View Single Post
Old 12-31-2009, 10:08 AM   #7
Mugwump's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Taconic Mountains
Posts: 111
Mugwump has just left Hobbiton.
I've always been surprised at the confusion regarding Bombadil. Tolkien totally adopted the major themes of mythology including the natural world's being imbued with Powers, or Spirits. This idea is fairly universal throughout the world, and can be seen in all cultures including those of Japan, China, pre-Columbian America, aboriginal Australia, Europe... everywhere, actually. Bombadil is clearly one of those Powers, i.e., one of the Valar.
Thus it came to pass that of the Ainur some abode still with Ilúvatar beyond the confines of the World ; but others, and among them many of the greatest and most fair, took [their] leave of Ilúvatar and descended into it. But this condition Ilúvatar made, or it is the necessity of their love, that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs. And therefore they are named the Valar, the Powers of the World.
-- The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë, The Music of the Ainur

Incidentally, there is a misconception when speaking of the Valar, to assume that there were only 14 of these, seven male and seven female, because in the Quenta Silmarillion it is these 14 that are more or less exclusively referred to as "the Valar." But but before that, in the Valaquenta, Tolkien identifies these 14 as the Lords and Queens of the Valar, which means of course that there must be other Valar, probably many others, who are not counted among these "Lords and Queens."

Bombadil, and probably countless others not specifically mentioned by Tolkien, perhaps including the River-woman of the Withywindle, mother of Goldberry, are thus those of the Valar class who "arose and entered into the World at the beginning of Time; and it was their task to achieve it, and by their labours to fulfill the vision which they had seen." They are, as Groin Redbeard says, what we would call nature spirits.

Whether to call Bombadil one of the Valar or one of the Maiar is probably a matter of semantics only, because there is no sharp dividing line between Valar and Maiar and the Silmarillion makes clear they are both the same type of being. Maiar are "the people of the Valar, and their servants and helpers." Though not one of the Kings and Queens of the Valar like Manwë and Varda, Bombadil should probably be considered one of the Valar rather than of the Maiar. I say this for two reasons. First, Bombadil is a "Master," not a servant or helper of the greater Valar. He is clearly one of those of the Valar who came to Arda at the very beginning, and independently helped in its forming, not one of those lesser Ainur who resided with Manwë and assisted him. Furthermore, he was unaffected by Sauron's ring, which would doubtless be true also of the greater Valar but is obviously not true of Gandalf or any other of the Maiar of Sauron's level and below.

Last edited by Mugwump; 12-31-2009 at 07:00 PM.
Mugwump is offline   Reply With Quote