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JRR Tolkien about the role of Tom Bombadil in Lord of the Rings (yes this is GD material).

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howard112211 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 09:25 AM
Original message
JRR Tolkien about the role of Tom Bombadil in Lord of the Rings (yes this is GD material).
(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Bombadil )

"I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on; but both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, want a measure of control. But if you have, as it were, taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the questions of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless...

"It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is a war the view of Rivendell seems to be that it is an excellent thing to have represented, but that there are in fact things with which it cannot cope; and upon which its existence nonetheless depends. Ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive. Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron."


I think there is an important point here. A free society should value its pacifists, regardless of the fact that their existence might depend on other people's willingness to wage war in their defense. When people speak disdainfully about pacifists, often this is a bad omen, a sign that society is losing its values.
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ChoppinBroccoli Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 10:02 AM
Response to Original message
1. I Always Wished The Movies Hadn't Cut Tom Bombadil Out
He was one of my favorite characters from the books. And like most of Tolkein's characters, he was incredibly complex, because he probably could have defeated Sauron all by himself, but just didn't really care to.
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Ghost of Tom Joad Donating Member (651 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 01:43 PM
Response to Reply #1
10. I agree, he was one of my favs, and do not understand
why he was left out of the films.
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Orsino Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 02:00 PM
Response to Reply #10
14. He doesn't move the action forward one bit....
...and disappears without a trace soon after the barrow-wights. He's beautiful and poignant, but I understand completely why he was omitted from an action-adventure version of the saga.

During the filming there were rumors/wishes of Tom Baker in the part. I would have liked to have seen that.
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jobendorfer Donating Member (429 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 02:27 PM
Response to Reply #14
17. Bombadil presented another problem to the filmmakers as well
One of the things that the first film had to establish, as quickly as possible, was the nearly irresistable, corrupting power of the ring.
Introducing a character who is immune to it, at that early stage in the story, runs counter to that goal.
And brings up the question, why are some immune to it, but not the majority?
There just wasn't time to dive into all that.

And having a character drive off an evil force by singing to it was barely believable to a 1950s reading audience.
In a film, it would have felt like a descent into Bollywood.

I think Jackson et al made the right call.

But reasonable people could well disagree with me, and very often do :-)

And for what it's worth -- I think Tolkien's wrong. If I had to make a bet as which sociological phenomenon was more likely to survive over the long haul: modern, autocratic China, or its Tom Bombadils ( Buddhist and Taoist hermits ), I'd bet on the hermits every time. 5,000 years of hermit tradition, and still going strong. See Bill Porter's _The Road To Heaven_.

J.

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Capitalocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 03:23 AM
Response to Reply #17
35. The story is divided in six books
They should've made six movies and left a lot more in. And they wasted a lot of time with all the crap they added.

But that's just my opinion. Come on, you've got to have the barrow wights. Magic swords are meant to be earned, not handed out by NPCs.
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MilesColtrane Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 11:22 PM
Response to Reply #35
70. "Magic swords are meant to be earned, not handed out by NPCs"
Indeed, to paraphrase Dennis the anarchist, you can't expect to wield supreme power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you.
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LisaM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 03:40 PM
Response to Reply #14
49. That's why I didn't like the movie....
It takes an entirely different imagination from mine to imagine LOTR as an "action" film. However, you have identified my dislike for it better than anyone else has - I wasn't really clear on what most turned me off - so thanks for that!
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CJvR Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 05:49 AM
Response to Reply #10
40. Because...
...Saruman and the Nazgul was supposed to be the most frightening characters in film one.
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socialist_n_TN Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 01:57 PM
Response to Reply #1
13. Well I'll second that. Or third it, whichever........
He was one of my favorite characters too.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 04:04 AM
Response to Reply #1
37. Let's face it: By the third part the movie version was interminable.
You would be right to complain that it trashed the whole thrust of the book by cutting out "The Scouring of the Shire," in which it becomes clear that innocence is lost for good.

On the other hand, after nine hours of mounting bombast culminating in the Sam-Frodo love scenes on the Mountain, it was good to have it just end already.

