The One Ring

The Most Bizarre Lord of the Rings Character Is Finally Making His Onscreen Debut

His boots are yellow!

Tom Bombadil as depicted in Magic:The Gathering
Wizards of the Coast

The most powerful character in all of Middle-earth has never actually made it on screen in any Lord of the Rings or Hobbit adaptation, ever. Until now. In The Rings of Power Season 2, Tom Bombadil — J.R.R. Tolkien’s most mysterious and ridiculous character — will finally make his onscreen debut. Here’s why Tom Bombadil has never appeared in an English-speaking Lord of the Rings movie or TV series before, and why his appearance in The Rings of Power could answer some very old questions about this magical being.

As revealed by Vanity Fair, Rory Kinnear is playing Tom Bombadil in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’s second season, which will hit Amazon Prime Video on August 29, 2024. Vanity Fair shared an exclusive image of Kinnear in character, talking to the Stranger (Daniel Weyman). For English-speaking audiences, this is the first time we’ve seen an actor play Tom Bombadil, ever. In fact, the only other live-action Tom Bombadil actors are extremely obscure.

In 1991 Soviet actor Sergie Parhsin played Tom in a made-for-TV series (titled “Khraniteli”) that was only broadcast once by Leningrad Television. Other than that, Tom was depicted on a card that was part of the Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, published by Decipher Inc. in 2001. The actor who posed as that version of Tom is unknown, though the image was co-created by Wētā Workshop, the VFX company behind Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Other than that, most images of Tom Bombadil have been created by illustrators, most notably by Tim Hildebrandt, and most recently for Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering — Universes Beyond card set focused on Lord of the Rings.

But, on screen, in all major versions of Lord of the Rings, Tom Bombadil has been conspicuously absent. This is mostly because Tom is both very formidable and also, not super relevant to the plot of Fellowship of the Ring. But his appearance in The Rings of Power is a big deal, not just because we’ve never seen an elusive Tolkien character on screen before, but because Tom is low-key the oldest and most powerful character in the entire saga.

The mystery of Tom Bombadil

Is Tom Bombadil a living god or a weird gag? Well, yes and no.

Tolkien Estate

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo and the gang encounter Tom Bombadil and his wife, Goldberry, almost entirely by accident. Bombadil is a jolly, flippant character, who is shrouded in deeper magic from before the dawn of Middle-earth. In fact, the legend of Bombadil suggests he is older than Middle-earth, and even older than some of the oldest elves.

However, nothing in the actual Lord of the Rings trilogy fully reveals or explains what Tom’s whole deal is. Strangely, he is able to wear the One Ring, without its dark power contaminating him. This suggests he is beyond the problems of Middle-earth, and is either wiser or more powerful than any of the other characters combined.

The character of Tom Bombadil also pre-dates Tolkien's publishing of The Hobbit. While the first edition of The Hobbit hit in 1937, Tolkien published a poem called “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil” in 1934, exactly 20 years before The Fellowship of the Rings came out. This whimsical poem implies that Tom and Goldberry are forest spirits, more in the vein of sprites or “elemental” creatures. (Some have even suggested that Tom Bombadil has some character DNA in common with Totoro from Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro.)

This is the only guy who knows the deepest secrets of Tom Bombadil, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Haywood Magee/Picture Post/Getty Images

But because The Rings of Power is set thousands of years before The Hobbit or The Fellowship of the Ring, it could, in theory, reveal new details about how Tom fits into the overall history of Middle-earth. Speaking to Vanity Fair, J.D. Payne, co-showrunner of The Rings of Power said: “[Tom] can be a force for good, but he is challenging to integrate dramatically in that he doesn't have an agenda. He’s not driving forward and pushing people to arrive at any particular end.”

Again, everything we know about Tom suggests that he isn’t from the forest originally, and comes from somewhere else. It seems unlikely that Rings of Power will give us the full origin story of Tom Bombadil, simply because Rory Kinnear looks like a fully-formed version of Tom, very close to how we’ve all imagined him, even if his boots are quite yellow enough. Instead, his role in The Rings of Power is still shrouded in mystery. Is he on the side of the light? Or does he simply not care? According to Payne, this was a central question: “What does he care about? And how can that be a doorway to drama? We know he cares about the natural world. And we know he is a helper. He’s not going to push you, but he will help you.”

So, to be sure, many Tom Bombadil questions will be answered in Rings of Power Season 2. But not all of them. Because if we knew everything about Tom Bombadil, would he even be Tom Bombadil?

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 2 debuts on Amazon Prime Video on August 29.

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