The Bombadil Enigma, Part Two

My recent post about Tom Bombadil got a huge response. Thank you, Splettnetters! A number of you (including Gary J. from Colorado Springs and Howard from no location given) didn’t buy any of the theories I suggested for Tom Bombadil’s origin. So here, thanks to the LOTR Wikipedia, are a few other opinions:

A newer theory is Tom is the Physical Embodiment of Spirit of the Music of the Ainur. This theory is a spin off of the nature spirit theory. But it asserts that in his essence Tom is the Spirit of the Music of the Ainur and this explains his unique power and its limitations, his timelessness, his disposition, his affinity to song, his power via song over trees and barrow-wights and many of the other oddities found in his character.

The Music Theory operates with the understanding that any spirit must be understood to be what they are personally most related to. The argument is Tom, though close to nature, ultimately separates himself from the Forest by battling against Old Man Willow and by having a different disposition than that of the Old Forest which is described as dark and full of hate for everything that goes about freely. Tom on the other hand, relates himself to song constantly, even when he was fighting the barrow-wight: “None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the Master: His songs are stronger songs,and his feet are faster.” Tolkien chose to portray Tom with a unique relation to music and that must not be overlooked. This theory has the advantage of answering many of questions around Tom more fully than the others. Indeed, the Tom, in Tolkien’s world, carries within its meaning a reference to music.

Some suggest there are linguistic clues suggesting that Tom Bombadil is an avatar of the physical universe. When Frodo asks Goldberry who Bombadil is, she first replies, ” He is.” When Goldberry tells Frodo “He is,” she is using the common tongue. Had, however, she been speaking Elvish, she would have said “Ea” Note how similar this is to the puzzle (say “friend” and enter) that Gandalf must solve to enter Moria. The answer is literally spelled out but turns on a proper translation.

Another theory in regards to the word “Ea” is that Tom Bombadil is related to the “Secret Fire” referenced in the Silmarillion. In the Silmarillion, it states, “Therefore Ilúvatar gave to their vision Being, and set it amid the Void, and the Secret Fire was sent to burn at the heart of the World; and it was called Ea.” If Tom Bombadil is indeed “Ea”, then that might just put him in a different light seeing him as the heart of the World where the Secret Fire exists, which is the very essence of what created Arda. Tom Bombadil therefore is not affected by the Ring because he does not care for such things. He is, or contains within himself, the substance of creation. Also, it states that Melkor sought out the Secret Fire, but could not find it because it was with Eru only. This also suggests that Tom Bombadil is directly tied to Eru if he is indeed “Ea”.

There is a theory that Tom Bombadil is an Ainur governing the “time” of Middle Earth. He and Gandalf both state that he is the “eldest” and assuming this is true, no one person could possibly be older than time itself, save for perhaps Eru Ilúvatar. The ring has no effect on him because the ring has nothing to offer him; time is already immortal, and neither good nor evil. He has no real concern because his existence will still be around whether or not Sauron gets the ring back. Another hint to this idea of him being or governing time is his wife is said to govern the nature in Middle Earth. This could be a reference to Mother Nature and Father Time, with Goldberry and Bombadil occupying their roles, respectively. His wife describes him as being “Master of wood, water and hill.” Time does effect all these, and even in the riddle battle between Gollum and Bilbo one of Gollum’s riddles involves something that has dominion over many things with “trees” and “mountain” included, the correct answer that Bilbo gives is time.

Another possibility is that Tom Bombadil represents a friend, or many friends of Tolkien; the absolute infallibility of the character presents the idea that Tolkien himself did not believe that his own creations could affect Bombadil, a trait that would be true of Tolkien’s friends and family, though he would not entrust the “ring” to Tom, suggesting that although he respects the ideas and opinions of his friends, he would not allow them to significantly change the path of the story. This again puts him at an abstract level.