(The first one was good. The worst one won an Oscar. Typical.)
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Ilsa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 06:45 PM
Response to Reply #37
62. Honestly, I think the last one won all the Oscars because it was the
last movie of a big-stake series. I thought they waited too late to bestow honors on the first movie, perhaps because they were afraid they wouldn't like the 2nd and 3rd parts. IMO, the music from the first movie was the best, for example. I wish the academy voters wouldn't do that.
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Codeine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 02:22 PM
Response to Reply #1
46. Odd. Most people I've spoken to hate that character.
Perhaps we were too young to get what he was about when we read LotR. I found him quite grating.
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Marr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 05:40 PM
Response to Reply #1
59. Boy, not me. Bombadil would've been a bizarre detour in a story
that really needed to move briskly.
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raouldukelives Donating Member (945 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 10:02 AM
Response to Original message
2. I find it curious that the main critics of pacifists
in our country I've come across tend to call themselves "Christians". I think the whole "If your enemy hungers, feed him and if he thirsts give him drink" thing is lost on them.
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PVnRT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 10:32 AM
Response to Original message
3. I would like to point out
that, in Tolkein's books, it's the white, blond-hair blue-eyed humans and elves of the West fighting against swarthy, uncivilized, barbaric, short Easterners and stand-ins for Arabs and Africans. Just some imagery to think about.

Furthermore, Tolkein's quote up there does not support your argument. He's basically saying that while Tom is a pacifist, if the Big Bad Guy wins, he's dead, so he should be a de facto supporter of the West for his own sake, even if he stays out of the fight.
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 10:37 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. This argument has been rebunked several times.
In the last book on of the hobbits even asks himself if easterners were truly evil or if he they were forced to come to war. Also in his personal letters Tolkien calls Hitler a petty little ignoramus and he tells his German publisher that he sadly has no Jewish blood and does not all subscribe to their utterly unscientific race doctrine and he fears that a German name will soon be something to be ashamed of.
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howard112211 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 10:45 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. The argument falls apart even more if one takes the LOTR mythology (Silmarillion) into consideration
Lord of the Rings is bona fide storytelling. The Orks, Elves and Hobbits are precisely that: Orks, Elves and Hobbits. "Arda" is an imaginary world of its own, that draws from mythological motives of various cultures, Greek, Christian and Nordic. The implications for "real world" races etc. are zero.
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Bandit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 11:00 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. I notice that no where in the Silmarillion is Tom Bombadil mentioned
I wonder if the new movies "The Hobbit" will go into any more detail than the book did. :shrug:
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howard112211 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 11:09 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Look at the wikipedia article quoted in the OP. There is a section about
the status of Tom Bombadil in the context of the LOTR mythology. Tolkien stated that Tom Bombadil's origin is simply "unknown", but he is "as old as the world itsself". It has been speculated that he is Ainur, or even Illuvatar himself, or an incarnation of earth of some sort.
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 12:44 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. Except doesn't Elrond say that Tom doesn't have the power to defy Sauron?
If he was an Ainur or especially Illuvatar himself than wouldn't he have been able to destroy Sauron with ease?
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howard112211 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 01:28 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. Well, ...
Edited on Mon Apr-04-11 01:35 PM by howard112211
my memory isn't so fresh on the subject, but the above article states that Elrond says that Tom "doesn't have that power unless that power is in the earth itsself". That is why people have speculated Tom is an incarnation of the "forces of the earth".

Yea, I agree, the speculations that he is Illuvatar are not very well founded. The only fact that suggests such a thing is that once Tom gets described as "he is", which is similar a description that is used by Moses to describe God, in the Old Testament.

Tolkien stated that some things should remain a mystery, even to him. Tolkien himself doesn't "know" who or what Tom Bombadil is. He simply "is".

Here is my theory: He is Morgoth's "kinder side" which was cast off when Morgoth decided to oppose Illuvatar. He thus cannot oppose Sauron or Morgoth, because due to his nature he is completely free of any desire for power.
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fascisthunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 04:06 PM
Response to Reply #8
52. I Thought it was HE who decided not to get involved with earthly creatures
Edited on Tue Apr-05-11 04:08 PM by fascisthunter
becauise hi role is neutral.... like the earth itself. It's almost as if they carried Tom's words over to the Ent's, because they stubbornly did not want to get involved either.
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 01:45 PM
Response to Original message
11. Good OP and you make a good point
However, the main thing about pacifists in the real world that annoys those of us who aren't - and which is conspicuously absent with Tom Bombadil - is the smug self-righteousness they project and use as an ideological weapon (ironically) to beat down anyone who disagrees with them about the use of force. Tom Bombadil might have been a pacifist, but he didn't sit around calling Frodo, Gandalf, Gondor or Rohan "warmongers" for fighting the forces of Sauron, either. I respect people who have chosen to make an ideological commitment to nonviolence, but when said pacifists hold those who are willing to fight the battles they won't in open disdain, that respect starts to ebb away. But your OP makes a good point that pacifists should not be automatically derided, and I agree. There are too many negative assumptions on DU from virtually every side of every debate.

