The Forge of Tolkien Episode 4: Who is Tom Bombadil?
Enigma or allegory? Unimportant or essential? Tom Bombadil is Master—but what does that mean for the hobbits and their adventure? Professor Rachel Fulton Brown traces Tom Bombadil to his source in story and song.
I have to admit, Tom Bombadil was always my second-least-favorite part of The Lord of the Rings, following only the interminable slog through what I gradually came to thing of as Bordor. In fact, come to think of it, my unexpectedly popular spin on the violent cultures of the Orcs, Trolls, and Goblins is probably an unintended response to how I felt Tolkien left unaddressed what could, and should, have been a tremendously interesting aspect of the novels.
But back to Tom Bombadil. Both he and Beorn are glimpses of a larger world, which in Bombadil’s case are more interesting for the glimpse than for the character himself. Which, of course, is why the character inspires debate even to this day.