Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Adventures Of Tom Bombadil!

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil was first published in 1962, eight years after The Lord of the Rings made a splash. I first encountered these poems as part of The Tolkien Reader in the 70's. The book continued the conceit that it was Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam who wrote most if not all of The Red Book from which The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and these poems are derived. In the case of these poems some are suggested to be just lyrics from in and around the Hobbit culture that are included in addition to those written by specific characters. 

"The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" introduces us to Tom and the lovely river maiden Goldberry. They are not yet married as this poem begins and we follow Tom as he gambols in his signature blue coat though the forest. He first meets Goldberry who pulls him into the water of the Withy-windle playfully, then he deals with Old Man Willow and later still the more dangerous Barrow Wight. By the end of the poem, he has married Goldberry. This is one of Tolkien's earliest works, first published in 1934. 

"Tom Bombadil Goes Boating" was composed by Tolkien specifically for the 1962 collection and in this one we go along with Tom as he floats down the Withy-windle River into Brandywine River into Hobbit territory. He has various encounters with animals and spends time with Farmer Maggot and his wife. Both poems are light-hearted merriments and lack the more sinister atmosphere of the novel. 

"Errantry" and "Princess Mee" are two poems about fairies. "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Late" and "The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon" are both plays on the classic nursery rhyme, the former credited to Bilbo Baggins. "The Stone Troll", "Perry-the-Winkle", "Cat" and "Oilphaunt" are credited to Sam Gamgee. 

"The Mewlips" (about carniverous fairy creatures), "Fastitcolon" (about a monster that pretends to be an island), "Shadow-Bride", "The Hoard" (about a dragon and his loot) and "The Last Ship" (about Elves sailing away) are not connected to any fictional author though details suggest they come from outside the Shire. "The Sea-Bell" or "Frodo's Dreme" follows on with the tradition of Frodo and is likely assumed to be his writing, as it is a rather very somber poem. 

These are soulful little poems, many with more music than meaning in most cases. To hear J.R.R. Tolkien himself read some of these poems check out this link. 

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