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I recently came across the book "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" and was wondering if this can be seen as official canon. To my knowledge, after the death of J.R.R. Tolkien, his son Christopher edited and published all his works. This book is edited by different people however. Hence the confusion.

Can I add this book to my Tolkien collection?

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    If you get that copy, it'll spice up your collection. I've not had the time or funds to get it, but I look forward to when I do because I love the artwork of Pauline Baynes and she did a great job on the cover. All of the stuff "written by J.R.R. Tolkien" is part of his legendarium, although there isn't really an official "canon" per se. – Edlothiad Sep 25 '17 at 10:39
  • On a second note, Hammond and Scull edited the "LotR companion" and are considered some of the top Tolkien scholars. – Edlothiad Sep 25 '17 at 10:59
  • @Edlothiad: I think Pauline Baynes is not quite as good a fit to Tolkien as she is to Narnia (my feelings for which were, I have come to realise, in great part formed by her illustrations); she seems not quite earthy enough for Middle Earth. (Unlike Firiel, who was born earth’ daughter.) – PJTraill Sep 25 '17 at 12:55
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    Seeing as Adventures of Tom Bombadil was actually finished and published by Tolkien himself, many consider it to be higher canon than things like the Silmarillion. – ibid Sep 25 '17 at 14:01
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The Adventures of Tom Bombadil was written by Tolkien and published while he was still alive, and it is considered part of his Legendarium.
In universe, it is presented as a translation of some parts of the Red Book of Westmarch, the book where Bilbo and Frodo collected their writings.

It is a collection of short poems, mainly unrelated, rather than a real coherent prose narrative, so you can find it a bit different from other Tolkien writings, but it gives some background to Middle-earth.
It could be considered a florilegium of fairy tales and legends known throughout Middle-earth, especially being a part of Hobbit folklore, but there is nothing that can lead to think that it could be something like an "unofficial apocrypha".

About your question

Can I add this book to my Tolkien collection?

Well, this is really up to you; you can read and enjoy books regardless of their supposed "canonicity", it really depends on what you want to read and own.


Keep in mind that when talking about Tolkien, there is not such thing like an official canon with the same meaning used by modern so-called franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek, and so on, that also have many unofficial material produced by people other than the original creators.
Tolkien (and his heirs, but for different reasons) was extremely protective about his works, and everything that was written about Middle-earth comes from himself, there are no recognized "fan" writings with different level of "canonicity"; more or less whatever he wrote was part of his Legendarium; for what concerned him and his heirs, basically every derivative work that is not explicitly authorized (like the movies) is non existent.
Tolkien works are better classified as texts that are not equally finished and without a homogeneous status of their definitive versions, rather than being official or canonical.
You can get additional insights from this and this questions.

  • But perhaps the questioner or others want to known to what extent one can use The Adventures of Tom Bombadil to answer questions about Middle Earth as Tolkien intended it — are you able to shed light on that? Of course the nature of the poems as fairly light verse of unclassified status means one cannot expect much evidence anyway. (You are of course quite right about “Can I add …”; I also have the LP of him reading it, and find The Sea Bell striking.) – PJTraill Sep 25 '17 at 12:39
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    Like I said the content is made of small works of poetry, they seem written mostly for children, and can be considered part of Hobbit folklore rather than, let's say, elvish scholarship; other than that, I can't tell to what extent one should consider them reliable in regard of actual Middle-earth history; Tolkien intended them to be part of the Legendarium, but he had not a "reliability gauge" that he used to label his texts. One of the poems talks about the Oliphaunt that we also see on LotR, other about Fastitocalon and Mewlips that are only mentioned here. You make your own guesses. – Sekhemty Sep 25 '17 at 12:53
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    You have to also keep in mind that what Tolkien thought about Middle Earth changed with time. – Edheldil Sep 25 '17 at 17:03
  • "Tolkien (and his heirs, but for different reasons) was extremely protective about his works, and everything that was written about Middle-earth comes from himself" -- not necessarily true. Tolkien's work with Donald Swann shows, and he wrote himself, that Middle-earth was meant to be a kind of "faerie playground" for other artists. Tolkien himself didn't explicitly exclude writers -- only his trustees have done so, posthumously. – Rich Sep 25 '17 at 17:52
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    @Rich could you provide some sources or references? I'm interested about this – Sekhemty Sep 25 '17 at 17:54
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Yes

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is a collection of poetry written by J. R. R. Tolkien and published in 1962 [well before his death]. The book contains 16 poems, two of which feature Tom Bombadil, a character encountered by Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring. The rest of the poems are an assortment of bestiary verse and fairy tale rhyme. Three of the poems appear in The Lord of the Rings as well. The book is part of Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium.

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