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> Possibly the least liked character in The Lord of the Rings. A childish figure so disliked by fans of the book that few object to his absence from all adaptations of the story.

I've been a fan of Tolkien for decades, and this doesn't match up with my experience at all...Tolkien fans seem to generally love Tom, and many were deeply disappointed that he wasn't in the movies (even though his exclusion makes perfect sense). Did I just run in different Tolkien circles than the author?




Absolutely thought "I must be living in a bubble" when I read this: I don't think I've spoken to a single book-reader who wasn't vocally disappointed by the omission of Tom from the films. He was certainly one of mine & my sibling's favourite characters.


Agree. Tom represented a couple of things for me when reading the books.

First, he represented all the small pockets of unknown magic that could exist in Middle Earth. I would stare at the map of Middle Earth in the front of the book and wonder about the parts not covered in either The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. What strange things might be there? Tom heightened my sense of wonder about the world.

But second, Tom showed up just as the hobbits seemed to have met their darkest hour. You can dismiss this as deus ex machina on the part of the author, but it was a needed break from the stress and anxiety that had been building to a crescendo at that point. And I thought perhaps Tolkien was suggesting that sometimes you have to trust in the benevolence of strangers — or that some higher power is watching over the most vulnerable.


And beyond that, I thought the first half or so of this reading (that Bombadil is a lot more than meets the eye) was also common.

But he is definitely one of the most interesting characters and one of the best ways the story shows it is taking place in a big world with a lot of different things going on.


> the first half or so of this reading (that Bombadil is a lot more than meets the eye) was also common

Certainly that he's more than meets the eye (that seems plain) but the conclusions here seem less common...

I think it's interesting to contrast the speculation in this article with the depiction of elves in The Hobbit (book) - much less obviously a benign force than as portrayed in LoTR.

The author's assumption - accepted as given at the outset - is that the "evil" within the Old Forest is genuine, rather than a representation of a certain perspective. The thesis is then that Bombadil must be guilty by association.

This initial assumption seems simplistic to me. A common trait of mystical (especially nature-connected) beings in northern European mythology (at least!) is a duality of intent - being a perhaps-positive yet untrustworthy force. This seems reflected in a lot of Tolkien's world; while Sauron / the Ring / others do have a more directly corrupt "evil" attributed to them, there's much more ambiguity elsewhere - it says of Old Man Willow that "his heart was rotten, but his strength was green": rotten != evil and in the context of nature has positive connotations (alcoholic fermentation) elsewhere in his writings. Green isn't necessarily positive either, but the usage here is notable.


It's admittedly in a different part of the book, so may be linguistic styling rather than lore-indicative, but the Old Forest felt more "wild" than "evil."

In the Old Forest, there were certainly dangers, including some lethal ones, but loosely organized and operating independently. More druidic.

Whereas Sauron / Morgoth were far more hierarchical in structuring their domains, exerted dominion over their forces, and attempted to implement a master plan.


The forests are selfish and harsh to outsiders but wish merely to sit and be left alone. The evil of Sauron and Saruman is their wish to spread and dominate (which puts Saruman in direct conflict with the forest, to his loss).


The old forest to me was always the Ent wives gone wild


It's possible to have a disorganized evil! Maybe I just like a secret villain.

I always assumed a component of the forest was a way to keep Hobbits at home and home with the Hobbits.


Interesting, because I've always seen the hobbits as being so insular that they wouldn't need any conspiracy forest to keep them inside the Shire: it was such a paradise (and most hobbits so "boring") that nobody felt any desire to venture outside. Bilbo and Frodo were very much viewed with suspicion for their world-wandering ways, after all.


The surrounding dangers are the mechanism for preserving the coziness and insulation. That's my view anyway!


Definitely #iRestockYaoiInTheBibleSection #chaoticEvil


I read the books as a kid, twice. I was glad they left Tom out of the movies. I mean, what he means to the story and the mythology is STILL being debated, 40 years after I read the books, and that was decades after they had been written. If Jackson had included him in the movies, he would have had to make an interpretation about his nature, one way or the other, or face endless waves of criticism from people (casuals) who don't understand that the character was left vague in the writing. I'm glad he didn't try to nail it down in the medium of film.


The thing is, he didn't need to be in the movies _per se_ --- they just needed to have the Hobbits swallowed up by Old Man Willow, then fade to black, then they awaken on the Barrow w/ a couple of swords, and the ponies tied up nearby, and a figure riding away on a pony humming/singing a tune.

Folks who had read the books would know what had happened, folks who hadn't would just have to accept it as a magical incident/rescue w/o explanation.


