Monday, December 19, 2005

Of Caradhras and Tom Bambadil

All the characters in LOTR are divided into two camps-- powers of light and justice symbolising the good and powers of darnkess symbolising the bad. One one level, this seems very much like the wars of Aryas and Dasyus and Devas and Asuras highlighted in Rig Veda, though it might take a different kind of post to delve into the similarities between Tolkienian world called "middle earth" and the world described in the Rig Veda.

Only two characters of LOTR are mysterious in their aspect of siding with no one-- they serve no master and they have none to do them homage.

One of them is Tom Bombadil and the other, Mount Caradhras. In the movie, Tom is of course conspicuous by his absence but Caradhras by himself is shown powerless -- Saruman is shown chanting curses from the top of the Orthanc tower to cause the snowfall on Caradhras. In the book, Caradhras has his own personality and it is told that he does not like humans (men) climbing him, so he causes snowfall on his own. Yet, he is not in league with Sauron. He simply doesnt want any man to cross him, and he doesnt care about the tidings of the world. This actually makes sense because He was there even before Morgoth, the master of Sauron corrupted the earth, and He knows He will be there even after the dominion of Sauron, though Sauron were to regain the One and his rule lasted an eternity.

On the other hand, Tom is shown to be indifferent to the power of the One Ring, or rather, the One has no power over him. He is shown to be happy in his own place with his "goldberry" by his side and he is a gentle, humane, and good and he is said to be "the eldest" (curiously, the same title is conferred by Galadriel to Treebeard). Yet, he is not on the side of elves, dwarves or men though he will help those in his land at need.

Some feel that the inclusion of Tom Bombadil is the only weak link in the most robust "true fiction" produced in the twentieth century. The song and story of Tom Bombadil was written by Tolkien for kids before he began writing LOTR, and then, for some reason that either I dont know or dont remember, he included it in the story. When Frodo reaches Rivendel and the council of Elrond begins, Tolkien promptly covers his tracks by saying that its not wise to give Tom the responsibility of guarding the One Ring because he would be negligent and might throw it away simply because he is unaffected by it. Hmm... Convincing?

There are many theories about who Tom Bombadil is, the most popular being one that associates Tom with Aule and Goldberry with Yavanna, though that has been disproved by some.

Nevertheless, we do see that there are striking similarities between the way the two are dealt with-- showing that there are many other powers in the world that are either good or bad by nature, though it is not necessary that they be in league with the respective "eponymous" powers.


Sketchy Self said...

very true...tom bombadil is missed in the movies. A very intriguing character, seems to belie amazing primitive power with a gentle manner. If one must draw parallels, i would say he is close to accomplished as any God, yet content to travel around singing praises and subtly affecting the course of events.

Gandaragolaka said...

What an interesting parallel! I would say that the introduction of Narada in our Myth in itself is an stroke of brilliance!

Nowhere else do we find a character like this-- all powerful, yet content to be only the mover of great deeds... in a sense, he is the string-puller of many stories of our Myth.