Rory Kinnear as Tom Bombadil in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power'
(Prime Video)

‘The Rings of Power’ Is About to Introduce Tolkien’s Weirdest Character

Surely, by now, you’ll have heard the news. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is all set to introduce Tom Bombadil in season 2. Now, you may be asking yourself: “Who the hell is Tom Bombadil? And why should I care?”

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I’ll be honest with you—the characters within Tolkien’s universe didn’t really know what to make of Old Tom, either. Perhaps the most divisive, bombastic, wonderfully strange, and weirdly powerful character in Middle-earth, Tom Bombadil was as much of a mystery to Frodo and his Hobbit friends as he is to you now, reading this. As far as we know, he isn’t a wizard, he isn’t a Maiar or one of the Valar, and he isn’t a Man, an Elf, or a Dwarf, either. He’s something else entirely, a character who likes to speak in rhyme and the third person. He’s a bearded fellow who wears a pointy hat, a bright blue jacket, and yellow boots, and he prefers to sing. He’s a character who, get this, is immune to the power of the Ring.

What has Tolkien revealed about Tom Bombadil?

In the first of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels, The Fellowship of the Ring, Sam, Frodo, Merry, and Pippin come across Tom Bombadil after they set out on their harrowing journey. By this time, Frodo is in possession of the One Ring, but soon after leaving the rolling hills of the Shire, the Hobbits have a run-in with Old Man Willow. Old Man Willow is a tree, you see, a genuinely evil tree that captured Merry and Pippin and threatened to kill Sam and Frodo. Tom Bombadil finds them in a frantic state and essentially sings the tree to sleep, convincing it to let the young, naive Hobbits go.

In the end, Frodo and his friends spend a significant amount of time with Tom Bombadil and his wife, Goldberry, who is implied to be a river spirit. The Hobbits feel so comfortable with Tom, in fact, that Frodo tells him all about their quest and the Ring in his possession. Astonishingly, Tom is entirely unaffected by the power of the Ring. He doesn’t even turn invisible when he puts it on. This, combined with his old age and the power of his song, makes his history all the more puzzling.

It is said that Bombadil existed before Morgoth, Sauron’s Master, came to Middle-earth in the First Age. For context, The Rings of Power is set during the Second Age, and The Lord of the Rings takes place during the Third Age. In other words, Tom Bombadil is properly ancient, perhaps even older than Fangorn Forest, where the Ents reside. Some have theorized that Tom Bombadil was the first living being in Middle-earth. A few have speculated that Tom Bombadil might be “Father Time,” while others have said that he may be the living embodiment of the song that brought Arda, the world, into being. And yet, despite his legacy, he chose to settle close to the borders of the Shire, where he met his wife and led a relatively quiet life.

Now, of course, you may be asking yourself: “Why didn’t they just ask Tom Bombadil to take care of the Ring?” Believe me, Frodo asked about this, too. Gandalf keeps the answer simple—he just didn’t think that Tom Bombadil would care enough to keep to the task at hand. Given his immortality, the quests of mortals are beneath him, and so he would not feel the need to interfere to such a great extent. All in all, Tom Bombadil is a mystery wrapped up in an oddly musical package.

But if Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy skipped over Tom Bombadil’s character entirely, how might The Rings of Power handle this all-powerful being, especially since Bombadil isn’t mentioned in Tolkien’s writings about the Second Age?

Rory Kinnear as Tom Bombadil in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power'
(Prime Video)

If Sauron’s invasive presence in The Rings of Power season 2 threatens Bombadil’s peaceful way of life and the natural world he holds so dear, there’s a chance he’ll become involved, however subtly—saving Frodo and his friends wasn’t just an act of kindness. He probably recognized the importance of their journey, he just didn’t feel the need to get caught up in it.

In the first look images revealed by Vanity Fair, Tom Bombadil, who will be played by Rory Kinnear, is seen speaking to The Stranger (Daniel Weyman), the mysterious character introduced in The Rings of Power season 1, who also possesses a great deal of power. Additionally, in The Fellowship of the Ring, it is implied that Elrond once met Tom Bombadil, too. Given Elrond’s (Robert Aramayo) important presence in The Rings of Power, this may be an additional way to bring Tom Bombadil into the story.

How Bombadil’s jolliness will translate to the screen remains to be seen, however. Tom Bombadil may be one of the most divisive characters in existence. Fans either love him or hate him. Whether The Rings of Power can make this work is hard to say, but I have to hand it to them—it’s a big swing, but at least they’re willing to take the risk.

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El Kuiper
El (she/her) is The Mary Sue's U.K. editor and has been working as a freelance entertainment journalist for over two years, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV (she's seen every episode of Midsomer Murders ever made) and franchises like Marvel and Pokémon. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.