The Lord of the... whatever, Book I, Chapter 7:
In The House Of Tom Bombadil
The four hobbits stepped over the threshold and stood
still, gaping. In a chair sat a woman; she wore nothing more
than a bathrobe, her long yellow hair tangled in an unruly
mess. It was obvious from her tired look that this lady had
listened to more silly songs than was bearable. It was also
obvious that Tom had good taste where women were concerned.
The opposite wasn't certain at all.
When she saw them she shrieked. "Ahh! You didn't tell
me you were bringing friends!" then promptly turned on her
alluring smile. "Come in! Laugh and be merry!" she said.
Morrie gave her a humorless look. "Madam, I'm a
Brandybuck. We don't do 'merry'."
Generally speaking, those with a problem distinguishing
the two pronunciations quickly found themselves facing much more
important problems indeed.
Frodo spoke. "Fair lady Goldberry! Now I know what
Bombadil was talking about when he said that you'll make
the boards and make the beds." Then he stopped as he
realised that may have not sounded as well as he
Her smile faded. "Oh, he said that, didn't he? I knew
I should have never left my mother. I admit her place was
rather watery, but this man..."
"Fair lady!" said Frodo quickly, knowing that in a
domestic dispute the guests were also bound to suffer. "Tell
me, if it hasn't been discussed over and over again, who
is Tom Bombadil? Is he a Maia that went native? Is he
perhaps an authorial self-insertion? Is he Eru, God
"Mainly, he's a very bad singer."
Before long they were all seated at the table, two
hobbits on each side, while at either end sat Goldberry and
Tom (whose insistence at being called Master threatened to
bring about a new domestic quarrel). The hobbits ate as
only famished hobbits can, and before the dinner's end,
Pipsqueak had to wrestle with Sam over the remnants of
a cake. The guests became suddenly aware that they were
all shouting at the top of their lungs.
At last the table was cleared. Goldberry came and
wished them a good night.
"Have peace now," she said, "until the morning! And
heed no nightly noises - especially if they are coming
from our bedroom."
Tom sat on a while beside them in silence and at
last Frodo spoke:
"Did you hear me calling, To - eh.. Master, or was
it just chance that brought you at that moment?"
"Nay, I didn't hear. I was too busy singing. And I was
too busy admiring this really beautiful doll of myself, since
I'm really as self-centered and self-absorbed as can be."
With a glance at his friends, Frodo asked, "Tell us about
the willow-man. What is he? And how can it be I never
heard of him before?"
"No, don't!" said Morrie and Pipsqueak together
then looked embarassed. "I mean it will give poor Frodo
nightmares for sure," went on Morrie.
Tom laughed, and after a couple of accusatory looks
among the hobbits, they all went to bed.
Frodo dreamt that night of a pinnacle of stone on
top of which the figure of a man stood. Suddenly a shadow
like the shape of wings passed across the moon at which
the man shouted "YOU ARE NOT A BALROG!"
Pipsqueak lay dreaming pleasantly, but suddenly he
woke - he still heard in the darkness the sound that had
disturbed his dream 'tip-tap, squeak'. Thinking someone
was calling his name, he stood up groggily. The noise
seemed to come from Bombadil and Goldberry's room.
Tip-toeing he approached the half-open door and tried
to take a peep inside: Goldberry was hitting Tom over
the head with his own miniature while Tom said things
like "But, dearest--". Pipsqueak gave a grunt of disgust
and went back to bed.
Goldberry looked up at the grunt. "Was he peepin'?"
Tom, glad at the small reprieve, rubbed his bruised
head. "No, I think he was Pipsqueak."
It was the sound of Shirrifs coming that Morrie thought
he heard while asleep. But then he seemed to hear or remember
hearing: "Nothing passes doors or windows without a proper
warrant." He breathed deep and fell asleep again.
As far as he could remember, Sam slept through the night
in deep content, if logs that chased and then happily savaged
their imperialistic masters are contented.
Next day Tom told them many remarkable stories,
sometimes as if speaking the himself, sometimes looking
at them suddenly with a bright blue eye (the other eye
had been mysteriously blackened during the previous
night). Often his voice would turn to song, and the
hobbits would simply shut their ears and pray it would
After a couple of truly dull horror stories about the Old
Forest, suddenly Tom's talk left the wood and using a
convoluted course seemed to rest on the Downs. Tom
told them of the Barrow-wights who walked in the hollow
places always happily ready to provide a side adventure
for tired travelers.
The hobbits shuddered. Even in the Shire the rumour
of the Barrow-wights and their liking for plotwise-insignificant
side-adventures had been heard. The did not make a tale
that any hobbit liked to listen to, since they mainly preferred
focused narratives. They (inevitably) lost the thread of his
When they caught his words again they found that he
had now wandered into strange places beyond their
memory, waking thought or even their hallucinations,
into times when the world was carried on the back of a
turtle and the seas flowed straight down in an endless
waterfall; and still Tom went singing out into such times
as only ancient myths described, when people left the
doors unlocked at night, and even further back, when
those damn kids knew some proper respect for their
parents. Then suddenly he stopped, and they saw that
he nodded as if he had bored even himself to sleep.
"Who are you, Master?" Frodo asked, sudden fear
in his voice.
"Gnnngshm..?" Tom seemed to mumble and he
finally fell asleep with a good thump.
After supper Goldberry once again hurried away
from the table, because Tom now seemed wide awake
again and plied them with questions.
He appeared already to know more about them and
all their families, which caused extreme embarrassment
to all of them, and not a little worry from Morrie. Tom
made no secret that he owed his secret knowledge to
Farmer Maggot whom he seemed to regard as a person
of more importance than they had imagined: "He has a
big bank account, and quite a few connections; and from
the Entwives' aging wood, he made worthy logs." It was
also clear that Tom had dealings with the Elves of Gildor
which caused exclamations of sudden understanding from
all of the hobbits. "Before I saw him, I thought that the Elves
were High." said Sam and Frodo agreed.
Indeed so much did Tom know, that Frodo found
himself describing in greater detail his escapades with
Cassiopeia Took than was generally considered polite.
While Pipsqueak was hurriedly trying to take notes on his
napkin, Tom's eyes glinted.
"Show me the precious Ring!" he said suddenly in the
midst of the story; and to Frodo's astonishment Tom
simply reached his hand and painfully yanked the chain
from Frodo's neck.
He juggled it from one hand to the other, while Frodo
tried ineffectually to stop him. In the end Tom spun the
Ring in the air and it vanished with a flash. Then Tom
leaned forward and reached his hand behind Frodo's
ear. "Here it is -- hey, where did it go?"
In the end the hobbits had to go and search the house
for it. They only found it five hours later, inside the hollow
miniature of Tom's self. "Those magic rings - you can't
trust the little rascals." Tom said with a laugh, and not
without a hint of disappointment for the success of the
Tom gave them a lot of suggestions about how they
should travel the next day: "Keep on the right of the
road - and mind the traffic. Don't you speak with Barrow-
wights or take rides with strangers." Then he taught them a
rhyme to sing, if they should by ill-luck meet a side-adventure.
Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadildo!
By water, wood and hill, by an armadillo
by fire, sun and moon, by the heat and frost
Come, Tom Bombadil, or we'll now be toast.
When they had sung this, he clapped them each on the
shoulder and taking candles led them back to their beds.
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
Aris Katsaris <katsaris-aaaaaaat-otenet-dawt-gr>.
Copyright © 2000 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
e-text and the original printed material by Professor Tolkien is inevitable. Using this
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is to be preferred.
This chapter contains various words and phrases which should not be used without the assistance of trained grammatical experts.