Monthly Archives: December 2013

North Dakota

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogsmith Commentary

Seven Years Dead Today


Leave a comment

December 30, 2013 · 10:47 am

Craig Ferguson Speaks Out About His Alcoholism

This was a little over 5 years ago, when Craig Ferguson spoke about almost killing himself at Christmas over 15 years prior to the broadcast.


Filed under Comedy-StandUp, Movies & TV

Ever have one of those birthdays…?

So, I’m an idiot.

I think this has been established. But so are you. By the strictest sense, we are all really, really dumb. Add up all of your mistakes, flood them into your brain at the same time, and you are the dumbest person who has ever lived, at least in that moment when your brain is on overload.

I’m an idiot, you’re an idiot, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too, etc.

So, last week I had another one of those anniversaries of that time I avoided infant mortality. And it dredged up a lot of old crap that I haven’t really wanted to deal with for a long time. This past year, I started regularly seeing a shrink, then abruptly stopped seeing that shrink, then picked it up again four months later. In the course of all of this, mostly in the recent relapse into therapy, I started to talk about my childhood, and how much it sucked.

I mean, it really didn’t suck that hard, from a distant look. I grew up lower (I mean real low) middle class, lower class at times. I ate my share of government cheese, but no one around me was a drunk, no drugs, no prison time in my immediate family. So while low, not incarceratedly low.

My family went through a divorce during all of this; separating when I was 8, divorcing when I was 9. Woo, that was so much fun. And it’s great how much of it I remember too! Especially when I’m the age that my parents were when they split.

I say my family went through a divorce, because parents never go through it, a family does. And I hear the voice of my 8 year old self inside my head all the time going, “Please, try not to fuck this up. I really can’t go through this again. And why don’t you own like every Transformer there is now? What kind of Me are you anyhow?”.

I should really get to the point already. I turned 38 on the 17th. And I wasn’t real happy. Kind of the opposite in fact. A lot of it stemmed from the fact that I don’t really want to have kids, because they’ll remind me of when I was a kid. See, here’s what I can easily remember from when I was a kid: my parents yelling at each other, my mom (who had full custody) yelling at us kids, my dad being absent all the time (partial custody), my sister mostly ignoring the fact I existed except when I was in her way, my brother randomly punching me in the shoulder for no reason to the point I pretty much had a permanent bruise on one/both arms, and me hanging out by myself in my room, mostly reading.

What is a struggle to remember (though the memories are there) are my parents peacefully handing us back and forth for weekend visits, my dad showing us some cool cars an awful lot (mostly owned by a buddy of his who later went to prison for embezzlement, go fig), my mom and I connecting over a movie (which we still connect over), seeing my sister on the upper floor of my grade school shortly into my first grade (where she waved and called me over, so awesome), my brother and I playing a lot of video games and watching the same movies, and me, happy.

It’s funny how the really awful parts of life hang on like a dingleberry, and the easy parts seem to slide right through you.

I’m still hanging onto stuff that I though I had let go. And it sucks, because I don’t even want to talk to the people who, in my dumb memory, purposefully made me feel terrible a really, really long time ago. In actuality, they’re really great people TODAY, and they didn’t do things to me on purpose back then. Divorce wakens demons, and there’s more “me” thoughts than “we” thoughts.

That doesn’t really change the fact that I feel pretty awful right now, today. Dredging up yesterdays newspapers, all covered with mold and birdshit.

I wish I had a closer for this, but I just felt the need to share. Maybe I should be sharing this on an open forum, due to the fact that when I hit “publish”, it’s out there. Forever. But I’m always reminded of I’m employed, still will be, and in that distant time when I need to find employment with someone else, I will find it. I’m just a little broken.

Have a happy new year, and let’s try not to dwell on past slights, or past mistakes. –notice how I didn’t bring up the bad things I did TO my family? My memory cleverly doesn’t remember those things very easily either. I did my share, possibly more than what was done to me. But I’m not having a hard time with the outward-arrows right now, only the incoming ones.

Abrupt end of post.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogsmith Commentary

Why Country Music Was Terrible in 2013

via Tastefully Offensive:

Leave a comment

Filed under Fails, Wins, Pranks, and Puns, Music

Midwesties: It Could Be Worse

Condition 1 weather in Antarctica is pretty rough.

Leave a comment

Filed under weather

Corvette C7 (Upgraded) Driving 200mph (closed course)

Leave a comment

Filed under Cars, Motorcycles, & Driving

Watch “ALL of the SUPERFRIENDS opening Theme songs from 1973 – 1985” on YouTube

Leave a comment

Filed under DC Comics

For all my Midwestern friends: Watch “Immigrant Song with lyrics HQ Led Zeppelin” on YouTube

Leave a comment

Filed under Misc.

Desaparecidos – “Greater Omaha” (with a reference to Kum and Go gas stations)

This *might* be NSFW, I don’t know. I can’t listen to it from work to find out, but I didn’t want to miss posting this one.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Omaha

Watch “Kathy Ireland SI ’89” on YouTube

Leave a comment

Filed under Misc.

All I Want for Christmas

Look, if you really, really want to buy me something for Christmas (everyone else, please disregard this post), get me one of the following, listed in order of most-want to least-want:

1) Donate to one of the charities I support (The Native American Heritage Association: or Alley Cat Allies:

2) Buy something off of my “stuff to buy or drool over forever” list, way down the right-hand column of Bugloaf

3) an Amazon giftcard.

4) an Alamo Drafthouse giftcard.

