I enjoyed watching the first part of Lord of the Rings (Fellowship of the Ring) when it came out. But I missed one of the most enjoyable bits or should I say characters of the book.
A deep mysterious character, full of power, completely in control, yet simple, humble and rustic. Peter Jackson the director of the LOTR series it seems omitted Tom because he didn’t really add to the narrative. The narrative is not jerky or interrupted without him and his episode in the Fellowship of the Ring. Pity, because there is something really intriguing about him.
While on Wikipedia I stumbled on to this interesting article. It set me thinking (which normally is an unproductive exercise). Why is he in the story? Is his character important or is he just a concept or an ideal which many people say he was?
I chewed over it for a while and I thought…
Who appears and disappears in the space of 3 verses in the bible. (Gen 14:18-20)
We meet him on Abraham’s journey like the fellowship who meet Tom on theirs.
Melchizedek seems to have a timeless quality: ‘Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life…’, mirroring Tom Bombadil who was there at the beginning before the dark lord entered and Goldberry describes him as ‘he is’.
Melchizedek serves bread and wine and some of the best bits of the book are the meal times that the Hobbits have with Tom.
Melchizedek is the king of Salem meaning peace, and he doesn’t participate in the war that just took place, even though there seems to be an alignment with Abraham and his purpose. Tom also seems almost disconnected to the ring. It has no power over him and he doesn’t join the battle though he does seem aligned with the hobbits.
The only speech that Melchizedek makes is in poetic terms, and Tom Bombadil can’t help but sing all the time.
Most oddly, neither of these powerful characters seem to have anything to do with that particular story itself. They seem to come in and out of the story like a pleasant interupption. A non-comical pleaser.
So why are they there? Tom Bombadil gets a very brief mention towards the end of LOTR but we don’t really get to know about him more. Melchizedek’s character is however expanded, thousands of years later. And this gives us the clues to these mysterious characters and to the reason why they need to be in the narrative…
Melchizedek’s name reappears in the book of Psalms as a prophecy. Later Jesus quotes a portion of this Psalm. And much later the writer of Hebrews compares Jesus to Melchizedek. The mystery surrounding Melchizedek himself isn’t really cleared but we can see a bit more into his purpose within the overall story. He seems to point towards the bigger purpose of the story or the overall big picture. At interesting junctures Melchizedek’s name pops up, giving us signs to the overall scheme of things. Tom Bombadil also seems to point to the bigger picture. In the Silmarillion, (the expanded history) LOTR seems to be a rather short tale within the Big Story. But Tom is there from the beginning and will probably be there in the end, when the dark lord is finally vanquished and the second music begins.
For us who continuously flounder in the small picture, Melchizedek and Tom Bombadil give us hope that there is something more out there and that something might be truly good.