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

1. We can see his mind wanders, that is enough, the fate of the The Ring demands something more of who it would be entrusted to.

2. Exactly my point, your sense of Tom remembering all things, is not so simple a declaration. And his predisposition is to recognise to the personal, the beautiful and the human. Rather than any greater significance.

3. I went through the entire passage above, that I returned to it with more brevity is not a mark of dubious reading, I just assumed you would remember the earlier posts.

4. The evidence for not trusting Gandalf is what Gandalf says? Well okay, but thats why we’ve gone into details.


Well unless we have more to add, I think this discussion is best left here. It seems we’ve reached conversational bedrock, as a number of your points do seem to fall primarily on your individual opinion of the tenor of certain passages.

I appreciate your challenge of Gandalf’s appraisal of Tom Bombadil as it has made me go back to find a more nuanced floor for my claim. If your argument ultimately is that Tom according to Gandalf is divergent from the Tom we see in the old forest and the barrow then necessarily our understanding of those scenes will colour our reaction to Gandalf accordingly.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
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.
But is there any evidence that Tom gets distracted and forgets things? He does not seem to forget his annual trip to gather lilies for Goldberry. He does not seem to get distracted and forget to keep singing his bright blue jacket and yellow boots into existence. Why, other than Gandalf's assertion, would we have any reason to believe that Tom gets distracted?

Tidwald says that, "We can see his mind wanders." Can we? Show me! Cite the text. Tom's mind is extremely complex. I think there are occasions where it might seem at first glance that his mind has wandered, but if you go a little deeper, it seems to me that Tom's mind is crystal clear. It does not 'wander'. It just takes different and unconventional paths from time to time.
 
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JJ48

Well-Known Member
But is there any evidence that Tom gets distracted and forgets things? He does not seem to forget his annual trip to gather lilies for Goldberry. He does not seem to get distracted and forget to keep singing his bright blue jacket and yellow boots into existence. Why, other than Gandalf's assertion, would we have any reason to believe that Tom gets distracted?

Tidwald says that, "We can see his mind wanders." Can we? Show me! Cite the text. Tom's mind is extremely complex. I think there are occasions where it might seem at first glance that his mind has wandered, but if you go a little deeper, it seems to me that Tom's mind is crystal clear. It does not 'wander'. It just takes different and unconventional paths from time to time.
You yourself agreed that even Tom can't constantly be thinking about everything at once. Why are you so desperate to mistrust Gandalf that you would claim that the Ring is somehow an exception?

Honestly, I think it's the term "forget" that is tripping you up. As has been said, Gandalf's meaning was likely that Tom would not be thinking about the Ring momentarily (which you yourself pointed out is completely possible even with Tom), and that in forgetting it for that moment, he would be inviting doom upon Middle-earth. By focusing on all the memory passages (which are quite irrelevant to this kind of remembering/forgetting), you're ignoring everything else the reader knows or thinks he knows about Tom.

Tom doesn't seem to treat the Ring with the importance it deserves (as Frodo sees it). Yes, we may be able to come up with some explanation as to how Tom is just so powerful that his ways are not our ways, but the impression the reader gets is that Tom doesn't seem to view the Ring as a big deal (which fits perfectly with Gandalf's explanation that "he would not understand the need").

He also doesn't keep a constant eye on travelers, neither those coming (and who he explicitly says he was waiting for) nor those leaving. He will immediately come and help when he hears their calls, but "constant vigilance" doesn't seem to be Tom's defining trait.

Moreover, not only do we misunderstand the reasoning behind Gandalf's statement if we focus exclusively on the "remembering" passages; we also abandon any reason to think Tom may be a solution in the first place. Does Tom having a good memory (even, if we wish to grant it, a perfect memory) automatically make him a good guardian of the Ring? No. Rather, we have to look at Tom's entire character to understand why he may be considered as a potential guardian, and as was discussed on Tuesday, the very aspects that seem to speak in his favor are aspects that would ultimately prove him to be unsuitable.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi JJ48,

I think you are entirely correct that it is the passage where Frodo does not think that Tom treats the Ring with the importance it deserves, that is one of the main factors that sticks in our minds and pre-disposes us to agree with Gandalf's assessment.

