A few days ago I finished The Fellowship of the Rings. Things picked up in the second half of the book and they accelerated in the last quarter. I’m enjoying The Lord of the Rings a lot more now that Tolkien has gotten Tom Bombadil out of his system. In the Wikipedia article, even Tolkien seems to understand how much Tom annoys the crap out of people.
“Tom Bombadil is not an important person — to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a ‘comment.’ I mean, I do not really write like that: he is just an invention (who first appeared in The Oxford Magazine about 1933), and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyse the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function.”
“And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).
Tolkien did go on to analyse the character’s role further:
“I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on; but both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, want a measure of control. But if you have, as it were, taken ‘a vow of poverty’, renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the questions of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless…
“It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is a war… the view of Rivendell seems to be that it is an excellent thing to have represented, but that there are in fact things with which it cannot cope; and upon which its existence nonetheless depends. Ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive. Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron.”
Tolkien even seems to justify Tom Bombadil’s presence:
At any rate, what I like about the book over the movies in the last half to fourth of the book is that a few of the plot elements get explained a little more clearly. Sauron’s origins are explained a lot more clearly. Gandalf and others talk about how he came to power and why he’s just an “eye” now. Gollum is a lot more treacherous in the books. The characters know who he is and he menaces them a few times. I think this elevates his dangerous aura and prepares the reader for the fact that Smeagol has been following our protagonists. Finally, the elven queen Galadrial is given a much more cohesive treatment in the book. In the movie, from what I can remember, she just talks to Frodo in a dream. In the book, all of the characters leave the forest changed in some way because of her. Also, she gives everyone a special gift.
So, perhaps LoTR can be enjoyable….if you can get past Tom Bombadil…