Bombadil! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
America hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited our American Dream’s dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on itself did lay.
I extend my deepest apologies to William Wordsworth concerning his poem “London, 1802”.
In light of the recent presidential election and the various expostulated theories as to why things resulted with Donald Trump as President of the United States, one very true fact has become apparent: we are a divided country and our fears of losing any sort of power within an economic or social construct motivates us greatly.
NPR had a short interview with Richard Russo, the Pulitzer winning novelist, this morning (http://www.npr.org/2016/11/10/501537293/author-richard-russo-ponders-what-the-presidential-election-was-really-about?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=politics). Russo is known for writing about working class America and its struggle to find identity in a changing world. His book Empire Falls is an extraordinary book and I will likely add it to my list of books that I would have my daughter consider.
Russo talked about the difference between having a “job” and having “work.” He talked about having self-identity and being a part of a bigger community. He talked about the disillusionment of members of his family when Clinton lost the election.
He talked about a great many people within the context of his small town life.
I imagined Russo going back to his work as a writer in his country living, fully cognizant of the situation at hand, but fully aware that his next indicated step in life is not necessarily guided by other people’s decisions, but by his own.
Sometimes I wish for that sage perspective – to have the understanding of the forces at work in the world that seek power and the various individuals who labor in the small details and are often victimized.
Other times I cling to the idea the ignorance is bliss.
And then I talk to imaginary friends who all agree with me.
And then I think about Tom Bombadil – you know the most powerful character in The Lord of the Rings trilogy who never really got any attention in the movies but kicked ass in that middle-earthly, transcendental way.
Maybe, you’re asking, “Who the hell is Tom Bombadil?” or “How the hell does one go straight into The Lord of the Rings from the presidential election of 2016?”
I will answer the second question first. I can relate all things to TLOTR. It’s easy. Allegorical symbolism is pliable enough for all comparisons to life. It’s like duct-tape – it sticks to anything. Good versus evil. The lure of power. The use of armies to wage war (cultural or real). Egos. Jewelry. Large eyes. Spiders. Men with beards.
Now to the first question. Well, “Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow, Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow. None have ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master: His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster” according to J.R.R.R.R.R. Tolkien in the first book of the trilogy.
Tom was a master of his domain – ever-giving, ever-vigilant, ever-full of song, ever-eccentric. And he was not corrupt. He was that character whom the darkness of Mordor could not overtake. The ring of power that is central to the trilogy story had no effect on him.
Tom just was himself. The outside world did not define him. And he helped people. When Frodo and the gang are unsuspectingly on their way to eventually meet Aragorn, Tom helps them for a couple of days and even gives them a way of summoning him if they get in trouble while still in his domain.
“Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo! By water, wood and hill, by reed and willow, By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us! Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!”
And BOOM! He was there to save the day.
Now, we may need him here in our country. Last night thousands of people protested in 25+ cities against the election of Donald Trump. California has a growing movement for secession from the US called #Calexit. Students are walking out of classrooms to protest the election of Trump. Immigration sites in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are crashing from so much traffic.
We need ole Tom Bombadil to come and sing the nastiness away. We need ole Tom to remind us that there are places where the greed for power does not rule. We need ole Tom Bombadil to keep the orcs of negativity away.
“Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! My darling!” I can hear him sing.
Then everything will be fine again or at least wrong in a manageable way. But like Frodo, we have a heavy burden and with that comes a great quest. We have that with any new presidential election winner.
I don’t think Donald Trump is the enemy. He got elected fair and square according to the archaic electoral system. And while there are many people who chose to speak out by not voting, we probably need to look at ourselves a lot more seriously and see how the problems we think we see today are actually symptoms of much bigger maladies that have been incubating for decades.
Those maladies are our rings of power that we wear around our necks. They must be destroyed. And we can only do that when we recognize them and do something about them.
And ole Tom can help us when we run into trouble. Or simply remind us that what we fear the most could actually be our reflections in the mirror and the inability to love others the way that we should.
Of course, I could be wrong, but if I see a man in a blue jacket and yellow boots, I might just make sure to be nice to him and let him sing away.
Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow,
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master:
His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.