Even if all the free folk of the world begged him?

[My apologies if I make any mistakes or commit any faux pas in this post. I’ve been an attentive listener to the podcast since commencement but this is my first time putting a response down proper, feel free to provide guidance if this breaks any rules or guidelines, unstated or otherwise.]


In session 176, I detected some confusion around Gandalf’s hypothetical referendum and entreaties to Tom Bombadil to protect the ring. Specifically, around the more likely scenario Gandalf gives, that he would discard it. While immediately puzzling, I think its a telling indication of Bombadil’s nature. It might appear callous, especially considering that it would only occur after every free-person in Middle Earth has entreated him; but I believe that to be the point. It’s always been my belief that Gandalf is stressing that even if some (realistically impossible) agreement could place the responsibility at his feet (or more precisely his boots), EVEN that level of incredible global consensus would not change his nature in the slightest.

As Gandalf has stated, the ring has no mastery over him. And by extension, we maybe have to wonder if anything does?



Tolkien in his letters, spoke to this a number of times, so curious did many people find Bombadil. But I don’t know if that’s something we generally avoid here, in order to approach the text in its ongoing state without remembering ahead (for instance Sam’s ring induced vision in Mordor) and later reflections from Tolkien himself (Letters 144 & 153). But to address this seemingly blasé attitude of a person who would throw away an object Every Single Person in the free world asked them to protect, even in the novel thus far I think we’ve begun to see a fundamental disconnect between Tom and the affairs of the great forces in middle earth.



In light of all this, I think its placement here following Elrond’s growing interest in the nature of Hobbits (and Bilbo not being quite as unique as he had assumed) is also telling. Yes, Tom Bombadil’s utility as a possible protector naturally follows his appearance in Elrond’s reminiscences, and Erestor asks a very practical question. But maybe it also serves to highlight the virtue of Hobbits even more for the purpose ahead of them. If there’s a sliding scale of the rings ability to ensnare the will of those that claim it, then Tom Bombadil is on the far, far end of that scale, so unconcerned with its powers that he would in fact be a dangerous ring-bearer. The person necessary for this quest must be able to do what Tom cannot by his nature.

Put more succinctly, I’ve always seen Bombadil’s relationship to the ring a little like those rare conditions that render people unable to sense physical pain (congenital analgesia for instance). It seems like a great thing to be born with, until you don’t realise you’ve cut yourself severely or leave your hand on an active stovetop, pain serves a functional purpose. Tom’s complete inability to imagine a use for the ring within his personal worldview, to desire any form of mastery, is simultaneously also his inability to properly consider the consequences of its loss.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Tidwald Bridge-talker,

Excellent post. Look forward to many more!

One comment I would make for consideration, is perhaps not to take Gandalf's pronouncements as gospel. Gandalf can indulge in exaggeration and hyperbole. (Example - Gandalf, "A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die." What about Dwarves and their seven Rings Gandalf? Appendix A: "Their (Dwarves) lives were not affected by any Ring, to live either longer or shorter because of it."

We infer (from 'The Shadow of the Past'), that Gandalf already thinks that trying to throw the Ring into Mt. Doom is the best course of action (though not so sure why he thinks that. He does not seem to think that that will destroy Sauron - Or, if he does, why not say so during the Council of Elrond?) So, that is where he (and Elrond) seem to be trying to steer the Council. They are quick to shoot down alternative ideas.

So, Gandalf's comments on Bombadil, that he would not take the Ring unless all the free people asked him too, and that if he did take it he would be an unsafe guardian, as he would "soon forget it, or most likely throw it away. Such things have no hold on his mind," should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. While at first glance, they may seem congruent with Frodo's account of Tom Bombadil, is it really so? Is Tom really so loth to help, or so forgetful as Gandalf intimates?

I think Gandalf is wrong about Tom. Or misinterpreting him.

Gandalf also has an agenda here. He has an intuition, or pre-sentiment, that throwing the Ring in the Fire is the 'right' thing to do. He will not be supportive of alternative suggestions.
 

Rachel Port

Active Member
Tom's immunity (I would describe it as immunity) to the Ring is there in his not disappearing when he puts it on, and on seeing Frodo after Frodo puts it on. If someone is immune to a disease they might have a hard time understanding the precautions everyone else is taking. (How fitting in this time of COVID-19.)

I do think Gandalf - and Elrond - have decided destroying the Ring is the only real solution, and are leading the Council in that direction. But the discussion in class about Tom not seeing the importance of keeping the Ring safe - and that if he did, he would lose that immunity - is very interesting. It makes sense. And I compare it to Sam using the Ring in Mordor and deciding that he is better off with an ordinary garden in that Sam is, in a mortal way, also content with who he is, which is also shown when he is trying to decide if he should take the Ring when he thinks Frodo is dead and says he is not meant to be the Ringbearer. Contentment and love are strong antidotes.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Rachel Port,

I agree that Tom would probably not be as alarmed by the Ring as Gandalf is. However, by no means to the extent that Gandalf suggests. To understand how Gandalf's statements about Tom run entirely counter to all the evidence we have in the text, see my post in this forum on "What Sam might have said (or thought) about Gandalf's dismissal of the Tom Bombadil Ring option'.
 

Rachel Port

Active Member
I saw that post and enjoyed reading it. It made good sense. And you know what I think of Gandalf's exaggerated way of talking. I have no argument with you about that. But I liked the idea that being made to care about the Ring might prove corrupting even to Tom.
 
I compare it to Sam using the Ring in Mordor and deciding that he is better off with an ordinary garden in that Sam is, in a mortal way, also content with who he is...
That’s exactly the passage I was thinking of Rachel, but I know we’re a long, long way away from it, so I didn’t want to delve that far. But I think that’s a big part of what I’m leaning towards. Sam also has a vision of mastery over the lands, but the second part of his thought-process there, the contentedness is I think the key to understanding Tom.

It’s a useful thing for Sam to possess when he has a path clearly set before him. But where we are now in the narrative, before any goal like Mount Doom has been established, that sentiment might not be as useful.
 
Gandalf's comments on Bombadil, that he would not take the Ring unless all the free people asked him too, and that if he did take it he would be an unsafe guardian, as he would "soon forget it, or most likely throw it away. Such things have no hold on his mind," should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. While at first glance, they may seem congruent with Frodo's account of Tom Bombadil, is it really so? Is Tom really so loth to help, or so forgetful as Gandalf intimates?

I think Gandalf is wrong about Tom. Or misinterpreting him.

Very interesting, I can definitely see the idea that Gandalf has a motive going into the discussion. And that perhaps he is warping the truth a little to get the council onto the right track. I have to admit, I sometimes forget Gandalf’s wiliness in my estimation of his character.

But I also don’t feel he’s exaggerating that much. My view was more that he is correct perhaps on what would happen, but the why, I think is the interesting facet. And its not because of any foolishness or malice on Tom’s part. But because of his complete disconnection from the power and worldly concerns that the Ring represents.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Tidwald Bridge-maker,

It is possible that you are believing exactly what Gandalf wants you to believe. Gandalf is very good at inducing inferences in his audience which are contradicted by the evidence.

Gandalf: “He would soon forget it, or most likely throw it away. Such things have no hold on his mind,"

Evidence: “Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn,”! Tom told the Hobbits about everything that ever happened in the history of Middle-earth, “about evil things and good things, things friendly and things unfriendly, cruel things and kind things, and secrets hidden under brambles.” When Tom found that brooch with the blue stones in the barrow treasure, he remembered the fair lady who wore it long ago, and said, “Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!”

Gandalf says that Tom would forget the Ring? All the evidence is that Tom forgets nothing! Gandalf says that 'such things have no hold on his mind'? What sort of things? All the evidence is that Tom remembers and holds in his mind the evil things, the things unfriendly, the cruel things, just as much as the good things! Gandalf says that Tom would likely throw the Ring away? He shows no evidence of throwing the brooch away. It sounds like he and Goldberry will keep it forever, and remember the fair lady who wore it long ago.

What Gandalf says about Tom is not at all like the Tom we met in his house near the Withywindle!

This class is supposed to be about close reading. If we ignore the evidence that we ourselves have read, and leap to believe that Gandalf is gospel, well, then we are doing close reading a dis-service.

What makes you think that Tom has a "complete disconnection from the power and worldly concerns that the Ring represents"? It does not seem so to me. Is there any evidence other than Gandalf's statement?

Of course, the Council is likely to accept Gandalf's statements at face value. They have not met Tom Bombadil. Except for Frodo, who is unlikely to contradict Gandalf, and Sam, who I think might have contradicted Gandalf, except that he did not want to draw attention, as he was not supposed to be there at all. However, we, the first-time readers, have met Tom Bombadil, and I think we should pay more attention to what we know of Tom, rather than what Gandalf says about him.
 
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Gandalf: “He would soon forget it, or most likely throw it away. Such things have no hold on his mind,"

Evidence:“Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn,” ! Tom told the Hobbits about everything that ever happened in the history of Middle-earth, “about evil things and good things, things friendly and things unfriendly, cruel things and kind things, and secrets hidden under brambles.” When Tom found that brooch with the blue stones in the barrow treasure, he remembered the fair lady who wore it long ago, and said, “Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!”

Gandalf says that Tom would forget the Ring? All the evidence is that Tom forgets nothing! Gandalf says that 'such things have no hold on his mind'? What sort of things? All the evidence is that Tom remembers and holds in his mind the evil things, the things unfriendly, the cruel things, just as much as the good things! Gandalf says that Tom would likely throw the Ring away? He shows no evidence of throwing the brooch away. It sounds like he and Goldberry will keep it forever, and remember the fair lady who wore it long ago.

What Gandalf says about Tom is not at all like the Tom we met in his house near the Withywindle!

This class is supposed to be about close reading. If we ignore the evidence that we ourselves have read, and leap to believe that Gandalf is gospel, well, then we are doing close reading a dis-service.

What makes you think that Tom has a "complete disconnection from the power and worldly concerns that the Ring represents"? It does not seem so to me. Is there any evidence other than Gandalf's statement?
Haha you’re right, Gandalf might indeed be doing a number on me. But I wouldn’t be so quick to read it as simply as the old wizard making up a story out of whole grey cloth, again, I think there’s truth there even if through the hyperbolic ‘all the free peoples’ call.

The evidence for this? Well in many ways, my evidence is your evidence, just seen from a different angle I suppose. “Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn,” “about evil things and good things, things friendly and things unfriendly, cruel things and kind things, and secrets hidden under brambles.”

Tom Bombadil clearly possesses a long memory of many things, but look at the collection of objects he references. He puts the evil and good things, the friendly and unfriendly and then the cruel and kind and then the secrets under brambles all in the same frame of reference. He does not proudly state that he remembers first great kings and evil beasts, but rather acorns and raindrops.

‘Secrets under brambles’ is an interesting turn of phrase, but I don’t think there’s any evidence that these are great lost treasures, they might very well be mushrooms and fox-holes. And I think that’s likely because the trajectory of import is trending downwards in that quote from the grand, to the more mundane. But as the final element of the list, these small secret things are given as much weight as the mightiest.

So we know he remembers many things, but his statements to this fact show no discernment between the very mighty and the very simple, there’s no ranking, no codifying of these things, which suggests to me a different mindset and a different set of priorities. And Tom’s idyllic living situation and his simple joys that we’ve already born witness to corroborate this.

The broach too, I take as a sort of evidence for this mindset. Its an artefact of a bygone age, carrying with it stories of a great people and the sadness of their passing (something that we can see him apparently remember). But then what does he do with it? He gives it away! Now specifically it’s a gift for Goldberry, and he does say they’ll remember she who once wore it, but that’s more as a part of its function as a gift, not the purpose for giving it. It has come to him without him searching for it, it was not so important that he made a mission to the barrow to retrieve it.

All of which is to say, this is why I think Gandalf is still being fairly honest here. Its not that Tom can’t remember something as important as ‘this is the ring of power’, but rather that there’s no reason to believe he would keep that at the forefront of his mind when its simply not all that important to him. ‘No hold on his mind’ as Gandalf puts it. His mind, as the passages we’re discussing suggest, is largely on other things on all the acorns and raindrops, or at least as we’ve seen, has a tendency to wander as is his wont.

We seem to disagree on this note, and that might be down to our individual perspectives on what we’ve read. But to my mind the Tom he describes is precisely the Tom we met in his house near the Withywindle. And that’s the problem.

Haha unless of course Goldberry likes the look of it as a gift, but I honestly can’t imagine Tom thinking that it will look any fairer on her than on Frodo.
 
And just as an addendum, I’m glad you brought up the brooch because I think its so interesting when it comes to this discussion of the Ring.


“He chose for himself from the pile a brooch set with blue stones, many shaded like flax-flowers or the wings of blue butterflies. He looked long at it, as if stirred by some memory, shaking his head, and saying at last: "Here is a pretty toy for Tom and for his lady! Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!"


A few observations here. He chooses the brooch, picks it out himself and we get a lovely description of it. But the blue stones are not characterised by value (e.g. shining sapphires) but rather as like flowers and butterfly wings. I dont think this is accidental, we’re getting a sense of what is important to Tom.

Then we get what seems to be a memory, but importantly it is stirred by the object. If he remembers all these things long past (which we both seem to agree he does) thats a great indication of the forgetfulness that Gandalf is alluding to. He put the dark past of the barrow and the fall of Arnor away from his mind, probably because he would rather dwell on other things (why perhaps he shakes his head). So we can see that there are things Tom does not dwell on, very important to everyone else outside his realm, but not to him.

And then, having had these memories stirred, that do not seem to be pleasant ones, he finds his level again. Its ‘a pretty toy for Tom and his lady’ to be given away as a lovely gift. That as a consequence will help them to remember. Remember what? The fall of Fornost, or Arnor. The encroaching darkness and the Witch King and barrows. No, its the fair lady, they will remember her.

I think the brooch passage has given us a clear view of both Tom’s priorities. And of his relationship to the great events of Middle Earth. It shows us his great memory, but also shows us how it operates. The ring, like the history of the brooch is something he would remember, but it might be something he would only recall if given cause to do so.
 

JJ48

Well-Known Member
I think the brooch passage has given us a clear view of both Tom’s priorities. And of his relationship to the great events of Middle Earth. It shows us his great memory, but also shows us how it operates. The ring, like the history of the brooch is something he would remember, but it might be something he would only recall if given cause to do so.
Keep in mind also what kind of remembering is taking place. Tom remembers stories and histories, but doesn't seem to remember duties so much.

"Tom clapped his hands and cried: ‘Tom, Tom! your guests are tired, and you had near forgotten! Come now, my merry friends, and Tom will refresh you! You shall clean grimy hands, and wash your weary faces; cast off your muddy cloaks and comb out your tangles!’"
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Interesting how powerful Gandalf's inducement of inference is!

"Tom would forget about the Ring". Nonsense! Tom has never forgotten anything as far as we can tell. "Or throw it away". Come on Gandalf - you are just being ridiculous! "Things like the Ring have no hold on Tom's mind." What! What on earth makes you think that Gandalf? From all the stories the Hobbits heard Tom tell, EVERYTHING sticks in Tom's mind.

Now, I think it is certainly true that Gandalf and Bombadil have very different perspectives. Gandalf may well have had a somewhat jaundiced view of Tom Bombadil and his outlook on things.

Let us imagine Gandalf encountering Bombadil soon after Gandalf arrives in Middle-earth.

Gandalf - "Amazing! How powerful! I never imagined such a potentially potent ally against Sauron still existed in Middle-earth! Hey Tom, I can think of many ways that you could usefully aid in the campaign! Let's do some planning!"

Bombadil - "Your job, Gandalf! Your job, but not mine. You just got here. I have been here from the start. Sauron is your problem. He will pass. His boss passed. I saw it happen. Long after Sauron is gone, Tom will still be here. Good luck with your mission. You seem like a very nice wizard. I'm sure you will do fine."

Gandalf - "Useless! What a shame! That Bombadil is not willing to fight for Middle-earth! Well, we will just have to succeed without him!"

So, it is quite likely that Gandalf has already mentally dismissed Bombadil, and that is the prejudice from whence he speaks at the Council. Of course, Gandalf has discounted (seemingly) that Bombadil has just saved Middle-earth by rescuing the Hobbits from the Barrow-weight. If he had not, the Wight would have probably handed the Ring right over to the Nazgul, and it would be well on its way to Sauron's finger by now!

Gandalf's statements on Bombadil are so far outside the evidence that we have on Tom that they seem ridiculous once you go back and look at the evidence.

Now, despite every statement Gandalf makes about Bombadil being demonstrably wrong, and dead wrong, it is still possible that Gandalf would be right that Tom would be a poor choice of Ring-hider. However, I think it would be a massive stretch to find any evidence that we can see which would lead us to agree with Gandalf. Of course, cunningly, there is just enough in our knowledge of Tom, and our own prejudices, to make it easy to fall in line with Gandalf's insinuations. Tom's seeming buffoonery, his constant singing about how blue his jacket, and how yellow his boots, his 'otherness' and mystery, pre-condition us to think, 'Oh yes, I can see that Tom is not really so concerned with the wider affairs of Middle-earth. This view, is I think very comparable to considering the 'Tra - la - la - Lally Elves', that Bilbo encounters in Rivendell to be comical and frivolous creatures, rather than the great and formidible bastion of knowledge and power which Rivendell is.

I don't think there is any evidence to dismiss Tom as a possible Ring=guardian so quickly and casually. I think Gandalf just has another agenda in mind.
 

JJ48

Well-Known Member
Out of curiosity, have you addressed anywhere the long discussion we had in class about how, not only is Tom forgetting the Ring likely, but it is a necessary part of the nature that makes people consider him in the first place? You may well disagree with the arguments, but to say, "There's no evidence to dismiss Tom," is itself rather dismissive of a lengthy class discussion.
 

Rachel Port

Active Member
Tom would remember the Ring, but he wouldn't remember it more than anything else. I think what Gandalf means by forgetting is a kind of carelessness - other things would take precedence in his mind often enough to make it dangerous.

As for throwing it away, I'm not sure what he meant, but when we were discussing it in class I got a picture of Tom playing with it and tossing it around in the Old Forest and Old Man Willow swallowing it when it came near enough.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi JJ48,

Sure I remember the long discussion we had in class. I was there.

I note that Matt DeForrest posted 4 times in the Discord chat something to the effect of, "Can we trust Gandalf here?" but was basically ignored.

That Gandalf! He is strong in the Force (as Obi-wan Kenobi might say)! Everyone was just trying to explain or justify Gandalf's comments on Tom, rather than challenge them. ("There is nothing to see here about Tom being a good hiding place for the Ring. Move along!")

Of course, in the course, our acquaintance with Tom is far more distant in time, than it would be if we were first-time readers. So our recollection of Tom might have become more hazy. The 'evidence' brought up in the class discussion was not generally textual evidence, but rather conjecture based upon theories of Bombadil's nature coloured by Gandalf's insinuations.

I don't think there is any evidence in the text of Tom forgetting to do anything. Any evidence that Tom forgets anything. Plenty of evidence that Tom remembers everything.

I think there is plenty of evidence that Gandalf's statements about Tom, especially about him forgetting the Ring or throwing it away, are just dead wrong.

Now, on the question of how well could Tom guard the Ring, and how willing would he be to do so, there is less evidence and much more room for conjecture. Glorfindel opines that, "If all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First; and then Night will come." Who knows if Glorfindel is correct? Is he a Bombadil expert? We might expect Goldberry to know more of Tom Bombadil than Glorfindel does. She says, "No one has ever caught old Tom walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hill-tops under light and shadow. He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master." Bombadil was presumably not caught by Morgoth when that Dark Lord was ruling Middle-earth. Sauron is not nearly as powerful nor as dangerous! Tom is master. Master of what? Well, master of pretty much anything he wants to be master of, as far as we can see! I think the Council is greatly underestimating his ability to keep the Ring hidden from Sauron.

However, would Tom take on the task of hiding the Ring? Here, I think Gandalf might well be more correct. Tom might well feel that this is not his job. He might be very attuned to the Song. He might have an even greater intuition than Gandalf and Elrond, that the best course of action will be to try to throw the Ring into the Fire. However, this is just conjecture. There is no supporting evidence.
 
Hi JJ48,

That Gandalf! He is strong in the Force (as Obi-wan Kenobi might say)! Everyone was just trying to explain or justify Gandalf's comments on Tom, rather than challenge them. ("There is nothing to see here about Tom being a good hiding place for the Ring. Move along!")

Of course, in the course, our acquaintance with Tom is far more distant in time, than it would be if we were first-time readers. So our recollection of Tom might have become more hazy. The 'evidence' brought up in the class discussion was not generally textual evidence, but rather conjecture based upon theories of Bombadil's nature coloured by Gandalf's insinuations.