IIRC, there is a scene in the extended cut of the RotK that alludes to this part of the story.


Did they also remove Aragorn tossing swords onto a bed in the Prancing Pony?


Jackson would've had to make an interpretation about his presentation, not about his nature. I see no reason a similar approach to his literary description couldn't be achieved cinematically.

Fwiw I would've cast Tom Waits. And had musical scenes.


> He was certainly one of mine & my sibling's favourite characters.

Why? He doesn't actually do anything except drone on and on about the color of his boots. He doesn't advance the story in any way (which is why it is so easy to omit him in adaptations).


He's extremely mysterious and in a good way. He is one of the only characters able to just casually put on the one ring with seemingly no effect and then give it back immediately afterwards. I think he gives off eldritch horror vibes, but in a mostly benevolent way. If everyone else were ants, he would be an etymologist intrigued by our behavior or something.


> He is one of the only characters able to just casually put on the one ring with seemingly no effect and then give it back immediately afterwards.

OK, that's fair enough. But to my mind, this is just a setup that cries out for an explanation that never comes. It's a major flaw in the dramatic structure of the narrative, a bug not a feature.

But I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree about that.


Not to pile on, but...

One of Tolkien's goals was to create something which resembled history rather than literature. Or if not history, then mythology that plausibly belongs to a real place, rather than a neatly-constructed story. So, some of the things that he does are "janky" from a purely dramatic perspective, but fulfill that purpose.

A common example from Lord of the Rings is having many related characters with the same or similar name. The convention in literature is to make characters distinguishable for practical reasons, but in "real" history naming conventions are messy and people aren't always distinguishable. There are even real debates among historians about whether a name refers to multiple people or not!

Tom Bombadil is a similar thing. He serves no dramatic purpose. But a history, or a mythology, doesn't always have events that fit together in a neat way. Sometimes stuff just happens, or there are things that are only tangentially related. And it's difficult to draw a circle around events and say inside the circle is our story, and outside the circle not our story. There are other stories, intersecting.


In part, I think it's one of the ways he mimics the form of books like Beowulf or Gilgamesh or other works of that sort—that kind of thing tends to be full of digressions and whole scenes that simply seem like mistakes—dragging down the "momentum", not "advancing the plot"—if you're going by modern very-focused standards of what constitutes acceptable plotting, which of course is the kind of thing most people are used to reading/watching.


See, that's the best part. It's what makes people "fall into" Middle Earth. That there was whole parts of the backstory that don't get explained. That there are periods of history you get a glimpse into to believe there is a huge depth to it. That the way we see the continent now is not how it always was. Who were the barrow wights? Why were they cursed?

As a kid first reading it, I feared the barrow wights as much if not more than the Nazgul.

The whole aside was to show that the hobbits had truly "left the Shire" and that perils lay along the road in any direction they might turn. But, again, there were allies or, at least, guides all along that road as well.

Bombadil and Old Man Willow are a foreshadowing of the Ents to come.


> The whole aside was to show that the hobbits had truly "left the Shire" and that perils lay along the road in any direction they might turn.

OK, but Tom doesn't strike me as particularly perilous. He just seems weird.


The naive reader’s expectation of conformity to dramatic structure is an expectation that plenty of authors have played with, for reasons including stylistic effect, subtext, and for fun. It’s not a flaw, bug, feature, or other arbitrary and inappropriate use of software jargon.


Chekhov's Gun is but one playwright's opinion on what makes for "correct" dramatic structure.

As others have also stated, Tom is one of my favorite characters purely because he is left so unexplained. Tolkien sought to create a world. In order to create a world [0], it doesn't make sense for the whole of that world to be defined by a singular story or set of events. Least of all a world created by an author who so dearly loved folklore and mythology.

[0] an interesting one, anyway.


It's not that I'm taking Chekhov's Gun as an axiom. The rest of LOTR hangs together quite well on this criterion. I'm judging Tom by that standard. Gollum, for example, makes sense. In fact, Gollum is probably one of the best examples of a dramatically coherent character in all of literature. He is introduced as a bit player and ends up being a pivotal and very complex character, almost a protagonist in his own right. But that only happened (and let me apologize in advance for venting some frustration here) because he didn't just fucking vanish after being introduced!


How would one demonstrate a character who is so powerful that they can "just fucking vanish" without having them do just that?

You could go on to explain that fact or similar, but I think driving home that point any more than Tolkien did just muddies it and makes it more clumsy.


I meant that Tom vanishes from the story. He doesn't vanish from Middle Earth.


David Lynch directing The Lord of the Rings would be a fascinating experiment. Lynch would make the experience of the Ring-bearer, in particular, sublime.


