Rings of Power: First Look at Tom Bombadil

And a brief summary of the true lore surrounding the character

In an interview with Vanity Fair (which also revealed the exclusive images you can see below), the showrunners of Amazon’s Rings of Power have now confirmed that the enigmatic character of Tom Bombadil will be appearing in the second season. The character is being portrayed by actor Rory Kinnear, known for his role as Frankenstein’s Creature in the show Penny Dreadful and an episode of Black Mirror. He also admitted in the interview that he’s a novice when it comes to The Lord of the Rings. “There are people who knew it from the books, people who knew it from the films, and there are those who had managed to get to 46 without knowing that much about it at all,” the actor said. When offered the part, he said,

“I was honest—I hadn’t read it. I said, ‘I’ll go away and read it and get back to you.’ And I went downstairs to my partner, who did know the books, and does know the films, and I said, ‘I’ve been offered this part. Apparently it’s in the books. A guy called Tom Bombadil.’ She was like, ‘No way! You’re not playing Tom Bombadil!’ So I sort of knew instantly then that it had a cultural heft to it that I was going to have to be sensitive to.”

Rings of Power Tom Bombadil

Tom Bombadil is not well known by most (outside of book readers) and is not necessarily an important character in the novel trilogy as a whole. He makes his first appearance in Fellowship of the Ring and is described as “a man too large and heavy for a hobbit, if not quite tall enough for one of the Big People, though he made noise enough for one stumping along with great yellow boots on his thick legs. He had a blue coat and long brown beard; his eyes were blue and bright, his face was red as a ripe apple, but creased into a hundred wrinkles of laughter. In his hands he carried on a large leaf as on a tray a small pile of white water-lilies.”

Rings of Power Tom Bombadil

As far as Tolkien, he made his views on the role of Tom Bombadil abundantly clear in several letters. In Letter 119 to Stanley Unwin, he describes Bombadil as the “spirit of the vanishing Oxford and Berkshire countryside.”

And in Letter 144 to Noami Mitchison, his proofreader, Tolkien further elaborated that he left Tom Bombadil as an intentional enigma in the story. He said, “And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).”

“Tom Bombadil is not an important person – to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a ‘comment’. I mean, I do not really write like that: he is just an invention, and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function. 

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 kinship, 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 question 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. But 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 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 Rings of Power, Payne and McKay took the gross liberty of significantly altering the character, giving Bombadil a second home on the outskirts of Rhûn, also known as the Eastlands, home to the Easterlings of Middle Earth. “In our story, he has gone out to the lands of Rhûn, which we learn used to be sort of Edenic and green and beautiful, but now is sort of a dead wasteland,” Payne said. “Tom has gone out there to see what’s happened as he goes on his various wanderings.” 

And further elaborated, “Really, Tom is sort of a curiosity within that structure because while it is darker, Tom Bombadil is singing and saying lines that could be nursery rhymes from children’s poems. So he sort of defies the tonal shift of the rest of the season and is a real point of light amidst an otherwise sea of darkness.”

Rings of Power Tom Bombadil

They add that he will interact with the Stranger, Nori, and Poppy. “When he finally crosses paths with the Stranger, you could say he has a desire to try to keep the destruction that has happened there from spreading to his beloved lands in the West. He nudges the Stranger along his journey, which he knows will eventually protect the larger natural world that he cares about. So I’d say our Tom Bombadil is slightly more interventionist than you see in the books, but only by 5% or 10%.”

Rings of Power Tom Bombadil

In the true lore, however, it’s unknown what Tom Bombadil did during the first and second ages, though he may have witnessed several major events and battles, as well the reducing of the great forests of Middle Earth. Regardless, he soon became a folkloric figure in the stories and myths of Elves, Dwarves, and Men over the ages.

As a Tolkien fan of both the books and the films, I can say without hesitation that after seeing the images and hearing what the showrunners have done to this character, I have even less desire to view this monstrosity than I did before.

But I digress. What are your thoughts? Please comment down below. 

Thanks again to Vanity Fair for the exclusive images!

Comments (2)

May 30, 2024 at 1:58 am

We are entering “Wicked” territory with all this. Where prequels are taking huge leaps and liberties, which will go far beyond canon and source material. If it gets youth into reading the old stories though, I am all for it, and at least they have a new character to tinker with.
Tolkien said it was unimportant, but good writers could do something with a character, the thing is, we don’t have those anymore, from what I can tell.
It’s curious. Perked up my interest to see this character.

May 30, 2024 at 9:26 am

Great article Jess!

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