Who is the older of two, Goldberry or Tom Bombadil? Tom found her long ago,but she was there for him to find, couldn't she be older than him?


4 Answers 4


In the Fellowship of the Ring Tom describes himself as:

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.’

This implies he believes himself to be older than Goldberry.

  • 4
    Assuming "the little People" refers to hobbits, it's a pity he didn't tell us where they arrived from. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 18:02
  • It's also worth noting that the Dark Lord here is referring to Morgoth. Christopher gives reason for this for those unconvinced although I don't have it at the ready ('from Outside' is part of it though). But this fact does mean that he really is old (then again so is Sauron).
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 1:38
  • @KeithThompson I'm vague on it but I'm pretty sure it's been said in further literature - perhaps by Christopher. And I'm also pretty sure he is referring to Hobbits. I only say 'pretty sure' because I am also vague on it but they're the ones who refer to Men as 'Big People'.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 1:41

Goldberry is the "River-woman's daughter", which means that she obviously has a mother. Tolkien never states exactly who the River-woman is, but if Tom is Eldest, then Goldberry's mother must be younger, so Goldberry is therefore also younger.

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    If Tom is eldest, he is older than Goldberry - no matter if she has a mother or not.
    – Einer
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 11:34
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    @Einer - but is Tom the "Eldest", and if so, what does "Eldest" mean? Letter 153 says "Eldest in time" which has a very specific meaning in Tolkien: within the created world, but not outside of it. That means he's not one of the Ainur, who are outside of time; so one of the Ainur would actually be older than Tom, despite Tom's claim to be "Eldest".
    – user8719
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 11:57
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    @JohnRennie - how about "none of it"? There isn't even a "Great Goddess" in any of Tolkien's writings. Pure fabrication.
    – user8719
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 11:59
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    @JimmyShelter: I agree. All I'm saying is, that it does not matter if Goldberry had a mother. "Eldest" means "older than anyone" that already includes Goldberry. Tom is no part of the original design of Eru Iluvatar. At least he's neither mentioned in the Ainulindale nor in the Valaquenta. He is not from this creation-line.
    – Einer
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 12:13
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    @JimmyShelter: I suspected as much :-) That's why I made no mention of it in my answer. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 12:42

Ah Bombadil. Unfortunately I do not have the precise reference to hand, but I recall reading an essay by Tolkien (was it Tree and Leaf?) at some point where he said that Bombadil is poorly explained in LotR, because he is part of the mystery aspect. He is poorly explained because there is much about the world around us that is poorly explained. This is also part of why the One Ring has no effect on him: Bombadil is outside of its domain entirely.

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    It is my personal opinion, based on no critical evidence at all, that Bombadil is in fact, Eru, come to dwell among his people. Not only is he Eldest, but his answer to Frodo's question "Who are you?" reads like a mini-sermon on YHWH's answer to Moses asking a very similar question.
    – Kumoyuki
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 22:12
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    See scifi.stackexchange.com/a/46928/1430 for details, but Tolkien was explicit that T.B. is not Eru; far from being outside the domain of the world entirely, he is a sort of spirit of the countryside. Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 23:58
  • "A Maia gone native" is one explanation of Bombadil. (per Robert Foster The Complete Guide to Middle Earth) Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 19:27

Goldberry is daughter of the River woman and "Tom was here before the rivers". I think that settles it.

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