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Dates
Samwise Gamgee recited his poem on 18 October III 3018, though he presumably composed it some time earlier
Location
The recitation was inspired by three Stone-trolls found in the wild region known as Trollshaws
Origins
Created by Samwise Gamgee
Race
Probably a Man1
Family
Nephew to 'Tim'
Meaning
Uncertain2

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  • Updated 11 December 2016
  • This entry is complete

Tom

A character in Sam's Troll-rhyme

Unnamed
father3
Tim
Tom

Adventuring in the hills west of Rivendell, Strider and the Hobbits came across the petrified remains of the Stone-trolls encountered by Bilbo and the Dwarves many years before. There, Sam recited a rather gruesome rhyme that he had created himself, in which a character named Tom encounters a lone Troll gnawing the shin-bone of his uncle Tim. Understandably enraged by this, he aimed a kick at the Troll, but the monster's hide was as strong as stone, and so Tom earned himself a lame leg.

There's no suggestion that Tom actually existed outside Sam's imagination (though it's not entirely impossible that he based his rhyme on real events). To confuse matters, one of the three Stone-trolls that inspired Sam's recitation was himself named Tom, but this is simple coincidence: the Tom in the rhyme is very clearly not a Troll.


Notes

1

We might naturally assume that as a Hobbit, Sam would compose a rhyme about his fellow Hobbits rather than Men. However, the fact that Tom was wearing boots is raised several times in the poem, which would be a rarity among Hobbits. What's more, he's prepared to at least attempt to attack a Troll, something that would seem rather implausibly ambitious for a Hobbit. On balance, then, Tom was probably one of the Big Folk rather than the Little Folk, though this is not stated explicitly.

The reason behind this lies in the fact that Tolkien did not write this poem specifically for Sam to recite in The Lord of the Rings, but actually long beforehand. Its origins lie in a poem Pero and Podex that goes back to 1926, and it appears in the collection The Adventures of Tom Bombadil as The Stone Troll. Thus the explanation for the absence of Hobbits from the poem is a simple one: at the time it was written, Hobbits had yet to be invented.

2

In the Shire, the name 'Tom' was typically a contraction of the name 'Tolman' rather than 'Thomas' (as for example Sam's future father-in-law Tolman 'Tom' Cotton). The name 'Tolman' does not appear to carry a specific meaning, though it can be interpreted as originating from the profession of a 'toll collector'.

3

In principle uncle Tim might have been the brother of either Tom's mother or his father, but Sam clarifies the relationship in his rhyme, calling Tim 'my father's kin' (The Fellowship of the Ring I 12, Flight to the Ford).

See also...

Tim

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About this entry:

  • Updated 11 December 2016
  • This entry is complete

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