Who Is Tom Bombadil

"Who is Tom Bombadil"
- an original answer

"Who is Tom Bombadil?" is the question that has puzzled and enticed Tolkien enthusiasts for over 60 years.

Now, a new book offers an original and intriguing answer:

The Lure of the Ring:
Power, Addiction and Transcendence
in Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings

"I highly recommend this wise and engaging book."

— Richard Rohr, O.F.M.

Watch the trailer


Nearly all attempts to understand Tom Bombadil have done so by trying to grasp "Who is Tom Bombadil?" within the context of the universe of Middle Earth, as created and elaborated upon by Tolkien. There is great merit in this approach, which has resulted in many creative and detailed speculations.

However, the paradox is this: Tom Bombadil is intriguing because of his uniqueness, and, ultimately, it is that very uniqueness that defies explanation when focusing solely on the characteristics and history of Middle Earth.


Our investigation of Tom Bombadil – our attempt to answer the question, “Who is Tom Bombadil?” - takes an entirely different approach. It begins with our curiosity about how people are affected by power. Why is it that some people utterly succumb to their lust for power, behaving like addicts who are always and repeatedly desperate for their fix? Everywhere we look, we see the tragic results of power addiction – in politics, in religion, and in corporate hegemony, to name but a few prime examples.

In striking contrast, why is that some people do not succumb to this addiction, basing their lives instead on lifting others up, treating them with respect, and attempting to do no harm?


Tom Bombadil, Frodo, and many other characters in The Lord of the Rings encounter and respond to the dominating power offered by the One Ring. As we reflected on the effects of power and power addiction, we realized: What better way to explore the seduction of power than by examining the way the One Ring affects characters in Tolkien’s trilogy?

With the exception of Tom Bombadil, every character struggles to cope with the Ring. Sméagol and the Dark Lord Sauron both utterly succumb to the seduction of ultimate power. The Wizard Gandolf and the Elf Queen Galadriel are each offered the Ring but each has the strength to refuse. Guided by their hearts, they reject ultimate power, realizing the price they would have to pay is too great. No character better exemplifies the struggle to keep his soul intact while battling the influence of the Ring than Frodo. He is a heroic figure whose integrity is challenged every step of the way, and he suffers greatly to stay true to his mission.


Enter Tom Bombadil – a figure unlike any other character in The Lord of the Rings. Tom Bombadil is entirely unaffected by the Ring of Power. When Frodo puts on the Ring, an act which always makes any Ring bearer invisible, he is shocked to discover that he still is visible to Tom. Conversely – to the Hobbits’ astonishment – when Tom Bombadil puts the Ring on his own finger he remains visible. Tom laughingly plays with the Ring as though it were a bauble – which, to him, it is – by making the Ring itself disappear and reappear. The Ring has no sway over Tom Bombadil – its promise of power over others holds no interest for him.

This is why the question, “Who is Tom Bombadil?” has puzzled Tolkien fans since the trilogy was published: he is unlike any other character.


Who is Tom Bombadil?

Why is Tom Bombadil so very different?

Who is Tom Bombadil that he is not seduced – nor even tempted – by the power offered by the One Ring?

In asking the question, “Who is Tom Bombadil?,” The Lure of the Ring carefully and astutely examines the limited clues offered by Tolkien about Tom Bombadil’s unique character. Taken together, these clues offer a coherent and fascinating picture of a being whose wisdom and depth of relatedness to all of life make him impervious to the Ring’s allure.

The Lure of the Ring offers an original, provocative answer to the question, “Who is Tom Bombadil?,” praised by one reviewer and Tolkien aficianado as a “stunning revelation.”


Of deepest significance, Tom Bombadil also is a character who can teach us much about ourselves, about the kind of people we can be when we allow the deepest love in our hearts to guide us. This is Tom Bombadil’s greatest gift to us: showing us the nature of someone who is inherently connected to the world, who lives from a basis of love and freedom, and who therefore holds up a mirror to our own deepest nature.

Asking “Who is Tom Bombadil?” therefore offers each of us the opportunity to also ask, “Who am I?”, and to find a deeper, truer answer to that question.


Praise for The Lure of the Ring

“Tolkien’s Tom Bombadil echoes the deep joy and presence of any true mystic! His non-dual Being demonstrates the inherent strength that comes through identification with the earth and all living beings. The Lure of the Ring compellingly captures the essence of addiction, the seduction of power, and the nature of embodied spiritual transformation. I highly recommend this wise and engaging book.”

        — Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Founder of Center for Action and Contemplation.

“The Lure of the Ring is one of those few books that honors and ignites the power and mystery of the interior life. Strachan and Coster provide an exceedingly accessible and comprehensive psychological-spiritual analysis of Tolkien’s work, and how the human psyche can balance power, love, and integrity. A ‘must read’ as it is so relevant for human beings, individually and collectively at this time in history!”

        — Angeles Arrien, Ph.D., Cultural Anthropologist, author of The Second Half of Life and Living in Gratitude.

The Lure of the Ring is a fascinating work, an exploration of the deeper meaning of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. This short book takes us into the heart of Tolkien's genius showing levels of psychological and spiritual insight of which the great writer himself was unaware as he wrote Lord of the Rings but that he came to see in later life. Tolkien admirers have good reason to thank Alan Strachan and Janet Coster for their elegantly written and convincing reading of this 20th Century epic, and for their lucid analysis of its enduring relevance to all those on the path of personal growth and spiritual development.”

        — Ralph White, author of the memoir The Jeweled Highway, and co-founder of the New York Open Center

“I was delighted to read your Lure of the Ring and feel your wisdom and love in how you presented Tolkien’s beautiful literary character “Old Tom Bombadil.” With a rich array of insights from transpersonal psychology and nondual spirituality, you have forged an easy portal for readers to enter the psyche and contemplate crucial topics, ranging from authentic/inauthentic use of power and healing core wounds, to mature wholeness and natural holiness in our True Identity.”

        — Timothy Conway, author of Women of Power & Grace and the forthcoming works The Liberating Zen Sourcebook and India’s Sages