I don't think there is any evidence in the text of Tom forgetting to do anything. Any evidence that Tom forgets anything. Plenty of evidence that Tom remembers everything.

I think there is plenty of evidence that Gandalf's statements about Tom, especially about him forgetting the Ring or throwing it away, are just dead wrong.

Now, on the question of how well could Tom guard the Ring, and how willing would he be to do so, there is less evidence and much more room for conjecture. Glorfindel opines that, "If all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First; and then Night will come." Who knows if Glorfindel is correct? Is he a Bombadil expert? We might expect Goldberry to know more of Tom Bombadil than Glorfindel does. She says, "No one has ever caught old Tom walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hill-tops under light and shadow. He has no fear. Tom Bombadil is master." Bombadil was presumably not caught by Morgoth when that Dark Lord was ruling Middle-earth. Sauron is not nearly as powerful nor as dangerous! Tom is master. Master of what? Well, master of pretty much anything he wants to be master of, as far as we can see! I think the Council is greatly underestimating his ability to keep the Ring hidden from Sauron.

However, would Tom take on the task of hiding the Ring? Here, I think Gandalf might well be more correct. Tom might well feel that this is not his job. He might be very attuned to the Song. He might have an even greater intuition than Gandalf and Elrond, that the best course of action will be to try to throw the Ring into the Fire. However, this is just conjecture. There is no supporting evidence.
You keep reverting to this position that there is no evidence for what Gandalf says. And I have to say I’m a little confused. People keep offering suggestions but you just seem to want to claim that Gandalf’s assertion is flatly incorrect. Consistently in this thread we have a trail of matching the Tom we’ve seen, with the Tom Gandalf describes, and it seems to map out pretty cleanly.

Asserting a need for evidence and then choosing to not engage with it feels a little dismissive. But if you feel so passionately that Gandalf is making up his assertions and want to make that case I’d really like to see your evidence; as that is ultimately a pretty bold claim. ImportantIy, I think starting from that position might be leading you to reject many aspects of Tom that we’ve seen to this point.

I think we both seem to agree about Tom Bombadil’s inherent power, but I think its clear that we have seen certain limitations to that power as a byproduct of his nature. Gandalf does not seem to suggest that Tom would not be powerful enough, but rather Tom’s nature might not be conducive to the appropriate safety required. Remembering many things is not the same as having them present in your thoughts at all times (and the more memories the more distraction perhaps). Power and mastery is not the be all and end all to safe ring-keeping (pointed glance at Frodo).

That he would even take it is indeed unlikely, underscored by the ‘if all the free peoples begged him’. And thats why I brought it up in the first place; because Gandalf doesn’t just say ‘he wouldn’t take it, full stop’ Something about Tom’s nature (after reflecting on Frodo & Bilbo maybe) makes it relevant.

As for mount doom, and the need for that solution rather than secreting it away; well we’re not there yet.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
What evidence are you suggesting that I am not engaging with? The only one who has offered any textual evidence to support Gandalf's suggestion that Tom would forget the Ring, or even throw it away, 'because such things have no hold over his mind', is JJ48 who did suggest the textual evidence that Tom said "Tom, Tom! your guests are tired and you had near forgotten," as textual evidence that Tom can forget.

Good read. Though I don't think it is very strong textual evidence.

Other than that, no one has offered any textual evidence that I could have chosen not to engage with. People have offered glosses on, or interpretations of text. As you yourself have by offering an interpretation that Tom's memories about the brooch might be interpreted as he did not remember the dark of the barrow, or the sad history of the downfall of Arnor until 'stirred' by the sight of the brooch, and even then tried to bury these memories to focus on the happier memories of the 'fair lady' (forgive me if I have missed on the paraphrase).

Well, that's a possible interpretation. But, it does not address Gandalf's assertion that Tom would forget the Ring or throw it away, nearly as directly as the textual observations that Tom's memory seems extensive, lengthy, and comprehensive. Therefore, Gandalf's statements seem dubious. I would be much more convinced if we had textual evidence of Tom forgetting important things, rather than interpretive glosses on Tom's documented excellent memory (of the fair lady) and planned future memory, which function (whether designed so or not) as apologies for Gandalf's statement.

