I’ve been running into Tom Bombadil everywhere lately.
The bright blue-eyed, enigmatically mysterious being (man isn’t the right word, but neither is creature) of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth has been sprouting up on every corner of my mind.
I haven’t run into any merry fellows with blue jackets and boots of yellow. Although I know Seward to be an exciting place, I would be taken aback if I saw a man with a green girdle, breeches all of leather and “in his tall hat a swan-wing feather” standing outside on 4th Avenue.
There was one guy I saw on a recent run with wild hair, a bristling brown beard and a piercing stare that had me thinking, could that be him?
But Tom Bombadil is the master of wood, water and hill — not pavement and sidewalks. And when I do find myself in the woods, by the water or near the hills, I haven’t been singing his song, calling him.
“Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!
By water, wood and hill, by the reed and willow,
By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us!
Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!”
Instead, I’ve been seeing Tom Bombadil in different ways. I am in the midst of a “Lord of the Rings” reread, so the Bombadil bombardment didn’t come from the middle of nowhere earth. It did come as a surprise, though, since this isn’t the first, or last, time I’ll be reading the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
The books are a comfort to me. I remember the first time my dad mentioned Tolkien, handing me a copy of “The Hobbit” and then the trilogy. From there I devoured each and every page, map and appendices that Middle Earth had to offer. I read and reread until I could watch and rewatch the movies. And I will proudly admit that I had a lot of “Lord of the Rings” action figures. The passion was (and still is) real.
Despite all this, though, I lamented at how boring the Tom Bombadil chapters were. What was the point? Just get to the Prancing Pony and start the adventure already. Stop singing in the woods, eating delicious food and fawning over this being who speaks in rhymes.
This time around, though? I can’t get enough Tom Bombadil.
I’m finding a different comfort in this reading. Instead of rushing to the action like I have in the past, I savored the days the hobbits spent in the wood with Tom Bombadil and his wife, Goldberry, the river daughter. The rhymes stick in my head, as I imagine them being sung in between bouts of laughter.
It’s easy to blame my change in locale for my newfound admiration of Bombadil. Living in Seward, I’m closer to the wood, water and hill than I ever have been. Walking through the trees on Mt. Marathon last week, I half expected to see a group of hairy-footed hobbits following Tom, who is bouncing down down the trail singing:
“Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bobadillo!”
Instead, I saw a changed landscape from the one I had grown accustomed to all summer long. Branches were bare and the ground crunched below me. Ice filled the streams and small flecks of snow fell onto my face while I looked down at Seward glowing in the fading light of an early dusk. It was still the trail I knew, the trail I had walked or run on dozens of times before. Things were a bit different up there and I found myself looking closer at the ice crystals in the ground, instead of the budding wildflowers on the trees.
Here’s a tired statement: things change. And here’s my addition to it: so do the comforts you take from them.
The Tom Bombadil chapters are behind me and, for the first time, I’m sad to say goodbye to the character who taught the hobbits the right road, to keep their feet from wandering. But, it’s been a few years since I’ve added a few dog-ears to my ragged copy of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” and I’m excited to see what new comforts I’ll find along the trilogy’s trail.
By KAT SORENSEN, Peninsula Clarion