Jim asked:

So far I am just trying to burn through all the pages. I am so bored and the journey has hardy started. What is the point of Tom Bombadil and Lady Goldberry?

To answer questions about The Fellowship of the Ring, please sign up.
Gerry Bevers I think the problem, Jim, is that you are trying to burn through the pages in search of excitement and answers. Slow down and enjoy the journey. Imagine yourself hiking through the Old Forest, remembering the old stories you had heard about it, and wondering who or what made the trail you are following.

I see Tom Bombadil and Lady Goldberry as adding to the mystery of the forest. They are meant to stimulate our imagination and cause us to wonder about their origin and history, cause us to ask questions about them. They are like the ruins of the castles and fortresses along the way that cause us to wonder who once lived there. They are like the blue-stoned brooch Tom Bombadil found among the treasure in the burial mound of the Borrow-wight, the brooch that causes us to wonder about the woman to whom it once belonged. They are there to remind us that the history of the world goes back many lifetimes and is full of mystery.
Xanthia Davies In the book it says that Tom Bombadil is ancient and powerful and can wear the ring without disappearing. The point Tolkien is making is that there is the power in Middle Earth to resist the power of the ring and Sauron. If he were just mentioned then it would have little importance to the reader, but as he is a character in the story, it shows that there is power in the world greater than Sauron, but people make the choice not to use it. Also Tom Bombadil is an awesome character:)
Whitedove Okay, if you are still interested at all, there are a couple of things going on here:

1. This series of events is showing how dangerous the wide world actually is. The hobbits have lived their whole lives in a kind of 18th century English farming village kind of place, where people's worries are mainly about the weather, the crops, and securing good marriages for their numerous children. And they were landed gentry (think like Pride and Prejudice type living environment) so even a lot of those concerns did not affect them directly. Now, they've barely made it out of the Shire, haven't even finsihed the first half of the first leg of their journey and have already nearly been killed twice, by things that don't even have immediately to do with their journey. This really drives home that they might never make it home, even if they do succeed on their quest. Not only that, but...

2. Their whole world has been turned topsy turvey. Things that they could take for granted don't apply out here. After all, who in their right mind would see a random willow tree and think it was a malicious entity that will use magic to put you to sleep and then try to kill you? But that happens. Old Man Willow is just such an entity. And the kind of weird old man singing to himself is actually a minor deity who's been looking after these woods since before the dawn of civilization. And the quiet graves, which can't hurt you because their contents have been dead for thousands of years, aren't so quiet.

3. This is part of one of the very important themes that is addressed throughout the book, and that is that this situation is not straight forward, or two sided. It isn't just the "good guys" against the "bad guys" and anyone who is good will help fight the bad guys. It is much more complicated than that. Everyone involved has their own concerns, their own fears, their own confusion about how to handle the problem. No one wants to go to war, because they don't want their people killed. And just because there are forces more powerful than Sauron, or more conventient than destroying the ring themselves, doesn't mean our heros can rely on those options. Tom B is a good guy. When he hears someone calling for help, he runs and helps them, then lets them couch-surf at his place, gives them dinner, introduces them to the little woman and helps them get back on track. But the War of the Ring isn't his problem. He's got no reason to help them (Sauron can't hurt him) would probably screw up if he tried to help because it doesn't matter to him (see The Council of Elrond), and he would have to neglect the things that are his responisblity to help them. So he won't. This is also why they can't get help getting to Mordor from the Eagles, as some readers have said they should have (plus a few other reasons, but that is another story), why they can't expect the Ents to help them, or the Rohirrim, or anyone for that matter. Not to even go into how no one in the story is purely good or purely evil, not even Sauron, who was originally a minor angel (approxiamtely). So, this starts to show, right out of the gate, that things are not as cut and dry as they seemed sitting around a table in cozy, comfy Bag End, talking about it hypothetically.

All in all, this scene or series of scenes might seem a little off topic at first, but it is actually a very important sequence for the story and the characters. This is really the point at which the Hobbits start to realize what exactly they've signed up for.
Cynthia I am with you, Jim. Everyone tells me that it's a great book, but I can't even get pass page 100.
Rebekah I recommend you read the Tom Bombadil section out loud. The whole thing is poetry.

It may interest you to know that Tolkien had a little doll named Tom Bombadil that he used to entertain his children. He would write little stories and songs about this character. When he wrote Lord of the Rings, he brought together the world of the Hobbit with his linguistics work, his studies of Norse myths, his stories of Christmas elves vs. goblins, and even his Tom Bombadil poems. It may seem like a pointless adventure to spend so much time on, but this is one of my favorite parts of the book.