Or hell, just pay it forward, because I don’t really need anything. I’m not rich, I’m not poor, I’m Goldilocks. I’m actively trying to get rid of a bajillion knick-knacks through donating or eBay, so I don’t really want any more junk right now. I don’t play videogames very much anymore, I don’t collect comic books, I barely read anything these days. I’m trying to find my inner minimalist. So yeah…thanks, but no thanks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogsmith Commentary

Who is Tom Bombadil?

(Note: I pulled the text directly from I just wasn’t a fan of the formatting, at all, so I pasted the whole thing right here.)

Who is Tom Bombadil?
An Essay by Gene Hargrove

An earlier version of this paper was published in Mythlore, no. 47 (August 1986).
This version takes into account criticism of the essay and my response in Beyond Bree.

Within the Tolkien household Tom Bombadil was originally a Dutch doll belonging to one of Tolkien’s children (Carpenter, Tolkien, p. 162; Grotta-Rurska, Tolkien, p. 101). Tolkien later wrote a poem about him called “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil,” published in Oxford Magazine in 1934, long before the writing of the Lord of the Rings began. When Tolkien decided to introduce Tom into the trilogy, little needed to be changed about him or his poem except for the feather in his hat – changed from peacock to swan-wing, since peacocks do not live in Middle-earth (Tolkien, Letters, pp. 318-19).

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).

In trying to grasp what Tolkien has in mind here it is very important, I believe, to distinguish between an enigma and an anomaly, for Tolkien’s interest in Tom involves the former while reader dissatisfaction treats Tom more in terms of the latter. An anomaly is something discordant, unrelated, out of place. It is in this sense that someone might claim that Tom could be left out. An enigma, on the other hand, is a mystery, a puzzle, something which seems to be discordant, unrelated, out of place, but isn’t. This distinction becomes pivotal in the discussion of Tom Bombadil when one considers that on three occasions in the story the question of Tom’s identity or nature is pointedly brought up, twice by Frodo in Tom’s house and later at the Council of Elrond. If there is no answer to the question, then Tom is anomalous. If there is, then he is, as Tolkien claimed, enigmatic.

When one takes into account the manner in which Tolkien composed the Lord of the Rings, especially the care he gave to sorting out the historical connections between people, things, and events, I personally find it inconceivable that there is no answer within the framework of the story to Frodo’s question: “Who is Tom Bombadil?” Although Tolkien didn’t want to tell his readers directly, it seems to me certain that he himself knew very well. Tolkien was very protective of what he wrote, including his errors. When he found something miswritten in his manuscript, he was more likely to ponder, in terms of Middle-earth, how his characters came to make such an error, or what special significance this might have, than simply to correct it. Thus, a mispelt foreign word was more likely to remain as an example of regional dialect than to be changed. Problems with the names and identities of characters were solved in a similar manner. There are, for example, two Glorfindels in his history of Middle earth, one who died fighting a Balrog in the First Age, and another from Rivendell who lent Frodo his horse in the race to Imladris. This situation was, if not a problem, at least a bit unusual, and required special attention from Tolkien, since in general Elf names are unique to particular individuals. Rather than simply renaming one of the Elves, Tolkien concluded that they were the same person and that he had stumbled onto a rare case of reincarnation among the Elves. He then devoted some time to an examination of the theological implications of this special case (Becker, Tolkien Scrapbook, pp. 92-93).

Given this general approach in writing the trilogy, I submit (1) that it would have been impossible for Tolkien to have brought up the issue of Tom’s identity and nature three times and not to have continued thinking about it until he had an answer, and (2) that, although he might not have wanted to tell his readers the correct answer, feeling that enigmas are important, he would nevertheless have left some clues for those who wanted to pursue the matter as he had. The balance of this essay is an examination of those clues. Although the evidence is circumstantial, it is, I believe, convincing.

Beginning as early as Issac and Zimbardo’s Tolkien and His Critics, published in 1968, Tom Bombadil has almost universally been regarded as a nature spirit. In that volume, Edmund Fuller states that he is “unclassifiable other than as some primal nature spirit” (p. 23). According to Patricia Meyer Spacks, Tom has natural power for good and he “is in the most intimate communion with natural forces; he has the power of the ‘earth itself”‘ (p. 84). R. J. Reilly claims that Tom is “a kind of archetypal ‘vegetation god”‘ (p. 131) and argues that “when Tom Bombadil speaks, it is as if Nature itself – nonrational, interested only in life and in growing things were speaking (p. 139). This view of Tom, as a nonrational nature spirit, as a personification of nature itself, has been the dominant view ever since. Ruth S. Noel in The Mythology of Middle-earth, published in 1977, in perhaps the longest and most elaborate discussion of him, begins with the remark that “Tom Bombadil is a character like Puck or Pan, a nature god in diminished form, half humorous, half divine” (p. 127) and she concludes with the remark that Bombadil and Goldberry are undisguised personifications of land untouched by humans, underlaid by a hidden but potent power, representing both the danger of wild land and its potential to serve man” (p. 130). Anne C. Petty in One Ring to Bind Them, published in 1979, summarizes all of the above with the proclamation that Tom is “the nature deity par excellence” (p. 38).

As nearly as I am able to determine, the textual basis for the idea that Tom is a nature spirit is the discussion of him at the Council of Elrond, specifically, the following remarks: “Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself” and “. . . now he is withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he has set, though none can see them, waiting for a change of days, and he will not step beyond them” Rings, 1:279). I suspect that many people have concluded from the second passage that Tom, as a nature spirit, has gradually become hemmed in with the diminishment of the Old Forest. The passage, however, says no such thing. His limits are not set for him by the boundaries of the forest; rather he set them himself. Furthermore, the passage does not state that he cannot cross the boundaries, only that he will not. The claim that he cannot is not even factually correct: Tom frequently visited Farmer Maggot in the Shire and presumably had previously made similar visits to others “down from days hardly remembered” (“Bombadil Goes Boating” and Rings, 1:143). With regard to the first passage, it does not say that Tom is or has the power of the earth. It is ambiguous. The statement, “Tim does not have the ability to drive that far, unless that ability is in his car,” does not mean that Tim is a car. Likewise, the fact that Tom does not have the power to defy Sauron need not be because such power is not in the earth. I will provide a better explanation in due course.