That said, the pacifists on DU are not wholly innocent victims of persecution. Your OP is very thought-provoking, but there's room for "both sides" to look into their hearts and examine the motives of others without assuming the worst.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 04:58 PM
Response to Reply #11
24. Hm, I think the problem you may be having is figuring out who's Sauron in the real world.
I'll give you a hint: Gaddafi doesn't even rate as high as Saruman.

Note also that the West fights its war WITHOUT resorting to the Ring.

Whereas the most charitable metaphor out of those books to describe the US empire is, if not that it's Sauron, then that it's what would have happened if Gandalf or Aragorn had used the ring.
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 11:17 PM
Response to Reply #24
30. I didn't say anything about Libya, though, did I?
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 02:39 AM
Response to Reply #30
31. I didn't say you did.
Your post implies that Tolkien's "The West" would if treated as an allegory generally correspond today to the real world's Western powers, which you seem to think are faced with the mean mean pacifist Wormtongues who hurt their feelings by calling them war-mongers even though they're only Fighting Evil. By extension, that would make Libya the latest of many Saurons. But you don't have to think that. Your post still suggests you've decided who the good or at least well-meaning guys are.
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 12:46 PM
Response to Reply #31
43. You sure made a lot of assumptions about my post
The allegories are all yours, I'm afraid. I'd appreciate you not putting words in my mouth. The only "suggestions" are what you're reading into it.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 03:23 PM
Response to Reply #43
47. Okay, let's keep it simple.
This, from you:

"However, the main thing about pacifists in the real world that annoys those of us who aren't - and which is conspicuously absent with Tom Bombadil - is the smug self-righteousness they project and use as an ideological weapon (ironically) to beat down anyone who disagrees with them about the use of force. Tom Bombadil might have been a pacifist, but he didn't sit around calling Frodo, Gandalf, Gondor or Rohan "warmongers" for fighting the forces of Sauron, either. I respect people who have chosen to make an ideological commitment to nonviolence, but when said pacifists hold those who are willing to fight the battles they won't in open disdain, that respect starts to ebb away."

Is bullshit.

You're the one projecting self-righteousness on to "the pacifists." If by "the use of force" you mean support for US military actions in the world, then you're not supporting Gandalf or Gondor, and it's not Gandalf or Gondor whom "the pacifists" are calling "war-mongers." Because the US, when it bombs people in Yemen by a joystick operated in Nevada, is more like Saruman or Sauron.

"Those who are willing to fight the battles" of US imperialism are not doing any service, they're not providing defense. They aren't the primary perpetrators of the crimes, but they do not earn some special status by their participation. To smash open the doors of some Iraqi family takes a lot more disrespect for humanity than to criticize the one who is doing the door-smashing.
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 04:09 PM
Response to Reply #47
53. The only one reading "support for US military actions" into my post is you
I don't have to project anything onto pacifists - all I have to do is read posts here at DU. There have been plenty of full-throated affirmations of pacifism here recently that had nothing directly to do with Libya that have been every bit as insufferable as anything I described upthread.

And since you obviously didn't read what I said the first time, I said nothing about Libya or "US military actions." You putting words in my mouth with every reply and arguing against your own created straw man argument might be entertaining for you, but I have no interest in "defending" an argument I never made in the first place. So, knock yourself out, buddy.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 04:26 PM
Response to Reply #53
55. I get it. If you stay vague, you can never be wrong.
So when you make an analogy in which "pacifists" are the ones attacking poor Gandalf as a warmonger, what do you think you mean?
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 07:36 PM
Response to Reply #55
65. I mean exactly what I said - try reading it instead of filling in your own words
You COULD try reading what I wrote, instead of what you wanted me to say. I acknowledged that pacifists should not be tarred as cowards or lacking moral conviction because they refuse to fight, and applauded the OP for making that point. I also said that neither should non-pacifists be attacked by pacifists as being "warmongers," because respect cuts both ways. But you're too worried about fighting against your imaginary straw man, and in a way you're exactly proving my point. You're more worried about scoring points in a make-believe argument than really having any kind of discussion about how BOTH SIDES - pacifists and non-pacifists - can talk about issues of war and peace without resorting to ugly invective like "cowards" or "warmongers."
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 07:50 PM
Response to Reply #65
66. Your use of "non-pacifist" remains vague.
Some of those presumably are warmongers, unless you want to say that warmongers don't exist, while others presumably are not.

