Sunday, April 3, 2011
"Nature always wears the colors of the spirit."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Note: This is the first of four articles on Tom Bombadil)
Tom Bombadil is an enchanting, jolly, powerful, and highly
Symbolic character who is introduced to us in J.R.R. Tolkien's
"The Fellowship of the Ring".
Several very interesting and detailed essays have been written
about this "enigmatic" character in an attempt to un-Veil who
Tom Bombadil is, and what he represents.
This article defines Tom Bombadil to be a Nature Spirit.
However, before simply stating that Tom Bombadil is a Nature
Spirit, we must first have a fair definition of this term. The article,
"Nature Spirits and Elemental Beings", provides a specific and
detailed definition of the term "Nature Spirit".
Based upon that definition, let us now take a look at some of the
Symbolism, and Mystery contained within this wonderfully
mysterious character called Tom Bombadil.
When Tom first appears, he is described as: wearing an old
battered hat with a long blue feather, great yellow boots, a blue
coat, and having a long brown beard. Later, Tom is described as
having thick brown hair.
Furthermore, "his face was red as a ripe apple but creased into a
hundred wrinkles of laughter".
As can be seen, we are presented with an abundance of color
Symbolism in Tom's attire and Appearance. Let us now carefully
analyze this Symbolism:
Old battered hat:
It is important to keep in mind that Tolkien possessed a very deep
understanding of Mythology. This would also encompass the
understanding of Symbolism, of which Color Symbolism plays an
Therefore, it is interesting to note that while Tolkien is very specific
in describing the colors, and in many cases even the size, of Tom's
other clothing, along with his physical features, he does not
mention the color of Tom's hat. He simply describes it as "an old
battered hat with a tall crown".
As meticulous as Tolkien is in his descriptions of nearly everything
else in his writings, this makes the color of Tom Bombadil's hat
an intriguing curiosity!
But, back to the "old battered hat".
Anything "old" Symbolizes timelessness, antiquity, and Wisdom.
"Battered" Symbolizes a time-worn, and time-tested, familiarity.
Long blue feather:
A Feather comes from the wing of a bird. Wings and birds are
Symbols for Spirit. The fact that the Feather is long tells us that it
belongs to a very large bird; a Great Spirit.
Blue is the color of Truth. It Symbolizes "that which IS".
Long brown beard and thick brown hair:
Brown is the color of the earth; of soil. This tells us that Tom is
associated with the earth and is therefore an Earth Entity; an
The fact that Tom's hair is long and thick suggests virility, potency,
plentifulness, and generative powers.
Again, blue is the color of Truth. Therefore Tom "wears" the Truth;
he is "that which IS".
Great yellow boots:
Yellow is the color which is associated with, represents, and is
interchangeable with Gold. Gold Symbolizes the incorruptible, the
untarnishable, the unchangeable, the unalterable, the everlasting.
In mentioning that his boots were "great", we are again presented
with the Principle of Greatness or Largeness, just as in the length
of his Feather mentioned above.
The boots are what Tom walks in and is supported by. They are
also responsible for leaving his Footprint.
Therefore the great yellow boots are Symbolic that Tom walks in,
and is supported by, the untarnishable, the incorruptible, and the
everlasting. Furthermore, the Footprint Tom leaves, by way of his
"great boots", is a reminder to others that he is a representative,
and Bringer, of these Divine Qualities wherever he Travels.
His face was red as a ripe apple but creased into a hundred
wrinkles of laughter.
Here, in Tom's face, we encounter a striking familiarity to St.
Nicholas (Santa Claus), whose "cheeks were like roses, his
nose like a cherry!" ***
Red is a masculine essence which Symbolizes vitality, activity,
power, energy, and life-blood. In other words, Tom's Red face
Symbolizes an active masculine life-force.
The "wrinkles" in Tom's face again Symbolize age, Time, and the
Wisdom contained within the wrinkles of Time. More specifically,
Tom's wrinkles represent Aged (and Ageless) Wisdom.
Based upon the Symbolism contained within Tom's clothing and
features alone, we have enough details to classify him as a Nature
Spirit. However, this only describe Tom's outward appearance.
We will now turn to Tom's behavior and powers in order to further
determine why Tom Bombadil is a Nature Spirit.
An analysis of Tom's behavior and powers appears in
"Tom Bombadil - Nature Spirit - Part 2".
*** "Twas The Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore
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© copyright Joseph Panek 2011