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It seems that the thread I had started in the previous incarnation of the plaza in AdLore is just rather a wee bit difficult to get moved hereto the new one. Alternatively, it was suggested that I start a second version and link to the first as it was an ongoing thread. Such are the vagaries of life.

Therefore,here is the link - The Nature of Goldberry

And followingare the first two posts as they are significant -

The Question!

There have been a number of plaza threads on Goldberry (of course, no where near the number of those on Tom Bombadil!), and most have concerned themselves with trying to determine exactly who or what Goldberry is. The general belief seems to be that if we can somehow classify exactly who she is (or determine who Tom is and by extension, Goldberry), then we will have now neatly and tidily compartmentalized her and can go on to other ‘big’ enigma type questions, looking for the final and absolute answer for each of those.

I will provide my own thoughts to that question now to save many the time required to read the remainder – though you should!. To put it simply, Goldberry does not fit in with any of the ‘races’ described by Tolkien. She is not an Ainu, a Maia, an Elf, Man (in the Tolkien sense), Hobbit, Ent, Dwarf, corruption of any of the preceding, shape-shifter, or any other even slightly alluded to race in the world and myth of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Nor is she a Nature goddess, naiad, water nymph, sprite, faerie, or any of the other countless suggestions made by many writers since she was first introduced. She is not Vana, Yavanna, Uinen, Uinen’s daughter, a Maia of Osse or Ulmo, Demeter, Persephone, Ganga, Boann, Neith, Peg Powler, Jenny Greenteeth, a Rhine maiden, . She is not Mabel Tolkien (Tolkien’s mother), Edith, the Reader, or other countless direct interpretations.

She is not any of them, yet in some echoes, influences, suggestions, resonances and perhaps through a splintered light, a part of many of them can be seen in her. This essay will attempt to touch on all the current thoughts and history of Goldberry as well as cover some possible literary influences, so that if you follow through to the end, you may find a few interesting considerations. But, if you have read this far, I do have a little surprise – somewhere towards the end of this essay, I will offer a suggested influence – or two, which I have touched on before, but with a little bit of newer ‘evidence’.

And if after all the following, you still believe that Goldberry just has to be categorized into some already known ‘race’, feel free to use any of the many references I will be citing, but be prepared to back up your assumption with accurate quotes, hard facts, and the word of the (as halfir would put it) Master himself.

I should mention here that any discussion of Goldberry, must by her very nature, include comments and references about Tom Bombadil. Part of the reason for this is that she is inextricably linked to Tom for, from a literary standpoint, it seems that without Tom she would never have existed. An additional reason is that while there is some ‘history’ to Tom, in that one can trace his physical development from a child’s doll to the hero of children’s’ stories to his own set of poems to inclusion in Tolkien’s masterpiece, it cannot be as easily done for Goldberry, for she only first appears almost as fully developed as she is in LoTR, in one of the poems, with little to no apparent previous incarnation. So, while one can discuss at length the possibility of literary precursors to Tom in Tolkien’s writings, it is exceedingly more difficult to do so with Goldberry. Which adds even more so to her status as an enigma than to Tom’s.

My following posts will follow this general outline

Sources for this essay – a bibliography
Discussion of primary source writings -
The Lord of the Rings
The Letters of Tolkien
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
Once Upon a Time
Discussion of secondary source writings
Published books and articles
Web based articles
Web discussions
Additional thoughts and ideas

(p.s. the grape suggestion in the thread title comes from one of the discussions of an explanation behind Goldberry’s name -‘berry’ comes from the O.E. ‘berie’ that has a meaning of grape associated with it... And that she most likely doesn’t have quite as many layers to peel back as an onion!)

I hope one finds it enjoyable and interesting, and please feel free to comment as her story unfolds.
  1. Balfrog's Avatar
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    Jan 2011

    Goldberry's Many Faces

    The third in supposedly a four part series on Goldberry, where Ms. Seth provides a reason why so many people see different aspects to her. It appears somewhat plausible – especially as there is some textual back-up.

  2. Balfrog's Avatar
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    Jan 2011
    The fourth essay on Ms. Seth's seriesabout Goldberry is now released.


    There are some interesting matters which might shed new light on The Lord of the Rings. In particular her basic belief is that Tolkien meshed his mythology into our world's legends. In doing so he included the 'elementals' described by the 16th century alchemist Paracelsus. To provide substance to her theory – she quotes Tolkien's knowledge of them and him.

    There's lots of information out thereon the Internet about Paracelsus' writings and his belief in spirits inhabiting the non-biological four building blocks of the world from Greek myth – earth, air, fire and water. In any case she proposes the stones of Hollin were an obvious example of Tolkien's inclusion of Paracelsian elementals – as were Trolls.

    To my knowledge, I haven't seen this proposed before – either on the Plaza or by the 'experts'. It seems that the core evidence is a Tolkien letter about Trolls which ties in with medieval mythology that elementals possess no souls. This in turn links back to Goldberry by the way of the once wildly popular tale of Undine – a water elemental who attained a soul by marriage(which she already covered in Part II),

    The evidence is scant – but there again there really isn't much written on Goldberry. I think Ms. Seth kept her promise in her Introduction at the beginning of the four part series. Certainly she has looked at Goldberry in a completely different manner to others. Her suggestions appear quite plausible –but I'm sure some will be left scratching their heads.


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