Gandalf's insinuations are always clever. They build off his listeners previously held impressions (but go much further).

I agree with you that the term 'forget' is exactly what sets me off against automatically agreeing with Gandalf. This for several reasons. First, there is more text space, and more references, devoted to Tom's excellent memory than to any other aspect of Tom's character. (Yet, we did not really focus on this aspect when we were back in 'The House of Tom Bombadil'). There is also much more reference to Tom's remarkable memory than to the memory of any other character in TLOTR. Only Treebeard can rival Bombadil for the number of words and passages referencing his memory.

Second, I am not really buying in to the apologist argument that Gandalf 'really means', 'Tom would not be thinking about the Ring momentarily and that in forgetting it for that moment, he would be inviting doom upon Middle-earth.' Gandalf says "he would soon forget it, or most likely throw it away." Gandalf does not say, "it would slip his mind from time to time". Nor does he say "Tom would not focus on it sufficiently to be safe." (Which, by the way, would be true of anyone, even Frodo, and possibly less true of Tom than most.) He says that Tom would soon forget it or even throw it away! When Gandalf says 'forget', I have to think he means 'forget'. This has to cause alarm bells to ring. If we are careful readers we know for sure that Tom does not forget!

Of course, Tom's exceptional memory is not the primary reason to consider him as a possible guardian to hide the Ring. The obvious primary reason is that the Ring has no power over Tom. Therefore, he is not likely to become a new Dark Lord, nor is he likely to claim the Ring as 'his own'. The secondary reason is that Tom is Master. He is powerful. It would be hard to extract the Ring if hidden by Tom by force or by stealth. It is not surprising that the Counsellors should start to wonder whether Tom would be a good hiding place for the Ring.

It is Gandalf, who squelches that consideration. He does so by saying that Tom would soon forget the Ring.

That is not the Tom we know.

Now, we can leap into convoluted, apologist, interpretations as to why Gandalf might be right. Or we can examine whether Gandalf might be wrong, and, if so, why? I suggest that careful critics should do both. But, Gandalf being wrong, or misleading, is, I think a simpler and more likely reading.
 

Rachel Port

Active Member
Goldberry says that Tom has no fear, that he is the Master. Could someone who has no fear ever realize how dangerous the Ring is? We have textual evidence in the way Tom deals with the evil within his realm, Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wight - he sings them either to sleep or to perdition, realizing the seriousness of what they do but quite fearless. When they are not doing harm that he is aware of, he doesn't think of them.

Strider tells Frodo that he is not yet afraid enough of the Black Riders. Tom doesn't fear evil - it has no power over him. Fear is the most powerful weapon Sauron and his servants have - we see that in the way the Nazgul fight - and fear brings despair, as we see later in Minas Tirith. Can you imagine Tom feeling despair? Falling victim to spiritual warfare?

But it seems that evil has crept even into this forum. We are not debating possible interpretations, which is always interesting and stimulating, and what I enjoy about this class and these discussions. It's possible in real debate to remain unconvinced by the other person's arguments, but still to recognize that the arguments have some validity. When I read this thread, I see valid points in both arguments, and think that probably some parts of each are actually true. Flammifer, you say that yours is a "simpler and more likely reading." But Gandalf's rhetoric and slyness (both most likely true) do not mean that everything he says is false. I think there is a great deal of truth in it beneath all the exaggeration. I don't understand the need for absolute truth or for triumph here.

That's my two cents.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Rachel,

I totally agree with you that not everything Gandalf points to is false. I think it is false that Tom would soon forget the Ring, or throw it away. I think that ''he would be a most unsafe guardian' is probably false (I think he would be one of the safest guardians Only the Valar would be safer.) I think that he would be reluctant to become the guardian of the Ring is probably true. (Though I think it would take less than 'all the free peoples of the world' to persuade him - if indeed he proved persuadable.)

