“Who is Tom Bombadil?” by Jane Beal

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by kimberly80

My academic essay, “Who is Tom Bombadil? Interpreting the Light in Frodo Baggins and Tom Bombadil’s Role in the Healing of Traumatic Memory in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings,” now appears in The Journal of Tolkien Research 6 (2018): Iss. 1, Art. 1, 1-34.

ABSTRACT: 

In Rivendell, after Frodo has been attacked by Ringwraiths and is healing from the removal of the splinter from a Morgul-blade that had been making its way toward his heart, Gandalf regards Frodo and contemplates a “clear light” that is visible through Frodo to “eyes to see that can.” Samwise Gamgee later sees this light in Frodo when Frodo is resting in Ithilien. The first half of this essay considers questions about this light: how does Frodo become transparent, and why, and what is the nature of the light that fills him? As recourse to Tolkien’s letters shows, the light is related to the virtues of Frodo’s character: love, self-sacrifice, humility, perseverance. The light in Frodo also is related to the light in the Phial of Galadrial, which comes from the Earendil’s Silmaril set in the heavens above Middle-earth, which is called the Morning Star. Because “Morning Star” is a name for Jesus in the New Testament, the light within Frodo may be interpreted, symbolically, as the Christ-light.

The second half of this essay considers how this light was ignited in Frodo, specifically by asking: who is Tom Bombadil, and what does he have to do with the light inside of Frodo? The essay explores multiple explanations for the long-standing, critically-debated mystery of Tom Bombadil’s identity, ultimately showing that he must be interpreted at multiple levels of meaning simultaneously. Intriguingly, Tom Bombadil has parallels to the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus, especially in his role as “Eldest” (or ab origine) and in his ability to bring light to Frodo in the grave of the barrow-wight, save him from death by his song, and heal him from spiritual “drowning” – a word that Tom uses to describe Frodo’s terrifying experience in the barrow and which relates to Frodo’s original childhood wound: the primal loss of his parents, who drowned in a tragic accident. When Frodo receives healing from this trauma, he is strengthened to endure what he later experiences on his quest to destroy the Ring.

 

 

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“Tolkien, Eucatastrophe, and the Rewriting of Medieval Legend” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 8.19.16 PMMy essay, “Tolkien, Eucatastrophe, and the Re-writing of Medieval Legend,” appears in Mallorn: The Journal of the Tolkien Society 58 (Winter 2017).

ABSTRACT: 

Using comparative literary analysis, this essay examines three case studies from J.R.R. Tolkien’s oeuvre, in which Tolkien practiced eucatastrophic rewriting: his folk-tale, “Sellic Spell,” in which he re-creates the Old English poem Beowulf; his poem, “Princess Mee,” in which he re-envisions aspects of the myth of Narcissus and the Middle English dream vision poem, Pearl; and the character of Éowyn from The Lord of the Rings, in which he re-imagines the fate of Brynhild, a shield-maiden and valkyrie from Norse legend. In each case, Tolkien rewrites the original so that sorrow is transformed into happiness in Tolkien’s new versions. As part of the analysis of these transformations, this essay also considers a possible personal motivation as well as a larger purpose behind Tolkien’s artistic choices: his relationship to his beloved wife, Edith, and a desire to convey to others the hope he found in his own Christian faith.

  • This essay also appears here.

“Lúthien’s Lullaby for Dior” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 8.18.38 PMMy poem, “Lúthien’s Lullaby for Dior,” appears in Mallorn: The Journal of the Tolkien Society 57 (Winter 2016).

Lúthien’s Lullaby
for Dior

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son –

Before you, before me, there was my mother,
Melian the Maia, who lived in Valinor,
and served the Valar, and saw the light of the Two Trees
with her own far-seeing eyes.
In the gardens of lovely Lórien,
she took on the form of the fairest Eldar
and taught the nightingales to sing.
She was standing in a glade open to the stars
when my father, Elwë Singollo, came fast to her,
and took her hand, so that, with that touch,
they were both enchanted and stood for years together
as the trees grew around them and the stars wheeled overhead.

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son –

Before you were born, I was born,
in the Kingdom of a Thousand Caves, in mighty Menegroth,
in Beleriand, protected by the Girdle of Melian,
and they called me the fairest of the Children of Eru Iluvatar.
I grew and sang and danced, free in my forest of trees,
to the sound of a secret flute, and there, your father
found me, as my mother knew he would, at moonrise,
but I vanished, even as he called me Tinúviel, daughter of twilight.
By doom and by destiny, oath-bound and enchanted,
we two became one on a journey to do justice:
I shifted shape to set your father free, and he
cut the Silmaril from Morgoth’s Iron Crown.

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son –

Now I know the future, and the hard sorrow that it holds,
as I look ahead through a veil, like my mother before me,
and I see the wide waterfall of Lanthir Lamath,
and Nimloth, your bride, and Elured and Elurin, your mighty sons,
and Elwing, your darling daughter, the Star-Spray of Night.
I see the defeat of the Dwarves, at your deft hand,
and Nauglamir – ah, Nauglamir! – the necklace you will bring me
to avenge my father’s death, shining with the Silmaril
your father cut from Morgoth’s Iron Crown,
so that I will wear it and so that the Land of the Dead Who Live,
and even this green isle of Tol Galen,
will be filled, in the new near, with the last light of Yavanna’s Two Trees. 

One day, your father will die in his last battle,
and I, too, will die, for I have Chosen,
but you will live until you are slain
and descend into the Halls of Mandos.

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son,
chosen before Time for the triune blood
that flows like a fountain of hope through your veins
from the far-seeing Maiar, the immortal Eldar,
and the swift Edain, your father’s people,
the ones who live and die,
for a doom Eru Iluvatar deems,
and I know, my sweet son, lying innocent in my arms,
that you bear within your beautiful body
the whole future of Middle-earth.

  • This poem was commissioned by Eileen Marie Moore, Professor of Music at Cleveland State University, who set it to music and performed it at “The Tolkien Unbound” session of the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in May 2016.