Episode 175 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

Comment on Elrond’s pensive rambling:
  • Elrond does more than just gently recap the tales told thus far, while commenting on the dangers of the Ring and it’s potential to create treachery, as well as the nature of hobbits.
  • The mention of the squirrels gives us a glimpse of the world as it used to be, prior to the nations that are currently involved in the story even existing, but also highlights the continuity.
  • While the old world is diminishing and the world is changing as they move toward a new age, which reflects on Saruman’s speech to Gandalf, though Elrond comes to a different conclusion.
  • Elrond is also putting this into an elvish context for the largely elvish council, showing that this time will decide what the new world will be like, and whether they will have a place in it.
  • However, Elrond also shows that the old conflicts of good end evil from the past are ongoing and have reemerged to take part in the story of the Ring as it continues to unfold.
  • This allows him to transition back into the discussion of what to do with the Ring in this light.
He would not have come:
  • Were Tom Bombadil’s bounds once larger? Gandalf may be implying that the current bounds are new, using the present perfect tense to indicate that these have been recently set.
  • It’s possible that those bounds might be limited by a shrinking Old Forest, but the use of the word “withdrawn” indicates deliberate action on Tom Bombadil’s part.
  • The implication is that Tom used to wonder far more widely, as when Elrond knew him in the old world that he has just described, though this might change with the passing of the ages.
  • The newness of these bounds is in relation to Gandalf, so they are actually recent, as he is.
  • It’s highly possible that the setting of these bounds is related to his marriage to Goldberry, which seems to be relatively recent, and would tie him more to the Withywindle valley.
  • Maybe the change of days and Tom’s decision to settle down and get married are tied together.
  • Note: The Withywindle and Brandywine Rivers seem to be part of those bounds, as evidenced by the sequel poem, “Bombadil Goes Boating”, where he visits Farmer Maggot in the Marish. It’s conceivable that those bounds expanded after the War of the Ring, though that’s not explicit, and it’s more likely that he, like Treebeard and Galadriel, is waiting for the end of Arda Marred. This may be glimpsed in Frodo’s poem for Goldberry, speaking of an eternal spring and summer.
  • Elrond ironically speaks of summoning Tom Bombadil, as he didn’t summon any of the others, but this lays a stress on Tom as maybe a solution to the Council’s problems, not as a counselor.
  • Gandalf emphasizes that this would have been a request, not a command on Elrond’s part, but it also implies that Gandalf knows Tom better than Elrond, as he speaks with authority about him.
  • Note: They could not have summoned Tom through the song, as this was based on the specific promise he had made to Frodo, to help him while still within Bombadil’s boundaries.
The Ring has no power over him:
  • Erestor’s mistake is understandable considering the way that the Ring has been spoken of thus far, though Gandalf’s correction is more in line with what Tom and Goldberry have said before.
  • Was Tom’s trick with the Ring magic or sleight-of-hand? For Tom, there may not be a distinction.
  • Tom’s contentment and joy in the moment make him immune to the temptations of the Ring, as there would be nothing which it could tempt Tom with, as it plays on one’s unfulfilled desires.
  • Note: Galadriel’s reaction to being offered the Ring, and the recitation of her desires and plans, shows her vulnerability to the temptation of the Ring, which makes her very different from Tom.
  • We’ve actually seen what happened when Tom was offered and took the Ring. Though it had no power over him, it still had power over Frodo, even stronger when it seems to be taken away.
  • That moment was possibly Frodo’s low point under the power of the Ring, showing that Tom’s possession of the Ring neither changes its power over others or its own nature.
  • This is different from Gandalf’s moment with the Ring, as he only tosses it away into the fire, while Tom handled it and even put the Ring on his finger, including looking through it.
  • The difference seems to suggest that Tom actually possessed the Ring, while Gandalf did not.
  • While Frodo handed over the Ring willingly, Tom had also probably exerted his power to help him, as Frodo finds himself handing it over without thinking about it, as Gandalf also did.
Within those bounds nothing seems to dismay him:
  • Erestor’s second question is also sensible, as Tom seems to be in no danger from the Ring, which seems to track with Elrond’s thoughts, as he understands that someone must take the Ring.
  • Whatever action they choose to take with the Ring, there must be a bearer who will carry it, and they must carry it alone, as even Gandalf has already said that only one hand can wield the Ring.
  • As Tom is not daunted by the ancient dangers, like Old Man Willow and the Barrow-wights, it’s reasonable to assume that he would not be in danger from any other ancient threats to him.
  • Note: In early drafts, the Ringwraiths were defeated by Tom Bombadil in his own boundaries.
  • While Erestor’s question seems rhetorical, asking if this plan would work, not whether Tom would want to do it, though Gandalf answers it in a more practical way.
  • Why would Tom unwillingly take the Ring? He doesn’t seem to fear its corruptive influence.
  • Note: Tom can be interpreted as a personification of Arda Unmarred and is more than a memory of the time before the marring, but as an exemplar of what Arda Restored will be like. This is related to Tolkien’s comments on the nature of Hope in Morgoth’s Ring, as it is connected to the way that things should be, and what shall be in the future, just as it was in the first Music.
He would be a most unsafe guardian:
  • Why would Tom only take it if he was begged by the free folk? Why would he not understand it?
  • Tom would feel pity for their plight, but he would not understand the Ring’s appeal or danger.
  • While Gandalf’s statements seem belittling of Tom, this doesn’t seem to be Gandalf’s intent.
  • Tom understands the need to oppose Sauron, but he has no experience with temptation, and therefore no personal understanding of the need to keep the Ring safe instead of destroying it.
  • When Frodo put on the Ring, Tom makes no acknowledgement of the power of the Ring over Frodo, but only treats it as a piece of adornment that doesn’t suit Frodo at a deep level.
  • Note: This is ironic foreshadowing, considering what happens to Frodo’s hand later in the story.
  • Where would they expect Tom to keep the Ring? Would he wear it or hide it away, and would be keep it secret from his friends like Farmer Maggot, who might also be tempted?
  • Since Tom lives in the moment, those things present in his mind would drive the Ring out.
  • Tom may throw the Ring away as if it were trash as he doesn’t value it for himself, but this would imply that he doesn’t understand its value to Sauron or others.
  • Keeping the Ring would be a role that he would have to take sacrificially, and this isn’t his job.
  • Tom is not ignorant of evil and suffering, as he has witnessed and still remembers the tragedies that have befallen others in his times, but those things don’t disturb his personal contentment.
  • By sacrificing his contentment to guard the Ring, he would then make himself vulnerable to it.
  • The role of Ring-bearer and Tom’s contentment are inimical to each other, and incompatible.
  • This also means that there is no perfect Ring-bearer, even if Tom seems theoretically perfect.
  • Note: Elrond and Gandalf seem not to have discussed Tom Bombadil prior to the Council.
  • Gandalf and Elrond are also pointing that since no one is safe holding the Ring, the only solution is to send the Ring to the Fire with the best possible Ring-bearer, though they’d also be unsafe.
  • However, they must allow the Council to come to this conclusion in their own time and reason.