It is possible that the nature spirit theory has been held so long because no one could think of an alternative. Consider Jarred Lobdell’s treatment of Tom Bombadil in England and Always, published in 1981. Declaring Tom to be the “least successful creation” in the trilogy, he continues:

Standing alone, he would be a nature spirit…. But he is not standing alone. . . . He is not the genius of the earth, since he is restricted to one part of it. . . . He is apparently a man, since he is clearly not an Elf or a Dwarf or an Ent or a Hobbit or one of the fallen races, but he is not one of the Men of the West. I suppose one could save the appearances by making him an angel, of a different order from the Istari, or by making him a god, but in both cases we would be in conflict with Tolkien’s mythology. (pp. 62-63)

Lokdell eventually concludes that Tom is an anomaly: “Although I find him an anomalous creation, I can make shift to account for him theologically – but only with the uneasy feeling that making shift is all that I am doing (p. 63).

While I can agree that Tom is not a nature spirit, a Man, an Elf, a Dwarf, or a Hobbit, I see no reason why Lobdell should reject the possibility that he is an angel or a god – in terms of Tolkien’s mythology, a Maia or a Vala. We know from the Silmarillion that Orome once hunted in Middle-earth, Ulmo had dealings with the Elves there, Olorin walked among the Elves unseen before he was Gandalf, and Melian spent a great deal of time in Beleriand with Thingol. There is thus ample evidence for occasional visits of such beings, even for the most frivolous or personal reasons.

Moreover, Tolkien draws some literary connections with regard to Tom that help support his divine status. First, as Noel has noted (Mythology, p. 128), Tolkien makes reference in “Bombadil Goes Boating” to a story in the Elder Edda about Odin, one of the most powerful Norse gods, thereby associating Tom with him. Second, in “In the House of Tom Bombadil” Goldberry answers the question “Who is Tom Bombadil?” with the simple statement “He is” (Rings, 1:135). In terms of medieval philosophy this would mean that existence is a predicate of Tom Bombadil and that he is therefore God. Although Tolkien denies this implication in a letter, written in 1954 (Letters, pp. 191-92), saying that Goldberry, like Tom later, is only making a point about the nature of naming, I remain haunted by the remark. Just as the reference to Odin does not necessarily mean that we must conclude that Tom is Odin, the allusion to medieval philosophical terminology in describing him need not be interpreted as a Christian theological crisis. While Tolkien’s denial clearly rules out the possibility that Tom is Iluvatar, I do not see that it eliminates the possibility that he is an offspring of Iluvatar’s thought, a Vala or a Maia, for I see nothing theologically troublesome with existence being a predicate of part of God.

Finally, there is Tom’s singing. Tom’s inability to separate song from his other activities, speaking, walking, working, suggests that it is very fundamental to his being in a profound way that distinguishes him from all other beings encountered in the trilogy. The wizards, for example, who are Maiar, chant (in the modern sense of the word) rather than sing, and never unconsciously. This continuous singing may be an indication of Tom’s high status. The world was, after all, brought into existence by a group of singers, the Holy Ones, some of whom became Valar. Second, Tom’s basic song is structurally related to Legolas’ “Song of the Sea” (Rings, 3:234-35), suggesting the possibility that Tom’s is a corruption of an original piece of music from the Uttermost West common to both. Third, Tom’s songs, although seemingly comic and nonsensical, have power in them to control individual elements and things in the forest. When told that Old Man Willow is the cause of the Hobbits’ problems, Tom replies, “that can soon be mended. I know the tune for him” (Ibid., 1:131), which I suggest means something like, ‘don’t worry. I have the plans for that thing and can fix it right away.” This is the kind of knowledge that a Vala, who sang the Music, would likely have, and singing would be the natural way to apply it.

Although this interpretation of Tom’s singing is inconsistent with the general claim that Tom is nonrational, it is not inconsistent with Tolkien’s own characterization of Tom in two letters in 1954, in which Tom is associated with the pure scientific study of nature. Tolkien writes:

. . . [Tom] is then an ‘allegory’, or an exemplar, a particular emboding of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are ‘other’ and wholly entirely unconcerned with ‘doing’ annulling with the knowledge: Zoology and Botany, not Cattle-breeding or Agriculture. (Letters, p. 192; see also, p. 174)

As the exemplification of pure science, Tom could hardly be nonrational. Tom’s purity, moreover, stems from his desire to delight in things as they are, without dominating and controlling them. The former is the aim of pure science, the latter the essential aims of applied science. Tom’s knowledge of nature allows him to control nature when necessary, but because such control is not his aim, he is more akin to science than engineering.

If we take Tom’s remark quite literally that he “was here before the river and the trees. . .the first raindrop and the first acorn” (Rings, 1:142), he is saying either that he was in Middle-earth when the Valar arrived or that he arrived as one of the Valar. His remark that “he knew the dark under ths stars when it was fearless – before the Dark Lord came from the Outside” refers to the time before Morgoth, the original Dark Lord, had officially turned renegade – the time when the “old” or original stars were made. Since the world was incomplete at that time and nothing lived on the earth except the Valar, it is hard to believe that Tom is anything but a Vala.