Does the text directly relating to Tom Bombadil support Gandalf's statement that Tom would forget the Ring or throw it away? No!

The evidence would suggest that Tom does not forget things. Tom is responsible. Gandalf is mistaken.

I think you have to jump through convoluted and dubious hoops of supposition to interpret the text any other way. Of course, Gandalf is exactly trying to get the reader to do just that! So, it is not surprising that many readers do.
 
JJ48 who did suggest the textual evidence that Tom said "Tom, Tom! your guests are tired and you had near forgotten," as textual evidence that Tom can forget.

Good read. Though I don't think it is very strong textual evidence.”
Tom, in this passage, very literally forgets the needs of his guests. It demonstrates that he can get carried away with other things. Its a small enough thing, yes, but it shows us how inconstant he can be.


“'stirred' by the sight of the brooch”
If the memory was stirred, that implies it is coming to him in the moment. Not that he had it sitting in his mind from the beginning. Again, he can recall all things, but is not a given that he will dwell on them.

It does not address Gandalf's assertion that Tom would forget the Ring or throw it away.
Here is a pretty toy for Tom and for his lady! Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now.

His first instinct is to give away an old artefact as a gift, after naming it a pretty toy.

The evidence would suggest that Tom does not forget things. Tom is responsible. Gandalf is mistaken.
The evidence does not suggest either of these things, and this is true particularly in light of the monumental importance of the One Ring. Why is Gandalf mistaken, or being dishonest? Can you provide a justification for not trusting him here?
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Tidwald Bridge-talker,

Responding to your points:

1. I do not think that Tom 'literally' forgets the needs of his guests. There is a very large semantic difference between 'I had forgotten' and 'I had near forgotten'. Near forgot is not forgot. (And I also think, from context, that this is all just Tom putting his guests at ease and not meant 'literally' at all.)

2. "Stirred'. Well of course, his memory was stirred by the brooch. No one remembers everything all at the same time. The fact that objects or events recall a memory is pretty much a constant of human experience. This is just a normal thing, and I cannot see how it has any bearing on whether Tom would forget the Ring, except that Tom has not forgotten the fair lady, and plans for both he and Goldberry to continue to remember her. If they can remember fair ladies from long ago, I don't think remembering the One Ring of Power should be a particular stretch?

3. Tom keeps the brooch from among all the treasures found in the barrow. Why? Do you think it is really just as a 'toy'? You cut the quote short! It goes on to, "Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her." To interpret this episode as Tom wanting to 'give away an old artifact as a pretty toy' is a highly dubious reading. I would read it as a testament to Tom's memory of a Fair Lady long passed from time, and a commitment from Tom and Goldberry to continue to remember her long into the future. This is primary evidence that Tom would be highly highly unlikely to forget the Ring! And you see it as contrary evidence? Wow, has Gandalf got your number!

4. The primary evidence and justification for not trusting Gandalf here is our own witness as readers. If Gandalf says, 'Tom would forget the Ring', we, if we have read carefully, have to say, "Not the Tom we know!" "Explain yourself Gandalf!" The evidence from the account we have read of Tom certainly suggests that Tom's memory is vast, extensive, and reaches into the depths of time. It encompasses both the Good and the Evil, the Great and the Small. When Gandalf says that Tom would forget the Ring, we have to immediately doubt this assertion. So, once we doubt Gandalf, (and no one challenges his assertion at the Council, and we, as readers, unfortunately, cannot question Gandalf ourselves) we have to start to wonder why Gandalf would make such an assertion that is so wildly different from our own knowledge of Tom. We can speculate on many reasons. And, I think we should!
 

JJ48

Well-Known Member
No one remembers everything all at the same time.
And this is precisely the point that we (and I think Gandalf) have been getting at. I don't think that Gandalf is saying that Tom would forget all about the Ring and be confused if someone later came to him and asked its whereabouts. Rather, I think Gandalf is saying that the Ring would not constantly be at the forefront of Tom's mind, and that other thoughts or memories would often make him think of things other than safeguarding the Ring. Eventually, this would lead him to misplace the Ring or leave it somewhere while he did something else; and even once for a short time could be enough for some servant of the Enemy to recover it.

So, glad to see we're all in agreement now.
 
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