Try specifics: When you say the behavior of at least some "pacifists" is like attacking poor Gandalf for being a "warmonger," what do you think you mean? Who is Gandalf in that analogy? Who are the pacifists unfairly characterizing him? Does Gandalf refer to those who are "willing to fight"? Again, who are they, specifically? What fight?

In the context of a discussion of US power, certain answers suggest themselves. Unless you're willing to define your own terms. So, please, do so.
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 07:57 PM
Response to Reply #66
67. For the LAST TIME: I am NOT interested in YOUR "specifics"
I reject the argument you are attempting to attribute to me. I reject your insistence on making a modern day US-Libya analogy (which the OP, in its wisdom, did not do). I have absolutely no interest in playing "who's the real world Gandalf and who's the real world Sauron" with you. I don't know how many times I have to make that clear. You, unlike the OP, unlike me, are attempting to make some neat LOTR analogy out of current events. Tom Bombadil may have been a pacifist, but he was no coward. However, some pacifists - who have no ready LOTR analogy - enjoy portraying those who are not pacifists as morally inferior. They do not make such tidy distinctions between "non-pacifists," as evidence in their sweeping grandiose statements such as "all wars are wrong!" If you do not believe that such people exist, then bully for you. But they do, and it'd be nice to see the same consideration asked of them as is asked of people who would make generalizations about pacifists in this OP.

And if you are still going to pretend to be obtuse about my point, you may officially have the last word. I'm done riding on this carousel of pointless repetition. Have a good night.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 08:12 PM
Response to Reply #67
68. Obviously you're not interested in any specifics.
You made a general statement about pacifists, non-pacifists and a Gandalf/Gondor comparison, and have since failed to define your terms. Or even give examples. From the real world. Sorry!
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Capitalocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 05:00 AM
Response to Reply #11
39. Well, there's also the example of the ents...
I'm not quite as pacifist as old Tom Bombadil, I'm more on the ent side of the equation. Violence is the absolute last resort. I believe that to the point that I'm almost totally pacifist, because violence is almost never the only or the best answer. And yes, I'm happy to call anyone who doesn't share that sentiment a warmonger. ;)
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 12:48 PM
Response to Reply #39
44. So Aragorn, Gandalf, etc. were "warmongers"?
And you don't see the downside to such broad-brush generalizations?

Though I do agree that the ents are probably the ideal in terms of attitudes towards war.
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Capitalocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 02:20 PM
Response to Reply #44
45. No, in this case they had more facts to start with, I'd say.
The ents were a little out of the loop.
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WildEyedLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 04:05 PM
Response to Reply #45
51. True...
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 03:24 PM
Response to Reply #44
48. No. But the US isn't Aragorn, Gandalf, etc. The Pentagon is not Minas Tirith, it's Isengard.
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Motown_Johnny Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 01:54 PM
Response to Original message
12. it has been over 30 years since I read that, but.....
didn't Tom fight some barrow-wights to save the Hobbits?


More of an isolationist IMO. He dealt with things that happened within his boarders but did not venture outside of them.


Didn't he give them some weapons too? If this guy is a pacifist he was a pretty crappy one.
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KamaAina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 06:02 PM
Response to Reply #12
61. Basically, Tom cast out the Barrow-wights
they were spirits, after all. Then the hobbits found the weapons in the barrows and took them.
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lapislzi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 02:16 PM
Response to Original message
15. I have often discussed the vexing character of Bombadil with an amateur JRRT scholar
My friend places him in the pantheon of the Ainur--not powerful enough to defeat Sauron, but powerful enough to carve an enclave against evil.

Bombadil had no dog in the hunt. That was left to Gandalf, for good or ill. Not every good guy jumps into the fight. That doesn't make it *not* a good fight.
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roguevalley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 04:05 PM
Response to Reply #15
19. Gandalf, one step below him could act. I see Tom as an Ainur
and most of them left the Little World to go back to Iluvatar. Only a few had direct contact in the end and they didn't step in either. Perhaps free will -that which in the Bible God grants man, the greatest gift God grants to man- is also that important. We succeed against the manifestations of evil, no matter how great they may be because we choose it. We have the world right now that we have chosen either passively or actively. We have to decide if this is what will be. And thus it is so.

Verily. ;)
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lapislzi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 05:16 PM
Response to Reply #19
27. good analysis
I have long tried to reconcile Tolkein and CS Lewis. They were contemporaries, friends, but their visions could not have been more different. Perhaps there is subtle meeting ground.
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 08:44 PM
Response to Reply #27
29. To me, they aren't even in the same league.
I can't stand the overt Christian imagery and allegory in Narnia, and I'm grateful Toinette avoided that route. Just my opinion though.
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Marr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 05:51 PM
Response to Reply #15
60. I've always figured Tom Bombadil was sort of... the ultimate elemental spirit.
I took Goldberry as an elemental of a river, or a part of a river, and Tom as the spiritual manifestation of the earth itself.
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Withywindle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 11:23 PM
Response to Reply #60
71. I agree.
And as my username indicates, I've given this a lot of thought over the years. :D

I actually think of Tom Bombadil as kind of like the Pagan Green Man figure--less interested in the affairs of humanlike creatures than in nature itself.

I also really am incredibly charmed by the fact that Tolkien himself seemed to feel fine about basically shrugging his shoulders and saying, "You know what? Even I can't explain him! Your guess is as good as mine."

That happens when writing fiction. Writers aren't always totally conscious, calculating puppetmasters. We get surprised all the time, and are always scrambling to try to understand things we wrote after the fact. Sometimes we never do! I will always love JRRT for being so upfront and cheerful about it.
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Raksha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 02:19 PM
Response to Original message
16. This same point is also made in a different context in LOTR.
Re "It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is a war the view of Rivendell seems to be that it is an excellent thing to have represented, but that there are in fact things with which it cannot cope; and upon which its existence nonetheless depends. Ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive. Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron."

In the first volume at the Council of Elrond, Aragorn makes this same point when speaking about the long, anonymous guardianship of the Hobbits of the Shire and the people of Bree by the Dunedain aka the Rangers. It is in order to protect their very simplicity and even their provincialism that he and his people have developed their warrior qualities. Transcribing the passage from the book:

"You know little of the lands beyond your bounds. Peace and freedom, do you say? The North would have known them little but for us. Fear would have destroyed them. But when dark things come from the houseless hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in quiet lands, or in the homes of simple men at night, if the Dunedain were asleep, or were all gone into the grave?

"And yet less thanks have we than you. Travellers scowl at us, and countrymen give us scornful names. 'Strider' am I to one fat man who lives within a day's march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so. That has been the task of my kindred, while the years have lengthened and the grass has grown."


"We must be secret to keep them so."

I had a strange, cynical thought while I was transcribing that passage. That only works as long as the security forces remain uncorrupted. Tolkien didn't live to see the kind of tyranny that can result when Homeland Security and the CIA, et al. serve the forces of darkness, and their "necessary" secrecy becomes one of their primary means of oppression.

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I Drink Water Donating Member (80 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 02:52 PM
Response to Original message
18. I like the part...
"renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself,".

When I do this I am generally happier.
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roguevalley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 04:06 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. by the by, this thread is beautiful.
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Capitalocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 03:22 AM
Response to Reply #20
34. your avatar is beautiful... lmao nt
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mochajava666 Donating Member (771 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 04:10 PM
Response to Original message
21. Excellent point
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hulka38 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 04:24 PM
Response to Original message
22. If you are assuming that the U.S. is Rivendell
in this War on Terror or whatever it is in this World that you think is Sauron then I'm afraid you're lost in Mirkwood.
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howard112211 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 04:47 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. LoL. No I am absolutely not assuming that.
I am at loss to find anything analogous to the USA in Lord of the Rings.
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white_wolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 05:05 PM
Response to Reply #23
25. Didn't Tolkien himself specifically say
he didn't write his stories as allegories? I even remember reading that he didn't like C.S. Lewis's works because they were allegorical. To which I completely agree, the overt Christian message in Narnia annoyed me.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 05:21 PM
Response to Reply #25
28. Yes, but so what?
You're telling me he published this in the year World War II started and we're not supposed to detect the constant presence of allegory because he denies it in a statement? Not to be too post-modern about it, but it's in there and it doesn't matter if Tolkien thinks otherwise.