One interesting hint that Tom is a Vala may be tucked away in the confusing claim that Tom is “the oldest” even though Treebeard is at the same time supposed to be “the oldest living thing that still walks beneath the Sun.” In The Road to Middle-earth, published in 1982, T. A. Shippey, who considers Tom “a one-member category,” struggles with this “inconsistency” and concludes that the claim that Treebeard is the oldest living thing, if true, implies that Tom is not alive, just as the Nazgul are not dead (p. 82). Although the analogy is most likely not correct, it is suggestive. The word living probably means minimally that Fangorn is biotic, that is, an element belonging to the living system of the earth, the biosphere. There were in fact two classes of beings “living” in Middle-earth, who, as beings from outside of Ea, were not part of this system: the Valar and their servants, the Maiar. Their bodies were “veils” or “raiment,” appearances, in which they were self-incarnated (Road Goes Ever On, p. 66). As noted in the essay, “Istari,” in Unfinished Tales (p. 389), the Maiar who became the wizards of Middle-earth – and who had the same nature as the Valar – were converted to living beings temporarily by the special consent of Iluvatar: “For with the consent of Eru they … [were] clad in the bodies of Men, real and not feigned, but subject to the fears and pains and weariness of earth, able to hunger and thirst and be slain. . . .” The need for this conversion suggests that the Valar and Maiar were indeed nonliving, but in a manner very different from the Nazgul. Whereas the Ringwraiths were former living beings who were kept in existence unnaturally through the power of their rings in association with the One Ring, the Valar and Maiar were beings from another plane of existence (the Void) who, as a result, did not completely fit into the world of Middle-earth. Instead, of placing Tom in an anomalous category of one, or associating him with the undead, Shippey’s “inconsistency” may simply be a hint that Tom has extraterrestrial status as a Vala or Maia.

Someone might, of course, want to object that Tom Bombadil really doesn’t look or act like a Vala or a Maia, appearing and behaving instead more like an overgrown Hobbit. I submit, however, to the contrary, that there is no particular way that the Valar and Maiar were supposed to look. Rather they appeared in whatever way they chose, wearing their “veils” or “raiment” in a manner similar to the way we wear clothing. In “The Voice of Saruman,” for example, Gimli tells Gandalf that he wants to see Saruman so he can compare the two wizards. In mused response, Gandalf informs Gimli that there is no way for him to make such a comparison meaningfully, since Saruman can alter his appearance at will as it suits his purpose (Rings, 2:181-82). Rather than decreasing the possibility that Tom is a Vala, his hobbitish appearance actually increases it, for it suggests that Tom has the ability to “fit” his surroundings. If a Vala wanted to visit with Hobbits, he would, of course, appear to them in a manner that was somewhat humorous and familiar, thereby, putting them at ease. In this way, it can be argued that Tom’s Hobbit-like appearance counts in favor of him being a Vala or a Maia, not against it.

Robert Foster in the Complete Guide (p. 496) thus seems to be on the right track when he suggests that “it is possible that he is a Maia ‘gone native’.” The only problem is that there is no Maia in the Silmarillion who matches Tom’s general character. It is only when one turns to the Valar themselves that potential candidates emerge.

Because most of the Valar are married, determining the possible identity of Goldberry can be a help in establishing Tom’s. There are three possible Valier who might have enjoyed living for a time in the Old Forest: Nessa, Vana, and Yavanna. Nessa, who loves deer and dancing, does not fit too well, since neither of these is Goldberry’s specialties. Her husband, Tulkas, the best fighter among the Valar, moreover, is probably too warlike to be Tom. Vana, who cares for flowers and birds, also does not fit very well, since Goldberry is concerned with a larger variety of plants, and birds have no special role. Orome, Vana’s husband, furthermore, is a hunter, especially of monsters. If he were Tom, there would have been no wights on the Downs. With Yavanna, however, we have just the right emphasis, for she is responsible for all living things, with a special preference for plants. Since she is Queen of the Earth, it is easy to imagine her watering the forest with special care, as Goldberry does during the Hobbits’ visit.

In the Silmarillion (pp. 20-21) Yanvanna’s appearance is characterized as follows:

In the form of a woman she is tall, and robed in green; but at times she takes other shapes. Some there are who have seen her standing like a tree under heaven, crowned with the Sun; and from all its branches there spilled a golden dew upon the barren earth, and it grew green with corn; but the roots of the tree were in the waters of Ulmo, and the winds of Manwe spoke in its leaves.

When we first meet Goldberry, she is clad in green: “her gown was green, green as young reeds, shot with silver like beads of dew” (Rings, p. 172). When Tom officially introduces Goldberry, he says, “Here’s my Goldberry clothed all in silver-green. . . .” When she says goodbye to the Hobbits, she is once again clad in green and Frodo in calling for her refers specifically to this color when he starts to look for her: “My fair lady, clad all in green!” (p. 187). This characterization of Goldberry’s customary dress supports that hypothesis that she is Yavanna.

To be sure, when we first meet her, her feet are also surrounded by water, seemingly supporting the water nymph story. This circumstance, however, is not inconsistent with her tree image, which, as just noted, involved having her feet or roots in “the waters of Ulmo.”

As the farewell continues, moreover, a description analogous to the tree description is given:

There on the hill-brow she stood beckoning to them: her hair was flying loose, and as it caught the sun it shone and shimmered. A light like the glint of water on dewy grass flashed under her feet as she danced.”

Although still in human form, her flying hair hints at “the winds of Manwe” and the reflection of the sun from her hair suggests that she is “crowned with the Sun.” The “glint of water on dewy grass” suggests the spilling of the golden dew on the earth as well as “the waters of Ulmo.” When the Hobbits last see Goldberry, she is much more like a plant: “they saw Goldberry now small and slender like s sunlit flower against the sky: she was standing still watching them, and her hands were stretched out towards them.” In this case, she is probably more flower than tree because Hobbits in general like flowers and are afraid of trees. The “sunlit” image is strikingly similar to Yavanna’s primary nonhuman appearance.

