The title character of this book is none other than Tom Bombadil, who is featured as the main character of this poem. It is supposed to reflect poetry written by/being told by Hobbits in Buckland, who would be fairly well aquaintanced with Tom Bombadil, although they might not understand him perfectly. The poem have a fairly early origin, being concieved long before Frodo and his company meet Tom.
Tom Bombadil, as we know him is merry and wears a blue jacket, yellow boots, green girlde, leather breeches, and a tall hat adorned with a swan-wing feather. He lives up under Hill, close to the Withywindle. During summertime he walks the meadows and sits by the waterside for hours.
There he meets Goldberry, who pulled Tom’s hair/beard so that he went into the water. He tells her to go down to the bottom of the water and sleep, and she leaves him, Tom sits on the willow-roots in the sun to dry his clothes. Old Man Willow sang Tom to sleep and caught him among the roots. Tom tells hem to let him out and to drink river-water and get back to sleep, the Willow let him loose.
Tom walks along the Withywindle and listens to birds in the forest. It starts to rain and blow, Old Tom took shelter in a hole. There he was caught by a family of Badgers. Tom tells the patriarch Badger to let him go and that their family should go back to sleep, just like Goldberry and Old Man Willow. The Badgers asks forgiveness and show Tom the way out.
It is no longer raining and Tom laughingly get on his way home to under Hill. It gets dark and Tom lits a candle. A Barrow-wight appears, wanting to capture Tom on the hill-top under earth. Tom tells him to leave, shut the door, never come again, and go back to the mound and go back to sleep again. The Barrow-wight leaves. Then Tom Bombadil himself go to sleep, snoring loudly. He could not be caught. He wakes up, whistling and singing a tune.
One day he goes to the river and caught Goldberry, her heart fluttering, he tell her to come with him because in the river she’ll find no lover. They wed – clad in flowers. During night Tom is not disturbed by the noises made by the Badgers, Old Man Willow, or the Barrow-wight. At sunrise he wakes up, merry and singing.
Characters to note:
- Tom Bombadil – An enigmatic character, with great power in his domain, who lives outside the Old Forest.
- Goldberry – The River-woman’s daughter. She is a water-sprite/nature spirit from the River.
- Old Man Willow – A Willow tree in the Old Forest.
- Badger-brock – A Badger living with wife and many sons close to the Withywindle.
- Barrow-wight – Dark spirits living at the Barrow-downs.
Features/Places to note:
- Withywindle – A tributary to the Brandywine river.
- Under Hill – Where Tom Bombadil lives.
As I see it, this poem tells about two things: the first meeting and wedding between Goldberry and Tom Bombadil. It also show the power that Tom Bombadil holds over other beings in his domain. Effortlessly he says a few words and the Willow-man, badgers, and barrow-wight acts accordingly.
Goldberry, Old Man Willow, and the Barrow-wights can all be recognised from the episode with the Hobbits meeting Tom Bombadil in The Fellowship of the Rings.
An earlier version of this poem, with the same title, was published in the Oxford Magazine 15 February 1934.
Have you read this poem? Please comment and tell us what you think of this story and if you have anything to add!