I also think that Gandalf thinks (and probably Tom thinks also) that for Tom to become the guardian to hide the Ring is not the best solution. Not the 'correct' solution that history and the Song really require.

However, I do think that we, as close readers, should not be taken in quite so easily by Gandalf's glib insinuations. We should examine the hypothesis that Gandalf is wrong, as much or more (because there is more textual evidence suggesting that Gandalf is wrong) than trying to speculate about how Tom fits Gandalf's assertions. Which we have not until these two threads.
 

Anthony Lawther

Well-Known Member
I think the sense of 'forget' here is relevant.

If I forget my keys when leaving the house, I have not forgotten that they existed; I have merely forgotten to take them with me.
That is the danger that Gandalf is highlighting, which I would say the text doesn't provide definitive support for, nor does it definitively deny.
Any being that is incapable of thinking about everything simultaneously is at risk of falling prey to this situation.
As the Ring is in the forefront of Sauron's desires, hiding it from Sauron's agents falls into the same category of defending against terrorist activity: You must succeed always, while they only need succeed once.

Destroying the Ring changes the problem space.


I'd also note that Tom's ability to resist Sauron is unproven, and possibly untested; while he survived Morgoth's reign in Middle-Earth, the conflict in that time was concentrated in Beleriand and Tom was in Eriador.
Glorfindel, who has already died once fighting one of the lieutenants of the Great Enemy, might have a better sense than any other living being in Middle-Earth as to Tom's likelihood of ultimately withstanding Sauron's forces.
 
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JJ48

Well-Known Member
Second, I am not really buying in to the apologist argument that Gandalf 'really means', 'Tom would not be thinking about the Ring momentarily and that in forgetting it for that moment, he would be inviting doom upon Middle-earth.' Gandalf says "he would soon forget it, or most likely throw it away." Gandalf does not say, "it would slip his mind from time to time". Nor does he say "Tom would not focus on it sufficiently to be safe." (Which, by the way, would be true of anyone, even Frodo, and possibly less true of Tom than most.) He says that Tom would soon forget it or even throw it away! When Gandalf says 'forget', I have to think he means 'forget'. This has to cause alarm bells to ring. If we are careful readers we know for sure that Tom does not forget!
I find it interesting that in the passage that talks about Tom nearly forgetting to take care of his guests (which, in my experience, means that someone has forgotten something but is still within the time limit, as it were), you dismiss the passage as mere hobbitry or teasing on Tom's part, despite there being no indication of such in the text. In other words, you're quite willing to look at (and even favor) other readings beside the clear, straightforward one. However, when Gandalf uses the world "forget", you immediately latch on to a single definition, and won't even consider other completely legitimate usages of the word. It seems to me Gandalf needs apologists if his detractors are that determined to stack the deck against him.


However, I do think that we, as close readers, should not be taken in quite so easily by Gandalf's glib insinuations. We should examine the hypothesis that Gandalf is wrong, as much or more (because there is more textual evidence suggesting that Gandalf is wrong) than trying to speculate about how Tom fits Gandalf's assertions. Which we have not until these two threads.
I will confess, I am not a close reader. I am much more of a big-picture reader who likes to look for themes and patterns and parallels, even if it means missing a lot of the finer details (i.e. where others may miss the forest for the trees, I have a tendency to miss the trees for the forest). It seems to me that careful study of a text requires both kinds of reading, and fortunately we have a good mix of people who can do both.

It is, I think, this big-picture view that makes me most dissatisfied with the "Gandalf was wrong" reading of this passage. First of all, I think either view can accommodate Tom. Some at the Council clearly felt that Tom would make a good guardian, so I can't fault readers too much for agreeing, even though I personally find the arguments against to be more persuasive and satisfying, from a story perspective. But what about Gandalf? If he's right, this would certainly be in keeping with his role as wise counselor. If he's wrong, however, why is he wrong? There are two options.

The first is that he's mistaken, but why? If Tom actually would make a great guardian (and if this can indeed be proven from the little that the reader has seen), then the only way that Gandalf wouldn't know this is if he knows less about Tom than the reader (who knows little enough, to be sure). But this would require Gandalf to know so little about Tom that he must know that he doesn't know, and therefore it would be grossly foolish and irresponsible for him to state so conclusively that Tom would make a poor guardian.