Of course, an important problem with this hypothesis is the claim that Goldberry is the Riverwoman’s daughter. If the story is true, then Goldberry cannot be Yavanna. However, there are many things said in Rings that are not true literally and many matters are left unrevealed or unexplained. For instance, it was believed by many people that Rohan was selling horses to Mordor. Gandalf never reveals that he is a Maia. The eagles are never revealed as Maiar (though they are “Spirits in the shape of hawks and eagles” who “could see to the depths of the seas, and pierce the hidden caverns beneath the world” (Silmarillion, p. 35). As is clear from “The Hunt for the Ring,” in Unfinished Tales, many details are presented in a confused and unconnected way in Rings, because that is how they appeared to the people who wrote the book. There are, finally, two accounts given by Tolkien of the origins of the Orcs, both of which cannot be true. Thus, the fact that some people believe that Goldberry is Riverwoman’s Daughter does not absolutely, literally have to be true.

Just as Goldberry is very similar to Yavanna, Aule the Smith, shares many common characteristics with Tom and this identification helps explain some of the events that occur in Tom’s house – especially his control over the ring without any fear or temptation. Aule was the maker of all the substances of the earth: minerals, gems, and metals. During the creation of Middle-earth he was involved in nearly every aspect of its making. He prepared the sea beds to receive the waters of the ocean and prepared the land for plants and animals. As the Maker he developed and taught all arts, crafts, and skills. Of all the Valar, he had the greatest interest in the Children of Iluvatar. So impatient was he to see them that he made the Dwarves. According to the “Valaquenta” in the Silmarillion (p. 27), although Aule and Melkor were most like of all the Valar in thought and power, their attitudes toward the products of their labor and the labor of others were significantly different. While Melkor carefully guarded his works for himself and destroyed the works of others out of jealousy, Aule delighted in making, not possessing, and “he did not envy the works of others, but sought and gave counsel.” It was, in fact, Aule’s lack of possessiveness and his willingness to submit his work to the will of Iluvatar that saved the Dwarves from destruction and made it possible for them to receive the gift of free will from Iluvatar.

When one carefully considers the special moral characteristics of Aule, the similarities to Tom are most striking and revealing. Like Aule, Tom is not possessive. Although his power to dominate and control is always stressed – he is the master – he does not interfere with other beings except when they directly interfere with him. Although he has the power to possess whatever he may desire, he does not chose to possess or own the forest. As Goldberry explains, the animals, plants, and natural objects of the forest are all allowed to belong to themselves. This distain for ownership or possession is the reason why Tom is able to handle the ring without fear. Ultimately, all other powerful beings encountered in the trilogy, unless they are already fallen, are afraid to touch the ring lest the desire to possess it should turn them to evil. Since Tom does not want to own or possess anything, it has no power over him. We simply see his interest, curiosity, and delight as he studies the craftmanship involved in its making. Indeed, Tom approaches the ring critically, almost with scorn. While all others refer to the ring as precious in a reverent sense, Tom’s use of the word, “Show me the precious ring” (Rings, 1:144), suggests irony or doubt about its value. Since the lack of desire to possess or own was extremely rare among the Valar and the beings of Middle-earth, no over Vala is said to exhibit this moral trait, it seems reasonable to assume that Tom and Aule are the same person.

It is also important to note the tremendous power and control that Tom has over the ring. He is, first of all, able to overcome its normal effects. When he puts it on his finger, he does not become invisible. When Frodo puts it on his finger, Tom is still able to see Frodo: he is “not as blind as that yet” (Ibid.). Second, Tom is able with ease to use the ring in ways that were not intended by its maker, for he is able to make the ring itself disappear. (It is possible that Sauron himself might be unable to do this, for the ring embodied a great part of Sauron’s own power, drained from him during its making.) Such power over the ring, displayed almost as a parlor trick, I submit, cannot be accounted for by classifying Tom Bombadil as an anomalous nature spirit. The ability to dominate the ring suggests a Vala; the ease with which it is dominated suggests the ultimate maker of all things in Middle-earth, Aule the Smith, of whom both Sauron and Saruman were mere servants in the beginning before time.

If Tom is Aule, however, two other questions need to be answered. First of all, what are he and Yavanna doing in the Old Forest to begin with? As far as Yavanna is concerned, she is probably just visiting with growing things and vacationing with her husband. Aule, on the other hand, is probably there for the purpose of studying Hobbits. We should not forget that of all the Valar Aule was the one most eager to see the Children of Iluvatar. He is also the only one to make sentient, rational beings of his own. Given his interest in such creatures, it is not unreasonable to assume that, like Gandalf, he found Hobbits fascinating. As Hobbit songs about Tom Bombadil suggest, moreover, he had plenty of contact with Hobbits in Buckland and the Marish, no doubt allowing ample opportunity for Hobbit study.