You would probably like Richard Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" then.


The goal to some is the journey and not the destination. I wish I had a link, but there's a TikTok of some woman that always thought the Lord of the Rings looked stupid, but then her partner mentioned that it had all this backstory lore like the family trees and she then read all the books in like a week. She didn't care about the ring or Sauron, just the fun world building. I'm fairly similar.


How do you feel about the works of David Lynch?


I have a system that I use to rate movies: "Must see", "Worthwhile", "Wait for the video" and "Don't waste your time." After watching Mulholland Drive I had to invent a fifth rating: "I want those two hours of my life back."

Does that answer your question?


> Does that answer your question?

Ha! Yeah. At least you're consistent :-)

Lynch fills his works with characters and scenes that are—at best—plot-adjacent, whimsical/incongruous/uncanny, and full of often-unexplained and apparently-metaphysical mystery or magic. He's as likely to let mood or theme drive the content of and editorial-decision-to-include a scene or a shot or an entire character(!), as plot. It makes sense you'd dislike his stuff if you don't like the Bombadil section of LOTR.

(this is not intended as some kind of judgement, to be clear, I was just curious if works with similar qualities had the same effect for you, or it was something specific to that kind of element being in LOTR in particular, maybe because of the context or something)


It's both. I like a story to go somewhere, to have a point. I want it to at least be possible to figure out what the fuck is going on, even if it requires some effort and isn't obvious on a first reading (or viewing in the case of movies). In fact, the best stories are the ones where you have to do some work (The Godfather is my poster child). But if I put in the work, I want it to at least be possible that I could figure it out.

LOTR is mostly like that. Most of the events make sense in the context of the overall arc of the narrative. If you ask, "Why is this scene here?" there is usually an answer.

Except Tom. He appears, puts on the ring, fails to disappear -- which is quite extraordinary! --- and that's it. The end. Toodle-oo. Vanishes entirely from the story without so much as a by-your-leave. Why was he introduced? To this day I have no idea. And that is why Tom bothers me particularly. With Lynch you know what you're getting. Tom seems like a bit of a bait-and-switch.


> He is one of the only characters able to just casually put...

He is the only character in the middle earth that can do that actually. The ring, and its immense power, has control over everyone else incl. Gandalf, Galadriel, and Sauron.


> If everyone else were ants, he would be an etymologist intrigued by our behavior or something.

Just in case it wasn't a typo, you certainly meant 'entomologist'.


Someone who studies ents?



Tom represents the Great Mystery, the great unknown of the beyond that is all seeing and all knowing and all powerful. Omitting him is like omitting the whole premise of the book.

It's like making a movie based on the Bible but omitting the Resurrection of Jesus.


Sorry, but that just doesn't compute for me at all. Tom is a silly character with no gravitas. He puns his own name just to make it rhyme with "yellow" -- over and over again. And there is nothing in Tom's story that is even remotely comparable to the Resurrection. The Resurrection is a key event in the Bible story. It is something that happens to change the dramatic arc of all mankind. In Tom's story, nothing happens at all.

The scene at Mount Doom where the Ring is finally destroyed is analogous to the Resurrection, not Tom Bombadil.


Tom is perhaps silly, but just the fact that he can is seemingly immune to all the Ring can do (with it being implied to be the most powerful artifact in all of Middle Earth, strong enough to even influence Maia like Gandalf) makes him have enough gravitas. If anything, his silly antics make him even more intriguing: how did he gain that power and is it because or despite his silliness?


He's more the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime. Who is he? Why does no one know of him?

Incongruent facts are always interesting. IMO.


> He doesn't advance the story in any way

He advances the world and builds context for many elements in the later story. Fangorn has many parallels to the Old Forest, and much of the storyline involving Ents & Huorns benefits from the context given by the earlier encounters with Tom's neighbouring spirits (and his enchantment of them).


His boots _are_ yellow, though. Truth is on his side!


I was mostly bummed the barrow-wights were utterly missing from the movies.


Now you can speak to one!

Perhaps it was the age when I first read the books (~12 or so years old) – but I loved the contrasts between the cozy world of the hobbits and the more savage, epic nature of the rest of Middle-earth.

For me, Tom Bombadil never fit well into either of these categories. There was a while where I heard about Tom Bombadil potentially being Eru Ilúvatar, but that theory has been found pretty lacking in various aspects, as well as having been debunked by Tolkien himself.


I for one was more relieved than disappointed. I never bothered with the Hobbit films, and don’t plan to see the forthcoming Amazon production.


Possibly. But I know a lot of people who find Tom irrelevant to the plot. It looks more like a silly digression just at the time the book had shifted from "Hobbit sequel" to serious epic. He talks in poetry that can feel singsong and childish.

Tolkien fans seem to focus on the bit with the Ring, which is an engaging enigma without a resolution. It makes him seem very important and powerful, but the story doesn't explore it much. It's a small part of a chapter that otherwise can feel like a distraction.

So a lot of fans, I think, are happy to see him go so you can get to better developed characters like Elrond and Aragorn. There is a lot more going on in that chapter, especially if you read it closely, but I can see why a lot of people are happy to skip on to the barrow wights, where the stakes are higher. Even if the ending to it is just "Tom comes back to fix it".


The comments on this thread make it seem more likely that your circle of people who disliked Tom is the outlier rather than those of us who thoroughly enjoy him as a character.

Also, I submit as evidence this scifi.stackexchange thread: https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/1586/who-or-what-w...

I think Tolkien fans, on average, have long enjoyed the mystery that is Tom.


> I think Tolkien fans, on average, have long enjoyed the mystery that is Tom.

If there's one thing a true lore fan adores, it's an ambiguous but textually-supported mystery.

And also, it's fitting that Tolkien left a big "Is Deckard a replicant?" mystery untied in the Ring trilogy.


Huh. It never occurred to me that Deckard could be a replicant. That truly did come out of left field :D But it makes sense.


Scott was unusually-for-a-movie subtle about it, and it's easily lost in the atmosphere. More or less, depending on which film cut. Makes re-watching even more fun though!


I had to tell a couple people (generally college aged) to skip that chapter in order to get them to continue reading the books (around the time that the movies were coming out), as he wasn't important to the rest of the narrative. I know I was questioning if I wanted to finish the books when I read that part in 6th grade. The rest of it obviously made up for it.

From your link, the set of comments under the first answer also shows there is clearly a debate.


I'm not arguing that there aren't some people who don't enjoy Tom, only that it's not a clear and overwhelming majority. The comment arguing that Tom is extraneous has 5 votes, on an answer with over 400. Though, to be fair, that's a self-selected sample, because Tolkien fans who aren't that interested in Tom probably wouldn't click on the question. But still, I think more evidence has been provided in this thread and that one for Tolkien fans enjoying Tom as a whole than for fans not enjoying him.

It's pedantic to argue about really, but hey, it's the internet! And what better way to take a break from beating one's head against one's cloud provider than to have a gently pedantic argument about something that matters not one bit on the internet ;)


Your experience isn’t everyone’s. Your friends missed out in my opinion.

Tom = awesome


That experience was mine, and I believe most of my college gamer friends.


You need new friends


I have a large circle of friends with a wide diversity of opinions about Tom. It's not representative, so I have no idea who is an outlier. But I understand why each of them sees it the way they do, and I'm certain that none of them is unique in their outlook.

I believe a stackexchange conversation is a very skewed set of Tolkien fans, who are there specifically to discuss those kinds of questions. There are many ways to be a fan of Tolkien.


> But I know a lot of people who find Tom irrelevant to the plot.

Probably the people who most need to understand why he is in there.


I like Tom a lot but my own theory as to why he is in The Lord of the Rings is because Tolkien had already created him. You get a sense that the world-building Tolkien did began with a somewhat more fairytale-like world with characters like Tom Bombadil. First The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings took the world up to something less childish, more ... Arthurian?

Tom was at that point a round peg in a square hole, but Tolkien shoehorned him in nonetheless.


The History of Middle Earth gives an almost unprecedented insight into how an author works. Which is fortunate, since Tolkien himself is an unprecedented writer.

He had a singular way of revising, almost pathologically, holding some key points utterly fixed and revamping everything else to make them fit. It's why he never finalized The Silmarillion, and why when his son finally did publish it, he discarded a lot of the work done post-Lord of the Rings.

I believe you are correct: Tom was one of those fixed points, for no reason he could explain. He later said that Tom was left as a deliberate mystery. Which is a bit disingenuous, but that's fine. Tolkien worked by instinct, and his works are extraordinary. If his instinct tells him that Tom needed to be in the narrative, that's fine by me.

If other readers are perplexed by it, they will hopefully forgive it long enough to get through the book and read it again. It's very much the kind of book that you won't fully understand in a single reading, if ever.


Notably: plot isn't the only factor at play in a novel (or film, et c.). At least in the good ones.


It provides some pretty key context to where Merry got his blade from and why it is able to break the spell and make the Witch King killable. Bit of a better explanation than Eowyn's "I am no man."


I think “I am no man” is a perfectly good explanation in the movie. It implies that the witch king is relying on a prophesy he doesn’t fully understand (rather than a spell). “If Croesus goes to war, he will destroy a great empire.”


There's also a strong tie between this kind of prophecy and Tolkien's (and Anglo-Saxon literature generally's) love of the riddle form; "riddles in the dark" draws clear inspiration from Vafþrúðnismál, which doubles as both prophecy and riddles. Along these lines, I also recommend Adam Roberts's The Riddles of The Hobbit.


That "I am no man" thing is annoying because it's a loose thread on the tapestry of Middle-Earth. It's obviously a Macbeth reference:

"Fear not, Macbeth; no man that's born of woman. Shall e'er have power upon thee."

In Macbeth that turns out to be a man who was a Caesarean birth but Tolkein thought that was a cheap solution to the problem. A hobbit and a woman, now we're talking.

And if you think about that you realize the ents and huorn were a reference too:

"[he] shall never vanquished be until the Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him"

It turns out that Tolkein confirmed that the huorn and the ents came from his disappointment as a child that the trees in Macbeth were just guys wearing branches.

Once you know that it's hard to look at the books in the same way. You have to compare Denethor's role as unfaithful steward with the stewards in Macbeth and pretty soon you're just running a comparative literature class in your head.

Who's Wormtongue supposed to be? Is he a reference to King Lear's daughters? Is the scene where he tries to marry Eowyn a reference to Richard III?

Aragorn's speech is awfully Henry V, and the return of the Army of the Dead is awfully like the WWI short-story of the Angels of Mons where Henry's army returned to the aid of the British line.

Searching for tropes is a normal part of reading literature but normally you're just looking for parallels. I wish he hadn't included an actual reference to Macbeth to force the issue.


I don't recall it explicitly making him killable? Eowyn still finishes him off in the book without (I assume?) an ambiguously magical blade.

I always thought it was more of a misleading prophecy, very like Macbeth (probably inspired by? Tolkien certainly drew some inspiration from Macbeth in other areas); "No man of woman born" and "Not by the hand of man" are both interpreted as "can't be killed" but really turn out to have very significant loopholes.


Merry's sword was Númenorean, but there was no need of that entire digression to get Merry a Númenorean sword. The movie has Aragorn tell them "here are some weapons, help yourselves", which is just as good.


You can argue that much of the books can be eliminated because they're just not Hollywood, reading is for boomers after all.

The origin of the blade is relevant because they nearly died in getting it, and because it came from the tomb of a prince who himself died battling the Witch King, so in a sense he obtained vengeance from beyond the grave. "Wow, this sword just turned out to be magic, what a coincidence" isn't nearly the same thing.


Film--even a whole trilogy of films--is a different medium from books. Books are in general much more tolerant of diversions that don't move the story forward. Bombadil was pretty much a diversion.

The films also had to deal with the fact that the LoTR books had a lot of material after the ring was destroyed--and that's not even counting all the material in the appendix of RoTK. Say whatever positive things you like about LoTR but the narrative structure of RoTK in particular is a bit of a mess.


I don't think it was "a mess" (just reread it this spring). Books support a lot more alternatives to structuring a story than most movies, with their tight time limits, want to explore.

That doesn't mean movies are better: in fact, movies are clearly more limited and worse, from the point of view of telling long, complicated stories. But people enjoy movies (me too), so... compromises.


Reading is more popular with younger generations than boomers.

Reading had a massive renaissance with gen z and millennials have always read more than boomers.

The idea that the youth consider reading as geeky and boring is itself and outdated idea from the 80’s.


There is even an active sub-reddit of fans: https://old.reddit.com/r/GloriousTomBombadil/

And his absence from the films was remarked upon, negatively in my circles.


> And his absence from the films was remarked upon, negatively in my circles.

Yeah, same. On Tolkien forums in the early to mid 2000's, I think these were the most commented on complaints about the movies:

* No Tom Bombadil

* No Scouring of the Shire

* Movie Faramir vs book Faramir

* The Ents deciding to not help Merry and Pippin at first (tbh, this is the one that still gets me the most. It sort of ruined a key attribute of the Ents just for a tiny bit of extra tension for a short scene.)

I'm probably missing some, but those were the ones I remember coming up the most.


Don’t forget the how the entire character of Gimli the dwarf was replaced with some sort of clown.


They lost me at dwarf tossing.


The axe to the ring was bad enough, but when the character later explicitly suggested that they go through Moria, ranting about food and beer, that’s when I knew we had gotten a clown on our hands. By the time the tossing was discussed, I was thoroughly disillusioned about the character, and expected no better.


With that one line of dialog I was snatched out of this carefully crafted fantasy world and pulled back to our (rather sad) present.


