By Astrid Tuttle Winegar
I know it’s been awhile, but I’m finally going to continue our foodie’s journey through Middle-earth. Our four hobbits now arrive at the Old Forest, a menacing place by well-deserved reputation. After almost becoming engulfed inside some willow trees, the hobbits’ cries for help are answered by a rather musical character named Tom Bombadil. Bombadil obviously has influence over these willows and they release the hobbits. He is kind enough to invite them all to his home to enjoy food and conversation. His wife is Goldberry, the “fair River-daughter.” She also is kind and musical. They lay out a spread that is similar to Beorn’s, though the Bombadils display more variety.
Like Beorn, Tom Bombadil and Goldberry could certainly qualify for the adjective “mysterious,” since the reader is never actually sure who they actually are. Regardless, they are both beneficent characters who provide the hobbits much comfort. Tom describes himself as “Eldest, that’s what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn.” I would assume Goldberry is probably old as well, but her age is politely unmentioned. The most mysterious aspect of Tom happens when he puts on Frodo’s Ring—don’t worry, Frodo gave permission (which surprised Frodo…)—and Tom did not disappear! Later, when Frodo puts on the Ring as a test, Tom knows he is wearing it. He asks Frodo to remove it, saying his “hand’s more fair without it.” So Tom is ancient and not subject to the magical powers of the Ring, yet he has an aura of relative youth about him. In the academic world, Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are often the subject of articles trying to pin down exactly what they represent. I’m going to conclude they are nature spirits and leave it to others to determine alternative interpretations.
Peter Jackson completely omits any visual references to Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight of Tolkien’s text, much to the chagrin of many fans. From a filmmaker’s perspective, it would have been easy simply to cut this entire vignette out of what was already a too-long film (too-long only to the studio; perhaps not to fans). I wonder if part of this omission also was purely a visual concern. Tom “was all in clean blue, blue as rain-washed forget-me-nots, and he had green stockings.” You couldn’t really get away with subduing this outfit, could you? I’m reminded of the film X-Men, when the character of Cyclops jokes about Wolverine wearing yellow spandex and implies that outfit would probably look ridiculous. Would Tom have simply looked ridiculous? Even filming the character of Goldberry would be problematic and perhaps she would be subject to becoming overly sexualized.
To be honest, my least favorite chapter happens to be Chapter Seven, “In the House of Tom Bombadil,” so I really did not miss the characters (though Chapters Six and Eight would have been striking scenes in the movies). However, I did create some really tasty recipes for Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, so maybe you can forgive me for admitting that I just don’t love Tom. Maybe it’s the songs.
“Goldberry’s Cream Buns with Honey Almond Butter”
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup currants (or other small dried fruits, such as raisins)
½ cup soft salted butter
1 cup half-and-half
Honey Almond Butter, recipe below
Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly coat 12 regular-sized muffin cups with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Add the currants and combine. Add the butter and combine. Finally, add the half-and-half and mix until fully incorporated. Divide between the prepared cups. Bake 15-17 minutes. Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with Honey Almond Butter. Store covered at room temperature. Makes 12.
Honey Almond Butter
1 ounce sliced almonds
½ cup soft salted butter
2 tablespoons honey
Toast the almonds lightly, then grind them in a small food processor after they have cooled for at least 30 minutes. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate leftovers; bring to room temperature again for spreading. Makes about ⅔ cup.
This is known as “Sweet Sylvan Buns with Honey Almond Butter” in my cookbook.
Astrid Tuttle Winegar is the author of “Cooking for Halflings & Monsters: 111 Comfy, Cozy Recipes for Fantasy-Loving Souls” (in paperback and epub formats from your favorite online booksellers). She is mostly telling a culinary Middle-earth story here on Legendarium, with occasional stops in Narnia. Astrid has loved C. S. Lewis since childhood, J. R. R. Tolkien since middle and high school, all Star things, both Trek and Wars, all things Whedon, and many other things besides. She lives in the enchanted city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband. Visit her website for more information: Astrid Tuttle Winegar | Cooking for Halflings & Monsters. Staff Reporter.