Is there any reason, that we know of, that Tom Bombadil was left out of the films by Peter Jackson?

  • 3
  • 63
    Back when I read Lord of the Rings I wondered why Tom Bombadil wasn't left out of the book.
    – user14111
    Apr 3 '16 at 23:18
  • 11
    @user14111 The old forest was scary as a child, I am glad we had a moment of respite from the fear of the trees and nazgul.
    – user45549
    Apr 4 '16 at 1:12
  • 3
    Aside from PJ's answer about Tom not relating much to the ring, I think it's worth mentioning that people unfamiliar with LOTR in general would be confused by this character, while people who are familiar might be let down by how Tom is presented in the film. It would be hard to capture such a mysterious/mythical character like that, imo.
    – Eckert
    Apr 4 '16 at 19:51
  • 4
    Because Tom Bombadil is too awesome to be allowed to be in movies. Jan 27 '17 at 18:41

Time, pacing, and narrative focus

Quoting from a 2000-ish interview with Ain't it Cool News1:

"Also, will you be including Tom Bombadil? The Ralph Bakshi production cut it out, as did the BBC radio drama.”

PJ: At this point in time Bombadil is out. The main reason is not just time or pace, but one of simple narrative focus ... 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. A very simplest rule of thumb that I use in movie storytelling is to try and further the story with each new scene.

I'm flicking through our Fellowship script ... it is 138 pages long. The Hobbits leave Hobbiton on page 30, and arrive at Rivendell on page 63. Even that 33 pages on the road feels a little long and will probably get trimmed in our next draft.

Basically, Jackson didn't think that Bombadil advanced the story enough to justify spending another 30 minutes to an hour on him, which is a fair assessment. However, some part of the Bombadil chapters did survive, though they were inserted much later in the story and removed from the theatrical edition; a scene clearly based on the encounter with Old Man Willow was filmed and included in the extended edition of The Two Towers, though with Frodo and Sam obviously absent and Treebeard doing the rescuing:

Part of Treebeard's dialogue here is taken directly from Bombadil in the original scene (emphasis mine):

Setting down his lilies carefully on the grass, he ran to the tree. There he saw Merry’s feet still sticking out - the rest had already been drawn further inside. Tom put his mouth to the crack and began singing into it in a low voice. They could not catch the words, but evidently Merry was aroused. His legs began to kick. Tom sprang away, and breaking off a hanging branch smote the side of the willow with it. 'You let them out again, Old Man Willow!' he said. 'What be you a-thinking of? You should not be waking. Eat earth! Dig deep! Drink water! Go to sleep! Bombadil is talking!' He then seized Merry's feet and drew him out of the suddenly widening crack.

The Fellowship of the Ring Book I Chapter 6: "The Old Forest"

Interestingly, Bombadil was included in the film-licensed trading card game:

enter image description here

But don't take this to mean that there's some secret Tom Bombadil footage lying around; according to an article posted on the website of Decipher (who produced the game), Bombadil is an original image and character design created by Weta Workshop, specifically for the trading card game:

Decipher announced today that Weta Workshop, the Academy Award-winning special effects studio responsible for creating many props and special effects used in New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings films, will create unique photographic images that will be featured on cards in The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game.


The first four cards to feature Weta's original images are bonus premium cards from The Countdown Collection: Tom Bombadil, Goldberry, Radagast2, and Glorfindel.