No Saruman vs Gandalf rematch in the original films. It was included in the director's cut but then you could see why they left it out.


Witch King vs Gandalf in the movie distorted a key point about the wizards: they were tasked to assist humans and elves against evil, but not to use their power to defeat the enemy on their own, or to rule over Middle Earth. Saruman tried do do both, and lost eternity for it. Peter Jackson understood that, but chose for theatrical reasons to sweep it aside, just as he did the enigma of the Old Forest and the (in Tolkien's own words) "most important chapter in the book" on the Scouring of the Shire (the author compared it to "the situation in [Britain] after the war").


Well, in literary fandom generally, anything other than faithful transcription from page to screen often generates outrage.


I was mainly irritated that the ents had knees.

That the whole Sauron business was a local and temporary nuisance seems central to the roles of Tom B and the ents. The ents' complaint was, in the end, only with Saruman.


100% agree with you. Tom was my favorite character and an essential one in my opinion. I was one of those people that was deeply disappointed by his absence.

Tom is entirely beyond caring about "good" or "evil". His peace is such a vital contrast to every other character and has stuck with me over time.


> Tom is entirely beyond caring about "good" or "evil". His peace is such a vital contrast to every other character and has stuck with me over time.

Yeah, exactly this. To me, Tom is a part of nature, even moreso than the elves or the ents, which isn't really good or evil. That's another reason I didn't like this post at all. Tom isn't some malicious force, biding his time until Sauron leaves when he can dance upon the corpses of the Hobbits. He's a mystery, a hint at the depth of the world, and a curious aspect of nature.


>Tom is entirely beyond caring about "good" or "evil". His peace is such a vital contrast to every other character and has stuck with me over time.

I think characters like that can make the world seem more... worldly. It gives a perspective that everything doesn't just revolve around the central plot.


A good point. He is an indifferent character, much as nature is indifferent to humanity. However, to “humans” experiencing peril, indifference can feel like evil.


Global Climate Disruption is (1) a looming catastrophe for human civilization, (2) potentially a major setback for us as a species with a population crash from billions to millions, but (3) barely a hiccup to the biosphere, just one among many pulses of extinctions.


Your experience matches my own. For me and my circle Tolkien's works were a draw in part because of how much lore and detail was in the world and yet there were huge mysteries all over that ignite the imagination. Tom was one of those, and as kids he was a source of long debates about how powerful he was, and as we got older and read wider and deeper he still prompts conversation on nature, the nature of power, mystery in story telling - he's the reason I read the Kalevala. Anyway -Tom's awesome and this blog post did not resonate with me much at all, I was glad to see this and most of HN's comments in response.


I’m really surprised by this as well. Every fan I’ve spoken to also believes that he was sorely missed as a point of perspective to the story.

His contentment with his place, and his power. That he was here before this war, and will be here afterward.


I like him in the books, but he also seems like a really good example of why making movies their own thing instead of slavishly following the source material is a good idea. There's no way having the hobbits break the tense flight from the Shire->Rivendale for a weird musical number with an unexplained character who's never referenced again in the story would've been anything but confusing for the film audience.


I agree, the story would have had to go:

Shire -> Buckland -> Old Forest (Tom) -> Bree -> Rivendell

Instead of:

Shire -> Bree -> Rivendell

Part of me still wished he featured; or at least the spirit of Bombadil's relationship to the ring was embodied by something/someone in the story.


Yeah, I've never felt the way about Tom Bombadil that the author implies. I find his character fascinating. But I also understand why Jackson didn't include him in the movies. There's only so much you can do before a movie becomes unwieldy.


Yeah Jackson even explained that in one of his interviews. Bombadil doesn’t really contribute anything to the main plot of the books or the character development of the hobbits. He’s a mysterious interlude that never appears again or has any effect on the plot development or outcome. It just wasn’t possible to justify giving him precious minutes in an already long movie, and would likely have confused audience who hadn’t read the book yet.

But I’m also not aware of anyone who actually dislikes him, as the article asserts.


I was so baffled by reading this opening paragraph that I assumed the entire post was meant to be read as a tongue-in-cheek or "edgy" theory, not a serious discourse on the books. Was I wrong??


No, not wrong. I'm not sure whether the post is serious, or just trying too hard for an edgelord take.


Reading it again as an adult (read outloud in full to my daughter when she was 11 or 12 or so, before watching the movies) I really liked Bombadil. But I didn't dig that section at all when I read the books as a 14 year old. It seemed whimsical and childish. More fairy tale than the overall dark and serious epic tone in the rest of the book.