Another theory is that Tom is the first living, sentient being produced by the music of Eru, prior to Melkor’s dis-harmonies being added in. This would make him a sub-creation “echo” of biblical Adam, prior to the consumption of the forbidden fruit and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Such a theory neatly explains nearly all the enigmas of Tom’s nature: as a being that does not (and perhaps cannot) know death, he is rightly unconcerned with events like the War of the Ring. As a being that does not know hunger for power or any other form of personal corruption, the One Ring can hold no power over him and would be no more than a meaningless bauble. Tom is confined to his woods as Adam was “confined” to the Garden of Eden. Tolkien himself repeatedly referred to his own work as “sub-creation” reflecting the greater Creation embodied in his Roman Catholic faith, and combined with Tolkien’s love for the unspoiled Oxford and Berkshire countryside which he stated that Tom embodied the spirit of, the allegory to the Garden of Eden and Adam, the “eldest and fatherless” human, seems a rather solid conception of the character.

Another theory is that Tom Bombadil is in fact a representation of Tolkien. He is eldest, because he existed before the books, he saw the first raindrops, because he wrote it, thus seeing it, he is immune to the powers of the Ring yet seems to have enough power to save the world all by himself, yet he does not, because he wrote it all down, knows what’s going to happen and chooses not to interfere, for the sake of the readers.

There is still yet another theory that Tom Bombadil (and his wife, Goldberry, depending on the reader’s gender) is representative of the reader themselves. Supporting evidence for this includes his ability to make the ring “appear and disappear at will” (the readers’ opening and closing of the book) and his ability to see Frodo even when wearing the ring (Frodo is still described in the book while wearing the ring, and therefore to the readers, he is still ‘visible’). Just like Tom, the ring has no power over the reader despite its evil nature. It has been suggested that Tom Bombadil’s house provides a place of safety for the reader, especially as the Lord of the Rings is a sequel to The Hobbit, a children’s book, where readers are constantly reassured (e.g. in the Battle of the Five Armies, not only is Bilbo placed next to Thranduil and Gandalf, but the reader is told that he will get through it). Therefore, the House of Tom Bombadil provides a safe place for the reader, close enough to the familiar safe ‘haven’ of the Shire as seen in The Hobbit, yet a gateway from this safety to the danger and adventure to come. This theory of easing the reader into the danger to come is supported by similar techniques employed by Tolkien in The Hobbit, where the dwarves arrive gradually to Bag End, thus easing Bilbo into the whole idea. The passage about Tom Bombadil speaking of things such as the dark one coming a long time ago may seem to contradict this theory at first, but it may also support it. If we take this section of the book to help ease the reader into the dark and dangerous world ahead from the children’s book before it, we are able take this passage to simply show that there is a lot more to Middle Earth than just the dragons, treasure and giant spiders The Hobbit presents us with.

Still another theory is that Tom Bombadil is simply a thought, a living, breathing, tangible thought that changes form and remembers all, for his Mind was there before any other being-he is the first that was created, awakening even before elves and definitely before evil. Because Tom Bombadil was before the Dark Lord in Middle-Earth, he would not have any knowledge or feeling of evil-he would view it as child’s mischief or a plaything, or a game, perhaps. Due to this whole lack of evil, he would not be corrupted by anything-and thus the stresses and weights on other living things would not affect him. Only the things that live for many years, the things that are almost not temporary, are of any concern to him, and the way he sees it, no small thing as a few lives of men or a few years is to be sorrowful over. When something that was Old dies, however, it does change his mood, likely due to the fact that he misses it and desires permanence in the world. Because of this will to have permanence, his form can likely change to whatever form is needed for that age-and this theory states that he was first simply a spirit, and then weathered the first age as either a spirit or a tree or some other form of still life-and it is not until the second age that he made his home, found Goldberry (though it is likely that he found her in the first age), and settled down as a living humanoid being.

Yet another theory states that Tom is not really the jolly old being we see, but in fact, something eviler, and much more powerful than Sauron and many other characters. More information about this theory can be found below. It mainly states that Tom draws his power from the willows itself, and with Sauron gone, he can set his plans into motion, whatever they may be.