The second possibility is that he knows Tom would make a good guardian but wants to persuade the others to vote for the Mordor plan. This would be nothing short of an outright lie on Gandalf's part. Not only that, it would mean that Gandalf would be willingly throwing out an idea he knows to be good in favor of a highly risky plan with little hope of success ("just a fool's hope," as he'll say in a few books).

Now, we know that Gandalf can make mistakes and that he can sometimes be rather creative with the truth. However, to claim that he is wrong about this, I think, necessarily makes him either an utterly incompetent buffoon, or else a liar and near-traitor. These characterizations are completely at odds with how he is portrayed throughout the story, so barring some other reading that can have him be wrong without logically reaching one of these two conclusions, I must utterly reject such a premise.


I'd also note that Tom's ability to resist Sauron is unproven, and possibly untested; while he survived Morgoth's reign in Middle-Earth, the conflict in that time was concentrated in Beleriand and Tom was in Eriador.
Not to mention, why would Morgoth have even targeted Tom in the first place? Sure, if he conquered everything else he'd probably go after Tom next to complete his domination; but why waste resources on Tom before then, while he's still busy fighting lots of other foes? Whereas if Sauron found out that Tom had the Ring, he would have every reason to drop everything he was doing and focus all his resources on its recovery.
 
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Anthony Lawther

Well-Known Member
Not to mention, why would Morgoth have even targeted Tom in the first place? Sure, if he conquered everything else he'd probably go after Tom next to complete his domination; but why waste resources on Tom before them, while he's still busy fighting lots of other foes? Whereas if Sauron found out that Tom had the Ring, he would have every reason to drop everything he was doing and focus all his resources on its recovery.
Absolutely. If Glorfindel draws a false conclusion, I think it is that Tom would fall last if he was guarding the Ring.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi JJ48,

On the interesting question of why Gandalf might have been wrong about Tom either 'soon forgetting, or even throwing away' the Ring, you make some good points.

Why would Gandalf be wrong about Tom?

Could Gandalf be mistaken? You focus on could Gandalf be mistaken about Tom being a good guardian for hiding the Ring. That is indeed the big picture. I have been more focused on could Gandalf be mistaken about Tom soon forgetting or even throwing away the Ring. These are two different, though connected issues. My hypothesis is that Gandalf could be mistaken due to his fundamental pre-conceptions about the nature of Tom Bombadil. Two more different Ainur (at least amongst those on the side of Good) would be hard to find. Gandalf is activist, committed, driven, a warrior, on a mission, engaged in the war against Sauron, dedicated to the war against Sauron. Tom is a survivor, an observer, living in the now, not on a mission, a neutral (a friendly neutral) in the war against Sauron. It seems apparent that Gandalf has met Tom before. I guess that Tom might have irritated him intensely. Hoping to find an ally in his mission, he probably found dis-interest. Gandalf might well perceive Tom as light-weight, frivolous, living only in the present, having no concern for the future or the outcome of the war.

So, my primary hypothesis for why Gandalf might be wrong about Tom, is that Gandalf has adopted a prejudiced view of Tom's character which causes him to make hyperbolic statements about Tom's memory and carelessness which seem greatly exaggerated and mistaken when compared to our experience of Tom.

Why would Gandalf be misleading about Tom?

Now, on to your second question about why Gandalf might lie (about Tom's memory and carelessness). I think that Gandalf has an agenda. Gandalf has already concluded, or at least has the strong intuition or hypothesis that destroying the Ring in Mt. Doom is the best plan. Does Gandalf really think that Tom would be a terrible guardian of the Ring? Or, is it the whole 'let's hide the Ring' plan he is trying to knock down. He may be especially alarmed, because it should occur to the Counsellors that Tom is the best custodian for a 'hide the Ring' strategy. The Ring has no power over Tom. Tom will not become a new Dark Lord, nor claim the Ring as his own. Tom has enough power in his own land to make finding a Ring which he has hid very difficult, and extracting it by force even more so. Really, if one wanted to hide the Ring in Middle-earth, can you think of a better guardian or hiding place? My second choice might be with the Dwarves, they are resistant to some extent to the power of Rings, but they would be a poor second choice. A better choice than Tom would be to hide it with the Valar in Valinor, and not in Middle-earth at all (soon to be suggested by Glorfindel). However, Gandalf does not want support for the hide the Ring strategy to grow. He wants to put the kibosh on it early.