I see the Bombadil portion and the sections after it as Tolkien making the transition from "I'm writing a sequel to The Hobbit with a similar feel" to "I'm writing a sequel to my Silmarillion, with much more mature and darker themes". I think Bombadil fits more in the style of The Hobbit (fundamentally a children's book) than the larger Quenta Silmarillion.


I stopped taking the article seriously after I read this line. IMO Tom Bombadil was a very likeable character. The author seems to have imagined a problem (where none existed) and then proceeded to explain why it's not a problem. Almost a clickbait.


Yeah, I can't get past that sentence either, and it's the 2nd sentence. I just don't get the impression they know what they're talking about and have serious doubts about spending time reading the rest of it.


There's a bit of selection bias going on w/ Tolkien fans vs readers of the book in general. I know many people who read the and loved the book, disliked the sections on Tom (at least, beyond a few pages of it), and have never participated in any Tolkien fan community. I suspect "fans of the book" meant more the casual rather than the hard-core fan you are alluding to.


I read that and was like, "wait what? I must be a loser for liking him."


Agreed. Back when Aint it Cool News was popular I would see tons of people complaining about Bombadil's absence.

Personally, I hate Tom, not because he is childish, but because of the damn songs.


Hah, I love Tolkien, but I still skip all the songs. They just never work for me in written text.


I was like you once, then I read The Hobbit to my son and had to (HAD TO) sing all the songs to him. It kind of forced me to slow down and appreciate them as atmosphere enhancing and world building that really does improve the experience for me.


Ha! I could say exactly the same thing. The songs ended up being some of the most fun parts to read/sing. Even when some of them made us laugh about how repetitive or strange they were.


I tried to read LoTR when I was 11. I got to Tom Bombadil and just gave up. 70 pages of him singing with no real point. I just couldn't go on.

I finally read it in full around 5 years later.


As a kid I would get bored and skip the Tom Bombadil section - it was only years later as a young adult and I was starting to get deeper into the lore that I found him to be a fascinating character, with deep implications.

Absolutely agree he needed to be dropped from the theatrical release. Would have been nice to see him in the extended edition though.


I think a lot of kids just don't like (or get) poetry in general, and there are lots of verses in LoTR. I guess in most cases they are easy to skip, but not in the Bombadil chapters.

Myself I enjoyed the poetry, but my first reading of Tolkien at the age of 12 was in Russian translation. The poetry was translated absolutely beautifully, and I memorized several poems from the book. But I don't know how I would like the original poetry if English was my first language.

I think the Tolkien's books are very poetic overall, not just the verses, and it's much subtler than just an adventure story of the fight between good and evil. These days, when I re-read LoTR, I do it for this "poetic" value, for impressions, rather than for the story (which I know so well, it becomes just a background)...


The first LotR movie released when I was in grade nine. IIRC, of the 14 students in our class, 11 started reading the books after the movie. Of those, maybe 4 finished. The boredom of Tom Bombadil was the cause of a lot of the dropouts.


I was disappointed he was not in the films, however everyone else I know was glad of this omission. I think his character adds a certain something- maybe something a lot of people don't appreciate. Not including him in the movies, I thought, was a missed opportunity.


I’m disappointed too, but my least favorite thing about the movies is how they made Aragorn so different. He was supposed to be kingly right from the start, taking Anduril from Rivendell and repeatedly shocking the hobbits with his kingliness. The movies made him this reluctant guy who doesn’t want to be king — where in the book he knows it’s his destiny and it makes him a total badass.

Also the fight scenes in the Fellowship.. they haven’t aged great for me. An elf, two men, and a dwarf can kill a hundred orcs? The battles in the book are awesome, but less of a one sided bloodbath. Aragorn cutting off a goblin’s head, which causes them to get freaked the fuck out and retreat. That’s way more believable than that these guys are super warriors who can take down an army when outnumbered 100:1.


I think that I really would have enjoyed the characterization discussed in the linked article, of Bombadil as the dark hand of Mirkwood, provider of the blade that would slay the witchking.

A lot of people likely would have despised such a characterization.


> Did I just run in different Tolkien circles than the author?

Almost certainly. Tolkien fans aren't a monolith, there's plenty of diversity of opinion. I remember seeing these screenshots of a Tolkien forum from 2000 and 2001 of people berating Peter Jackson in the most scathing terms. They were talking about how he's completely ruined Tolkien's legacy.

That said, if you're looking for a Tolkien fan who dislikes Tom - hi, I'm one. Fuck Tom Bombadil. He contributed exactly nothing to the story.


> He contributed exactly nothing to the story.

