Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry find cheer and comfort at the house of Tom Bombadil. Meeting Goldberry, they are struck by her elegance and beauty, but she soon makes them feel at ease with her warm reception. The four hobbits are washed, fed, watered, and refreshed; they enjoy themselves so much in the company of their wondrous hosts that they find themselves communicating by song in their joy. After a merry supper, they fall into a deep sleep. The hobbits’ rest is interrupted by terrifying dreams, although they quickly relax and fall back asleep after waking to the safe feelings of Tom Bombadil’s house. Sam sleeps contentedly all night.
As in their meeting with Farmer Maggot, the hobbits are struck by the unlooked-for generosity of strangers during their travels when they enter the house of Tom Bombadil. He and his wife Goldberry are clearly characters aligned with good rather than evil, for they are a mixture of good cheer, beauty, and clear voices, similar to the elves. That night, despite their safety, three of the hobbits have nightmares before settling back into sleep. Their dreams may symbolize the rapid changes and challenges they have been facing on the road, as well as the lingering presence of Old Man Willow. Sam is again depicted as an everyday man who acts as a practical (and sometimes comic) foil to the sensitive Frodo.
The hobbits wake the next morning to Tom’s whistling as he moves about the house. Because it is raining, they gladly accept his invitation to stay another night under his hospitality. While Goldberry makes use of the heavy rain for a washing day, Tom entertains the hobbits with stories of plants, animals, and peoples. The hobbits learn more about Old Man Willow (the tree that attacked them), the Old Forest, and the dangerous Barrow-downs that border the Forest. Tom’s tales blend into a great myth that details the very fabric of Middle-earth itself. When Frodo asks Tom who he really is, Tom replies that he is “Eldest,” who was present long before humans and hobbits arrived to these lands. Tom is older even than the ancient Dark Lord Sauron.
Tom is a mysterious being of myth who personifies nature and time. As the most ancient of creatures, he shares a great number of stories with the hobbits to preserve knowledge of previous eras as well as present day concerns. Tom’s art of storytelling is a type of magic in itself, for his stories weave together in such a way that the hobbits become privy to the underpinnings of Middle-earth as a whole.
It is following this chilling reminder of the hobbits’ quest that Goldberry appears in the house, drawing their attention to the improved weather. Tom says they should have supper, and somehow it is even better than the fare they consumed the night before. After supper, Goldberry sings them a number of songs before wishing them a good night and retiring to bed. Tom, however, is wide awake, and peppers the hobbits with questions.
Tom and Goldberry distract the hobbits from their evil enemies to allow them rest and rejuvenation.
Tom seems to know much about the individual hobbits’ backgrounds and the history of the Shire at large. He has received much of this information from the elves, as well as his friend Farmer Maggot, whom he holds in high regard. Tom demands to see the Ring and even puts it on, but he is immune to its power of invisibility, shocking the hobbits. Frodo is somewhat annoyed at Tom’s flippant regard for the Ring as he puts it to his eye and makes it vanish and reappear.
Tom’s extensive knowledge about the hobbits stems not from his ancient powers but from his relationships with other hobbits. Frodo’s annoyance at Tom is perhaps a sign of the Ring’s corrupting influence, for this sudden change of character regarding the Ring reflects Bilbo’s past words and actions. In this case Frodo is especially alarmed when Tom hides the Ring, demonstrating Frodo’s growing attachment to the evil weapon.
Tom ends the night by offering advice for their journey around weather and routes. He also teaches the hobbits a song that they can sing to call for his help if they run into danger the next day. Frodo, Pippin, Sam, and Merry fall asleep, with no dreams to trouble their rest tonight.
Tom arms the hobbits with a song; Tolkien again promotes the power of language as a weapon of courage against terror. The hobbits rest easy that night, perhaps feeling safer in the knowledge that Tom can be called upon if they run into danger the following day.