So, my primary hypothesis for why Gandalf might be misleading about Tom, is that he wants to quickly squelch the 'let's hide the Ring' strategies, and the more realistic they are, the more quickly he wants to squelch them.

Now, my favored hypothesis is that both hypotheses are likely. Gandalf is operating off a prejudiced perspective on Tom, and off a desire to quickly stifle the hide the Ring strategy. The combination of these might lead to Gandalf's passage on Tom.

On the separate question of Tom's comment that he had 'near forgotten' the tiredness of his guests; I wonder if different interpretations of this comment might be partially due to differences between American and English conventions. As a UK / USA dual national, who has spent more time in England than in the States, this comment by Tom has always struck me as the typical and conventional self-deprecation which would be totally expected in normal dialogue in England in this situation. Tom has just come in. He asks if supper is ready. Goldberry says that the supper is ready, but the guests perhaps are not. Well, did Tom really forget anything? He has hardly had time to. The mild rebuke is about manners, rather than forgetfulness. The immediate instinct in this awkward situation after a mild rebuke from Goldberry would in England be to self-deprecate. "Oh you are tired and I had near forgotten." What would be the response in the USA? "Terribly sorry, let me show you where to wash up"? Would a more direct apology seem more natural in the US? If so, that might cause Tom's response to seem less natural (and perhaps more literal). I have never read this as a literal 'near forgetting', but just as polite self-deprecation. It seems utterly conventional to the English ear. What would be the conventional response in the US?

As to your third question, why would Morgoth have even targeted Tom? Well, I doubt he did. I doubt that Tom 'fought' Morgoth. I suspect that Tom survived Morgoth (hiding probably came into it). So, sure, Sauron would have more incentive to try to find Tom and find where he had hidden the Ring, and perhaps dominate Tom by force than Morgoth ever had cause to do. (One good reason for Tom to be reluctant to guard and hide the Ring.) But, is there any safer, more powerful, more secure guardian, with a better chance of defying or evading Sauron on Middle-earth than Tom Bombadil? If the Council wants to play keep-away with the Ring from Sauron, and go for a Hide the Ring strategy, Tom is the best bet outside of the Valar.
 
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JJ48

Well-Known Member
So, my primary hypothesis for why Gandalf might be wrong about Tom, is that Gandalf has adopted a prejudiced view of Tom's character which causes him to make hyperbolic statements about Tom's memory and carelessness which seem greatly exaggerated and mistaken when compared to our experience of Tom.
That Gandalf might disagree with Tom I can understand. However, I doubt his opinion of Tom is really so low as all that, or he likely wouldn't go to visit him after all this is over (there'd likely still be some lingering resentment over Tom's refusal to help, for instance). Also, if the reader can figure out that Tom's a great choice based on what we've read, then surely Gandalf could as well. Therefore, the only way for Gandalf to not be able to figure that out is if he has considerably less information than the reader. However, the reader has little enough information as it is, and Gandalf is certainly wise enough to realize that so little information is hardly enough to make so bold a claim as he does.

