More powerful than Gandalf and more ancient than Galadriel, Tom Bombadil is actually Lord of the Rings’ most powerful being.
When it comes to powerful beings in Lord of the Rings, characters such as Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel and, of course, Sauron are discussed at great length. Gandalf the Grey (then later White) wizard who is actually an immortal spirit of the Maiar certainly makes a case for his power, having been resurrected and having orchestrated the journey to destroy the One Ring. Galadriel is the last of the ancient Ñoldor, one of the most powerful beings in Middle-earth (they crafted the palantíri, after all) and, having been born in Valinor, Galadriel has the blood of all three Elf Kindreds in her veins. Saruman and Sauron wielded incredible ancient and determined power to create the Uruk-hai and dominate Middle-earth, respectively.
But all those incredible beings end up paling in comparison to a character often overlooked from the Lord of the Rings books and left out of the movies entirely: Tom Bombadil. He is an immensely powerful being and more connected to Middle-earth than any of the above. Described in the books as “the oldest in existence” and by his river-spirit wife, Goldberry, as “Master of wood, water and hill,” Bombadil’s ancient ways and deep connection to the world around him give him an enigmatic domain of staggering power.
Much like Bendu in Star Wars Rebels, Tom Bombadil is an embodiment of quiet, all-encompassing strength in tune with the world around him. The most powerful beings are often the quietest, knowing they have nothing to prove, and, like Bendu, Bombadil was enigmatically keyed into the elements and ancient magics around him. He often acts in whimsical almost capricious ways, giving off an air of not caring, when in fact he is just less up in arms about more mortal problems. Bombadil was even more ancient than the Valar and could defeat foes with hardly an effort. It is often thought that his mysterious origins may tie back to the Ainur, the angelic creatures who had a hand in creating the earth itself. Using softer, gentler sources such as music and the forest around him, Bombadil could perform great magic to seemingly control the world, reality and nature around him.
In what is possibly his most extraordinary talent, though, Bombadil seems to be fully immune to the powers and the allure of the One Ring. While any other being that comes close to the Ring, let alone holds it, feels its draw and immediately becomes malleable to its insidious will, Bombadil simply does not seem to be affected by any of its magic. In the Lord of the Rings books, when he and Frodo meet, he can still see Frodo clearly even when the hobbit wears the One Ring on his finger, which renders him invisible to all else. Bombadil even goes so far as to play around with the Ring jovially, tossing it in the air and using his own magic to make it appear to vanish before having it reappear in his other hand. For all his seemingly unbothered attitude, though, he does appear to understand the insidious evil of the Ring, warning Frodo not to use it himself anymore.
Despite his power, though, even the characters in Middle-earth are quick to write him off based on his personality. When the idea of giving him the ring is raised to the Council of Elrond, Gandalf dismisses it, worrying that Bombadil simply might not find the Ring important enough and would be likely to lose it.
However, Bombadil is often omitted from various Lord of the Rings adaptations and did not even bear mention in Peter Jackson’s trilogy. While sad, ultimately his interactions with the ring-bearing hobbits are rather perfunctory, having no real bearing on the story at large and, while he expands the world-building, he doesn’t expand the plot. Despite being such a powerful and important character, since he doesn’t have any effect on the hobbits’ journey, he was an easy omission when trying to fit the thousands of pages of text into three already long movies.
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