There are many theories among hardcore Tolkien fans about what kind of creature Tom is. We are not meant to know, but my personal theory is that he is literally part of the music of creation, a little tune that never became one of the Ainur, but kept playing and got stuck in one place. Everything he says fits the same rhythm, and is part of the same song. For more detail, google "Entmoot 'my new theory on tom bombadil'".
Nader Many readers of the Lord of the Rings consider Tom's presence in the first book to be an unnecessary intrusion into the narrative, which could be omitted without loss. Tolkien was aware of their feelings, and in part their judgment was correct. As Tolkien wrote in a letter in 1954, ". . . many have found him an odd and indeed discordant ingredient. In historical fact I put him in because I had already invented him. . . and wanted an 'adventure' on the way. But I kept him in, and as he was, because he represents certain things otherwise left out" (Ibid., p. 192). Judging by these remarks, critical readers are correct about the arbitrariness of Tom's introduction into the story; however, as Tolkien continues, he deliberately (nonarbitrary) kept Tom in to fulfill a particular role, to provide an additional dimension.

In a letter written to the original proofreader of the trilogy in 1954, Tolkien reveals a little about what Tom's literary role or function might be. Early in the letter he writes that "even in a mythological Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally)" (Ibid., p. 174). Later he adds that "Tom is not an important person - to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a 'comment'." He then goes on to explain that each side in the War of the Ring is struggling for power and control. Tom in contrast, though very powerful, has renounced power in a kind of "vow of poverty," "a natural pacifist view." In this sense, Tolkien says, Tom's presence reveals that there are people and things in the world for whom the war is largely irrelevant or at least unimportant, and who cannot be easily disturbed or interfered with in terms of it (Ibid., pp. 178-79). Although Tom would fall if the Dark Lord wins ("Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron," Ibid.), he would probably be "the Last as he was the First" (Rings, 1:279).

An Essay by Gene Hargrove
Mike Jim, I am so with you. It was boring.
Josie The book was rather slow and I kept wondering when it would get to the point but then I realized that the journey and all the characters along the way are the point. Your just supposed to relax and enjoy the show while also picking up a few clues along the way.
Tom Durham Jr. If you read the Silmirillian you find that Tom Bombadil is a Maiar. Maiar are some of the most powerful beings in the world. I was actually disappointed that the movie cut Tom Bombadil out. There is a book by Tolkien called "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" if you would like to know more about him.
Glory It's understandable; it's a long-winded story. But the main focus of the Lord of the Rings books is really more in the detail and atmosphere of the whole Middle-earth fantasy world, and sometimes that character is driven more than the plot. If you come to it with that in mind, the story may be more enjoyable. :)
Zina You can't do that. Burning through pages is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing with this book. You need to read with attention and notice the detail on the way. You need to take your time. You need to pay attention and notice things as you go. You need to visualize the road. You need to think. Or - I mean, you can always read Captain Underpants instead.
Sarah I love questions like this, because I ask myself the same sorts of things and now I can read all the other ideas about it. Why Tom? For me, I decided this part of the story was about the journey and not the destination. The characters need adversity so they can develop and grow past their Shire selves. I love the insights everyone else have shared, so thanks to all of you!
What’s the point of reading something just to “burn through [it]”?
Mike The Hobbit was very successful and Tolkien was encouraged to write a sequel. He did not know how to start the new book. If he just got the Hobbits on the road, ideas might come and the story would develop. That happened and he brought in characters from his previous writing, such as Tom Bombadil. Although the Tom Bombadil section is a delight, it plays a small part in the plot of the greater story. Up until this section, most of the writing places the Hobbits within the setting of Middle Earth. By the time the Hobbits come to Bree, Tolkien had written On Fairy Stories and finally figured out what a Fairy Story was. He then back-wrote the previous sections and made the story consistent with the great tale it became. It was also integrated somewhat with the Silmarilion. As a plot construction, the Tom Bombadil section is not needed. However, the tale of Old Man Willow, Goldberry, the River Woman's Daughter and Tom Bombadil will awaken a Celtic spirit in you that is part of our primordial nature. You will feel the spirit of the great tale like the cool, clear water of the Withywindle.
Hunter Mccarthy haha thats where i stopped
Krystal Ramirez This book I believe was written before television and such. Its written sort of like a story so that you could imagine and try to see what the author has painted in words. it has been re rendered over the years to make it easier to read. At least that's what i have heard from a rabbit fan (My boss) who has not only reread the books many times but collects and studies what she could about the origins of the series and even before before.....personally i like it so far i just imagine the movie characters when i'm reading >.< one year later >.<
Shrimpy My question is why would you try to burn through all the pages of a children's story that is meant to be savored and enjoyed? I, too, have a lot of questions about Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, but I think that's the point. Tom is a manifestation of Middle Earth, its joys and concerns, its liveliness and childlike innocence. And Goldberry is the daughter of the river, the mysteries and joy of water. You're not meant to understand them, I think, and who can say if they really exist at all, or if Frodo and Co. just imagined it all? It adds to the pure innocence and wonder of the book.
Emily Weiss As one of the prior answerers said, your problem is that you're trying to "burn through all the pages". Slow down! This is a book where it is not so much the destination, but the journey and the characters that matter the most. As Tolkien once wrote: "We do not say anything... unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to."
Bretx9 This is a 5 year old question however it will still be relevant to alot of new readers who are put off by the slow beginnings of fellowship of the ring. On a re-read I too felt the very slow drag in the first third of the book and it isn't until after the tom bombadil chapter that the book and journeys pace pick up and sets off on the true ride. I believe jrr tolkien actually started the lord of the rings before he went to war, and he stopped writing around the council of elrond / moria chapters, and he continued it after he came back, and you can see the difference in his writing, the pace picks up and tone changes when before, in the early chapters of the shire and forest and tom bombadil it's really slow.

