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Probably immortal; certainly very old indeed
Dwelt in Eriador, in the land between the Old Forest and the Barrow-downs (at least during the later years of the Third Age)
Other names
Directly equivalent to Elvish Iarwain Ben-adar, a name for the being otherwise variously known as Forn, Orald or Tom Bombadil


About this entry:

  • Updated 4 August 2023
  • This entry is complete

Oldest and Fatherless

An ancient name for Tom Bombadil

"Iarwain Ben-adar we called him, oldest and fatherless. But many another name he has since been given by other folk..."
Words of Elrond
The Fellowship of the Ring II 2
The Council of Elrond
Tom Bombadil
Oldest and


In the ancient history of Middle-earth, long before the Hobbits travelled west to establish the Shire, the Elves knew of a strange being who inhabited the northern lands. He was said to be extraordinarily old even then (by his own claims, he had seen the beginning of the world), and the Elves gave him a name that reflected this.

This extraordinary person had many names among many peoples, but in Elvish he became known as Iarwain Ben-adar, translated approximately as 'Oldest and Fatherless', though this was not its full meaning. In fact Iarwain combined the Elvish words for 'old' and 'young' because, as old as this being was, he still appeared hale and vigorous. Ben-adar meant 'without a father' or 'fatherless', though it is unclear whether this represented something the Elves had learned from him, or a mere assumption on their part.

Iarwain Ben-adar the Oldest and Fatherless had a house that lay on the edge of the northern forest, between the trees to the west and rising downlands to the east. He saw the Dúnedain cross the Sea and settle the lands where he lived, so his house formally fell within the bounds of Arnor (though he paid little attention to such matters). He watched the North-kingdom rise and fall, followed by its successor realm of Cardolan. In the years after Cardolan's fall, evil spirits occupied the downs near his house, but Iarwain Ben-adar had little fear of entities such as those.

At about the same time, a race of diminutive people known as the Hobbits passed through the same region, and settled in the wide green land westward of the forest. Some of these people encountered Iarwain Ben-adar, and eventually they gave him a name in a form familiar to them. Thus he gained the name by which he is better known in later tales: Tom Bombadil.



The origins and nature of this being are never clearly explained, and there is considerable debate in this area. For a fuller discussion of the topics involved, see the entry for Tom Bombadil.


About this entry:

  • Updated 4 August 2023
  • This entry is complete

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