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Tolkien’s Legendarium is one of the biggest, most popular and most interesting fictional universes we have. It is – in a way – the epitome of a fantasy-based universe and served as a prototype for all later similar universes that are part of the fantasy genre. Although the universe contains a lot of different material and is generally well-worked out, without any major questions or issues (Tolkien was a meticulous creator), there still are some mysteries that remain unanswered and today’s article is going to be dedicated to one of them. So, if you want to know who Tom Bombadil actually is – keep reading!
No, Tom Bombadil, the mysterious figure from Tolkien’s stories and two poems, is not Eru Ilúvatar, the creator figure from Tolkien’s Legendarium. Despite the ambiguity of the story, Tolkien has confirmed in one of his letters that there is no embodiment of the creator in his stories.
Today’s article is going to be focused on Tom Bombadil, the mysterious figure Frodo meets in The Fellowship of the Ring, and his relationship to Eru Ilúvatar, the creator figure from Tolkien’s Legendarium. The focal point of the article is going to be the theory that Bombadil is actually Eru Ilúvatar and we are going to confirm or deny it, based on our research. We’ve prepared a lot of interesting information for you, so be sure to read everything!
Who is Eru Ilúvatar?
Eru Ilúvatar is a fictional deity from Tolkien’s stories. He doesn’t actually appear in any of them (nor is he mentioned in the major stories) but is an essential part of his mythology as he is credited as being the one sole creator and the supreme deity of Arda in the Legendarium. “Eru” means “The One” or “Alone”, and the epithet “Ilúvatar” means “Father of All” in the Quenya language. He is also called “the All-Powerful” and he alone could create an independent life or a reality with the “Flame Imperishable”.
Eru Ilúvatar is the most powerful being in Tolkien’s mythology and though he is the first creator, he has delegated most of the actual actions to the Ainur, including the shaping of the world. He has intervened on a couple of occasions, but he is generally completely passive and doesn’t meddle with mortal affairs.
Eru was transcendent, completely outside and beyond the world. He first created a group of angelic beings, called the Ainur in Elvish, and these holy spirits participated in the creation of Arda through a sacred music and chant called “Music of the Ainur”.
The next thing he designed was Eä, the “World and All That Is”, which existed in the Void (or “the Outside”, as it was sometimes called). Then he gave the Ainur the opportunity to go to Eä and shape it the way they wanted. The greatest Ainur who chose to do so were called Valar and controlled the creation and shaping of Arda. However, they could create life, as evidenced by Aulë, who could only give shape to the Dwarves while Eru gave them consciousness. The Valar were accompanied by the Maiar, the lesser Ainur.
Elves and Men, however, came straight from Ilúvatar’s mind and are referred to in The Silmarillion as the “first” and “second” children of Ilúvatar (or Eruhini).
Who is Tom Bombadil?
Tom Bombadil is a fictional character from Tolkien’s Legendarium that first appeared in The Fellowship of the Ring and later in two poems from the collection The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. He is an extremely mysterious figure who seems to have been present in Arda since its creation and will remain there for all eternity. Tolkien himself implied that he is the oldest living character in Middle-Earth.
The origins of Tom Bombadil are quite a mystery. The characters is claimed to have been living in Arda even before Melkor, the first Dark Lord, and even before the coming of the Valar, which would make him the first living being in Arda. During the First Age, he travelled through Middle-Earth, exploring different realms and having many thrilling adventures; his initial journey ended with him marrying Goldberry, the “River-woman’s daughter”, who was a river spirit. This happened through the First and Second Ages.
During the Third Age, Bombadil eventually settled down in the Old Forest, where he took his current name and later witnessed the arrival of the Hobbits into the Shire; fond of the little creatures, he would occasionally interact with them. During the War of the Ring, he helped Frodo and the Hobbits on their journey, rescuing them on several occasions and helping them leave the Old Forest. During the Council of Elrond, it was revealed that Bombadil seemed to have power over the One Ring in his realm – which is why the Council pondered whether to give him the ring or not – but Gandalf explained that Bombadil was merely immune to the One Ring, completely, but he did not have influence over it and he could do nothing to alter it.
He is also mentioned during the Fourth Age, having had a meeting with Gandalf, although the content of that meeting was never revealed.
Is Tom Bombadil actually Eru Ilúvatar?
Seeing how Tom Bombadil is a rather mysterious and seemingly eternal character who does act like a divine figure – he is omnipresent, he is immune to the One Ring, he doesn’t meddle in mortal affairs but is willing to help, etc. – and his enigmatic history has led some fans to believe that he is actually Eru Ilúvatar in human form. If you look around the Internet, you’ll even find several high-quality fan essays on the topic of Tom Bombadil’s true identity.
A lot of fans have speculated that Eru Ilúvatar decided to come to Arda and live there in the form of a human, but there is really nothing in the canon that would confirm this. Tolkien did discuss his creator deity in his Legendarium, but Eru Ilúvatar has remained an elusive, transcending figure within the mythology. Tolkien was a devout Christian and it would really seem unlikely that he, taking his personal views on God into consideration, would manifest the supreme creator in the form of a quirky old man. It’s far more likely that Tom Bombadil might be the “Adam” of this mythology, but even that remains a mystery. What we know for certain is that he is not Eru Ilúvatar, and that was indirectly, although explicitly confirmed in Tolkien’s letters (Letter 181 to be precise), when he said:
“There is no ’embodiment’ of the Creator anywhere in this story or mythology.”
This sentence is the ultimate proof that Eru Ilúvatar is neither Tom Bombadil, nor any other character present in Arda. He is the transcending creator of everything, but because of that – he is “outside” his own creation.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!