of the theory which suggests Tom is the Flame Imperishable. This theory is built off of my theory, but as I point out it in this section it introduces many weaknesses. I added this post on 12/17/14 though I edited the post date to keep the desired order of my blog.

11. Post Post-Script: I was asked to critically analyze a newish Bombadil theory by its author and I obliged. In this section I explain why Tom cannot be the audience or a Maia according to the premises laid out in this rival theory. (Warning this section is far too long).

P.S. If anyone desires to reach me with questions, comments, or for any reason you can at rangerfromthenorth53@gmail.com


  1. Hello Ranger. I'm Brazilian, and I came to know your theory in a Brazilian Tolkien fan-site, and I was really surprised, because, five years ago, I thought of something similar to it. I wrote in another fan-site, in a post about the identity of Bombadil: "Eu penso que ele é um encontro apaixonado das vozes de Aulë e Yavanna na Ainulandë, e assim ele pode ter a aparência de um anão e ser o senhor da floresta. Ele poderia não ter cobiça alguma por achar que já tinha tudo o que precisava, e Fruta D'Ouro pode ter sido um presente de Yavanna Kémentari." Translated it is something like this: "I think he is a passionate encounter of the voices of Aule and Yavanna in Ainulindalë, and so he can have the appearance of a dwarf and be the lord of the forest. He might not have any greed because of the thinking that he had everything he needed, and Goldberry may have been a gift from Yavanna Kémentari." So I came here just to say that I appreciate your opinion, you developed it better than me (I was 12 in 2008...). Sorry for my bad english. xD

  2. It is strange that this is never mentioned, although it is in many ways obvious and arrived at as an explanation by a number of Finns independently: Tom bombadil is "Väinämöinen" from Kalevala. Or a figure that is essentially transplanted from that mythology. Väinämöinen is also "oldest and fatherless", he does magic by song, he was present at the time or creation. There is a whole chapter devoted to this in "Tolkien and the Invention of Myth: A Reader" by Jane Chance (Editor). There are also many other parallels mentioned in that book. I think maybe the reason few people consider this is that it is difficult to think like Tolkien. He was an English language professor, intimately knew Kalevala, the Finnish national poetic epos, and borrowed many details to his own stories. What would he have thought as the root of a figure like Tom Bombadil? He probably never managed to fully integrate Tom into his mythos, but liked to keep him there anyway, because he liked Kalevala so much. And Väinämöinen is the most central figure in the whole epos, but at the same time the most mysterious as it is never explained where he comes from and how, only that he is the "eldest and fatherless". So maybe he did actually integrate Väinämöinen perfectly!

  3. Hi, I have a question about Tom. I've read the whole theory and i find it very plausible, so perhaps you can also say this: why was Tom included in the storyline on your opinion? The question might have already been answered, but i might have overlook the answer, because i'm new to the fandom. I've watches the films of course, but just finished the book for the first time. Tom is not present in the films, and he interested me. I found the book to be more consistent than the films, so Tom must be there on definite purpose. I do have some thoughts on this matter but i'd like your opinion as obviously you know Tolkien works very well

    1. Tolkien has addressed your question in his letters. I do not have them in front of me, but I shall summarize. He gave us at least two reasons. First, because he had invented Tom before LoTR and wanted an adventure along the way. Second, because Tom represents certain things that would otherwise be left out without him. One of those things is his "natural pacifism," as Tolkien puts it, when it comes to the Great War. The other, I believe, is his role as the spirit of the music. I hope this helps!