Did he set the stage ahead of time so that Merry could use his Barrow dagger to break the spell that made the Witch King invulnerable to mortal men?

Tom went up to the mound, and looked through the treasures. Most of these he made into a pile that glistened and sparkled on the grass. He bade them lie there 'free to all finders, birds, beasts, Elves or Men, and all kindly creatures'; for so the spell of the mound should be broken and scattered and no Wight ever come back to it....

For each of the hobbits he chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and keen, of marvelous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and gold. They gleamed as he drew them from their black sheaths, wrought of some strange metal, light and strong, and set with many fiery stones. Whether by some virtue in these sheaths or because of the spell that lay on the mound, the blades seemed untouched by time, un-rusted, sharp, glittering in the sun.

'Old knives are long enough as swords for hobbit-people,' he said. 'Sharp blades are good to have, if Shire-folk go walking, east, south, or far away into dark and danger.' Then he told them that these blades were forged many long years ago by Men of Westernesse: they were foes of the Dark Lord, but they were overcome by the evil king of Carn Dûm in the Land of Angmar.

'Few now remember them,' Tom murmured, 'yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless.'

The hobbits did not understand his words, but as he spoke they had a vision as it were of a great expanse of years behind them, like a vast shadowy plain over which there strode shapes of Men, tall and grim with bright swords, and last came one with a star on his brow. Then the vision faded.... It was time to start again.... Their new weapons they hung on their leather belts under their jackets, feeling them very awkward, and wondering if they would be of any use. Fighting had not before occurred to any of them as one of the adventures in which their flight would land them.

http://www.henneth-annun.net/resources/events_view.cfm?evid=1098

This is a very interesting question. In the end, I do not think that Tom is intentionally arming the Hobbits against the Witch King.

From Tolkien's letters #144 (shamelessly stolen from this under-appreciated answer)

But if you have, as it were taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless. It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is a war.

Tom is an impartial observer. The quotes in the question reinforce this idea:

'Old knives are long enough as swords for hobbit-people,' he said. 'Sharp blades are good to have, if Shire-folk go walking, east, south, or far away into dark and danger.'

He's saying that it's a good idea to be armed and that these particular knives will work. There is no judgement; only observation.

'Few now remember them,' Tom murmured, 'yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless.'

Again, pure observation, albeit subtle foreshadowing to Aragorn who makes a similar statement.

One could argue that Tom knows the nature of the Black Riders following the hobbits, and he knows the nature of the weapons at hand. To requote:

...then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless.

Tom is so far removed/isolated from the outside world, it would not even occur to him that he could influence the outcome one way or another.

  • What prompted the question is the nature of Bombadil himself. Some have speculated that he is actually an avatar of Eru Ilúvatar himself. I am beginning to lean that direction myself. Did he add to the 'song' to improve the harmony while not directly 'interceding' himself? – Morgan Jan 7 '14 at 18:32
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    I'm more partial to the view that Tom IS the song. Not good or evil, he just is. Corey Olsen has a compelling lecture on this topic on the topic: tolkienprofessor.com/wp/lectures/courses/… – TGnat Jan 7 '14 at 19:29
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    Tom is certainly not Eru - see Letter 153. While he's powerful (of sorts), his power only exists within his own country, and outside of it Tom is not the master. – user8719 Jan 7 '14 at 19:39

Looks like you are tring to read more into it than there is. The Hobbits are being pursed by the Nazgul, one of the few weapons able to hurt them is a blade of Westernesse or Elvish forging so it made perfect sense for Tom to give them the weapons he did, also keep in mind they never expected to fight anyone, and had no weapons at all to begin with.

In the Silmarillion after the Witch-king escapes the destruction of Angmar, Glorfindel makes a prophecy that he would not meet his death at the hand of man. Like many prophesies what it appears to say isn't what it means. It was thought that none of free people ( human, elf, dwarf, etc.) would be able to kill him, thus his thought that he was invulnerable and it would take something like the destruction of the one ring to destroy him.

What the prophecy was actually saying was he wouldn't be killed by a man (Male), Merry didn't break a spell he just distracted him long enough for Éowyn to kill him fulfilling the prophecy.