As for what tom bombadil actually is, he's viewed as most as a forest spirit or even on gandalfs or others level (a mair/angel spirit), he is a very strange addition to the book and it's no wonder peter jackson cut him from the movies. It's strange how they just leave farmer maggot and his hospitality and wife and food and and journey through the forest and at the end there's another ''farmer maggot'' type character giving the same hospitality. I believe any different editor may have cut him but he was one of tolkiens earliest creations and characters that his children enjoyed so thats why he's in the books I believe.
Joan D I picked up Tolkien to read again for the third time in my life because I came upon a podcast called The Prancing Pony. These guys know their Tolkien, and if they don't know, they know the best sources to try to find out. Episode #121 tackles the Tom Bombadil question. I highly recommend it.
An Nguyen That's my favourite part, perhaps more enjoyable because it is not in the movie (so it's a prize for those who read the books : ) I think Tom Bombadil is the ancient spirit of the earth, and he gives readers hopes that there is an older, stronger force than even the ring and the Dark Lord. It might also be about how nature and human used to be inseparable, or the power that nature can give you.
But I agree that the journey is too slow, and at many points I skipped the overly descriptive parts.
Jerry You saw the movie first . eh?
Nubero there is no point in any of this. give your copy to a fan and pick up a real book…
Maxwell Ferris they've got an awesome role and yes, the adventure does take a while, and once you've powered through the first bit it gets really good you just have to get past the first bit, then you're good until the third book where it got despairingly boring for me
Rita Gerry, I agree with your statement about Tom Bombadil and Lady Goldberry. I read it twice before and felt the same as Jim. I am now listening to it and have discovered that it is as you say part of the mystery of the forest and the mystery that Tolkien wanted us to see.
greatgrayprairie Hello, Jim.
The point of Bombadil and Goldberry is that they live in Cardolan, The North Kingdom, as opposed to Arthedain, The North Kingdom. And Butterbur lives in Rhudhaur, The North Kingdom. Plus the fact that the Hobbits can’t use The Great East West Road or The Greenway but rather have to cut across brush to get to Rivendell.
Plus way in The Return of the King Frodo remembers something that happened to him on Goldberry’s Washing Day.
Wallaby Bombadil and Goldberry are a little different. Things pick up a bit after the hobbits leave Bombadil's domain.
Alexandra Esmond This cracked me up because this was, and still is, me throughout the first and second book :') The sooner you except the plot is somewhere between a psychotic breakdown or one-too-many hallucinagenics, it'll start making a lot more sense. Think Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland.
Liam The slow pacing isn't for everyone. I personally love Tom Bombadil and Goldberry and am disappointed that they were left out of the movies. I just think it's nice to read about a goofy character who just lives in a forest while also being insanely powerful.
Tess Rimmel This part is torture, it's not just you. There's a whole subreddit about Tom Bombadil killing the pacing of this story. This subplot slows the story to a snail's pace. Yes, he's charming and whimsical, yes, it's lovely and languid worldbuilding, but it's very uneventful and largely pointless. The story doesn't get started until about halfway through the book. If you can just get past Tom Bombadil and get to Rivendell you will see things pick up. Still, it's very slow paced in general. I managed to get through it and, personally, I liked it enough to continue the series, but it's completely understandable if you decide to give it up. It becomes a chore if you don't enjoy it.
Brinda Jim, I so agree. I never understood the purpose of Tom Bombadil. Added nothing to the story
BalrajWallace You just need to go deeper into the journy and you will realize why and how eventually
Timothy Morrison to burn through all of the pages? they can only be burnt in mount doom!
Irfken I agree, it's all a lot of unnecessary prattling and long-winded exhausting descriptions of the wondrous art of walking. Sure it's a classic but not every classic is for everyone. I, for one, found it to be an overrated and tedious bore but that's just me.
JAjjsjasjdajsdj Your right this book is very boring
The Usual I'm afraid the plot of the Lord of the Rings is rather rambling and flabby (with all due apologies to anyone that thinks it's a work of transcendent genius), and at this point Tolkien seems to be feeling his way to what he wants the trilogy to be. I'd like to say there's some kind of deeper meaning to this section, but I think, really, he's written an oxbow lake of plot, a huge meander that can be cut out without doing much damage (as they did in the films).
Once you get past Bree, the story actually gets going and stops being quite so Hobbit-like, though to be honest, if you don't like the book thus far it probably won't hold your attention.
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Image for The Fellowship of the Ring
Rate this book
Clear rating

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more