Second, if he is Aule, and he is such a fine and wonderful god, why doesn’t he choose to be more helpful? Put another way, why isn’t there power in him to fight the enemy? The answer to this question is simpler than one might at first imagine. When Ulmo rises from the sea in “Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin” to give instructions to Tuor, who is supposed to deliver a message to the Elves of Gondolin, he hurries with his directions fearing that his own servant Osse will hurl a wave upon the shore and drown his emissary. As he puts it in Unfinished Tales (p. 30): “Go now. . . lest the Sea devour thee! For Osse obeys the will of Mandos, and he is wroth, being a servant of the Doom.” Although Ulmo’s actions are contrary to the will of the rest of the Valar that even his own servant will not help him (and is actually prepared to act against him), Ulmo, nevertheless, insists that he is not really opposing the other Valar, but rather is merely doing his “part”:

… though in the days of this darkness I seem to oppose the will of my brethren, the Lords of the West, that is my part among them, to which I was appointed ere the making of the World. (p. 29)

The key phrase is “to which I was appointed ere the making of the World.” First, it makes it clear that Ulmo is not acting defiantly at all, merely following orders, just as his servant would be following orders if he hurled up a wave and killed Tuor. Second, it refers to the time of the song which created the world. It is this song, I believe, that contains the conflicting instructions both Ulmo and Osse are following, different parts, elements, or themes of the whole. If I am correct, then Ulmo’s power to help the Elves is both limited by and partially determined by the Music of the Ainur, insofar as it established the existence of the earth and determined its major events. While Ulmo may have had free will as he sang his part of the song in those distant times, he is now bound by what he sang and cannot go beyond or change his part. If Tom is Aule, then he too is bound by his part in the song and although sympathetic and concerned, he can only help the Hobbits and the Free Peoples of the West in little ways.

This account of Tom as Aule is not really inconsistent with Tolkien’s claim that Tom has renounced power in a kind of “vow of poverty” and that he exemplifies “a natural pacifist view.” At the time of the singing of the Great Music, it is true that Aule, along with most of the other Holy Ones, eventually stopped singing, leaving Melkor to sing on alone. However, they did not stop because Melkor’s thunderous and discordant singing defeated them, but rather because they did not wish to compete with him and considered the song spoiled by his behavior. It was not defeat, since obviously by singing together the others could have overcome him. Rather it was a rejection of the conflict itself – hence, a pacifist position. It was indeed the Third Theme sung by Iluvatar, representing the part of the Children of Iluvatar, that was to overcome Melkor’s disruption. Concerning the “vow of poverty,” Aule has indeed taken such a vow – as exemplified by his attitude toward his work and the work of others – his lack of excessive pride, jealousy, and possessiveness.

In contrast, if Tom is a nature spirit, then no vow of poverty has been taken, and there is no natural pacifist view. According to the nature spirit thesis, as Veryln Flieger puts it in Splintered Light, published in 1983: “Tom Bombadil, on whom the Ring has no effect, is a natural force, a kind of earth spirit, and so the power over the will which the Ring exerts simply has no meaning for him” (p. 128, note). As a natural force, Tom has the same status as a falling rock or the wind or the rain – he is blind activity with no direction or purpose. As such he is not a moral agent, and cannot therefore make moral decisions. The moral dimension is thus completely absent. Tom is immune to the influence of the ring not because of his high moral character, but because he is not capable of having a moral character at all.

If Tom is Aule, however, there is a moral dimension, indeed, a heightened one, for Tom’s appearance in the story, although only a “comment,” serves as a sharp and clear contrast to the two evil Maiar, Sauron and Saruman, both of whom were once his servants before turning to evil and darkness. Unlike their former master, these two followed the ways of Melkor, envy, jealousy, excessive pride, and the desire to possess and control. As Tolkien explained to his proofreader, Tom’s role was to show that there were things beyond and unconcerned with domination and control. On the surface, this view of Tom seems to make him unrelated to all other things and events in Middle-earth – indeed, anomalous. As Aule, however, Tom is not beyond and unconcerned anomalously, but rather is located at the core of morality as it existed in Middle-earth, as the ultimate exemplification of the proper moral stance toward power, pride, and possession. In fact, in terms of the moral traits that most fascinated Tolkien both as an author and as a scholar, Tom Bombadil is Tolkien’s moral ideal.

Other Sites with Information about Tom Bombadil

Qui Sont Tom Bombadil Et Baie D’Or? (translations of this essay by J. R. Lecocq)
Wikipedia: Tom Bombadil
Roger Garland: Tom Bombadil and Old Man Willow
Alan Lee: In the House of Tom Bombadil
Brothers Hildebrandt: Tom Bombadil (Spiderwebart Gallery)
Brothers Hildebrandt: Goldberry (Spiderwebart Gallery)
Anke-Katrin Eiszmann: In the House of Tom Bombadil
Leonid Korablev: Goldberry Dancing
Tom Bombadil’s Song from The Music of Middle-Earth.
Tom Bombadil’s Songs
Tom’s Summons
About Tom Bombadil’s Song
Sam’s Rhyme of the Troll
About Sam’s Rhyme of the Troll
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
Hypertextualized Tolkien FAQ: Who or What was Tom Bombabdil?
William D. B. Loos: Who or What was Tom Bombadil?
Erik Tracy: Why didn’t the One Ring have Any Control over Tom Bombadil?
Steuard Jensen: What is Tom Bombadil?
Encylopedia of Arda: Tom Bombadil
Bombadil in the Shire
Crackpot Theory: The Truth about Tom Bombadil
Michael Martinez: If I Only had a Bombadil…”
Bromwell School: The True Story of Tom Bombadil
Figurine of Tom Bombadil by Mithril

You are visitor number since September 2, 1996.

ECH – November 11, 2006

All Hildebrandt Tolkien art copyrighted Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, All rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under History

Five Millimeters

I have to go to the bathroom.

But I just got McDonald’s.

I’m too lazy to go to my desk yet.

I’ll be fast.

There’s no room in the stall.

I’ll leave it on the counter.

I’ll be fast.

I’m not being fast.

I have to do more than I thought I would.

Somebody’s going to take my food.

Nobody will take my food.

Yes they will.

They’ll think I’m occupied,

grab my food before I can see them,

and just leave with my coffee and my oatmeal.

What am I going to do then?

I’ll taze them.

Before they leave, I’ll jump out, and taze them.

