River Daughter

Zine Title
Creator
Item Type
Year
Issue Info
Pages
13-15

[page 13] RIVER DAUGHTER by Frank Denton The interlude which occurs during the stay of the hobbits at the home of Tom Bombadil has always been a fascinating one. The four hobbits have set out upon their adventure and have been pursued by the Black Riders. They have endured the dangers of the Old Forest, including a bout with Old Man Willow. Alone and frightened, they have not been accompanied by Gandalf, whose leadership they had hoped for, nor have they yet met Aragorn, who is to provide them with a good deal of level-headed thinking. Their rescue by Tom Bombadil and their short stay at his home were most apropos. It was a much-needed and well-deserved respite before the continuation of the journey to Rivendell. And in away it heralds their later stay in Lothlorien and their attendant interaction with Galadriel. For it is at the home of Tom Bombadil that that most delightful creature, Goldberry, is met. {Image: Lit candle} We know of the Lady Goldberry only through two fragments of the _Red Book of Westmarch_ which have come down to us in translation. The first, of course, is _The Fellowship of the Ring_. The second is a poem, of which there were many in the _Red Book, entitled "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil." It probably is from a loose leaf and is seemingly made up of various hobbit-versions of legends concerning Bombadil. It is in this poem that we catch just a glimpse of the courtship of Tom and Goldberry. Goldberry seizes Tom by the beard as he sits along the bank of the Withywindle and pulls him into the water. Tom tells Goldberry to return to the deepest hollow and to her mother, the River-woman. What is intriguing here is the teasing attitude of Goldberry, a type of love-play enacted in many cultures, but most often found performed by the male, rather than the female. {Image: Cut loaf of bread and knife} The poem does not tell us of any prolonged courtship, but rather that Tom catches Goldberry one day when she is out of the water, seated in the rushes and singing old water-songs [Page 14] to the birds perched about. The quality of Goldberry's voice. so much like running water, later makes a tremendous impression on the hobbits, as described in _The Fellowship_. I can find no apparent significance in the fact that Tom catches Goldberry out of her element, the water. But it is interesting to conjecture that Goldberry could be caught only in such a situation. If this is so, then it seems to follow that Goldberry created the situation so that Tom and she could become man and wife. Tom's home is already prepared for a new bride when he carries Goldberry off, and the intimation is that he knew she would be waiting and that there would be no protest on her part. The mood of that portion of _The Fellowship_ which describes Tom and Goldberry is considerably different from that of the poem. Danger is just past and Tom's warning of the future are ominous. The hobbits' short stay is one of peace and quiet, and we are aware of the solicitousness and quiet refinement of Goldberry. That the love of Tom and Goldberry has deepened is apparent. When Tom first encounters Frodo and his friends, he is hurrying home from gathering the last water-lilies of the summer to bring to his wife. Even after stopping to help the companions and inviting them to his home, he is not so remiss as to forget these flowers. The song he sings as he approaches the hobbits has the tone of urgency to be re-united with his wife, his "pretty lady". After returning home and seeing to the stabling of the animals, his first act upon entering the house is to cross the room to Goldberry and take her hand. Goldberry's appearance and attire continually remind us that she is a river-daughter. When the hobbits first reach Tom's house, Goldberry is wearing a green dress and gold belt. The colors she prefers are the colors of stream and stream-side. Her gown rustles like wind on the flowing border of the river. Later she is attired in a silver gown with a white girdle and shoes like fishes' mail. The sound of Goldberry's footsteps "was like a stream falling gently away downhill over cool stones in the quiet of night."1 Her voice was "as young and as ancient as Spring, like the song of a glad water flowing down into the night from a bright morning in the hills."2 Goldberry's guests find that singing comes more easily than talking. On the evening of their second supper (it is not quite clear whether it is the second day or many days) Goldberry sang many songs for them, and the hobbits saw in their minds pools and waters wider than any they had known. [Page 15] That the people of the Shire had previous knowledge of Goldberry is apparent from Frodo's remark upon their arrival. The hobbits had edged into the room and, feeling strangely surprised and awkward, had bowed low to Goldberry. After she had introduced herself, having felt a spell "deep and near to his mortal heart", Frodo exclaims, "Now the joy that was hidden in the songs we heard is made plain to me."3 It is obvious that a deep impression has been made upon the hobb1ts. The songs referred to by Frodo are not extant in English and so his remarks are not clear to us. Yet there is the suggestion that the name of Goldberry is well- known and deeply respected throughout the Shire. Another aspect of Goldberry's personality also shows through. This is her attention to the details of being wife and hostess. Goldberry refers to Tom Bombadil as the Master of the House, and sees to it that the meals are prepared on time. It is she who remembers that the guests may wish to refresh themselves after their journey. And like any good housewife, she is up bright and early to do the washing and autumn cleaning on the morning after their arrival. Finally, as hostess she retires early, with exceptionally formal goodnights, and leaves the men to continue their discussions. When the companions are ready to leave Tom to continue toward Rivendell, it is Frodo who remembers that they have not said farewell to Goldberry. They hasten back up the slope to her side, where a most courteous farewell is spoken by Goldberry. Again Frodo is overcome and finds no words to answer. He can only bow low and depart. Exactly who Goldberry is continues to be an enigma. She is identified only as River-daughter. A hint or two is given that Frodo is reminded very strongly of the elf-folk by her, but this is only conjecture. She is not identified as either nix or naiad. So she must remain Goldberry, River-daughter, and better half of Tom Bombadil. 1. _The Fellowship of the Ring_, p. 136 2. Ibid., p. 133 3. Ibid., p. 134

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer