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DISCUSSING TOM BOMBADIL IN A LETTER, Tolkien explains: "As a story, I think it is good that there should be a lot of things unexplained (especially if an explanation already exists) [...] even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally)" (Letters 174). Certainly, if Bombadil is an enigma, Goldberry is more so. Goldberry is not, in Steuard Jensen's terms, "a relatively simple character"; she is steeped in mystery and power (Jensen 11). While Tolkien provides some facts about Goldberry in his letters, they do little to explain who she is or her purpose in The Lord of the Rings (LotR). For instance, Tolkien tells us Goldberry, as the Riverwoman's daughter, "represents the actual seasonal changes" in the "real riverlands of autumn" (Letters 272). Surely, Tolkien, who strongly resists allegory and is intent upon giving intense and calculated meaning and relationships to his characters, does not mean readers to believe Goldberry is a simple character, nor does he ever imply that she is. After the aforementioned quote, "there should be a lot of things unexplained," Tolkien follows with a hint: "especially if an explanation already exists" (Letters 174). Therefore, the scholars who lightly dismiss Goldberry by conflating her with Bombadil or simply mentioning her in passing are overlooking another well conceived piece of the puzzle that is Tolkien's intricate mythology. Despite what the scholarship that discusses Goldberry seems to suggest, Tolkien does not assert that she and Bombadil are the same kind of being, as linked as they may be otherwise. Therefore, this paper will discuss and examine Goldberry's character, nature, and purpose to uncover "an explanation [that] already exists" within Tolkien's legendarium. Tolkien's legendarium was often inspired by myth and legend, it is as if he never read a story he did not yearn to re-write. (1) Goldberry, like all of Tolkien's characters, shares aspects with her predecessors from ancient myth. Many scholars, like Ruth Noel, have noted Goldberry's nymph-like qualities. Goldberry is "the River-woman's daughter," which in myth and legend typically denotes a being's status as a nymph or nature spirit. In The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Goldberry pulls Bombadil into the water by his beard and then teases him, exhibiting her playfulness and wiles, traits often attributed to nymphs, particularly water nymphs or nixies. Noel traces Goldberry to the Undine, the Lorelei, and the Siren, citing her attempts to lure Bombadil down to her mother's house in "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" (Noel 129). Certainly, the Goldberry of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil appears to be more dangerous than the Goldberry of Lord of the Rings. After Goldberry pulls Bombadil into the water and attempts to seduce him to the watery depths, Bombadil charges Goldberry to "Go down!/Sleep again where the pools are shady/far below the willow roots" (Adventures 197). Goldberry is then likened to the other perilous beings that try to capture Bombadil, such as Old Man Willow, the Badger-folk, and the Barrow-wight; Bombadil tells the Barrow-wight to go to lie down "like Old Man Willow, /like young Goldberry, and Badger-folk in the burrow" (Adventures 201). Noel also notes that Goldberry's behavior and appearance resemble that of a water nymph even after she becomes married to Bombadil. At the end of "The Adventures," we find Goldberry sitting in Tom's house as she "combed her tresses yellow," which Noel asserts is "not the simple domestic action it seems, but the characteristic pose of all types of watersprites" (Adventures 202, Noel 129). In Lord of the Rings, the descriptions of Goldberry often recall water; when the hobbits first meet Goldberry she appears to be "enthroned in the midst of a pool," her footsteps are described as "like a stream falling," and her singing opens up "pools and waters" in the minds of the hobbits (LotR I:7, 121, 123, 130). Goldberry's attir

Professional & Technical
22 September
Mythopoeic Society

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