From the Electronic Mailbag: Tom Bombadil Edition

My posts about Tom Bombadil continue to generate the “Lion’s Share” of my electronic mail. Please send your questions and comments to

Matt writes:


Long time reader, first time emailer. I noticed in your excellent series of posts on Tom Bombadil, that you quoted Galdor the elf at the Council of Elrond. But I think you made a teensy bit of a mistake in crediting your sources. 

You linked to this page which is about the man from the first age. 

You probably intended to link to this page: which is about the elf in question. 

It’s actually a pretty common mistake, especially as there is a third character named Galdor, who was an elf in Gondolin. I know, crazy, right?

 Send my best wishes to President Meyer!

Thanks, Matt, and good catch! I’m usually pretty careful not to get my Galdors mixed up but I had a bad reaction to some cold medicine the night I wrote that and wrote a few ill-advised blog posts as well as a text to my upstairs neighbor about the noise that her high heels make that I wish I could take back. I had to leave flowers and a note for her the next day. She works at a museum or art gallery, I think, and is basically a good person.

 CAHastings writes:

What do you think of Benedict Cumberbatch to play Tom? My spouse says Tom Hiddleston would be better, but I think they’re wrong. Cumberbatch has a face that seems human but not quite so, and I feel that would be better suited for the master of wood, water and hill. 


I think you’re both right and they’d both be great! Though maybe a little tall. I think of Tom as a little fellow like the other Tom, Tom Cruise (who also would be a great Tom Bombadil and is “proven box office.”) 

Eric says:


The Tom Bombadil enigma is one that I have dedicated significant thought to. On the topic of speculative fiction, I take the approach of boring-and-therefore-wrong for fan theories. I also don’t like theories that have no precedent. I find the following theories to be boring/wrong:

• Physical embodiment of the music of the Ainur

• Avatar of the physical universe (I think that Goldberry’s comment “He is,” was Tolkien’s attempt at glibness and not a hidden clue about the answer to the Tom Bombadil mystery)

• “Time” Ainur

• Proto-man from an earlier draft of the music of the Ainur

• Some sort of meta-concept, as in: the reader, friends who exist in the real world, Tolkien himself

I don’t mind the theory of the “Secret Fire”, which at least has precedent in the text even if it is a stretch. I think that if there were a walking avatar of Eru’s Secret Fire, it would be more powerful than Sauron (a mere Maiar, although surely first among his kind) and his minions. I find the Ungoliant theory to be perhaps the most convincing, or at least having the most precedent – it is clear that there is a class of spirit which has not yet been categorized. Perhaps this class of spirit is notable for being uncategorizable. Both Ungoliant and Tom Bombadil are enigmas to the powers-that-be, have unknown origins (even to the gods), display significant power on the order of Ainur or Maiar, but not vastly more powerful, make mockeries of the cherished artifacts of gods and men, and possess very narrow goals/behavior patterns/spiritual domains. For whatever my 2 cents are worth.

I have been to Barrel for brunch, it’s great! Might I suggest the Queen Vic on H street. Get the Sunday Roast, you won’t be disappointed.


Wow! I stand in awe of the careful thought you have given the “Bombadil Mystery,” Eric, as well as the insights you have gained thereby. I can’t say I’m super comfortable with the idea of a class of spirit that “has not yet been categorized” because it is somehow “uncategorizable.” Middle Earth is full of beings of different types but also has a past and a history that is known to few if any. I prefer to think of Tom as belonging to a category of creature that used to be familiar but has become obscure like a rare type of marsupial tree shrew might here on “Earth-Earth.”

From the Electronic Mailbag

Today’s mailbag is a bit of a “grabbag.” Please keep writing and commenting! I love to hear from pretty much anyone so keep the electronic mails coming to

Tori writes:

Apples are great. 

 You can say that again, Tori!

Jessica asks:

Hey Richard,

1) Love the site. 2) I saw in one of your posts that you have a Return of Jafar laser disc, which made me think: What’s your favorite Aladdin movie? The original? Return of Jafar? Or, in my opinion, the underrated King of Thieves? 

 Love to hear back!


1) Love you for loving the site! 2) The original.

Dylan says:

You are my hero.

Wow, Dylan! That’s a “heavy” responsibility. I try to be an “everyday hero” by following the Golden Rule and doing unto others as I would be done to by them.

Kat writes:

Hello Mr. Splett

Hello, Kat!

Andrew says:

Go Richard!!

Go Andrew!!!

