Feet that Wander
Feet That Wander.......A Tale of Tom Bombadil
Tom hummed quietly to himself as he trod the
invisible path that skirted the borders of his land, his own little
country. These borders were not set by any king or lord; Tom had set
them himself and he would not pass them, by his own choice. Even so, it
was his duty to be aware of what went on beyond those borders, if only
to be prepared for what might stray into his country, to disturb it.
There were many feet that wandered in the world, and Tom must be ready
if they wandered his way.
There had been much to care for in this land
of his since the small ones had come and gone. Evil had been stirring
now for some time, in the Old Forest, and on the Barrow-Downs. The
wights were restless, roused by the presence of the Black Captain and
the Dark Riders passing up and down the Greenway south of Bree. The
Black Captain had spent many days there, at his camp at Andrath, and
the evil spirits in the mounds were astir with malice, a great danger
to any who might dare to travel the road north or south.
Tom had been aware of the new danger, and he
was watching. He tended his land, unafraid; his song was sufficient to
lull to sleep the black-hearted Willow-Man or to set to flight the
twisted wight. Was he not greater than even these Dark Riders? Had he
not been in the world longer than they? Far longer!
He did not fear them; but others there were,
who might be wandering, and they would know fear and danger. They would
need his aid by day or by night, even as the hobbits had needed him, to
escape the stirring of evil in the Old Forest and on the Downs. Off to
Bree, and beyond, they now were, with the Servants of the Enemy close
at their heels. They were gone beyond his aid; but others there might
be who would come after them.
So he trod the path, and watched his borders, and hummed as he went; and where Tom walked, evil crept away.
One traveller there was, in need of Tom's
help, though he knew it not -- a man, on foot, weary after a long
journey, and in a foul mood because he knew he was lost.
A fog had descended during the morning, and
now all was lost in a grey, moist haze that was thick enough to cut
with a knife. Was he even on the road any longer? the man wondered.
When was the last time he had noticed his boots scuffing the flat paved
stones of the ancient way? He had been overjoyed to find the road at
last, a few days ago; though it was broken and overgrown, it was still
unmistakably a road. It had been long enough that he had travelled in
lands where there was no road or path to guide him. Though he had long
ago lost his map, he still knew roughly where he wanted to go, and was
irritated that he could not seem to get there.
And now it seemed he had lost even that poor
excuse for a road. In the fog, his feet had strayed, and he now walked
in grass, and the turf was springy under his feet. He was astray once
more, with no road to guide him, and there was no pretending otherwise.
The man sighed and stopped walking. Wrapping
his cloak about him against the chill that came with the fog, he peered
through the mist, but could see nothing clearly. He tried to recall
what he could of the scene from the road before the fog had come down
around him. It was a barren land of ridges, hills, and grass, empty of
people. The road, such as it was, had cut through a long defile, with
Downs on either side; it was soon after that he had lost his way...
The man shivered as he remembered the walk
through that narrow place; he had felt strangely cold, as though some
dark creature had been there, waiting, and had but recently moved on.
He remembered the old tales he had been told as a child, of the Tyrn
Gorthad in the far north, the Barrow-Downs, that had once been the
burial place of forgotten kings, but now were haunted by spirits
unfriendly to man and beast. Was he near that place now?
He shivered again, then shrugged his
shoulders in irritation at his apprehension. The fog was causing him to
imagine things! It was broad daylight... or it would be if this cursed
mist would lift. What was that? A shadow ahead? Something moving in the
fog? No, it was only his imagination...
He looked back along his path; his footprints
lingered still in the grass, wet with dew from the mist that swirled
about him. Perhaps if he followed his tracks through the grass, he
would find his way back to the road. It was worth a try, at least;
better than sitting and waiting for the sun to return.
As he retraced his steps, the man thought he
heard a soft moaning begin, on the edge of hearing. It was a cold
sound, that reminded him of the chill he had felt on the road, that
reminded him of things even darker...
