What Sam might have said (or thought) when Gandalf dismissed Tom Bombadil as safe concealment for the Ring?

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Gandalf – “No, not willingly (would Tom ‘take the Ring and keep it there, for ever harmless’). He might do so, if all the free people of the world begged him, but he would not understand the need. And if he were given the Ring, he would soon forget it, or most likely throw it away. Such things have no hold on his mind. He would be a most unsafe guardian; and that alone is answer enough.”

Sam – “Begging your pardon, Mr. Gandalf, Sir, but that don’t sound like the Tom Bombadil I know. I don’t think Tom forgets things. I think he remembers everything! “Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn,” is what he told us! He told us about everything that ever happened, “about evil things and good things, things friendly and things unfriendly, cruel things and kind things, and secrets hidden under brambles.” Why, Mr. Gandalf, 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!” I don’t think, Mr. Gandalf, that Tom would forget the Ring, nor throw it away. He might hide it under brambles, but I reckon it would be mighty well hid!
 

JJ48

Well-Known Member
"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!’"

Tom DOES forget things (or at least not constantly remember them without reminders). And look at what is being remembered and what is being forgotten: Tom remembers stories about people, trees, etc. And nearly forgets duty to guests right in front of him! When Gandalf says Tom would forget the Ring, I don't think he means Tom would forget the story of it or the fact that it exists, but rather that he would forget his duty or the need to safeguard it.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Tom is just making polite small talk and a bit of Hobbitry here. There is no real evidence that the Hobbits are actually tired. In fact they are curious and questioning. Goldberry has just suggested that the Hobbits might want to wash up before supper, and Tom is directing them off to wash in a jocular and encouraging manner.

To think this passage means that Tom has actually forgotten anything is a considerable stretch.
 

JJ48

Well-Known Member
Forgive me if my previous reply was a bit snappish, and allow me to try again,

There is no real evidence that the Hobbits are actually tired. In fact they are curious and questioning.
The fact that the hobbits are curious and questioning does not in any way counter the idea that they are tired. In fact we were told in the previous chapter that the travellers were tired, and as they approached the house, "Already half their weariness and all their fears had fallen from them." This clearly indicates that they were weary and furthermore, I do not believe this to mean that they are suddenly well-rested, but rather that joy and excitement are overcoming weariness and fear. We shall see when the hobbits go to bed that both the weariness and the fear return.

To think this passage means that Tom has actually forgotten anything is a considerable stretch.
And I think that to use Tom's "remembering" lines to suggest that he is incapable of forgetting is at least as big a stretch. For one thing, I don't believe you have addressed my larger point that remembering stories about something is quite different from remembering to do something, especially when that duty is ongoing indefinitely. Remembering every dog you've ever owned is quite different from remembering to feed your dog every day, and doing one does not imply that you will automatically do the other!
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I don't think there is any evidence in the text of Tom forgetting to do something. He remembers to gather lilies for Goldberry. He remembers Goldberry's washing day. Tom saying that he had 'near forgotten' that his guests might want to wash up before dinner does not strike me as a real 'forgetting'.

Now, if we go outside the text, and look at the poem, 'Bombadil goes Boating', then you might say that Tom, having had a few too many beers with Farmer Maggot, perhaps might have forgotten his boat, 'tied up for three days by the hythe at Grindwall'. But did he forget it? Or did he just know that the Otters and Swans would take care of it for him, and tow it back to his creek? (Though they did forget to bring the oars, and, "Long they lay at Grindwall hythe for Tom to come and find them.") Well at least we assume that Tom did not forget them, and did eventually come and find his oars. If he did not forget his oars, do we really think he would forget the One Ring?
 

JJ48

Well-Known Member
There is also absolutely no evidence in the text that he always remembers everything (unless you assume that saying he remembers something is equivalent to saying he remembers everything, and also ignore the difference between remembering stories at times and constantly remembering an ever-present duty).