Steve writes:

Hi Richard,

Big fan of the blog. Nice to see the ‘human face’ behind the Washington ‘scene’. I really like NPR podcasts too! Aren’t they based in Washington? They should give you a show!

Two questions – 

1) When’s your birthday?

2a) If you were going to get a fish that wasn’t a Siamese Fighting Fish, what would it be?

2b) If you were going to get a Siamese Fighting Fish that wasn’t blue, what color would it be?



Thank you, Steve! First of all, I hear you about the Washington “scene.” It can be hard to make human connections with people who feel they can never let their hair down and “be themselves.” One great way to break the ice is by asking people if you can read their palm. Karaoke is also great.

To answer your questions:

1) October 10

2a) That’s a tough one. Maybe a catfish because they seem to have so much personality. I also find the whole gourami family intriguing.

2b) After the problems I’ve had with Sherman and Mr. Peabody, I don’t think I’d ever get another Siamese Fighting Fish.   But if you put a gun to my head and asked me what color Siamese Fighting Fish I’d choose after blue, I would say orange or reddish-orange.

Richard Splett’s Top Six Favorite Explettsions 

1. “I think, therefore I’m.”

I translated and updated Descartes’ famous Latin phrase into modern colloquial English, which uses contractions a whole lot. Just rolls off the tongue like a fine gummy bear. I think about this expression a lot, and then I think about how the simple act of thinking about it means that I’m.  

2. “Are you being serious with me right now?”

This is a good one because of what I like to call its “Schrodinger’s Syntax.” It remains at all times in the liminal state of being both question and editorial statement—a paradox of wanting to know whether someone is being serious with you right now, but also making it clear that someone should maybe rethink how serious he is being with you right now. It is also a generally unbeatable way to find out whether someone is being serious with you right now.

3. “The proof is in the pudding, as I always say.”

I heard this wise phrase for the first time on the underside of the foil of a pudding cup, and I spent the next ten minutes sifting through the pudding to make sure it wasn’t contaminated. This was also around the time of a widespread listeria recall, and I don’t quite remember if pudding was on the recall list, but you can never be too careful when your health is at stake. The first half of this expression is an old saying, while the second half is just something I add for some Splett flavor. Like bananas, which I often add to pudding for some Banana flavor, or to ice cream, chocolate syrup and cornflakes, for what I call a Banana Splett. To be honest, I don’t really know what the phrase means. 

4. “What is this — oh, it’s my lunch.”

I use this expression almost every day, and sometimes twice a day if I happen to pack two lunches. My favorite thing about this expression is that midway through it, confusion gives way to joy. Isn’t that really how life should be? I should note here that I’m writing this after eating a delicious sandwich, which may be positively affecting my mood. Meat juice is known to raise serotonin levels. If you’re looking for delicious sandwich suggestions, please check out my post, Splett On Rye: Richard Splett’s Favorite Sandwich Recipes, which I will write probably sometime this year, and post after I write it.

5. “A stranger is just a friend without your telephone number.”

I have found this to be true in all parts of life. Wherever you are, in whatever city or town or foreign park, as soon as you distribute your phone number, you have new friends. Sometimes they call you in the morning, sometimes late at night, but whether they’re telling you about their day or just breathing heavily in a disturbing way, the telephone has connected you literally and spiritually. (This also works for cell phones.)

6. “A rose is a rose is a rose.”

I’ll be honest, I actually thought the expression was “arrows is arrows is arrows,” which I thought was cool because arrows were a criminally underrated form of weaponry until the Hunger Games girl brought them back, but flowers are okay too, I can accept that.

7. “You’re never better than yourself at your worst.”

This is a very uplifting phrase that I made up back in 3rd grade, when I wanted to grow up to be a phJrase-inventor. It means, obviously, that when you are at your best, even your worst is better than that. Even not your worst, I mean. Actually, now that I read it, it doesn’t really make sense. Probably why I didn’t get either of my doctoral degrees in Phrase Invention! 

Tom Bombadil, Jr.

An LOTR question that woke me up last night: Why don’t Tom Bombadil and his wife Goldberry have children?

Was up till 4 am going down a lot of very sad and disturbing rabbit holes on that one, then realized since they’re both immortal, they’re probably in no hurry. So maybe they just wanted to enjoy the first few thousand years of marriage before all the stress of parenthood. After spending a weekend babysitting my four nephews, I can confidently state that kids can be a handful, even for a fellow who can overpower evil trees with song. (I tried singing to calm my nephews (ages 10, 8, 6, and 4) down, and they pretty much just threw some flatware at me. To be fair, they were plastic spoons, but they had some velocity.)  So that interpretation of their marriage really took a lot of weight off my mind. Slept like a log after that. 