A shadow moved beside him, and he swung round
to meet it; his sword rang loudly in the silence as he drew it. The
shadow loomed up, grew larger, then suddenly dissipated, as a new sound
came wafting on the breeze.
"Ho, Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!"
A deep voice was singing. A strange song, it
was, that made little sense; yet the joy in that song dispelled the
fear and menace that had been growing in the darkness and in the man's
heart. The man slowly sheathed his sword and waited for the singer to
The song lapsed into humming that grew
steadily louder and nearer. Suddenly, another shadow loomed up out of
the fog, quickly resolving itself into the form of a short man, with a
cheerful, red-cheeked face. He was dressed in bright colors and a
strange, floppy hat with a long blue feather stuck in the brim. His
yellowish boots were large and heavy, as he stamped through the grass
to the beat of his humming song.
"Hey dol! Come merry dol!" cried the humming
man, with a happy flourish of his hand. "Well met, good traveller! Tom
Bombadil is who I am, and I'm glad to meet you. What do you here, out
on the Downs in the fog? This is no place for you, today, my friend!
Have your feet been wandering?"
"Well met," answered the traveller. "Tom, you
say? I am Boromir of Gondor. Though I am loath to admit it, I have
indeed been wandering for some time in this fog, and I have not been
able to find my way back to the road."
"Good fortune walks with you, then, my
wandering friend from the South, for Tom has been watching. He will set
your feet straight, for he knows all the paths. Do not fear the shadows
in the mist! Tom's song is stronger!"
Boromir smiled at the man's quaint speech, but he felt strangely comforted.
"A straight path for my feet would be
welcome," he said with a bow. "It has been many days since I lost my
horse, and my feet have had to carry me over many miles. I was glad
when I found the road, and I thought that by following it, I would find
lodging and perhaps even a stables. But I have seen nothing! Is there
no inn nearby, where I might find a horse, and a bite to eat, and a
drink to wet my throat?"
"An inn there be, and a fine one!" cried Tom.
"Or so they say. The Prancing Pony they name it, though Tom does not go
there. It lies outside my borders. But I fear you will find no horse
Tom nodded wisely and pointed a finger at Boromir.
"News comes to Tom, as he walks his borders. Strange doings of late in Bree, and the horses are gone."
"My feet will have to serve then," he replied after a moment, sighing ruefully.
"Yes," laughed Tom, "Feet must serve. But do
not fear! Though your feet have wandered far, once they are set on the
right road, they will not lead you astray. Tom will set you on the path
out of the mist; after that, your feet must find their own way."
It seemed like no time had passed before
Boromir was on the road once more. The day was wearing on, but now the
fog was breaking up, as the breeze quickened.
"Go you quickly now, my fine friend," said
Tom. "With your long legs, you will reach the Prancing Pony before the
darkness falls. Only a few more miles, then you may sleep, and forget
the shadows that loom in the mist."
"Thank you for your trouble," said Boromir gratefully.
"Trouble?" replied Tom with a shake of his
head. "What trouble? Singing and walking and watching is what Tom does
in the world. I have my country to mind, and wandering feet to set
straight. Good fortune it was that brought me to you, and my good
fortune to have had the pleasure of the meeting. Fare you well, Master
Boromir! May your feet take you where you wish to go!"
Tom bowed deeply, then leaping lightly
around, he danced away, singing. Boromir looked after him until he
disappeared over a hill; then he, too, turned and walked away north at
a brisk pace.
Tom hummed happily to himself as he trod the
invisible path that skirted the borders of his land, his own little
country. His duty it was to be aware of what went on within his
borders, and beyond. There were many feet that wandered in the world,
and Tom must be ready if they wandered his way.
A good day's work, it had been; feet that wandered had been set straight, and evil had been thwarted. Yes, a good day's work!
And Tom trod the path, and watched his borders, and hummed as he went; and where Tom walked, evil crept away.
My apologies for writing yet another tale
that has Boromir in it. But it seemed fitting, since Tom is one who
comes to the aid of those who wander, and Boromir is one who has done
his share of wandering. Thanks for being patient with my little