The other day in Brighton we had a decadent Sunday, lying in our B&B watching the first part of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. It seemed the perfect thing to do on a grey and slightly bleary afternoon.
Somewhat wedded to the book (which I read many times as a nerdy teenager) and the BBC Radio 4 version, I was a slow convert to the films. I've grown to like them in a grumbling, curmudgeonly sort of a way, though the preference for VFX over acting (Wormtongue's hold over Theoden, for example), the interminable, manufactured cliff-hangers (literally in the case of Frodo at Mount Doom), and Legolas' skateboard stunt at Helm's Deep were all unforgiveable in my book.
I find books and radio so much more satisfying than film or TV because they leave you free to do the imagining. But while the star-studded Radio version kept the music, poetry and songs that pepper the book and make it so alive, even it ditched poor old Tom Bombadil in the interests of brevity. I'm sure he never stood a chance in Hollywood. Too camp. Too odd. (The following fine picture is by Alessandra Cimatoribus).
Jim Penny recently reminded me of a crucial fact about Tom Bombadil, one that I'd totally forgotten: when Bombadil tries on the ring it has no effect on him at all. In fact, he makes it disappear, just for a moment, using sleight of hand. Nor can Frodo hide - Bombadil easily spots the otherwise invisible hobbit trying to escape.
Here's a thing. The forces of evil have no effect on this ancient, nature-worshipping, queer-punning, rhyming clown. The holy fool stands outside of it all, untouchable. The last laugh is his (and probably the first too).
Isn't this the key scene in the whole epic saga?
Strange that it's always the first to end up on the cutting room floor.