I’d hate to be an art critic. It all looks great to me!

Plan for a Quiet Sunday Afternoon

About to do a Back To The Future Marathon! Unfortunately, the person I lent the BTTF 1 blu-ray has not returned it (calling you out, UPS guy), so I’m just going to watch BTTF 2 & 3. Maybe I’ll watch the third installment (the underappreciated masterpiece, IMHO) twice?


I love reading Asterix comics in their original French. Thank God for Google Translate!

A Private Fantasy

I wish Marvel and DC could get together for a massive crossover. You know what I’m talking about: Aquaman vs. Namor in an all-underwater battle. I’m starting to perspire just thinking about it. False alarm. Beads of moisture are from the shower I just took. Or maybe I’m sweating, too. Hard to say for sure.

Reflections on Road Peeve

People often ask me which superhero am I most like? Well not often, but it’s a question I ask myself. I would have to say I am most like the Incredible Hulk.

We have a lot in common. Our love of science, our penchant for purple trousers but also the fact that most of the time we are mild-mannered but then if something gets our goat—boy, you’d better watch out! 

Actually I don’t get angry very often. Probably the only thing that really annoys me is discourteous driving. That makes me mad. Well not mad, but peeved. I experience Road Peeve. And I scare myself quite honestly. Perhaps I’m overstating it. It’s more like I get a little testy.

I guess the Incredible Hulk would not be as exciting if he just got testy. Although he sure would save a lot of money on shirts! In many ways he doesn’t really have a super power, more a super affliction. But that’s a conversation for another day. 

You Decide!

Realize you SplettNetters might want to choose your own handle. I sort of started calling you that without consulting you. More than a tad presumptuous.

Possible alternate names:

1) Splettheads

2) Splettsters

3) The Bespletted

4) Splettiacs

5) Splettlievers 

6) Spetterers

7)  Spletters

8) The Besplettnetted

Thanksgiving Resolution

My Thanksgiving resolution: Learn a foreign language. I feel it would be useful for travel and life in general. Here are the top contenders:

1) Icelandic

2) Korean (specifically the northern Pyongan dialect)

3) Finnish

4) Navajo (not really foreign, per se, more like I’m the foreigner in this case!)



Maybe the solution to the whole transgender bathroom conundrum is to take all the men’s and women’s signage off the doors, and just let it be a surprise as to which bathroom it is, so everyone’s on equal footing. Full disclosure, I love surprises. If I got a surprise every time I walked into a public restroom, I’d be a happy man. Truth be told, I am pretty happy, so…

Legends I Have Known

downloadThat’s me on the left with legendary political fixer Jim Whitman. I mean I’m on my left if I were standing inside the picture. I’m on the right as you look at the picture.

Jim and I agree that you can disagree without being disagreeable.

Recovered Memory

When I was a kid, my auntie took me to the zoo and the bank in the same day, and I thought all the tellers were in captivity, just like the lions. For the next five years, I lived in fear of being taken from my home and forced to work in a bank.

TV in the Bedroom

Whoa! Looks like I’ve stirred up a firestorm of controversy with my post three days ago about my Siamese Fighting Fish, Sherman and Mr. Peabody. A lot of readers took issue with my saying that I didn’t like having my TV in my bedroom. GlennR wrote, “Hey, Richard, I love Splettnet but I don’t agree with you that it’s better to have the TV in the living room than the bedroom. I have my TV in my bedroom and I love it! I like to watch my favorite shows before I go to sleep. Sometimes I even fall asleep with the TV on.”

Well, Craig, I stand corrected! And thanks for writing!

Regarding Hot Dog Buns

My biggest impulse buy: hot dog buns. Sometimes I’ll buy the buns and no dogs. They’re great with all sorts of fillings. Peanut butter. Lettuce and cheese. Butter. (Or margarine, if you’re off dairy. And if you’re off dairy, you have my sympathy. That’s hard. I tried nut cheese for a week. Not because I have a problem with dairy, I just wanted to be able to empathize with those who do. Rough week. Turns out I have a mild nut allergy.) Sloppy joe. Mac & cheese—look out, it’s a carb bomb! (Sorry, I know that sounds like car bomb, and I don’t mean to sound flippant about the Middle East. Car bombings are tragic. I realize I would not be a good suicide bomber.) Ham and pickles. Turkey chili. Curveball: fruit and whipped cream (two-minute shortcake!).

