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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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BOOK I, CHAPTERS 7-12

The hobbits are safely sent on their way again by Tom.
They are joined by a mysterious character named Strider,
who guides them to Rivendell.

The hobbits meet Tom's beautiful wife, Goldberry, the
daughter of the River Withywindle. Tom and Goldberry are
curious yet appealing figures. Tom often speaks in song;
even when he isn't singing, his words have a singsong
quality. His love for Goldberry is touching, and when the
hobbits first meet him, he is bringing lilies to place in
bowls around her feet. There seems to be good magic in
Tom and Goldberry's home, for Tom says that no evil can
touch the hobbits there. Not even the Ring has power over
Tom. When he puts it on, he remains visible, and when
Frodo puts it on, Tom can still see him.



NOTE: TOM AND GOLDBERRY AS NATURE SPIRITS
Tom and Goldberry may be seen as nature spirits, figures
who represent the forces of nature-for example, Mother
Nature. Another example is Pan, the Greek god of the
woodlands, who was half man and half goat. Pan was
believed to be mischievous and fun-loving, but also
dangerous when angry. He belonged to the world of nature
and seldom concerned himself with human affairs. Traces
of Pan can be seen in Tom Bombadil, with his humorous
appearance (although Tom is fully human), his lively
personality, and his power over nature.

Goldberry tells the hobbits that Tom is the master of wood,
water, and hill. Tom's songs, such as the one he uses to
make Old Man Willow release Pippin and Merry, seem to
give him power over nature. Goldberry shares in this
power, for her song brings rain. "This is Goldberry's
washing day," Tom tells the hobbits.

People who think Tom is a nature spirit say that this is why
the Ring has no influence on him. The Ring is of the world
of man, and Tom is of the world of nature. He is untouched
by the desire for absolute power that the Ring represents.

The hobbits set off across the barrow-downs, a stretch of
land that is filled with burial mounds, or barrows. Foolishly
lingering there until sundown, against Tom's advice, they
become lost in fog and are captured by a barrow-wight (an
evil spirit who inhabits these burial mounds and lures
travelers to their death). Frodo sings the rhymed call for
help that Tom Bombadil had taught them, and soon Tom
arrives to rescue them.

While in the barrow, Frodo has again been tempted to put
on the Ring. You can see how Tolkien's treatment of the
Ring has changed from The Hobbit. In that book Bilbo
often used the Ring to save his friends. Now the Ring
serves only as a temptation to Frodo to take the easy way
out and abandon his friends. This is a moment of truth for
Frodo and relates to Tolkien's theme of the corrupting
effect of power. Frodo must choose between using the Ring
to save himself or facing certain death but not
compromising his morals. This hints at another of Tolkien's
themes-refusal to give in to despair. Frodo fights, even
with no hope of winning, and finds a way to rescue his
friends. The importance of friendship also comes into play
here, for it is Frodo's friendship for the others that keeps
him from putting on the Ring and falling into evil.

Tom gives each of the hobbits a sword from the barrow.
They feel awkward wearing them, for they had never
thought of fighting. This is an idea they'll have to get used
to, however, if they are to survive. The swords are a sign
that the hobbits must start learning to take responsibility for
themselves.

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