Having read The Lord of the Rings a number of times I was always curious about the significance of Goldberry. I have not managed to find any reference to her origins within the other Middle-earth books that I have read.

Was she just a mortal woman, is there some deeper significance to why she ends up living with Bombadil, or is she just a token female character designed to add a little balance to the overwhelmingly male character count?

  • 20
    The whole Bombadil scene is hard to square with the rest of the world of LOTR. Even other characters are puzzled by him, can't fit him into the otherwise-seamless cosmology. I wouldn't try too hard to make sense of anything that goes on around him.
    – Dan Ray
    Jul 24, 2012 at 17:08
  • 4
    As a child, I always thought (hoped, really) that she was an Entwife. Jul 24, 2012 at 22:38
  • 2
    @DanRay As Goldberry herself said, Bombadil just is. May 14, 2017 at 17:07
  • @AdeleC I always thought Old Man Willow a good candidate for being an entwife. Feb 6, 2023 at 10:48

6 Answers 6


I've always taken from the relevant passages that she was not human. Specifically, that she was some form of water or river nymph, as both she described herself as the daughter of the River:

'Come dear folk!' she said, taking Frodo by the hand. 'Laugh and be merry! I am Goldberry, daughter of the River.'

as did Tom:

By that pool long ago I found the River-daughter,

fair young Goldberry sitting in the rushes.

(Both quotes from the Fellowship of the Ring.)

Letter 210 has a brief comment on Goldberry and her significance, which reinforces the fact that it's not likely that she is human:

Goldberry represents the actual seasonal changes in such lands.

It seems to stretch belief that a human would represent seasonal changes when we do not see such conceptual representation by humans anywhere else.

  • 13
    oh come on, Aragon represents the concept of Chuck Norris in MiddleEarth
    – zipquincy
    Oct 4, 2013 at 17:37
  • 9
    This answer settles it. "By that pool long ago I found the River-daughter". Tom Bombadil's idea of "long ago" must be, well, really long ago. Perhaps it is these words that need to be in bold.
    – void_ptr
    Oct 7, 2016 at 21:48

The Wikipedia article states that her origins/race is uncertain, but it does have this to say about her:

Although Goldberry's origins are uncertain, Bombadil clearly identifies her as having been found by him in the river and her title "River-woman's daughter" strongly suggests that she is not a mortal human being, but rather a spirit of the river Withywindle in the Old Forest of Tolkien's Middle-earth.

  • 2
    I was just thinking about this when I read the question. Although the quotation is correct, I would disagree with Wikipedia's analysis. Tom Bombadil is but a stone's throw from Bree and other human settlements, and she could perhaps have been born there and lost or sent away. It is important to note that no date is given of when she was found, it could be anywhere from 18 to 180 years ago, and we cannot know. She may be a spirit of the river, or a simple mortal girl raised by Bombadil.
    – JMD
    Jul 24, 2012 at 21:09
  • 12
    @JMD: If Tom Bombadil, who is as old as Middle-Earth itself, uses the words "long ago" (as per dlanod's quote) to specify the time he met her, that very strongly suggests to me that it was a good deal more than 180 years ago. Oct 17, 2012 at 20:13
  • 4
    @MichaelBorgwardt: I would agree that he is indeed a very old creature; unfortunately we have no indication that Tom Bombadil experiences time faster then any of us, thus "long ago" could still be 18 years ago. Yes, 5000 years ago is also "long ago", and as a human I would use the same term for both. There is no reason Tom would not either.
    – JMD
    Oct 18, 2012 at 18:18

Frodo certainly reacts to her as something special:

He stood as he had at times stood enchanted by fair elven-voices; but the spell that was now laid upon him was different: less keen and lofty was the delight, but deeper and nearer to mortal heart; marvellous and yet not strange.

I'm prepared to call her the river daughter and be happy with that. There's no point trying to square Tom Bombadil with the rest of Middle-earth. He's a delightful enigma, and so is his wife.


According to Tolkien's Letter #210:

We are not in 'fairy-land', but in real river-lands in autumn. Goldberry represents the actual seasonal changes in such lands.

This fits with Tom calling her "River-daughter". So she's a spirit of nature, as is Tom Bombadil himself - at least Tolkien said so in one of his earlier letters written before LotR. Later, he seems to have favoured keeping Tom's nature a mystery.


Goldberry is a nature spirit, with one possible source given in the late essay "Of the Ents and the Eagles", which was taken up in the published Silmarillion, Chapter 2: "Of Aule and Yavanna":

Behold! When the Children awake, then the thought of Yavanna will awake also, and it will summon spirits from afar, and they will go among the kelvar and the olvar, and some will dwell therein...

(This is also a possible source for Bombadil).

  • There is also a theory that Goldberry is Yavanna herself just as Tom is Aule. Feb 6, 2023 at 18:14

There are many quotations that suggest she is not a mortal human being, but in fact a nature spirit or a Maia.

From The Adventures of Tom Bombadil:

"Go down! Sleep again where the pools are shady
far below willow-roots, little water-lady!"

She is clearly able to live IN the river, but also on land, suggesting that she is not completely human.

From The Lord of the Rings:

"But I see that you are an elf-friend; the light in your eyes and the ring in your voice tells it."

Here Goldberry recognises the goodness in Frodo, but makes an allusion to the one Ring, hearing its power working on Frodo as she speaks to him as she has not yet seen it. Her and Tom both seem to sense the ring and perhaps see the 'shadow' realm, meaning that they are more than simple humans living in an ANCIENT forest.

I think it unlikely that they simply humans. Her singing, for example, is described "as young and as ancient as spring". Personally, I believe that she and Tom are nature spirits, sent to act as protectors for the diminishing natural world. They live in 'The Old Forest' which many find an unpleasant place, which makes me believe that they have lived there since before corruption made the trees hateful, otherwise they would encounter many problems.

Furthermore, Goldberry's voice implies that she has lived close to the birth of the river, and has seen it through many seasons, giving her the appearance-and voice- of a youthful woman wise beyond her years, when she is in fact, immortal. She also states that Tom Bombadil 'Is', meaning that he just exists, and is tied to the land. As the world around us simply 'is' there, so is he, and he will only die when it 'is not'.

  • 8
    I am not sure that the word “ring” in your quote refers to a circular object.
    – Carsten S
    Aug 30, 2015 at 10:19
  • 2
    @Rachel To reinforce one of Rachel's points, in order to understand Tom one really needs to read the poem "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil," first published in Oxford Magazine in 1934. In a more modern volume you also get "Bombadil Goes Boating." They help to place G. and T.B. within the Ainulindalë categories, which is to say they don't fit because they predate it. That's how Tom was in Middle-earth first, with the Withywindle, Old Man Willow, and Farmer Maggot. G. and he were already published before the Eru-Ainu structure was conceived. Trying to shoehorn them in is asking for trouble.
    – Lesser son
    Oct 15, 2021 at 3:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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