Sherman & Mr. Peabody

I think it’s very important to have pets, especially if you live alone. Pets (e.g. dogs, cats, and birds) are great companions and can help you “decompress” at the end of a long, stressful day. I have two pets, Sherman and Mr. Peabody. Sherman is a blue Siamese Fighting Fish (which are also called “Bettas”). He lives in a 5-gallon tank on a shelf in my living room. I’ve had him for 7 months, after I won him at street carnival by throwing a ping pong ball into a fishbowl (my secret: backspin and a high trajectory).

Mr. Peabody is also a Siamese Fighting Fish and also blue. I got him when my (former) friend Leslie (a man) left him with me for the weekend because he heard I had a Siamese Fighting Fish already and then never came back to pick him up or responded to numerous texts, calls and e-mails.

Here’s the thing: It would be a lot easier to have two Siamese Fighting Fish if you could keep them in the same tank. But you can’t. Because they are FIGHTING fish and male Siamese Fighting Fish will kill each other if you put two of them together. So I have to have two tanks with two lights and two heaters and two noisy pumps and filters. If both heaters go on at once, it sometimes trips a circuit breaker like when you use the toaster and the coffee maker at the same time. The circuit breaker panel in my building is in the basement so its kind of inconvenient to reset it, especially at night, which is when both heaters usually go on.

The other funny thing about Sherman and Mr. Peabody is that the TV just drives them crazy. I think it’s something about the moving colors. But when you turn on the TV, they both start smashing themselves against the glass of their tanks. So I had to move the TV into my bedroom which is pretty small and doesn’t have a cable outlet. I had to run a long cable in from the living room, which means I can’t close the door all the way. I pretty much don’t use the living room anymore. Even without the TV the fish can get pretty worked up if I move around too much in there.

Still, it’s nice to have them for the companionship.

By the way, Mr. Peabody is named for the know-it-all cartoon dog who was one of my favorite characters when I was a little kid. My (former) friend Leslie had named him “Betta Grable,” but I changed it to “Mr. Peabody” when it became clear that Leslie had abandoned him. “Betta Grable” might be okay for a female Siamese Fighting Fish but is still pretty dumb. Sherman is named after the Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman, who I think gets kind of a bad rap in the history books.


Even before I asked myself the question, “Why can’t they raise boneless chickens?” I already had the answer. I don’t even know why I asked the question. Must be getting close to lunch.

But now that I think about it, they can grow square potatoes. (I think they do it in a mold. I saw one once.) So maybe boneless chickens are a possibility. But what kind of life would a boneless chicken have? Okay, sorry I suggested it.

Caught in the Splett Net V

I caught you, Richard Splett! That’s right, fans, I caught myself having a SECOND Macademia Nut cookie when I promised myself I’d only eat one. I’d be lucky to fit in the Splett Net now! Then again, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I have many good qualities too. (Humility not being one. I’M KIDDING!)

Good Apples

My Top Five Apple Varieties:

1) McIntosh

2) Fuji

3) Lady

4) Baldwin

5) Braeburn

6) Green

I know I said five, but I couldn’t leave off green. Just didn’t sit well with me.

7) Gala


Re: apples. Forgot all about the Honeycrisp. Apologies, Splettnetters. I feel like my credibility re: apples just went out the window. Won’t happen again.

An Open Letter to Peter Jackson

If Peter Jackson happens to read this, I know there’s nothing you can do about it now, but I’m a little disappointed (okay, a lot!) you didn’t find a way to work Tom Bombadil into the LOTR movie trilogy. I kind of let it slide at the time because I understood the need to keep the narrative moving, and Tom and Goldberry might be considered a bit of a detour to the story, but the appearance of Radgast in the Hobbit as well as the Rhosgobel Rabbits — that was a bit of a head-scratcher. If you can stretch out a minor character like that, how do you justify cutting a major character altogether? Anyway, again, know there’s nothing you can do about it. Just missing TB. Putting it out there.

P.S. Is there something you can do about it? Tom Bombadil movie? I think that’s another billion dollars right there.


Been debating getting Lasik. Or contacts. Thing is, I just love wearing glasses.

Caught in the Splett Net IV

I caught you, Dogwalker Lady in my neighborhood! I saw you pet all the dogs except that Mini-Schnauzer. Poor little guy. Spread that affection around! Unless you were using “tough love” to teach him a lesson. If that’s true, I apologize for jumping the gun and release you from the Splett Net.