Does Tom of the Stone Troll poem = Tom Bombadil ?

Bruce N H

Member
Hey all,

When I first read LotR I just assumed that the Tom who is the protagonist of the Stone Troll poem was none other than Tom Bombadil. I know there's no real reason aside from the same name and the fact that Tom B. is the sort of guy who would have the audacity to walk up to a troll and demand to get the bones back. Anyway -

Arguments (mostly just speculation) for:
According to Frodo and also the note in the Adventures of Tom Bombadil, this is Sam's composition. While our main characters did not know of Tom B before they met him in the Old Forest, Tom B was known to some in the Shire (at least Farmer Maggot), and potentially he was more widely known in the region before he "with[drew] into a little land, within bounds he has set". It could be that there were old crazy stories about Tom floating around the Shire that Sam heard as a kid and worked into his poem. These wouldn't be canonical lore about Tom B any more than the stories of "Mad Baggins, who used to vanish with a bang and a flash and reappear with bags of jewels and gold" were true stories about Bilbo, but it would echo something true from the past.
Presumably in the days before his borders shrank Tom would have ranged as far as troll country, so it would be easy to imagine him having an encounter with a troll.
"Up came Tom with his big boots on" - of course Tom B is famous for wearing boots.
When the troll of the poem tries to grab Tom, he "finds his hands had hold of naught" - that seems to fit Tom B, who sings "None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the Master" at one point.
One possibility, btw, is that this poem is a spontaneous composition by Sam. I'm assuming Sam saying "these old images brought it to my mind" means that seeing the trolls reminds Sam of a poem he wrote years ago (perhaps inspired by Bilbo's stories of the trolls), but it could mean that seeing them inspires him to make up the poem right here. It would be natural to combine a fictionalized version of the trolls before him with a fictionalized version of the Tom he met less than three weeks ago.

Arguments against:
The Tom of the poem is not given a last name - the real Tom B would be singing out his full name every third line, not to mention the color of his boots.
It's not like Tom is an unknown name around these parts - there are three Toms in Sam's family and even one of these very stone trolls before us in this scene was named Tom.
The Tom of the poem has a "nuncle". Tom B is oldest and fatherless, which also means uncle-less. I suppose this could just be artistic license on Sam's part, or the distortion of funny stories told and retold over generations.

Information that is pretty equivocal:
The poem isn't in Tom B's regular meter, but of course this isn't a poem BY Tom B, just one potentially about him.
The poem shows up in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, but of course so do a lot of non Tom B poems (only two of the poems are explicitly about Tom B). The Pauline Baynes illustration that accompanies the Stone Troll poem does look like her drawing of Tom B, but we can't count her illustrations as canonical.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on any connections or not between Tom B and Tom of the Stone Troll poem. Did Tolkien ever say anything explicit one way or the other? Perhaps in the Letters? I know the poem existed long before he wrote LotR, but didn't his Tom B poems also exist pre-LotR? Maybe he just liked making up fun stories about a character named Tom, much like I tell my daughter stories about Princess Fling-flang-biddley-bom, and those became the Tom of the various poems and eventually the book. OTOH, it's not like all the Jacks of old children's poems and stories are the same guy climbing beanstalks, fetching pails of water, jumping over candlesticks, etc.

Bruce (Bricktales or Bruce NH)
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
"Up came Tom with his big boots on" - of course Tom B is famous for wearing boots.
This is my favourite of your arguments, mostly just because it's one of those things that I never noticed, but seems so obvious once it's pointed out. And it seems like one of those tiny details that could be remembered long after the actual story is lost.
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
The Pauline Baynes illustration that accompanies the Stone Troll poem does look like her drawing of Tom B, but we can't count her illustrations as canonical.
That reminds me of a funny story. Long ago on another forum we were discussing "Smith of Wootton Major". In one of his journeys to Faery, the protagonist encounters some warriors: he is scared of them, but they ignore him and he eventually returns home safe.

In some editions, they are described as "Elven mariners" but in other editions as "Eleven mariners". Was it a typo that was corrected? A correct word that was changed by an editor or a typesetter? No idea. The Pauline Baynes illustration does not clear this up either, because it shows them all wearing helms, so we can't tell by the ears (pointed or rounded) whether they are elves or not. But there are, indeed, eleven of them in the picture!
 

Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
"Up came Tom with his big boots on" - of course Tom B is famous for wearing boots.
And hobbits go barefoot, except Stoors in muddy weather.

But Tom Bombadil with his prancing and his leaping, is not "lasting lame" from kicking a Troll.

Maybe Sam imagined Tom as a Breeland big man.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I never thought of Tom Bombadil as the poems Tom... he just doesn't act like him.

"With the shank or the shin o' my father's kin;"

That Tom has a father and an uncle and a lame leg... nothing i would connect to Bombadil.

Tom wears big boots, thats the only thing which resembles Bombadil except for the name, and as ,mentioned before, also Bree men and Stoors wear boots .

In JRRTs recording Tom and Tim are named John and Jim instead...
 
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Johannes Movert

New Member
While our main characters did not know of Tom B before they met him in the Old Forest, Tom B was known to some in the Shire (at least Farmer Maggot), and potentially he was more widely known in the region before he "with[drew] into a little land, within bounds he has set". It could be that there were old crazy stories about Tom floating around the Shire that Sam heard as a kid and worked into his poem. These wouldn't be canonical lore about Tom B any more than the stories of "Mad Baggins, who used to vanish with a bang and a flash and reappear with bags of jewels and gold" were true stories about Bilbo, but it would echo something true from the past.
You really sold me on this, Bruce. I actually think it fits perfectly. If Tom Bombadil was once known in the Shire long ago, he might be at least a vague figure of old folk lore or fairy tales from Sam's childhood. I think it's absolutely possible that Sam based his Tom on the the Tom from the old tales that Bombadil inspired; in which case it doesen't matter that the Tom from the song has an uncle, or that Tom B's leg isn't "lasting lame", because Sam didn't know anything about the real Tom when he made up the song.

I love this! From now on this is canon for me at least. That Sam unknowingly based his Tom on Tom Bombadil, I mean; not that the story from the song actually happened.
 
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Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
I know the whole song is supposed to be rather silly, but I can't help asking how Tom/John recognizes the shinbone. Don't all shinbones look alike?
 
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