(In the book, Tom Bombadil is portrayed as a carefree creature, his actions almost silly at times. He is unaffected by the world, going about merrily about his singing and lily collecting. But there is everything in the chapter to show that he was in reality something greater than we could understand. His name is revealing enough: Iarwain Benadar: Oldest and Fatherless)
“Gates? But there are no gates in Buckland” said Pippin, “Only those hedge things”, making vague gestures with his hand. The hobbits with Gandalf were making their way back to the shire form Bree. Ahead of them were the shadowy barrow downs, the fog lay thick upon them, and one could barely discern the great forest beyond.
“Yes, master Brandybuck, you will indeed find gates at Buckland. There is for you work yet to be done. You will see that all is not well in the shire”.There was something different about the wizard. At first you couldn’t see it, but when you did, you saw it everywhere. The world had changed. Those lands, once teeming with life, were quite desolate. No animals, feathered, two footed or four could be seen around. The very air around them seemed to be hostile. But all this was not too surprising, considering that the five were in the garb of warriors. But yes, the wizard had changed. The determination in his eye was gone, and was replaced by something that could have been described as laughter.
“Whatever troubles we may have, we have the white rider with us, and no foe shall stand up to us” said Frodo. To the eyes of Samwise, his master was the Frodo of the shire again, the same Frodo with whom they had set off with on a cheery September 22nd a year before. But the path Frodo and Sam had taken had been the longest and darkest. Frodo’s dreams were troubled by sounds of the sea, something he could not understand, as he had never heard it before, and he was always fingering a white jewel he wore around his neck. The parting gift of Arwen Evenstar to the ringbearer.
“You are wrong there, my dear Frodo, it is no longer the task of mine to set things right. The task I had been sent for is completed”, Gandalf said as if in a pleasant dream, looking in the direction of the setting sun. ” My home calls me.”
” All I want now is a long talk with Bombadil, although I daresay he won’t find all this interesting at all. He is a strange creature; the happenings of the world don’t seem to trouble him. No, maybe he would be interested in the ents. You hobbits are grown now, and I am sure you can rise up to any challenge that you face. I shall have to leave you here, for my path is through the downs.”
The hobbits bade a tearful farewell to Gandalf and hurried on their way, anxious to get home. The scouring of the shire would soon begin. Gandalf turned shadowfax around toward the barrow downs, “The four that set off, and the four that have returned”, he mused, as he watched the hobbits become smaller and smaller in the distance.
The tombs of the great kings of Númenor sped by shadowfax, Gandalf pausing only slightly to look toward them with reverence. Their line was reinstated now, the 4th age was about to begin. He again, thought about a riddle, which a long time ago, bilbo had answered merely by luck. What kills kings, levels mountains . Time! Time! Time had changed them all had changed them all.
These thought were driven away from the mind of the wizard by what appeared to be a string of nonsense, held together by a flowing song, carried over the withywindle, a song, which on hearing, would not allow the listener to deny joy to himself. “But here is someone whom time refuses to change at all”, the wizard laughed out. Indeed, in the near distance was Tom Bombadil; complete with blue jacket and yellow shoes gathering lilies and singing a song of trees, birds and the stream.
“The greatest of the Istari, visiting old Tom’s forest!” said Tom looking over his back, if he was surprised by his visit he hid it well. “How were your great journeys, mighty wanderer?” But he said this with a merrily mocking voice.
Gandalf had lit his pipe and was blowing smoke rings across the room. He had just finished telling Tom about their quest, and he had paid attention only to the part about the ents in Isengard.
“Did you know”, began Tom, after breaking the silence of what seemed to be an age, “that Saruman and the dark lord were brethren?”
“Yes, it is a sad story. The two were the greatest of the servants of Lord Aule, each in their own time. Again, each in their own time fell to evil. It is indeed very unfortunate that this happens to the greatest among us. If I am not much mistaken, he is here in the shire now. It will be the last part he will play. The war of the ring shall end in the most unlikely place of all, and the hobbits will end it.”
This was a fact that Gandalf would keep hidden from the hobbits forever. He would of course tell of it to Frodo, later in the far west, and he would understand. Not all would understand that in the intricate web spun by him, every strand would be as important as every other.
He thought back to when he was in Fangorn, locked in a terrible battle with the great eye of Barad Dur. The company at that time was in Tol Brandir, in battle with the uruks of isengard, and the ringbearer and his purpose had almost been revealed to the enemy. He could feel the pain again, it had seemed futile and he was almost broken. Just when things had come to becoming hopeless, something had happened that had caused the eye to retreat, in great fear. And at that time Gandalf had felt a presence in the forest that was so powerful that it was impossible to describe. It felt almost like he had felt in the shadow of the great mountain Oiolosse in his youth, the seat of Manwe and Elbereth. The glorious west, before he adopted the cares of Ea.
There was something more that he had not understood. The slow wrath of the ents had been inflamed, but this happening occurred to him, now, as too fortunate. Providence had been on their side all along, and this he did not truly understand. The wise did not believe in luck. He was about to inquire about this to Tom, when something struck him.
The figure had worn not a hood but a hat, Aragorn had told him in Fangorn forest. At that time, he had thought this to be Saruman that they saw, but now it struck him as queer. Why would Saruman leave Isengard and travel so far?
“Tom, it was you at Fangorn that my comrades saw.” It was a statement, not an enquiry, “Their horses ran to greet you and not shadowfax, as I previously thought. Was it your coming that drove the ents to war? Was it you who defeated the eye?”
Iarwain Benadar was silent. Oft, silence speaketh loudest. His unblinking gaze on the wizard was enough.
“You could see Frodo even when he was wearing the ring. You could even make it disappear! What are you, Bombadil? “
“Yes, Olorin, you have guessed much. My fair Goldberry created the ents. Sauron and Saruman were my servants. Is that enough?” asked Tom, now peering out of the window, into the west.
Gandalf was silent. It all made sense now. The singing. The singing had been the key, the song of the Ainur he had heard with his own ears and not known it! He looked up and he saw Goldberry enter the room. The lady Yavanna. He looked up into her eyes, and saw in them the mingling of the lights of Laurelin and Telperion, indeed she was their creator.
Tom could have unmade the One Ring, when Frodo had been. But he had chosen not to. Not all would understand the great web spun by the Valar. He at last looked to Iarwain, satisfied.