And Saruman has nothing to do with the destruction of real forests in the real world that Tolkien decried?
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Withywindle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 11:16 PM
Response to Reply #28
69. "published this in the year WWII started?
No he didn't. The first part of LOTR wasn't published until 1954. I have no doubt WWII was pretty important in Tolkien's mind while he was writing LOTR--considering that his son was fighting in it, and JRRT was no doubt getting flashbacks to WWI, which he fought in--but I really don't think he created the sort of simplistic allegory where some fictional characters/countries = some real modern nations. The essay quoted in the OP was written after the fact, in response to questions from readers. Bombadil himself, though, first appeared in Tolkien's writings in the 30s; like 'The Hobbit' he was originally part of a much simpler fantasy world that really was originally written for children and for much lighter entertainment than LOTR turned out to be. But "the tale grew in the telling."

When the Ring first appeared, Tolkien could not possibly have foreseen the atomic bomb. When Sauron and Morgoth first appeared, Tolkien could not possibly have foreseen Hitler (the first Silmarillion-ish writings Tolkien did were in the 1910's when he was barely past his teens himself.)

In his own essays, Tolkien drew a strong distinction between allegory--which he did not like--and applicability, which he did. If LOTR had been an allegory for a specific situation, it would read more like a product of its time than it does today. Applicability in it is still easy to find, and part of why it's still so interesting is that sides who completely disagree with each other will find conflicting applicability in it. Some pro-war people think it's a pro-war book. Some anti-war people think it's an anti-war book. Some environmentalists think it's an environmentalist manifesto. (Can't imagine anyone thinking it's pro-industrialist, but somebody somewhere must). All those people can quote chapter and verse to back up their points, too.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 11:50 PM
Response to Reply #69
72. Thank you for the correction...
wikipedia:

The Lord of the Rings is a high fantasy epic written by philologist and University of Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children's fantasy novel The Hobbit (1937), but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in stages between 1937 and 1949, much of it during the Second World War.<1> It is the second best selling novel ever written with over 150 million copies sold.<2>

So, written during WWII and I was mistaken about pub date. Also mistaken to rely on memory rather than look it up.

Your thoughts appreciated. We need disagree about nothing at all, once you write: "but I really don't think he created the sort of simplistic allegory where some fictional characters/countries = some real modern nations."

Since I certainly don't think so either.

But clearly, the rise of technological warfare with unprecedented devastation, mass delusions, power of demagogues, attack on nature, "disenchantment" of the world ... all these themes worked their way into the books in ways subtle as well obvious, albeit rearranged and subordinated to his own narrative. And he didn't need to see Hitler to imagine a Sauron-like evil.

I'm fine if you want to call it applicability as opposed to allegory. Thanks.
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Withywindle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 01:15 AM
Response to Reply #72
75. The distinction between allegory and applicability isn't just semantics.
Here's his thoughts on the matter:

"I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of the reader. I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author."

He felt allegory was manipulative, a sort of bait-and-switch that didactic authors do. (Somehow he managed to stay close friends with C.S. Lewis!) Applicability, though, is reader-directed; the reader gets to decide what things in stories "mean." (Although of course, Tolkien usually didn't like it much when readers tried to tell HIM what they thought his stories "meant." :D)

I agree with him on this and have adopted it in my own way of reading things. As a writer, though, I know that keeping allegorical intentions out of one's work is a hell of a lot more difficult than he made it sound! There's no reason to think that he completely succeeded either, it's just significant to me that he tried.

He was a conservative guy who was no real fan of the modern world, but a lot of the things he hated about it are the same things that progressives hate about it, which is why I think both the right and the left have some legitimate claim to finding applicability there.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 09:13 AM
Response to Reply #75
76. It's not just semantics. It's also not always a dichotomy, but a scale. Thanks.
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Capitalocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 03:19 AM
Response to Reply #25
32. Actually, he said more than that...
I'm not going to search for the quote, but he said something along the lines of if it were an allegory, and the Ring represented the atomic bomb and the war was WWII, then someone (Boromir? Steward of Gondor? Aragorn? Gandalf?) would've taken the ring, used it to defeat Sauron, and then become corrupted by its power and start their own evil empire.

