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  • Updated 16 December 2000
  • Updates planned: 4

Goldberry

The companion of Tom Bombadil

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"O slender as a willow-wand! O clearer than clear water!
O reed by the living pool! Fair River-daughter!"
From Frodo's greeting to Goldberry
The Fellowship of the Ring I 7 In the House of Tom Bombadil

A mysterious being described as the 'River-daughter', the companion of Tom Bombadil.


Notes

1

Frodo and his companions encountered Goldberry in September III 3018. From her description, she appears quite young, but actually she seems to be somewhat older than her appearance suggests. Tom tells the Hobbits that he met her by the Withywindle 'long ago', but (as so often where Tom is concerned) it isn't entirely clear what he means by this.

2

Like Tom himself, Goldberry is a mysterious being whose place in Tolkien's mythology isn't easy to establish. She seems to be some kind of river-spirit, though some have conjectured that both Tom and Goldberry belong to the order of the Maiar. For more on these possibilities, consult the entry for Tom Bombadil.

In literary terms, Tolkien seems to have intended her character to perform a symbolic role. In his Letters, he writes 'We are ... in real river-lands in autumn. Goldberry represents the actual seasonal changes in such lands' (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, No 210, dated 1958). We can see this symbolism in Frodo's greeting, quoted above, which goes on 'O spring-time and summer-time, and spring again after!'

It has been suggested that Goldberry might in fact be an Elf, based on a passage in The Fellowship of the Ring (I 7, In the House of Tom Bombadil) where Goldberry is compared to a '...a fair young elf-queen clad in living flowers'. In their full context, however, these comments merely represent the awkwardness of the Hobbits on encountering her for the first time, as if they were visitors who had unexpectedly come across an elf-queen in a country cottage. This doesn't necessarily imply that Goldberry herself was an Elf (and Tolkien's comments elsewhere make it fairly clear that he didn't consider her to be one).

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