I see you point, but there are so many chapters in our meandering lives that don't add nothing to our "story". It still does add a layer of depth to the LOTR as others have pointed out. And in a way he acts as a comic Cerberus, scaring away the materialistic minds that want to speedrun through a completely coherent story once again.


>He contributed exactly nothing to the story.

Or, did you just not understand what he contributed?

Why was Tom Bombadil invulnerable to the ring's power? Why was he not tempted by it? If you can't cogently answer that, I feel like you've probably just not yet understood what Tolkein was trying to represent.


> He contributed exactly nothing to the story.

Couldn't the same thing be said of Tolkien's colorful description of the countryside that can go on for pages at a time?


When I was reading the story I could understand that the descriptions of the country side were just for setting the scene.

Whereas this guy takes up pages and pages, to ultimately have no effect on the story at all? Felt like a bait and switch to ten year old me.


Maybe it comes down to a difference of how people approach books? Do you think that everything in a book should ultimately have an effect on the story? Do you think Hugo's descriptions in Les Misérables contribute to the story, or that it should only ever be read in an abridged version?

Personally, I think those things (and Tom!) do contribute a lot to the story, so maybe that's why I liked Tom. There's more to writing than simply telling a story and making everything pertinent to that, and thus there's more to reading. Of course, I also like worldbuilding and would read D&D manuals simply for that, without ever playing sometimes, so another reason why I liked Tom, but I can't help but wonder if it's split into two camps because of how people approach reading and literature.


> He contributed exactly nothing to the story.

He was in the books to add depth, history and verisimilitude to Middle Earth. He was an important part of world building. Tolkien could have left him out and the story would not have suffered but the same could be said for the appendixes and map as well.


I know that there are fans that don't like Tom. Just that it doesn't seem to be dominant or overarching opinion that the author makes it seem like.


My thoughts exactly. I loved Tom Bombadil when reading the book as a child!


Well I'm glad you said that, I was very disappointed he wasn't in the movies. My other friends seemed not to care, or they thought he would be too difficult to portray on camera.


I’ve hated Tom since the first time I read the series, which must be over 40 years ago now. I’ve hated him on every reread. Leaving him out of the films was one of my happiest moments.

Sooooo we exist…?


You and me both. He seems like a copy/paste from some children's book Tolkien had lying around, which he then threw in as filler for LOTR. Of course, hardcore fans come up with more or less tortured explanations for the glaring inconsistencies.

I say that as someone who has held up LOTR as some of my favorite books my whole life. I started re-reading them recently after 20 years and had to quit after Tom Bombadil.


Honestly why would you quit after the Tom Bombadil part if you love everything but his part. He literally doesn't appear at all after the few chapters he takes up.


Yeah I usually try to avoid going “well I never saw that personally,” but even combing through this thread it seems that saying folks generally don’t like Bombadil is a very hot, but also very questionable, take.

I definitely remember many people remarking on his absence and debates about how critical he was (most conceded cutting him made sense it was just a bummer).


I absolutley agree with you! I remember reacting badly seeing first movie in cinemas when they had left out Tom. I brought it up many times with friends that it was the biggest mistake to exclude him, but many argued he is not central to the story. I have never ever heard anyone dislike Tom.

I even read the Tom Bombadill songs child book.


I skipped Tom Bombadil—even on my rereading of the cycle. Completely irrelevant to the story and entirely Tolkien the Old English professor marking time. Absolutely nothing is lost from the quality of story by dropping him, and ignoring him makes the whole series more accessible.

Then again, I’m not one of those folks who considers Tolkien sacrosanct. I generally think that he’s a bit like George Lucas: a pretty good idea guy, some interesting ideas, but not the best person to write the stories.


How would you know when you skipped it?


Because, ~20 pages in, I wanted to throw the book against the wall and never pick it up again. I skipped past the Bombadil chapter and decided that the book was worth reading now that the professorial digression had been skipped.

A good editor would have had it shortened or eliminated.


That is one the top 10 complaints about the movies "No Tom Bombadil?!!". So yeah, entirely wrong.


Yeah, I've gotten a lot of positive comments for my character "Tom Bombabil" in FFXIV. It's kind of an insider thing for who read the books vs who just watched the movies. Personally, I liked him just for carefree and silly he was.


I think it depends on whether or not it's the sort of fan who read the books once, perhaps after seeing the Peter Jackson movies, or the sort of fan who reads them every few years. You are perhaps the latter sort.


I agree! an impish godlike figure that doesn't care all that much about the outside world and wants to sing and dance around in the woods? what's not to love.


I've seen both sides. My first time reading it I think I was just baffled. Now I enjoy him as an enigma.


Since my school days, I have not met anyone who dislikes Tom.




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