One more theory features that Tom is the concentrated goodwill of the once neutral elder forest. This goodwill was split from the forest and manifested in Tom, making him unable to leave this area and converting the forest to the dark place, it is now. His resistance for the ring leads from the already split in half pure minded being, the ring can’t affect him, because all the evil what is left, is in the forest itself. Invisibility works only on the ring, this may lead to the conclusion that the ring tries to affect Tom but the spell which separates the good from the bad and holds them in one place is more powerful or Tom isn’t a living being.”


These are all interesting thoughts but — at the risk of stepping on some toes — perhaps they lack some insight into the workings of Arda? Again, not trying to stir up controversy; this is just one man’s opinion.

What is clear is that Tom:

  1. Is immensely powerful, but not more powerful than Sauron
  2. Has been in Arda before anyone else (according to him)
  3. Is connected to the Earth in mysterious ways

I bet I’ll be hearing from a lot of you out there with your own theories. Personally, I’d be pretty disappointed if Tom turned out to be Physical Embodiment of Spirit of the Music of the Ainur. It just seems kind of lame somehow.

Again, my thanks to the LOTR Wiki. I truly, truly, TRULY could not have done this post without you! Keep up the good work!

The Nuclear Option

After “Where’s a good place for brunch in your neighborhood?” (see my post on that here ), probably the second most frequently asked question I get is “Is there a way to reshape the current political calculus that would enable our country to rely more heavily on nuclear power?”

It’s a great question and it’s easy to see why people are wondering. With the decline of the coal industry and, along with it, its lobbying power in Washington, it might seem that we’re at an inflection point. In a perfect example of “strange bedfellows,” for decades coal has made common cause with environmental groups in fighting the construction of new nuclear power plants, albeit for very different, entirely commercial and self-interested reasons. With Big Coal retiring from the field and many environmentalists starting to wonder if nuclear power might be the lesser of two evils when compared with the carbon emissions from other power sources, it might seem that nuclear might be increasingly politically viable. Both these factors weigh in nukes’ favor.

However, there are still two powerful forces on the other side of the scales. One is the low cost and plentiful supply of natural gas thanks to breakthroughs in extraction methods, principally fracking. The other is that climate change still remains an abstraction for many voters who, while they may believe it is a scientific fact, have yet to directly experience its consequences. The coal lobby and environmental advocates may have done their anti-nuke work too well. The public remains deeply concerned about a Chernobyl-style meltdown and highly skeptical of an industry many view as fundamentally dishonest and incompetent (thank you, Mr. Burns!) The 2011 disaster at the Fukishimi Daiichi plant didn’t help matters any.

For those of you who support nuclear power, whether as long time advocates or recent converts, I’m sorry but I’m afraid a nuclear renaissance is not on the immediate horizon. But don’t give up hope! As the effects of climate change become more dire, your case can only get stronger.

For those who remain adamantly opposed to new nukes, you can rest easy for the time being. But be aware that you stand on ice that is thinning as rapidly as the polar ice caps. The public, whether at home or abroad, shows little appetite for reducing its carbon footprint through restraint and a lowered standard of living. You’re going to need to come up with another solution that doesn’t require cutting back energy consumption. Because I don’t see that happening either.


Is this Tom Bombadil movie ever going to happen? Come on, Hollywood.

The Bombadil Enigma, Part One

I try to keep away from any sort of heated third-rail controversy, but kind of think I have pretty much cracked the code on the Tom Bombadil enigma from Lord of the Rings. As per the LOTR Wiki, there has been a LOT of speculation on the matter:

The most common theory is that Bombadil is a Maia, supported by his claim that, “Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn […] he knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless — before the Dark Lord came from Outside.” Morgoth, the Dark Lord, was the very last of Ainur to enter Arda (excepting Tulkas); all the other Valar and Maiar, as per Tom’s description, had existed there for some time before his arrival.

“Other possibilities (compatible with the above theory) are that he is an abstract concept; possibly the embodiment of Arda Itself, a veritable “Father Nature”, or some kind of ‘spirit’ which, unlike the Maiar, was of a non-divine nature. Not only does the Ring have no effect on him, but Tom himself seems unable to affect the Ring in return. This shows that Tom was outside the divine plan and struggle and had no position in it. During the Council of Elrond it is suggested that the Free-Peoples entrust the Ring to Tom, but this is rejected due to the probability that he would lose it, because according to Gandalf, such things had no hold on his mind. It is also stated that if Sauron were to regain the Ring, Tom Bombadil would be the last to fall. It is also stated by Galdor that ‘Power to defy our enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself. And yet we see that Sauron can torture and destroy the very hills.’ implying that Bombadil is in some way connected with the very earth itself.”