I’ll get up, not even pull up my pants,

wave my junk at them, and taze them.

I don’t have a tazer.

But in my mind, I do.

I’ll warn them first, but they won’t believe me.

So I’ll taze them.

Then, while they’re on the floor,

I’ll get myself together,

wash my hands,

grab my food

and leave.

I have to hide my tazer.

I’ll hide it behind the drawer

in the desk that nobody uses.

When the guard comes back

and asks me about the tazing

since they saw me walk out of the bathroom

on camera

I’ll tell them “I don’t have a tazer.”

They’ll have to search my desk

But they won’t be able to justify

searching them all.

The tazer will sit there

For a year

Until a new person is hired

And wonders why their drawer stays open

five millimeters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogsmith Commentary, Writing & Poetry

A.B. O’Neill – “California”

I stumbled across this by accident, when I was actually Googling another song using its lyrics. This was the only YouTube hit on the front page, and it’s a fun song. After 3 listens in the last 30 minutes, it’s still really good, to me at least. So, here you go.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music

More links to dump upon thee

All of the Iron Man suits from the movies. A great, great photo-list.

First video in history to show the Moon orbiting the Earth:

White Christmas: the black holiday movie made for white people (SNL):

The Gummi Bears theme on electric guitar:

Zelda, broken down

Super Mario 2 art

Why filet mignon sucks, and how some pieces of meat are overshadowed:

Cool/wtf Zelda commercial from the 90s

The polarization of the senate, 1989 to today, in 3 infographics:

Someone made an illustrator with no experience in illustrating, animate a really complex script:

Hunting for the lost river of Paris:

Storyboards from The Empire Strikes Back, matched up with original movie footage:

A slightly NSFW condom ad from Australia:

Cool illustration illusion:

PS2 dominated that generation:

Ten of Marvel’s “What If?” comic storylines that (sorta) went into mainstream continuity in the Marvel Universe:

Playing cards that school soldiers into preserving ancient archaeological sites: (Side-note: I can’t believe I spelled archaeological correct on the first try, only to misspell sites as sitse.)

Building an X-Wing from Star Wars with only 20 pieces:

Mocking heavily Photoshopped ads with a fake ad campaign touting Photoshop itself.

A baby deer is trapped in a swimming pool, and needs some help getting out. At least watch around the 1-minute mark to see a failure to launch: (Props to the camerawoman/mom for holding her cellphone camera the correct direction!!)

One-hundred year-old letter to Santa found in a chimney, only a little singed:

Awesome little Lego Mini Bus:

“Magic” Piano in Chicago:

A classic “awww” moment in Hockey. Makes me laugh every time I see this reposted.

Evil Disney princesses are badass:

2014 movies in one pic, with release dates:

Mocking the mentally disabled. AKA f**king with the Westboro Baptist Church:

Ultra-minimalist nativity scenes:

Some photos you didn’t see on the President’s recent trip to South Africa:

The Story of Mbube, or the original basis for The Lion Sleeps Tonight:

Reversal of America:


Remembering 1994, or the year I graduated High School: This is the year when I really started to lose touch with what’s “coolest” in society. A side-effect of not getting into many of the songs and shows featured in this video, this stuff all still feels really new to me. I never grew tired of it, because I never got consumed by it.

An illustrated account of the Pleasant Valley Sheep War:

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dream in “Sandman”. Sadly, this is a mock-up poster, and not a real movie.

Columbine: Whose Fault Is It? By Marilyn Manson, 1999:

Maybe the best looking Mercedes in 20+ years:

Five important milestones of Adulthood that no one talks about:

Tempest in a Teacup:

The worst TV of 2013. I wish I had this list about 3 months ago.

The Nine most baffling passages in the bible:

John Lennon’s jukebox, and what music was in it:

It’s a freaking Zombie Unicorn. I wish I could own this masterpiece.

Momentous historical events that occurred (roughly) at the same time:

A perfect ad for a “Graphophone”, or an early record player:

Amazing facts:

Aluminum castings of ant nests:

An early candy-bar ad. Note that there was a version of bite-sized Butterfinger many years ago:

How to do an unmanned-drone outline as guerrilla art:

Comparing the sizes of different regions/nation/continents:

What time is it?

Bizarre/cool animated gifs depicting the life of Jesus Christ:

Lock the Taskbar:

Banned clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which could be construed as saying that terrorism, in some instances, is acceptable:

Awesome covers from the 0008 collection, which were James Bond rip-off books:

Man is not what he thinks.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1_Link / Picture Dump

Get Off the Phone (song)

Leave a comment

Filed under Computers & Technology, Music

Links and stuff

I was going to wait a week or 2, but there’s a link to Number Munchers at the top of this list:

Siri answers questions from movies:

The voice of Princess Jasmine walks into a bar:

Own a Boba Fett pendant for $42:

Too late for this year, but make an R2-D2 dreidel for next Hanukkah:

Planet Earth video:

Batman improvises:

Audition advice for String Bass:

Wonder Woman (bread):!pLRfa

Smartphone lens:

Bacon Cinnamon Rolls:

I want to make this sampler:

SNL shorts:

Finding a 20 year old batmitzvah shirt in Kenya:

Bro Code: how to handle a girl throwing some guy’s shirts into the street:

Customizing mannequins to match bodies of some disabled volunteers:

This was a Spanish class final project. Amazing.

Win at Connect Four. Or instantly know you’re going to lose, on the first move. (Or, ruining a childhood favorite game with math.)

Lifehacks found on old cigarette cards: (Notably missing: don’t fucking smoke cigarettes.)

The ruins of Heidelberg Castle, recreated through the magic of CGI:


Leave a comment

Filed under Misc.