Now, on to your second question about why Gandalf might lie (about Tom's memory and carelessness). I think that Gandalf has an agenda. Gandalf has already concluded, or at least has the strong intuition or hypothesis that destroying the Ring in Mt. Doom is the best plan. Does Gandalf really think that Tom would be a terrible guardian of the Ring? Or, is it the whole 'let's hide the Ring' plan he is trying to knock down. He may be especially alarmed, because it should occur to the Counsellors that Tom is the best custodian for a 'hide the Ring' strategy. The Ring has no power over Tom. Tom will not become a new Dark Lord, nor claim the Ring as his own. Tom has enough power in his own land to make finding a Ring which he has hid very difficult, and extracting it by force even more so. Really, if one wanted to hide the Ring in Middle-earth, can you think of a better guardian or hiding place? My second choice might be with the Dwarves, they are resistant to some extent to the power of Rings, but they would be a poor second choice. A better choice than Tom would be to hide it with the Valar in Valinor, and not in Middle-earth at all (soon to be suggested by Glorfindel). However, Gandalf does not want support for the hide the Ring strategy to grow. He wants to put the kibosh on it early.

So, my primary hypothesis for why Gandalf might be misleading about Tom, is that he wants to quickly squelch the 'let's hide the Ring' strategies, and the more realistic they are, the more quickly he wants to squelch them.
But this brings us no closer to figuring out why. With a standard, straightforward reading of the passage, Gandalf's objection makes sense. He objects to the plan because it won't work. If we twist the passage to try to make it read that Gandalf is wrong, however, we're stuck with Gandalf objecting to a plan which apparently actually would work if it were actually tried. Why in Middle-earth would Gandalf oppose such a plan? Why would he favor destruction over hiding if hiding would actually work (and is the much easier and safer option)? And even if he does, why lie about it? Why would Gandalf think that outright lying to friends and allies is a good idea? Again, this flies in the face of how the book portrays Gandalf, as well as other themes in the book such as truth vs lies. If some great evil came from this advice, maybe I could accept it as deception. However, given everything we know about the book, to claim that Gandalf would lie to his comrades to get them to take an incredibly risky path over a safe and sure one, and that he would furthermore be rewarded by never really being challenged in his decision or having his path prove false is utterly outrageous! Given the sheer absurdity of it, one almost has to wonder if you're really reading the same book as the rest of the class!
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
On the question of Gandalf's visit to Tom after the destruction of the Ring. Remember, Gandalf is now Gandalf the White. Somewhat different from the Gandalf the Grey which he was at the Council. Also, it is easy to imagine Gandalf in a much more relieved, relaxed, less stressful, mode, re-evaluating Tom, and deciding that he would be really interested in renewing his relationship and creating a new appreciation?

On the question of why Gandalf objects to the hide the Ring with Bombadil plan. I agree that he thinks it won't work. He thinks the 'right' plan is to throw the Ring in the Fire. He doubts that any other plan will work. I agree with Gandalf, that the Hide the Ring with Bombadil plan might not work long term (though it is one of the best hide the Ring plans, and it might work for a while).

Where I disagree with Gandalf is when he says that Tom would soon forget the Ring or throw it away. That 'such things' have no hold on his mind. That is where Gandalf veers from the evidence into hyperbole and exaggeration.

I am not sure where you ever got the impression that I consider the Hide the Ring with Bombadil plan to be 'safe and sure'? I just think it is one of the best Hide the Ring plans. Would Sauron find the Ring if it was hidden by Tom? Quite probably, though it might take him a while. I also think that Tom might be reluctant about the Hide the Ring with Tom plan. Partly because he also might think it would not work long term.

Now, just because the Hide the Ring with Tom plan is not really 'safe and sure', doesn't mean that it wouldn't be attractive to people at the Council. Because, (exactly as you have pointed out) it would be a lot less risky than the Throw the Ring in the Fire plan, and it would buy time. Gandalf wants to crush that attraction quickly.

Elrond considers that treason has been one of the main problems in struggles against the Enemy. Gandalf however, looking back on the long history of Arda, might well opine that procrastination and lack of decisiveness has actually been the number one weakness of the forces of Good in the long struggle. A weakness which he would like to avoid in this case.
 
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JJ48

Well-Known Member
Where I disagree with Gandalf is when he says that Tom would soon forget the Ring or throw it away. That 'such things' have no hold on his mind. That is where Gandalf veers from the evidence into hyperbole and exaggeration.
Only if you ignore reasoning such as the Tuesday discussion, which you still have not addressed other than to dismiss it without consideration.