1 With much gratitude to the Wayback Machine

2 Not played by Sylvester McCoy, alarmingly prescient as that would have been

  • 11
    A very simplest rule of thumb that I use in movie storytelling is to try and further the story with each new scene. This is a pretty central concept to screenwriting and to narrative fiction in general. All scenes in a work of fiction further the story, even if it does not appear to be the case at the time (eg establishing something that improves our understanding of a later scene). Indeed, the Tom Bombadil scenes in the books do further the story in that they assist the hero's journey and prove useful for future scenes. It's more that they can be removed and the story made to work. Apr 4 '16 at 2:59
  • 17
    In the books, Bombadil rescues the hobbits, first from Old Man Willow, then from the barrow-wights; but those adversaries have nothing to do with the main conflict with Sauron. I think JRRT is intentionally showing that Middle-Earth contains both dangers and wonders which are not related to Frodo's quest. This kind of diversion is OK in a trilogy of novels, not so good in a film. (Merry also got the sword he later used against the Witch-King from the wights; instead of taking 20 minutes to establish this, Jackson takes 3 seconds for Aragorn to give the hobbits some swords.) Apr 4 '16 at 8:58
  • 10
    @RoyalCanadianBandit A pedantic correction: The LOTR is not a trilogy of novels; it is "a single novel, consisting of six books plus appendices, sometimes published in three volumes." (Quoted text from the very first sentence of the introductory note in the 2004 50th anniversary edition.)
    – daiscog
    Apr 4 '16 at 9:36
  • 2
    I'm not sure how prescient it would have been for them to cast Sylvester McCoy as Radagast. Much as I might like to see him in a live-action Hobbit... it's too bad such a movie never, ever got made. at least we have the animated version?
    – Ber
    Apr 4 '16 at 12:37
  • 3
    +1 but I would add that some of Bombadil's lines were spoken by Treebeard. See this thread Apr 4 '16 at 18:44

According to an unsourced interview found on Yahoo! Answers:

Originally Bombadil was going to be in the movie, but had to be cut out. Peter Jackson actually explained this on a televised interview not long after the release of the Fellowship of the Ring. I can't for the life of me find a transcript, but I can summarize.

Interviewer: Were there many scenes from the books that fans were looking forward to in the movie that were cut from the cinematic version?

Jackson: Yes. Unfortunately due to time constraints and budget limitations we had to take out a lot of great material written by Tolkien. Some of these scenes we are actually planning to release in Extended volumes, with the bonus footage we shot but couldn't use in the theatrical releases.

Interviewer: One of the things a lot of fans missed was a character named Tom Bombadil. Is it because of time constraints that you had to remove him?

Jackson: Actually, in our original drafts of the script we had included Tom. Our major concern though, that wouldn't seem to go away, was how to bring him in. In the book he saves the hobbits from a tree that tries to eat them...

Interviewer: [Chuckles] Really?

Jackson: Yeah, he got them out of a couple of situations actually... But at the time we knew we couldn't include this scene. It would completely take away from the momentum we'd been building during the whole first block of the movie. We just couldn't find a quick and convenient way to bring him into the story, so at the last moment the studio asked us to scrap the idea.

Interviewer: Too bad.

Jackson: Yeah. But, who knows. Maybe we'll put him in a special edition some day.

  • 2
    You'd think it would be awfully difficult to "put him in a special edition some day", if no footage of him was ever shot, wouldn't you?
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 4 '16 at 3:22
  • 1
    @T.E.D. - They talked somewhere about hearing him singing off screen.
    – ibid
    Apr 4 '16 at 3:23
  • 3
    Momentum is not a word I would use to describe Fellowship, its the one that seemed to drag on for me.
    – MichaelF
    Apr 4 '16 at 9:15
  • 13
    Bloody hell could they not have gotten an interviewer with at least SOME understanding of the source material???
    – user001
    Apr 4 '16 at 10:35
  • 2
    @T.E.D. In the interview cited in my answer, Jackson toys with the idea of, at some point in the future, assembling the cast to shoot new material for a "Special Edition." Considering his well-documented Middle-Earth fatigue, I wouldn't hold my breath for this to happen; but that's one way it could be possible Apr 4 '16 at 18:12

While his section can easily be excised without disrupting the main story, I have to assume that any director thinking of taking on LOTR would be running scared at how to do him in a way that didn't end up being comical. A character that breaks into song and silliness like Tom does would really dent the seriousness of the ring quest. If you drop the singing then it could work, but fans of the book would be on your back about it.

  • 1
    Indeed, sensibilities change, and a contemporary audience's response to Tom would probably be rather reminiscent of what Tolkien described as the “orc-minded”. However, I disagree that PJ omitted Tom because PJ honestly assessed his ability to portray such a character; a wise director–writer would've omitted, possibly, but a wiser one would've probably passed the reins on to another. Jul 26 '17 at 5:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.