I'm not really sure what relevance the poem has to this discussion, but yes, I do see a huge difference between remembering equipment for an activity one is setting out to do and remembering constantly to safeguard something and never let it out of one's care. So yes, I see it as not only possible but likely that Tom could remember oars but eventually get careless with the Ring.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi JJ48,

Credit for you for actually looking to the text for evidence, rather than just relying on impressions or conjectures about what Tom Bombadil is like. However, I don't think that Tom's statement that he 'near forgotten' that his guests were tired is really to be taken as an actual 'forgetting'. Tom has just come in, after tending to the Hobbit's ponies, asked Goldberry if supper is ready, she says, 'yes', but reminds him that the guests might not be ready, and he goes into a bit of polite banter to invite them to wash up. I don't think this is evidence of any serious forgetting.

Now, as to any evidence that Tom remembers everything: He says he remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. So he can obviously remember things that happened a very very long time ago. He then tells the Hobbits stories about the forest and all of its inhabitants, and then about the history of all the lands around. About the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Eriador. About the coming of the barrow-wights, about times when only the Elf-sires were awake. So, you are right that there is no direct statement that Tom remembers everything. But, that is certainly a reasonable assumption. Tom can recount the whole history of Middle-earth (or at least the parts that occurred near to him). His memory, from textual evidence, appears vast. True, it is not completely supported that Tom remembers 'everything'. But, it is a pretty logical extension from all the things that we do have evidence that he remembers! Time does not seem to dull Tom's memory!
 

JJ48

Well-Known Member
Again, you're using the fact that he remembers events of the past as evidence that he would constantly remember his duty to protect the Ring. The fact that I repeatedly bring up the differences between the two and yet get no response on it makes me wonder if you're purposefully avoiding the subject for some reason.

Furthermore, as Rachel pointed out explicitly in the other thread, saying that Tom would forget the Ring does not mean that he would forget it ever existed or that he would permanently forget that he had it. The whole point of sending the Ring to Tom would be for him to permanently safeguard it and keep Sauron from recovering it forever. If Tom forgets about the Ring or misplaces it for even one instant, it could spell disaster for Middle-earth. So again, I don't think Tom being able to tell stories about acorns and rain from long ago logically leads to the conclusion that he would never let the Ring out of his sight even once after it had been entrusted to him.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi JJ48,

Well you are correct that evidence that Tom remembers events of the past and has an excellent memory does not guarantee that he would constantly remember to protect the Ring. However, the only evidence that would guarantee that Tom would constantly protect the Ring (or that he would forget to) would require us to project forward in time many long years or ages beyond the Council of Elrond, to see whether Tom (had he become the guardian) would in fact have protected the Ring.

Gandalf makes the assertion that Tom would forget the Ring. What the heck does Gandalf know? Especially about Tom? Of whom few know much. Do we believe Gandalf? No! Why? Because all that we have seen of Tom suggests that his memory is extensive and remarkable and his recall reaches back into the depths of time, and covers all matters both good and evil, great and small.

So, when Gandalf says, "Tom would forget the Ring." I think we have to say, "Not the Tom we know!"

Of course, neither we, nor Gandalf can be certain. But from what we know of Tom, Gandalf's statement has to be challenged. Defend your statement Gandalf! Why on earth do you think that Tom would forget the Ring? It seems wholly unlikely to us?

Of course, no one at the Council does challenge Gandalf. So there it lies.

But, we, the readers, can certainly challenge Gandalf in our own minds. And, we should be inclined to do so, as we have seen Gandalf making dubious statements and inducing inferences contrary to the evidence before now. Though, I admit, this is often more clear to the reader who has finished TLOTR and the appendices, than it is to the first-time reader. This, in fact might be the first, best, example of where a very astute and attentive first-time reader might have thought "Hold on there Gandalf! That does not sound like the Tom Bombadil I know!"
 

JJ48

Well-Known Member
You are free to draw your own conclusions, of course, but I just still think that "Tom remembers some stuff from long ago" is pretty flimsy grounds for saying Gandalf doesn't know what he's talking about. Given the nature of what Gandalf is talking about forgetting vs the nature of what Tom remembers, I personally find the Tom of the text quite likely to remember one and forget the other.