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    "No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will." - The Battle Of Pelennor Fields, RotK – Shamshiel Jan 8 '14 at 1:48
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    Funny how that worked out so perfectly. The only weapon (from ages past) capable of doing the job just happen to be at the right place at the right time. – Morgan Jan 8 '14 at 14:40
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    @Morgan Note that Gandalf makes reference to just such things as this. I don't have the book handy, or I would look, but he tells the hobbits of things that were meant to be by forces larger than himself, and that the result is that things happen serendipitously that no one could have foreseen. – shipr Jan 14 '14 at 2:39
  • Eru said to Bombadil, "Hey, Tom, give them those knives. Don't tell them it was my idea." – EvilSnack Jan 14 at 2:43

The answer is; 'Yes, Bombadil deliberately and specifically choose those Barrows weapons given to the Hobbits'. It wasn't random. By his own comments, he states explicitly that he knew what those blades were, who made them, what they were designed to do and what magic was woven into them. He also shows that he knew what the Hobbits were up to and where they were going. With that in mind he carefully picked through the weapons from the Barrow and selected those very specific blades to arm them with. He even told them what the blades were for. You can't get more clear than this.

According to Tolkien's universe, older is considered stronger, wiser and more powerful and by all accounts, Tom is oldest. He ranged far and wide since the beginning until he limited himself to a small area not far from Buckland.

But you are young and I am old. 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. He made paths before the Big People, and saw the little People arriving. He was here before the Kings and the graves and the Barrow-wights. When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless – before the Dark Lord came from Outside.

His knowledge of middle earth's history and lore also ranged far and wide. Very likely superior to any living creature as he demonstrated while talking with the Hobbits about the blades of Westernesse. He told them that the blades were forged many long years ago by Men of Westernesse and that they were foes of the Dark Lord, but they were overcome by the evil king of Carn Dûm in the Land of Angmar.

'Few now remember them,' Tom murmured, 'yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless.' Even Aragorn points out that the blades they were given were “wound about with spells for the bane of Mordor”.

Bombadil was aware of what the Hobbits are up to so he armed them with the only weapons left in middle earth that would help them in that task.

He was actually expecting the Hobbits and had even prepared accommodations for them:

In an understated way, Tolkien makes it clear that Tom’s meeting and rescue of the hobbits was not a chance encounter. Tom clearly expected the four hobbits—though we are not told how he knew they were coming. It’s clear that Tom expected them because, on the hobbits’ first night in his house, Tom takes them to their guest bedroom, opens the door—and there are four beds already made up and waiting for them, with a pair of slippers beside each bed. Even before their arrival, Tom had prepared a place for each hobbit.

By these actions alone he demonstrates that he's fully aware of what's going on outside of his self imposed territory. He was also well aware of the One Ring, what it was, who made it and why.

Then Tom suddenly commands, “Show me the precious Ring!” Frodo, to his astonishment, finds Tom’s command irresistible: he takes out the Ring and hands it over. Tom puts it on and nothing happens. He makes the ring disappear and laughs but then returns it to Frodo.

Frodo decides to play his own trick and puts the ring on his own finger. Although invisible to all the others, Bombadil says to Frodo, “Hey! Come Frodo, there! Where be you a-going? Old Tom Bombadil's not as blind as that yet. Take off your golden ring! Your hand's more fair without it”

To him, the ring was ugly and 'unfair'.

In summary; Bombadil obviously played an active though deliberately passive roll in all the events that followed. A sort of 'helping without helping' so to speak. He knowingly gave them those tools necessary to accomplish their task but ultimately left it up to them to use those tools to be successful.

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    +1 - Some good writing and research, though still its hard to say since it's not explicit. – Mark Rogers May 8 '14 at 2:14
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    @MarkRogers -Thanks. You have to follow the bread crumbs but there's actually a lot of info on Tom to be had if you're interested. Compiling information and connecting dots use to be my profession. – Morgan May 10 '14 at 5:17

We are actually told how Tom knew the hobbits were coming, but not when. Tom says that he heard the trees singing about 4 hobbits, but when this was while he was collecting Lilly pads, or before, we do not know. If he heard the trees before Tom went out, Tom could have prepared the room, but maybe Goldberry heard the trees as well, or Tom told her before he went out, we don't know.

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