And still, none of this explains why Gandalf would outright lie. This isn't the kind of book where the ends justify the means.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
I guess once we get to a certain level of analysis, we have to go back to basics - the book sometimes feels like it is written from an external omniscient point of view, but the whole conceit is that it is a found document written by the participants of the story. Anything we readers know about Bombadil that it seems Gandalf doesn't know, is within the story something that the writer of the in-world text learns and reports (so I guess Bilbo, based on Frodo's notes here?).

So, we have Gandalf's assessment of Bombadil, and we have some confused/awed/daunted (in the non-ominous sense) hobbits' assessments of Bombadil. Which one do we hang our hats upon? If we question Gandalf's intentions here, should we accept the reporting of Frodo/Bilbo as an unimpeachable comprehensive character study?

I kind of don't like going there because it's a dismissive way to handwave all the arguments away. But it's hard to avoid once you reach a certain level of depth.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Thinking more about it - depending on how much time Gandalf had to chat with Frodo off-screen, he might know exactly as much about Tom as we do, plus whatever else he knows from before... It seems like a direction he would steer the conversation toward, pre-Council, out of curiosity if not for more practical reasons.
 

Rachel Port

Active Member
Gandalf doesn't actually have much time with the conscious Frodo pre-Council, does he? We are given the body of their conversation when Frodo wakes up; they are not seated together at the feast; and in the hall of fire they are both centered on Frodo's reunion with Bilbo and Bilbo's reaction to being near the Ring again. If anything, Gandalf avoids time alone with Frodo, sending Sam to fetch him to the feast and later to bed. We must assume that Gandalf has heard about the time with Bombadil from Merry and Pippin and Sam, and most likely a little from Frodo's delirious wanderings. He certainly is concerned mostly about Frodo's recovery, not wanting to burden him with questions - in their conversation the questions go in the other direction.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Only if you ignore reasoning such as the Tuesday discussion, which you still have not addressed other than to dismiss it without consideration.

And still, none of this explains why Gandalf would outright lie. This isn't the kind of book where the ends justify the means.
JJ,

As far as I recall, the Tuesday discussion never considered the textual evidence that Toms memory was extensive and comprehensive, and never challenged Gandalf's assertion that Tom would soon forget or even throw away the Ring. Instead, the discussion that I recall only revolved around explaining or justifying Gandalf's statement. There was no discussion challenging it.

Not that I am suggesting that this was a poor discussion. There were a lot of well made points. However, I think the alternative possibility, that our knowledge of Tom suggests that he would not soon forget, nor throw away, the Ring should also be discussed. I think it is the more likely reading, as more supported by evidence.

I note that Mat DeForrest posted at least four times in the Discord chat to the effect of 'Do we trust Gandalf here'? But this was never taken up.

If you want me to engage in the reasoning of the Tuesday discussion, you will have to cite it. I cannot remember all the points.

On the subject of why would Gandalf lie, Predictions of future events cannot strictly be called 'lies'. A definition of 'lie' is: A false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth. Now, whether or not Tom Bombadil would soon forget the Ring, or throw it away, is a conjecture about future possibilities. It cannot be a false statement nor an untruth. We may consider Gandalf's assertion to be ridiculously improbable, but that does not make it a lie.

If you have noticed previous examples discussed in this forum, where Gandalf perhaps induces inferences in his listeners, which go beyond the evidence, I think you will find that Gandalf does not lie. He does exaggerate and mislead.
 
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amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Making a prediction as if you believed it to be likely while secretly believing it to not be likely would be a lie.

(eta) To elaborate:

The statement "Tom will forget the Ring" isn't necessarily technically a lie (but as soon as you get into debating whether something is technically a lie or not, you're walking on thin ice already).

The statements "I believe Tom will forget the Ring" or even "I think there is a non-zero probability that Tom will forget the Ring and even a small chance is too much" would be genuine lies if you didn't actually believe or think them. The "I believe" part is the lie, not the "Tom will forget" part.

A predictive statement like the former carries an implied "I believe" or "I think it likely" even if it's unstated, as that's the only way that predictive statements even make sense.
 
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