The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, III: Errantry

Errantry is a poem made by Bilbo, possibly on early days after returning from his journey. The poem is a bit nonsensical and follows a mariner. An earlier version of this poem, with the same name, was published in the Oxford Magazine the 9th November 1933. A later version of the poem is Eärendil Was a Mariner which is also by Bilbo, in The Lord of the Rings.

The Mariner, or Messenger, built himself Gondola which he could travel with. It was loaded with various foodstuffs, like porridge and oranges. He traveled various lands and places. On his own he sang, when a butterfly flew past and he asked her to marry him. He studied wizardry, sigaldry, and smithying.

He captured the butterfly, and they did not get along very well. He continued his travels and he took to war and foraying. He made a shield and sword and battled elven-knights, and various insects. Then he went home over sunny seas, vising isles on the way. When he gets home he remembers his original message and errand, and have to depart with his Gondola again.

Characters to note:

  • The Mariner/The Messenger – A lonely traveler that has a message to deliver.
  • Butterfly – The Messenger asks to marry a butterfly that flutter past him.
  • Elven-knights – The Messenger has a battle with some elven-knights.

Features/Places to note:

  • Gondola – The boat of the Mariner.
  • 17 rivers – The poem mentions journeys on 17 rivers.
  • Derrilyn river – Possibly a made up river.


To be fair, I am not sure I did understand this one at all. Something about it makes me think that most of the poem are daydreams of the Messenger (whoever that is), that after he reads about wizardry, smithcraft, he fantasises about fighting elves and insects. I am actually very unsure if my attempt at writing a condense description of the plot is at all true and representative of the story. I would love if anyone has any more insight about the poem at all.

Have you read this poem?  Please comment and tell us what you think of this story and if you have anything to add!


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