And I disagree with the idea that the only way to know what would happen would be to give the Ring to Tom and watch. I think it's entirely possible to use what we know about Tom and what we know about the Ring to puzzle out what would happen; and though you dismissed it, I think the discussion Tuesday night did a pretty good job of that. If you disagree with that conclusion, so be it; but I think you do a disservice to your classmates to simply dismiss the line of reasoning entirely without pointing out what you perceive to be its faults.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Of all the characters in TLOTR, Tom gets more space devoted to the excellence of his memory than any other (with the possible exception of Treebeard).

Tom's memory is referenced in six separate passages. The first reference directly addresses the question of whether Tom can remember recurring tasks and duties, as well as 'stuff from long ago'. "Each year at summer's end I go to find them for her." Tom does not forget his annual trip to gather lilies.

The second reference takes up two pages, describing Tom telling stories covering the entire past of Mddle-earth. Things good and evil. Matters great and small.

The third reference has a direct quote from Tom, "Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. He made paths before the Big People, and saw the Little People arriving. He was here before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless -- before the Dark Lord came from Outside."

The fourth reference is, "He appeared to know much about them and all their families, and indeed to know much of all the history and doings of the Shire down from days hardly remembered among the hobbits themselves."

The fifth reference is, "Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her!"

The sixth reference, when telling the hobbits of the barrow-swords, is, "Few now remember them (implication - But Tom does.) yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings, walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless." Note that the notion of guarding heedless folk from evil things is not something Tom scoffs at. He seems to admire it. How possibly parallel to guarding the Ring?

More text is given to describing and emphasizing Tom's extensive and comprehensive memory than to any other aspect of Tom's character! (And there are plenty of other aspects of Tom that are explored!)

If there is one primary thing about Tom that we should have taken away from the text, it is that he remembers everything.

So, when Gandalf says that Tom would forget the Ring, if entrusted with it, then I think our first reaction should really be incredulous.

I think the text compels us to ask the question; which do we trust more, our knowledge of Tom's memory, or Gandalf's assertion that Tom would forget the Ring?

Now, we could, and most seem to have, jumped in and become Gandalf apologists, trying to construct stretchy and convoluted explanations as to why Gandalf's assertion might be interpreted as correct, despite our knowledge of Tom.

Or, much more simply, we could conclude that Gandalf's assertion was likely just wrong!

Which would then lead to the interesting question as to why Gandalf made it?

Surely, as well as spending time making apologetic interpretations to try to justify Gandalf's curious assertion, we should spend as much time or more, exploring the simpler and more direct hypothesis, that Gandalf was talking nonsense!
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
I think of those six, numbers 2 through 6 are largely irrelevant, but number 1 is just the sort of remembering we're talking about and is a bit of evidence in your favour F.

The reason I don't find 2-6 relevant is because they are different types of remembering.

Remembering details of the past is one skill set. Remembering tasks for the present/future is an unrelated skill set. It's such a trope that you can't even really do it in fiction anymore because it's so tired: the crusty old professor who had been buried in his studies and hasn't eaten in a day and a half, or bathed in a week and a half (in the trope-y fiction Dr. Crusty often ends up with a pretty young assistant/wife/mother figure).

My mind is FULL TO THE BRIM with detailed engineering specifications, but if I didn't have TWO online calendars I would never make it to a meeting on time.

Bombadil remembering the first raindrop is the crusty old professor sort of remembering. But Bombadil remembering to get his girlfriend flowers is the "don't forget about the Ring" sort of forward-remembering. That's the one to hang the argument on.
 

JJ48

Well-Known Member
The reason I don't find 2-6 relevant is because they are different types of remembering.
Not only are they a different type of remembering; they also strike me as talking less about the excellence of his memory than they do about how long he has lived and how much more he has seen than other folks.

Number 1 may appear similar, but I also notice that no mention is made of Tom "remembering" to do this; it's just something he does. Maybe he has some schedule that every year he'll go get the flowers, but it's just as possible that every year the mood just takes him and he decides to get the flowers on a whim. Either fits the description, and neither indicates infallible memory.
 
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