Star Trek: Renegades (Official Teaser Trailer)

Leave a comment

Filed under Star Trek

Star Trek: Of Gods and Men (full movie)

Leave a comment

Filed under Star Trek

Just a rat on an escalator.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals & Nature

He’s the Scatboat

And to not leave you hanging…

And what the hell…

Which leads us to…

And then…

Leave a comment

Filed under 1990s, Animation, Comics, Toons, Memes

Community: The Movie (not really, but wouldn’t that be cool?)

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies & TV

A couple short notes

1) I turned off the WordPress snow. It was annoying me.

2) My wife is awesome. She made me an Advent Calendar of beer. Not every day’s beer is different, but every day’s beer ranges from good to excellent.

3) I just hit post #7777 with my last “Amazeballs” link-dump, and my Chrysler 300 is about to hit 77,777 miles on my commute home from work today. If I was superstitious, I’d play the lottery. I’d like to think I’m above such things. I’m probably not, so I probably will.

4) Yesterday in northern Virginia (where I’m locale’d), it was 61 degrees Fahrenheit. In southeast South Dakota (where I was spawned), it reached a windchill of 61 degrees Fahrenheit…below zero. HA HA suckers!

That’s it for today, kiddos. Have some happy holidays, why dontcha? Except for Hanukkah, since it’s over. Not that Jews can’t have a nice day on Christmas though, since they’ll probably get the day off. Or Kwanzaa, because if they’re a government worker, they’ll probably get a couple days off in there too. But you know what I’m saying. Happy…something. And don’t drive like an idiot. Drive like your friends are in all the other cars on the road. 99.99% of them don’t openly mean you harm. The bad drivers are probably just being careless, and don’t know the harm they do to you or anyone else by driving like crap. Remember: there’s no such thing as anger. Anger is just a result of sensing disrespect, and reacting accordingly. Realize other drivers probably don’t disrespect you. They ‘nothing’ you. You mean nothing to them, except as an obstacle between them and where they’re going. If they drive like captain-insano speeds, let them go. Remember: even driving the speed limit, you’re going CRAZY fast compared to how fast people could go 100 years ago. The ability to travel faster than 20mph didn’t exist for nearly all of human history, unless a person was falling to their death. Relish it, and don’t pay too much attention to the idiot in the next car over.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogsmith Commentary

More Amazeballs

Reddit AMA: a Vacuum Cleaner Technician rates various vacuums:


Robert DeNiro auditions for Sonny on The Godfather: (Note: He eventually got the part of young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, but you probably already knew that.)

The 400 pound High School running back:

Officer Ross ignores constitutional rights at a “DUI” checkpoint (or how officers can search a car without a warrant or your consent):

A waiter’s crazy echo talent:

Making a cat forage for treats to curb disruptive/destructive behaviors and wear off energy:

The Addams Family set, in color. OW MY EYES!!:

10 geeky lists to destroy your productivity:

10 cat sounds, and what they mean:

The winner of The Transformer’s 30th Anniversary Masterpiece Fan-Poll (or a winner amongst a bunch of Transformers you’ve never heard of, because you’re probably not from Japan):

A nice little WTF short-film starring the voices of cartoon Batman and Superman:

Supporting the fair-taxation lawsuit, for taxing churches nationwide:

Reddit: What is the best quote you’ve ever seen?

Simon Pegg in The Worlds End: gag reel:

Baby Mario:

An easy guide to neckties:

Papa Roach sampled Iron Maiden without credit.

How to pick a lock. In case you get locked out of your house.

Picard and Q-Tips:

Welcome home from the hospital, by a loving wife (comic):

The Boston Symphony receives word of JFK’s assassination, and a change in the setlist. (The reaction is only within the first few seconds. There are no further outbursts for the duration of the video):

Cows investigate a crashed RC plane, proceed to destroy it:

Gross, but probably true:

Dance-off at a Detroit Pistons game:

Meeting God (a really cool short-story):

You Gotta Have Heart:

The Mouse is your boss now:

Spartacus IRL (prank):

The real-life Walter White:

How to draw (realistic) boobies:

Mistakes were made:

The Emperor’s throne room from Return of the Jedi:

Reimagined opening for The Powerpuff Girls (15th anniversary tribute):

Don’t Worry, Be Happy in the minor key is depressing:

5 things successful people do before 8am (take-away: workout in the morning)

Helen Keller and her pet:

Visualizing gravity:

Most important lesson learned from a divorce:

Why is violent crime so rare in Iceland? (One possible reason: EVERYBODY HAS A GUN)

Burt Kreischer is the machine:

Burt Kreischer’s stand-up talking about his name “The Machine”:

Messing up the timeline of Back to the Future:

Definition of a Real Man: (via

Star Trek: Renegades (Teaser Trailer):

Your Horoscope:

Random conversation in NYC, via Boom Mic:


Maybe the best anti-smoking ad ever:

Mmm…donuts (mildy NSFW):

A cuddly manatee:

Putting a camera on a specially protected R/C Car, and driving it into a pride of lions:

Lorde – Everybody Wants To Rule The World:

Mark Ruffalo – tricked into smoking pot on-stage during a play performance:

Timelapse of a window’s view on the International Space Station:

What was it really like to travel during the golden age of travel? (Spoiler: 5 times more expensive, 5 times higher chance of your plane landing early [crashing], a ton more racist, and filled with cigarette smoke. So it freaking sucked.)

11 things you didn’t know about Anchorman:

How to find motivation to do things:

The best Vines of November 2013:

Leave a comment

Filed under 1_Link / Picture Dump

The Kids Make a Discovery… (mildly NSFW)

Leave a comment

Filed under Advertising & Commercials, Holidays