So, no one really knows and, when last I checked, J.R.R. Tolkien is not around to tell us!

A tip o’ the hat to the LOTR Wiki and the Creative Commons license for helping out with today’s post.

P.S. I am referring to LOTR, the books, and LOTR, the movies, but not any of the LOTR video games, some of which are waaaay off-canon IMHO.

The Chitauri: WT*??

Upon watching The Avengers again last night (thank you, TBS!), struck by this realization: When the Chitauri attack New York, the police and national guard seem completely overwhelmed, even though they are armed with assault rifles. But Romanoff and Barton are able to kill dozens of them with a handgun and bow and arrow, which would presumably have a shorter range and less stopping power than military assault rifles. So, what’s up, National Guard? Are you guys just really bad shots? Panicky under pressure? Other than the big flying monsters, if these guys are vulnerable to arrows and 9mm bullets, shouldn’t you be able to stop them? Filpside, Loki — this is the best invading force you can come up with? How are you going to imprison the Earth with a few hundred dudes who can’t handle arrows? The whole movie is starting to unravel on me. Don’t get me started on Ultron.”

Splett’s Best: 5 Best Brunch Spots in the Greater DC Area

Hey Splettsters, here’s a new feature I’m calling “Splett’s Best,” with a list of my favorite things in the DC area. Sometimes they’re the best, and sometimes they’re the only ones I know, which would logically make them both the best and the worst simultaneously. But let’s stay on the bright side.

1) Scion Restaurant, Dupont Circle

If you know one thing about me, you know I love mimosas (see my post on “The Best Mimosas in DC”), and I like (but don’t love) beer (still working on my “Best Beer Spots in DC”), so this place kicks it up ten notches by offering beermosas. Yup, they combined beer and orange juice, and created a breakthrough breakfast beverage. Let’s just say, after a few hours, the beermosas weren’t the only things that were bottomless. JK. I can’t remember if the food was good.

2) Kapnos, U Street/14th Street

This brunch spot was highlighted by FOUR different kinds of spiked lemonade they serve out of kegs. Yup, four. There’s a super tasty gin lemonade made with grilled lemon juice that I can’t recommend highly enough. Also, a whiskey lemonade made with cucumber water and ginger, as well as an agave lemonade and a watermelon lemonade. They’re $12 each, but I suggest buying the $44 pitcher to save money. Not sure what kind of food it was, but I think Greek, and I think it was good.

3) L’Enfant Café and Bar, Adams Morgan

Brunch at this spot is nuts, it’s reservations-only on Saturdays and it’s called La Boum. They close the blinds, drinks flow like rivers, and people go nuts. DJ’s throw down some sick beats, and the MC really pulls the party together. Everything starts off with Kir Royale shots, and then the burlesque dancers come out and things really get freaky. The most cost-effective way to get drunk is champagne bottles, especially the magnums. The name suggest French cuisine.

4) Open City, Woodley Park

Open City is famous for it’s signature brunch cocktail, the Royal Reviver, and it will pull you out of your Sunday stupor and shoot you right into the stratosphere. It’s a combo of cava (Spanish sparkling wine, way better than Prosecco or champagne, IMHO), gin, lemon juice, triple sec and a little absinthe. And by “a little,” I mean enough to have you dancing with the green fairy. The chai waffles were fluffy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, just how I like my waffles. Avoid the arepas benedictos, the pork was a tad dry.

5) Barrel, Eastern Market

Brunch inside a bourbon bar? Oh, hell yes! And the great thing about this brunch spot, in addition to its deep bourbon bench, is that you can build your own Bloody Mary. You choose your own vodka, hot sauce, and salt rimmer, and then comes the big decision: garnish with a bacon brick, ham-wrapped scallop or Andouille sausage. I asked for all three, but they said they wouldn’t fit, so I alternated between garnishes as I mixed and matched my Bloody Mary ingredients. No clue about the food, but I’m assuming brunch type stuff.

