(What follows is post 8 of 11 exploring the mystery of Tom Bombadil)
Answering the Questions: Tom as the Incarnated Spirit of the Music of the Ainur
As we approach these questions let us think back just for a moment. The other three major theories to explain Tom are: he is a Vala, he is a Maia, or he is a Nature Spirit. Each one of these theories has loyal followers and as laid out above each one of these theories has fatal flaws which doom them to failure and are unable to give satisfying answers in at least one of these areas. The three questions are: explaining Tom’s unique power and its limitations, Tom's relationship to the Ring, and explaining Tom as eldest and as being existent before the Dark Lord entered. Here follows my defense of my theory in light of these three questions and possible objections.
Here at this point we find great strength for this theory. While most theories struggle with answering why Tom has both great power over a wide variety of subjects and yet cannot hope to overcome either Ringwraiths nor Sauron; this theory has no such problem. Why does Tom have the power in his voice to correct Old Man Willow and the demon in the Barrow? Because these are corruptions of things which find their essence in the Music of the Ainur. They have been corrupted by the Discord of Melkor. Tom, who both “knows the tune” and whose “songs are stronger”, is able to tap into the Music themes to battle against their very corrupted essence in the Music. He knows the tune to correct them; this is indeed a great knowledge to possess.
Another area of concern is why is Tom limited to such a small area? The answer stems from several factors. First, as we read in the Council of Elrond Bombadil's current limitations are set by himself and his territory used to be much larger. He has chosen to self-limit himself physically to the Old Forest and Barrow Downs and he is said to be waiting for the world to change. This change is, as I would suggest, the downfall of Sauron and the ending of the Discord of Melkor. The second reason Tom has limited himself comes from his love and obsession with Goldberry. Tom is constantly saying to the Hobbits that he needs to get back to Goldberry, so it seems logical to suggest that she is the reason why Tom has limited his boundaries.
Why though is it said of Tom that he would not recognize the need to protect the Ring and why would he lose it? Surely the Spirit of the Music would see the importance of the Ring? This is indeed one the most difficult objections for any theory but here there is a clear answer. Tom’s “illogical” behavior is tied to his love for music, if his essence is found in melody it should be no surprise he lives in the moment. Indeed, things which are not in their core found in the Music of the Ainur (the Ring) would have no hold over his mind. The Ring, and evil for that matter, has no hold over his mind because it is antithetical to his existence, two musics at utter variance.
Moreover, being Tom is the Music of the Ainur he both knows he does not have power to overcome the Discord of Melkor and he knows an end has been appointed for this Discord by Iluvatar. In other words, Tom does not see the need because he is a determinist. He has seen the playing out of all the themes of Music. He knows the end with which Iluvatar has appointed and all he must do is wait for it. Tom also recognizes it is the third theme, the Children of Iluvatar, is the chief means that brings about an end to the Discord. So, to even the toughest question in Tom’s character, one where many theories fail, we find a reasonable solution in this theory. This entire question is an area of great strength for this theory.
This has been eluded in the above section so it will be dealt with quickly here. Tom is not affected by the Ring and has no desire for it precisely because he is the Music of the Ainur and the Ring comes from the Discord of Melkor. These two themes are utterly at variance. Tom has no desire for domination and the Ring holds no sway over him because even though he is connected with the world his origin is from outside of it. Tom's origins are thus not limited to the created order of Middle Earth. That is the great advantage of this theory, Tom's origin is unique and from outside of the created realm all-the-while it keeps him intimate with the creation. While the Maiar and Nature Spirit theories have a hard time explaining why Tom has no desire for the Ring and no power over it, my theory answers it rather easily. Tom is the Master, but he has no ownership, he is not tempted by the lies of the enemy because he is not under this created order. He is both in the world but his essence comes from outside of it. So he has no power over the Ring and cannot destroy it, which the Aule theory cannot answer, because the Ring derives its power and existence at the heart of the Discord of Melkor. Also, at his very core Tom is good because he is of the Music of the Ainur. He is pure, as Tolkien describes him, and what is more pure than the Music? Not nature, for we see nature is corrupted constantly but Morgoth and Sauron. Yet the Music of the Ainur is at variance with the corrupting Discord of Melkor. So here yet again we find great strength for this theory for it can adequately answer both spectrums of Tom’s relationship with the Ring.
This question is generally answered pretty well by other theories but not as fully as this theory can. The answer to Tom being Eldest is rather simple. In the beginning Iluvatar creates via the medium of the Music of the Ainur, so as far as creation goes the Music is first, it is Eldest. This also explains well why Tom can say he was existent before Melkor entered. Melkor’s first entering is really into the Music via the Discord. So the advantage here is that my theory brings Melkor’s entrance back an extra step to the very beginning. Tom was there before the Darkness entered, and we are told Darkness enters before Arda is created (which is a problem for the nature spirit theory). This theory can place Tom there before Darkness was created like he said he was, and it does so without introducing difficulties, elsewhere like the Maiar and Valar theories do.
The difficult part of this question is dealing with the statement of that Tom would be last to die if Sauron would win. The theory that Tom is the Spirit of the Earth fails at this point because Sauron means to rule the earth but not totally destroy it. But the theory that Tom is an Incarnated Spirit of the Music of the Ainur explains Tom as last to die in Middle Earth perfectly. Theoretically, if Sauron should win and dominate the entire planet then the Music of the Ainur will have been brought to an end in Middle Earth and the Discord of Melkor will have won. So the last thing to leave will not be the Earth but the hope and goodness of the Music of the Ainur. He was first and he shall be last. The two Musics competed for dominance and when one wins the other shall cease to be. Here again in the third and final question we find a perfect explanation from this theory that no other theory can provide.