Musings of the Eldest

Tom Bombadil has always been (one of) my favourite character(s) in the Lord of the Rings, precisely because he's such an enigma and a mystery. So this basically just explores his identity and what it would be like to view the Ringbearer's quest from his perspective.

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1. Musings of the Eldest

   The breeze was fresh and cool, rustling the leaves ever so slightly, providing delicate accompaniment to the soft hoots of owl and the gentle flowing of the river. River-woman's daughter, that is what he had called her. His wife. He smiled faintly as he recalled their meeting, and the recounting he had given of it to his young guests. Young? Hobbits often had a youthful appearance, but these were not children by any means. No - not children - yet so they seemed to him, who...how had he put it? Oh yes: "Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn...He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless". He knew the name he was known by to the elves: Iarwain Ben-adar, they called him. Eldest and Fatherless.

   The words he had spoken to the hobbits ran through his mind: "the dark under the stars when it was fearless". he wondered if that would mean anything to hobbits. Fondly, he recalled their innocent faces. Every night was fearless to them; they had never known the terrors and the evils that lurked hidden in shadow and twilight.

   Tom knew thm. Even here, tucked away from the world in blessed seclusion, he knew them. He knew of the Dark Lord's rising, of his plans to ensnare Middle-earth as others had planned before him. So many plans, so much cunning, so much greed and anger and malice...

   This was never part of the plan. This was not what he had envisioned so many Ages ago, before the world was. This was not what he had dreamt of when he wrote the Music of the Ainur.

   He could still hear it, brief parts of it at least, echoing in the stillness of the night. he heard it in the rustling of the leaves in the trees above him, in the breeze that seemed to carry with it a thousand mournful sighs, in the gentle sound of the river as it hurried on its way. "None has ever caught him yet, For Tom, he is the master. His songs are stronger songs, And his feet are faster." Indeed, his songs were strong: strong enough to call a world into being, strong enough to call a bird into being, strong enough to grow a flower, and strong enough to grow a nation. He remembered when he had sung at the world's dawn, the magnificent vision he had for his creation, the rapture and the excited, joyful fervour with which he had written that most delightful and splendid symphony. Everything had been so perfect: the rich harmonies, like threads of a glorious tapestry, weaving in and out, suspension and resolution, imitation and repetition, all combining to produce the most magnificent piece of music ever to enter into the heart's wildest imaginiations. Even Morgoth, striving against the predominant melodies in his vain and selfish ambition, had played an equally important part in that Symphony of Creation. Together they had sung, him and all the Ainur, and their song had been glorious, and a sense of awe had overcome them all in the magnificent, sacred work in which they were engaged, singing into being trees, plants, flowers, birds, mountains, elves, men, dwarves....hobbits.

   It had been such a pleasant vision, such an incredible world, such a flawless plan. And somehow, though he could neither see nor understand it, he knew that this was part of it. Just as the clashed harmonies and sharp dissonances of Morgoth had been an integral part of that first, primal song, so the foul, harsh, guttural utterances of the orcs which now plagued the land played an essential part in the grand symphony of current times, as necessary as the rustling of the leaves, the hooting of the owls and the flowing of the river. For that song had never ended: the symphony was only part-way through, and Tom no longer knew its structure. He had tried several times to regain that perfect knowledge he had had in the beginning, when he had seen every part of the glorious music, anticipating every fall, every pause, every cadence, seeing every detail and understanding how it all fit, somehow, into the magnificent, flawless whole. But his understanding had been fleeting: one brief moment of wonderful comprehension, followed by a long (too long, he thought) lifetime of confusion and an inability to see how the various melodies interwove.

   He still had hope, still had trust in that one moment of perfect understanding, still had faith in the Symphony of the World. He did not understand how the atrocities committed by the servants of Sauron in the dark and secret places of Mordor fit into that magnificent vision, but he trusted that, somehow, they did, and one day, he would understand.

   They would never forgive him, he knew that. He was not sure he would ever forgive himself. he could bind Sauron as easily as Old Man Willow; not even his malice and cunning was a match for Tom's songs. He could not even justify to himself why he shouldn't, except for his trust that in a way beyond even his comprehension, this too was part of that most perfect of symphonies. He hoped that, one day, he would understand. He hoped that, one day, they would all understand.

   A sad smile flickered across his face as he recalled the words he had heard Frodo singing not all that long ago: "The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with weary feet, Until it meets some larger way, Where many paths and errands meen. And whither then? I cannot say". How very un-hobbit-like, to sing of roads and walking and unpredictability. He sensed there was something important in those lines, in that innocent hobbit walking-song, something very deep and profound. Didn't they all follow their own Road? And if the rumours were to be believed, many paths and errands would indeed meet, and in the near future, too. He sighed. "And whither then? I cannot say", he murmured. He doubted there were many who could.

   All this talk of path and roads awoke in his mind another memory, words he had spoken to Frodo in answer to one or another of his seemingly unending questions: "We heard news of you, and learned that you were wandering," Tom had answered. "We guessed you'd come ere long down to the water: all paths lead that way, down to Withywindle".

   Withywindle. If there was any part of this world that resembled what he thought he had envisioned in that first, primeval Song, it was the River Withywindle. That's what he had imagined the world would be like: one large extension of the Withywindle, where birds sang as gently as a Summer breeze and the fish splashed as merrily as an Elvish dance.

   That was where he had met Goldberry, and sometimes, when the sun was high in the sky and the breeze blew blissfully over the long blades of grass, he would go down there to gather water lilies for her. Sometimes, when he sat on the banks, with his feet dangling in the water, he almost felt like he could once again hear the Music in its fulness, and he would sit and listen, enchanted by brief snatches of interweaving melodies and familiar harmonies into a peaceful, serene reverie. He had still never been able to regain the full, glorious understanding he had once possessed, but generally, the world made a little more sense as he sat and reflected by the Withywindle.

   "All paths lead that way, down to Withywindle". He had sounded so jolly and confident as he asserted that, in a depserate attempt to mask his secret uncertainty and confusion. He hoped it was true. By the earth and the trees and the log on which he sat, he hoped so.

   He could see the first rays of the morning sun peeking through the trees, heralding what he hoped would be a pleasant morning. Soon the hobbits must be on their way, back on their Road to Rivendell and who knew where else. They were not the only ones on a journey. He knew the armies of Mordor were assembling, and legions of orcs (and worse) were walking the Roads to Mordor and Isengard. In Rohan and Gondor, forces were gathering, drawn on by a foreboding awareness of troubles to come. Even the birds were not following their usual patterns of migration, flying where they ought not, not that anyone else would notice.

   Tom stood up and a heavy sigh escaped his slightly parted lips. He must not intervene in these unfoldings. The Music had left no room for improvement, and he knew within his soul that his meddlings would never enhance it. All he could do was sit and listen to its developments with rapt attention, and hope that, in some way beyond his understanding, all these paths would indeed lead to Withywindle.  

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