Ouch.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 04:00 AM
Response to Reply #32
36. Well if he said that, then he's in agreement with my post #26 (below).
Hot dang.
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Capitalocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 04:52 PM
Response to Reply #36
57. Yep, I found the quote:
The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dr would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves.
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fascisthunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 04:10 PM
Response to Reply #25
54. Yes, emphatically.... however
every writer, painter, performer is going to be influenced by the World around them... I do believe he based the story on WWI and what he saw with his own two eyes. It is still a debate.
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 05:06 PM
Response to Reply #23
26. Sure there's a metaphor for the US in LOTR: Isildor. Or Saruman...
How about this:

The US is Gondor having chosen to use the Ring. Now it imagines and fights a series of Little Saurons. It extends its generous veil of security and democracy over the corpses of Middle Earth. To the underdeveloped Shires it offers free trade or a carpet of bombs. The Elves are French, obviously. The Dwarves keep tunneling their way under the border and taking all the good jobs.
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Capitalocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 03:21 AM
Response to Reply #26
33. The U.S. would do to the Shire pretty much what Saruman did
start a military dictatorship with a brutal internal security apparatus trained by our own orcs
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howard112211 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 04:19 AM
Response to Reply #26
38. SOMEBODY certainly wanted wanted to keep the ring in the United States.
"Think of all the good we could do."
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Locrian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 06:43 AM
Response to Original message
41. well, we all know what REALLY happened
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 07:52 AM
Response to Original message
42. I love this part:
But if you have, as it were, taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the questions of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless...

The world would be a better place if the rights and wrongs of power and control were utterly meaningless to us all.

Someone else said something similar, in the 1970s.
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ikri Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 03:52 PM
Response to Original message
50. There is a weird theory....
That suggests that Tom Bombadil IS Sauron

In the first part of Fellowship of the Ring, the Nazgul are sent to the Shire to look for the wandering Baggins. Interestingly, Tom says to Frodo at the dinner-table: "...I was waiting for you. We heard news of you, and learned that you were wandering... But Tom had an errand there, that he dared not hinder"


It's also interesting to note that Tom could see Frodo clearly while Frodo was wearing the Ring (Fellowship p. 144 hardback) - just as the Witch-king could see Frodo clearly while he was wearing the Ring at Weathertop! (Fellowship p. 208 hardback)


Perhaps most damning, however, is the incident with the Barrow-wights (Fellowship pp. 151-155), where Tom - with nothing more than a few simple words (p. 154) - commands the Barrow-wight to leave. And it does, without argument. Why would the Wight be so completely under Tom's control? Because in his alternate guise as the Witch-king of Angmar, Tom ordered the Wight to inhabit the barrow in the first place! Turning to Return of the King, Appendix A, p. 321, "evil spirits out of Angmar... entered into the deserted mounds and dwelt there." Obviously the Witch-king was reponsible for sending the wights there; just as obviously, the Witch-king (disguised as Tom) would be capable of ordering them to leave!
(This is related to another passage, which has since been brought to my attention. On Fellowship page 158 hardback, Tom is guiding the Hobbits back towards the Road when he gazes towards the borders of Cardolan. "Tom said that it had once been the boundary of a kingdom, but a very long time ago. He seemed to remember something sad about it, and would not say much." Since Tom, as the Witch-king, was the one who destroyed the kingdom of Cardolan, it's little wonder that he wouldn't say much about his involvement. Perhaps his remembering "something sad" reveals some remorse at being the instrument of Cardolan's destruction...?)


Appearances can be deceptive.
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Capitalocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 04:44 PM
Response to Reply #50
56. So when Frodo gives him the ring...
why doesn't he just run off with it?
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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 05:36 PM
Response to Reply #50
58. As far as completely baseless ideas go, that one is fun.
So is Tom literally Sauron in disguise, or vice-versa, or is he more the Yin to the Yang, the matter to the anti-matter, the necessary conservation of good and evil in the Middleverse?
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pokerfan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 07:29 PM
Response to Reply #58
64. See post #63 (n/t)
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pokerfan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 07:17 PM
Response to Original message
63. The TRUTH about Tom Bombadil
From rec.arts.books.tolkien circa 1996...

The Truth about Tom Bombadil
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Capitalocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 11:54 PM
Response to Reply #63
73. You never see the two of them together... lmao
You never see the sun and the moon together... THEY'RE THE SAME PERSON!!1!
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pokerfan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 12:10 AM
Response to Reply #73
74. "The ol' Witch-king is a merry fellow... (n/t)
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