Let’s Give Tom Bombadil the Ring (and Other Bad Ideas)

Frodo’s only real mission before reaching Rivendell was simply to reach Rivendell. After that, the next step was uncertain. That he might have to go to Mordor was certainly on the table, but for the most part, nobody knew what was to be decided (or even if he could reach Rivendell).

But there he was, and after Gandalf’s tale explaining why the grey wizard was delayed, talk turned to what they might do with the Ring. After quickly recalling Frodo’s journey thus far, Elrond brought up Tom Bombadil, or “Iarwain Ben-adar… oldest and fatherless.” He allowed that Bombadil was “a strange creature, but maybe I should have summoned him to our Council.”

But, as Gandalf explains, “he could not have come.” And though a message could be gotten to them and though Bombadil seemed to have a power over the Ring (it had no effect on him whatsoever), he might not be the best choice.

Gandalf clarified that it wasn’t so much that Tom had power over the Ring, but that the Ring had no power over Tom. “He is his own master. But he cannot alter the Ring itself, nor break its power over others. And now he is withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he has set, though none can see them, waiting perhaps for a change of days, and he will not step beyond them.”

People always have so many questions about Tom Bombadil, but I really try hard not to question it. I don’t much care if he’s a Maiar or some Vala in disguise. He’s Tom Bombadil and Tom Bombadil is he. Obviously, he used to range far and wide (or at least farther and wider than he ranges now), but these days, he’s more or less retired. And by the state of the Old Forest, he’s really into the whole “live and let live” philosophy. “I’m okay if you’re okay,” and so on.

So maybe he’s not the best guy for the job. Sure, he might take it if everyone begged him to, “but he would not understand the need. And if he were given the Ring, he would soon forget it, or most likely throw it away. Such things have no hold on his mind. He would be a most unsafe guardian; and that alone is answer enough.”

With Bombadil out, the idea of keeping the Ring in Rivendell or the Haven or Lorien was brought up. But no, that wouldn’t really work either. Elrond confessed that he didn’t have the strength to withstand what would obviously become a siege. Then, like with Bombadil, it would be only a matter of time.

That left two options. The first was to send it over the Sea to Valinor (which was not really across the Sea, but removed from the Earth completely). This actually seems like a pretty good idea. But Elrond says that “they who dwell beyond the Sea would not receive it: for good or ill it belongs to Middle-earth; it is for us who still dwell here to deal with it.”

It’s true – the Ring would not have existed without Middle-earth. It was forged there and was made to control it. But still, you think they could at least ask. If anyone would know, it would have been Cirdan of the Grey Havens, but he didn’t come to the Council, sending a representative instead. But they didn’t even ask him. Seems like a missed opportunity. Of course, it would have made the story short and kind of pointless.

Before talk could turn of destroying it, Glorfindel had a bad idea, which sort of bridged the two proposed better ideas. During the days of the White Council, Saruman lied and said that the Ring had been washed out to the Sea. Why not just take it there… where Saruman said it was… because he’d never figure it out, and… yeah, Glorfindel is a pretty swell guy, but don’t count on him for things like this.

And yet, it was seriously considered – “there are but two courses… to hide the Ring for ever; or to unmake it.” Elrond finally (finally) made the decision that they must do what they tried to get Isildur to do 3,000 odd years ago.

“Now at the last we must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril – to Mordor. We must send the Ring to the Fire.”

And Boromir said: “One does not simply …” wait… no. He suggested using the Ring for good instead of evil. “Take it and go forth to victory!” Elrond thought better and said it couldn’t work because that’s not how evil works, son. “Boromir looked at them doubtfully, but he bowed his head.”

We’ll have to keep an eye on the Boromir fellow. He might just be a mixed bag.

Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64X (EPX) expired mid90s

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64X (EPX) expired mid90s

A Few Notes

  • Maybe you should have summoned Tom Bombadil to the Council, Elrond? Maybe. But why not Galadriel? You’d think she might like to be involved… (there’s actually a reason for this, but we’ll get to that later).
  • It’s Erestor who suggest sending a message to Bombadil. He’s the chief councilor in Rivendell. Remember him? No? Yeah, me neither. Glad he got a couple of lines though. The kid stays in the picture.
  • I think I might actually be able to finish up the Council of Elrond before the Fellowship gets to Moria! You know… I hope you readers still have some idea what I mean by this. If not, check out the About the Journey page.
  • Note: Sometimes when Elrond says “we”, he doesn’t actually mean the kind of “we” that also involves him.

About the Photo
Over the Sea? Under the Sea? Seriously guys, we allowed this to happen, so we’ve got to destroy it.


  • Day 155
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 766 (312 from Rivendell)
  • 28 miles to the Doors of Moria
  • 125 miles to LothlΓ³rien
  • 1,013 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Moving south along the foothills of Caradhras. 20th day out of Rivendell. January 12, 3019 TA. (map)

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27 thoughts on “Let’s Give Tom Bombadil the Ring (and Other Bad Ideas)

  1. Oh, Bombadil. I find him intriguing (all this oldest and fatherless talk — what does it mean?), but when I read LOTR aloud to my husband last year, he was not quite so fond of ol’ Tom and all his singing. : )

    • So many people hate this guy. And I totally did at first. But now he’s easily one of my favorites. I love how even his nonpoem talking is in verse. I shouldn’t like that, but I really really do.

      I’m trying to get my wife to let me read the Silmarillion to her. She’s not quite sold on the idea. πŸ™‚

      • I know! He’s so poetically clever. : )
        I understand that. It took a few years, and I had to start the reading aloud with books he was more interested in. (Here I was going to be satisfied if he just let me read LOTR to him!) Hope you have luck with it soon. : )

        • Mostly I just want to read the Silmarillion out loud. And since it’s weird reading to a cat who really doesn’t care, I thought maybe a human spouse might be better. Maybe Children of Hurin, then.

  2. Thank you! I get so annoyed when people say Tom should have taken the Ring to Mordor. Or the ones that say they should have taken the Eagles *groan* I liked Tom, but was glad to be rid of his singing.

  3. Tom Bombadil is more of an unexpected element. I think that he really isn’t involved like other people, that’s all.
    I have a question: Is it anywhere in the actual lore of Middle-Earth that Elrond had the gift of foresight? Sure, they vaunt it in the movie, but is it anywhere in the books, or was that just something P.J. threw in to ratchet up the tension between Elrond and his daughter?

    • Possibly. The one thing that comes to mind is when, during the Council of Elrond, after Frodo offers to take the Ring, Elrond says: “If I understand aright all that I have heard… I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and if you do not find a way, no one will.”

      I always took it to mean “heard” as in “heard The Music.” Sort of in the same way that Yavanna says (something like) “And yet it was in the Music” when Oule (I think) questioned her about making the Ents.

      Not that Elrond could hear the music like Yavanna could, but he was definitely in tune with something. I mean, where else would he have heard some sort of nonspecific reference that he would have to properly understand about Frodo taking the Ring to Mordor?

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