Tom Bombadil among others played a significant part in the books but were left out in the movies. Was this just to save time?

  • 14
  • 28
    Um, you might need a better definition of "significant" then. ;-)
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Sep 18, 2016 at 13:21
  • 1
    @NapoleonWilson I understand what you mean, he's not central to the plot and can be taken out without the story falling apart. He is however an iconic character who is even know by people who have not read the books. Sep 19, 2016 at 15:01
  • 6
    @OceanKnight I doubt he's known by anyone who hasn't read the books. He's a pure LotR thing whose significance doesn't go beyond being a mystery and LotR fan favourite because of that mystery. Which is why only LotR fans would ever complain about his absence and everyone else couldn't care less. But that just as a general remark. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad question at all.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Sep 19, 2016 at 15:05
  • @NapoleonWilson He is definitely better known by fans of the books for obvious reason. However a friend of mine who has never read the books (no patience) and is into fantasy still knows of Tom Bombadil. Sep 19, 2016 at 15:28

4 Answers 4


Tom Bombadil as a creation precedes much of the LOTR mythology. He appears first in a 1934 poem "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil", where he is a "'merry fellow' living in a small valley close to the Withywindle river, where he wanders and explores nature at his leisure." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Bombadil).

Bombadil does not really fit into the LOTR mythology, at least, there is very much discussion where to place him exactly: http://tolkien.slimy.com/essays/Bombadil.html So he very often gets left out in adaptions, as he doesn't really fit in all that well.

More to the point, the director Peter Jackson is quoted as saying that, while he first had plans to use Tom Bombadil, he left him out because he didn't advance the action: "the Bombadil sequence has so little to do with Sauron or the Ring, it is difficult to justify the screen time. It simply doesn't give us any vital new information." http://www.theonering.com/complete-list-of-film-changes/the-fellowship-of-the-ring

  • 35
    And if Peter Jackson says something can't justify the screen time...
    – Joe
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:05
  • 6
    @Joe To be fair he did leave out the entire return to the Shire which most fans argue was worth the screen time moreso than, say, an hour of Frodo and Sam bumbling around in a swamp, or six consecutive ending scenes in RoTK...
    – TylerH
    Sep 19, 2016 at 19:07
  • 3
    "it is difficult to justify the screen time", but we're gonna make a movie trilogy out of this other 330 pages long Tolkien book.....
    – Kevin
    Sep 20, 2016 at 9:43
  • 1
    @Kevin Again to be fair PJ only wanted to make it two movies but the studio said it was three or none.
    – TylerH
    Dec 28, 2018 at 21:38

He didn't play a signficant part in the books. In terms of plot pacing, his role was to provide a little bit of down-time between the tense times of Old Forest, and the Barrow-downs .

Tolkien's style of plot pacing was that after the characters go through some trial, there should be a relaxation period before the next trial. (This is very common in film and print).

So in the book, we had:

  • Crickhollow (relaxed)
  • Old Man Willow (tense)
  • Tom Bombadil (relaxed)
  • Barrow-wight (tense)
  • Tom rescues Frodo, and segue to Bree (relaxed)

The first film actually uses similar pacing but skips one cycle:

  • Meeting Pippin and Merry (relaxed)
  • Black Rider chase scene (tense)
  • Reaching the ferry, segue to Bree (relaxed)

To keep with this pacing pattern, if the film included Tom Bombadil after the Black Rider Chase, it would have also meant including another scary scene such as the Barrow-downs. From this point it is speculation; but the scriptwriters must have felt that adding these two scenes would either add too much running time, or take the viewer too far away from the main narrative.

  • The Barrow-downs scene should really have been included. Or perhaps some kind of barrow or room found at Weathertop to give the Hobbits their weapons, rather than Strider simply dropping them in a pile. Sep 19, 2016 at 21:32

Screenwriter Phillipa Boyens explains in the extended edition documentary that the central message they wanted to emphasise with respect to the one ring is that no-one (not Gandalf, Aragorn, Elrond - not even Frodo at the end) can resist the lure of the ring. Then, along comes Bombadil and it has absolutely no effect on him. Including the Bombadil sequence undermines that message about the ring.

  • 7
    It also serves as a distraction; now viewers are wondering who this Bombadil fellow is and when he will swoop in to save the day. Moviegoers are very conditioned to expect Great Things from Unique People such as someone who is the only character not affected by the Great Evil.
    – TylerH
    Sep 19, 2016 at 19:10
  • 3
    @TylerH Chekhov's merry immortal
    – M.M
    Sep 19, 2016 at 21:35

I will add my bit.

Tom Bombadil adds excitement and appears significant because the book through this point has been dreadfully boring. That may be too harsh, but the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring moves along at a glacial pace. The two almost-encounters with the Nazgul are really the only action and are very brief. Old Man Willow is the first real extended action in which the hobbits fare poorly and only Tom showing up and rescuing them saves the day. The scene in the barrow downs is also quite exciting and the hobbits once again fare very poorly and only Tom showing up and rescuing them saves the day.

So the first two episodes of excitement and suspense are both entangled with this great and mysterious figure, and comes to mind prominently in the minds of readers.

In the narrative of the overall story, however, Tom really isn't that significant in moving the story along.

  • 1
    Are the down-votes because I dare speak negatively of the holy trilogy, or something more constructive? I actually love the books and have read them multiple times and will probably start them again soon. But it is always a slog to get to Bree. Sep 23, 2016 at 13:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .