Interpretative Dance – Chapter 7, Act 4, Strip 35

The very mysterious figure that our party has met under such mysterious circumstances turns out to be very, very mysterious, indeed. So mysterious, in fact, that he’s largely a mystery even to himself.

But then, J.R.R. Tolkien, the creator of Tom Bombadil, the figure of which Dum Bulb-a-Dim is a cheap rip-off, has said that he’s supposed to be mysterious, since stories of this type require characters that are truly mysterious.

This hasn’t stopped anybody from speculating far and wide on Tom Bombadil’s nature, of course, and a sizable tome could be filled with just the well-founded and well-thought-out speculation…let alone the rest. Fortunately for our party, the Professor has contributed to said tome, and also taught from it in his advanced literature classes, and faint memories of that still linger in the Barbessor’s brain…waiting for the day when they would finally come in useful in some way, as they have been doing futilely for countless decades.

But now the Professor can – metaphorically as well as literally – shine with his knowledge. To summarize the gist of his long diatribe: nobody really knows, but the interpretations overwhelmingly skew toward the character being truly benevolent. Those that interpret him as a concealed force of evil are a small minority.

Convinced by those numbers, Dum Bulb-a-Dim decides to be generous and helpful to the party, instead of holding them to task for the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, or anything of that sort. And the Barbessor will probably be feeling a profound, yet for him somewhat inexplicable, satisfaction at having found some use for that particular trove of knowledge.

As Dum points out, Tom hardly ever makes it into any of the adaptations. While Tolkien considered him an important character – potentially even the most important one, most of his adapters seem to consider him a distraction. One could make an argument that introducing a super-powerful character, only to have him do nothing as events unfold, breaks several laws of story-telling…on the other hand, Tolkien seemed to consider it important to show that there are major forces that are aloof of the events he describes, and ignoring that might make for a tighter narrative, but…well, it still means ignoring that.

Anyway, more on Mon…uh, Thursday

2 Replies to “Interpretative Dance – Chapter 7, Act 4, Strip 35”

  1. Some might have considered Tom Bombadil a big lipped alligator moment if he was portrayed in the movies. You’d have a 5-10 minute segment where a singing, crazy man swats a tree to free the heroes; then just goes off on his merry way and is never, ever referenced again.

    1. Yeah, that’s exactly the dilemma. Writing a script for a movie, you have to take the audience’s limited span of attention into account. Introducing a character in such an obvious from, pointing out how insanely powerful he is, and then just dropping him as completely irrelevant to the ongoing plot would count as a classic example of bad script writing. You’d distract the audience from more important information for no gain.
      On the other hand, you have the original author’s explicit statement that he felt the character’s presence to be important, precisely because he plays no further part in the plot, essentially providing a wider context. It might be bad film-making, but just completely dismissing it on those grounds seems a bit too callous toward the original work and its creator.

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