The LOTR Movie Site
March 22, 2000

Agruments Against Inclusion of Bombadil

I have counted myself among Tom Bombadil's most ardent admirers for more than 25 years. However, though he is among my favorite characters in the Triliogy, I am very much in favor of the decision not to include him in the upcoming films. This is because his character is complicated and, if the script does not provide sufficient background (going all the way back to the first chapter of the Silmarillion), the audience will most likely be confused.

On the surface, Tom Bombadil is a comic character – prancing about in those dreadful yellow boots and belching out egocentric poetry of dubious quality. Yet his command over Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wights bespeak the absolute power he wields in the Old Forrest. What are audiences to make of this creature who claims to have lived since the First Age and calls himself Eldest (his Elvish name is Iarwain Ben-adar which means something like "oldest fatherless")? Is Bombadil some sort of Paul Bunyan of the Old Forest or is he a kindly sylvan spite? In fact, Tom Bombadil seems to have been one of the Maiar – one of the lesser Ainur, or "holy ones," that had a direct hand in the Blakean formation of
Middle Earth that Tolkien describes in the Silmarillion. To put this in context, among the other Maiar inhabiting Middle Earth in the Third Age were Olorin (Gandalf), Curunir (Saruman), and Sauron. Pretty impressive colleagues for the red-faced goof of the Old Forest! The identification of Bombadil as Maiar makes Gandalf's visit to him at the end of ROTK all the more poignant. Gandalf had to inform his fellow Maiar that the demise of Sauron marked the end of their involvement in Middle Earth. It was time for Bombadil to leave his beloved forest and the rest of Middle Earth to the mortal races and to return Undying Lands. (Except for the last sentence, which is pretty much my own interpretation, the source of all this is David Day's Tolkien Bestiary.)

So for me Bombadil has a this fin-de-sicle role. His departure from Middle Earth brings closure to the Immortal races' meddling in the affairs of Middle Earth – a meddling brought to a head in Sauron's rise and fall. I find all this quite interesting, but I don't think that it needs to be hashed out in film.

Another reason why the Bombadil episodes are probably best left out of the films is that Tolkien himself did not seem to consider them terribly important. I recall reading a Tolkien biography in which the author asked Tolkien what the character of Bombadil was all about. I have since forgotten Tolkien's exact response (and no longer possess the biography), but the gist was that Bombadil was kind of thrown in at the last moment. Tolkien just needed something interesting to happen to the Hobbits on their way to Rivendell. I am sure that the movies will have plenty of other interesting things to make up for the absence of Old Tom's frolics.