Now, the first time I read LOTR (which was about 10-12 years ago for my GCSE book review) I didn’t get pass beyond FOTR. After all these years, I have completely forgotten what I have read (actually, I didn’t have a clue what I read all those years ago). That was until the film came out, which reignited my interests in all things Tolkien. I returned to where I left off (Treebeard chapter) and could not get back into it so I left it for yet another few years.
A month ago, I decided to start right from the beginning and read it afresh. Indeed, it was more satisfying than I intially hoped for. More deeper in meaning than the film, there was a lot going on, and a lot of WTF?!s.
One WTF included Tom Bombadil. Peter Jackson said that he didn’t include it in his film because he didn’t play much of an important role in the story of the Ring itself. I have to agree, but Tom, when I first read about him, was such a weird character and conception of Tolkien that it puzzled me to no end as to how and why Tolkien inserted him into the book.
Indeed, Tom was almost as out of this world as the Elves. He sounded like a mad git! Of course, there maybe method in madness. This method is in the songs he sings and the power embodied in the ditties, which are amusing in themselves. Bizzare, yes. Meaningless, no.
Frodo, trapped by a Barrow-wight, thus remembers Tom’s rhyme and sings:
Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!
By water, wood and hill, by reed and willo,
By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us!
Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!
Tom then mysteriously appears nearby to sing:
Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow,
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
None has caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master:
His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.
Then Frodo and Co. are rescued and the Barrow-wights are exorcised.
The fact that Tom ‘happened’ to be nearby at that point of time is bizzare to me. Could he fly like Monkey? Or did he follow them?
In any case, that is not important. What’s important is the idea that words have power. Indeed, we have a clear example in the CLAMP manga, xxxHOLiC, when the words of a twin sister literally ‘cuts’ her other twin sister, physically cutting her and tying her down with negative words and comments. In another chapter, Yuko writes the words 「斬鉃剣」 on a baseball bat and and literally ‘slices’ a laptop in half! She says ‘names have power… a thing can have the same power as for which is named.’
We also see this is a cultural context. Voodoo dolls, Daoist talismans, etc. Each either represent or invoke something. And there is the case in psychology that calling someone something can make them believe that they are that something; suggestion I believe it is called.
Thus in the case of Bombadil, the singing of his songs ‘summon’ him. They give the ‘summoner’ power within the words to rise up. That is why sometimes singing can relieve or inhibitions and throw away our insecurities. That is the power of words.