6) Cuba Libre, Penn Quarter

Came here for brunch during DC Restaurant Week, and man, I was not disappointed. They do an unbelieveable brunch deal: unlimited cocktails for $16.50 when paired with tapas brunch. I wasn’t hungry, so I let my friend Jonah eat my food and just focused on the cocktails, and the mojitos and the caipirinhas were both muy delicioso! I did try a few spoonfuls of the mango butter, which was really good on its own.

7)  Georgia Brown’s, Dupont Circle

Pretty sure the atmosphere was nice, but what I do know for sure is they have a brunch special you don’t want to miss: the Delta Dawn. What’s a Delta Dawn, you might ask? Well, let me tell you. It’s a raspberry vodka with watermelon puree and of bit of honey, and during the Jazz Brunch on Sunday, you get one of those for $12—or bottomless mimosas and bloody Mary’s for $25. I can handle a lot, as liquor doesn’t really have much of an impact on me. The food is a buffet, all-you-can-eat for $42, I didn’t try it, but it looked extensive.


Did William Shakespeare author all of the works of literature credited to him or could some of his famous plays actually have been written by Christopher Marlowe? I do not really have an opinion on this, but I would love to hear what you think. Write me at

Splett Decisions

Carl “Luke Cage” Lucas vs Charles “Professor X” Xavier: Luke is impervious to pretty much anything, but Professor X is dead, and you really have to respect that.

1978 Battlestar Galactica vs New Battlestar Galactica: I will bow out on this one, because there are many fans of each, and I am not in the business of boat-rocking, although one is clearly better than the other for myriad reasons and I think you know which and why.

Cat vs Honeydew: These are two things that I am allergic to. The tie-breaking vote will have to go to honeydew, because it has more syllables and is the more mellifluous word so my tongue enjoys it more. Although my tongue does not enjoy the actual melon, which makes it swell up and block my trachea. NOTE: Apologies to those who prefer cats; you are also not wrong.

America vs Canada: To be honest, I don’t know why I asked myself this one, because it makes me uneasy to have to choose, so instead I’m going to answer: Monday vs Thursday. Actually, that one makes me uneasy, too. I like both.


Expert oatmeal tip: throw a banana in there! It’s a bunch of all-natural sweetness without adding refined sugar.

Glasses Frames: An Exclusive Splett-by-Step Guide to Finding the Right Fit for Your Face Shape

First: Do you even need glasses? Check out your local optometrist or ophthalmologist, to be sure.

Okay! So, you need glasses. Congratulations! Wearing glasses is one of my favorite things about me. They look smart and correct your vision, and can really add some serious lift and power to any nose. But which frames are right for your face? Assess yourself honestly. Answer the following face questions:

  • Am I round?
  • Am I flat?
  • Am I mostly cheeks or mostly nose or a little of both (“even-faced”)?
  • Am I pointy?
  • What is my tolerance for metal?

Now that you have answered those questions, it’s time to pick your frame color! Answer the following honestly and carefully:

  • Blue?
  • Tortoise shell?
  • Clear?
  • Metal?
  • Frameless? (can be disconcerting. glasses appear to float in front of your head)

Finally, it’s time to choose a shape! I would suggest the following, for optimal user experience:

  • Round frames for round face.
  • Square frames for square-ish face.
  • Also, round frames for oval face.

Congratulations! You have chosen the perfect frames! Be prepared for many compliments.


Locked out of my apartment last night.  Just as the locksmith showed up, I realized the keys were in my back pocket.  Javier, the locksmith, seemed so jazzed to drill my locks, I just couldn’t bring myself to tell him it was in vain. Had an amazing convo with Javier as he was working, all about how his mother and brother don’t get along. At the end of it, he said, “I feel like I should pay you for listening to me,” but then he gave me the bill.  Still, the most personally rewarding $250 I’ve spent in some time.