Who Is: Svyelun of Sea and Sky

In this video, we take a look at Svyleun, the goddess of Dominaria's Voldalian merfolk people.

In this video, we take a look at Svyleun, the goddess of Dominaria's Voldalian merfolk people and a key background player in Magic: The Gathering's Fallen Empires storyline. 

Video Transcript:

Hello and welcome back to another edition of Who Is on Magic Untapped, I’m Barry White.

Typically on Who Is we explore the story of an important or iconic Magic: The Gathering character.  Today, however, with the recent release of the Magic: The Gathering Universes Beyond set, Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth, we’re doing something a bit different.

We’re instead going to take a few minutes to talk about a character seen in Magic card form from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings whom many Magic: The Gathering players, as well as those who have seen director Peter Jackson’s film trilogy or the 1978 Ralph Bakshi animated film may not be all to familiar with thanks to the character’s exclusion from the film due to his role being deemed as ultimately unimportant to the story.  And that’s despite the character appearing over the course of three-chapters in The Fellowship of the Ring, along with other occasional mentions throughout the rest of the story.

So, that said, let’s explore the story of Tom Bombadil.


Despite no mention of Tom Bombadil in the novels The Silmarillion and The Hobbit, both of which take place well before the events of the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien introduced the character in the poem The Adventures of Tom Bambadil, which came out in 1934 – three years before the publication of The Hobbit.

Bombadil, in terms of the character’s presence in Middle-Earth.  And, while the exact origin and nature of Bombadil are unknown, it’s insinuated that he may be among the first (if not the first) living creature to inhabit Arda (which, by the way, is the name of the world on which Middle-Earth is a continent).

Much like his origin in the story, when he arrived on Middle-Earth is also a bit of a mystery, though it’s known that he experienced both the first and second ages on the continent.  He wandered the land, experiencing its changes, strife, and cultures over the centuries.  Eventually, he came to what’s now known as the Old Forest and settled down, taking a river spirit by the name of Goldberry as his wife.

It’s here, in the Old Forest, that Tom Bombadil finds himself in the company of a certain band of hobbits.

Shortly after departing from The Shire and crossing the Brandywine River by way of the Bucklebury Ferry, the adventuring hobbits – Frodo Baggins, Merry Brandybuck, Pippin Took, and Samwise Gamgee – find themselves in the Old Forest whereupon they are encounter a great, territorial willow tree known as Old Man Willow.

During the disastrous encounter (in which Merry and Pippin found themselves trapped by the tree), Frodo and Sam, however escapes to find help.  Who they finds is a jolly, feather-capped man who had been collecting lilies in a nearby pond and singing as he bounds down the path.
“There was another burst of song, and then suddenly, hopping and dancing along the path, there appeared above the reeds an old battered hat with a tall crown and a long blue feather stuck in the band. With another hop and a bound there came into view a man, or so it seemed. At any rate he was too large and heavy for a hobbit, if not quite tall enough for one of the Big People, though he made noise enough for one, stumping along with great yellow boots on his thick legs, and charging through grass and rushes like a cow going down to drink. He had a blue coat and a long brown beard; his eyes were blue and bright, and his face was red as a ripe apple, but creased into a hundred wrinkles of laughter. In his hand he carried on a large leaf as on a tray a small pile of white water-lilies.”
- The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. 6

Frodo informs the strange man, who just so happens to be Tom Bombadil, of the peril and drops what he is doing and follows the two hobbits to Old Man Willow.  Once there, he sings a song that entrances the tree before commanding it to release its prisoners.  Almost at once, Merry and Pippin are free.

Bombadil then invites the hobbits to his home near the mouth of the nearby Withywindle river.  There, the foursome enjoy a nearly-idyllic two day stay with Bombadil and Goldberry as they feasted and made merry together.  During this time, Frodo inadvertently tells Bombadil about the One Ring he carries, despite Gandalf’s strict instructions not to.

Bombadil asks Frodo if he may inspect the ring.  It’s a request that Frodo easily grants.

He then slips the ring on his finger.  Unlike Frodo, however, the ancient Bombadil not only doesn’t vanish from sight, he doesn’t seem to be affected by the ring’s corruptive nature at the slightest.  He then performs a slight-of-hand trick with the ring, making it seem to jump from one hand to the other, then hands it back to the hobbit.

Frodo then puts the ring onto his hand to ensure it’s the genuine article and promptly disappears.  Bombadil surprises the him yet again, informing Frodo that he can see still him even though he wears the ring and that he should take it off as his hand looks better without it on.

Two days company is all the hobbit troop would enjoy with Bombadil, however, as they set out to resume their quest.  Before they depart, though, he teaches them a rhyme they can sing to summon him should they require his assistance while still in the Old Forest.

As misfortune would have it, they would use that hymn the very next day as they fall in danger yet again in the woods.

On the east side of the Old Forest at Barrow-downs, a resting place of the old ones from the First Age that had since become overrun by wights, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin found themselves ensnared by one of the wights evil spirits.  Separated from one another and lost in a dense fog, the foursome became captured in one of the barrows.

His three traveling companions already subdued, Frodo sings the hymn.  Tom Bombadil arrived in great haste and dispelled the wight’s hold on the hobbits.  Now safe, Bombadil escorted the troop to the edge of his domain before taking his leave of them as they travel towards the town of Bree.

More than a month later, Tom Bombadil became the topic of discussion in Rivendell during the Council of Elrond.  As the council is trying to decide who should bare the burdon of carrying The One Ring to its destruction in Mordor, Elrond reminisced about when he had previously met the ancient being.  He then considered whether or not to give Bombadil the ring as it seemed that he had power over it while it was in his lands.

Gandalf, however, quickly dismissed the suggestion, stating that it’s not that Tom Bombadil had power over the Ring, but simply that the Ring had no power over him.  Sure, Bombadil might be immune to its influence, but, just the same, he was powerless to alter it.

Furthermore, Gandalf was concerned that Bombadil actually would take the ring but that, not fully understanding the reason or appreciating its power, would either forget about it or eventually discard it as such items have little importance to him.

The case closed, the Council would move on to consider other options.

But Tom Bombadil’s role was not yet over.

After The One Ring’s destruction in the depths of Mount Doom in Mordor, Middle-Earth’s Third Age was drawing to a close and its Fourth Age just beginning.  The elves are leaving and the fellowship over, its services no longer needed.

And, gaving returned the hobbits to the Shire, Gandalf, too, looks to make his leave.  As he prepares to depart, Frodo asks the wizard what he plans to do.

“I am going to have a long talk with Bombadil: such a talk as I had not had in all my time.  He is a moss-gatherer, and I have been a stone doomed to rolling.  But my rolling days are ending, and now we shall have much to say to one another.”
-    The Return of the King, Ch. 7

Two years later, when Frodo meets Gandalf at the Grey Havens before departing easto to the Undying Lands, he asks how Bombadil is getting along.  Gandalf simply replies that he is “as well as ever,” “quite untroubled,” and “not much interested in anything that we have done and seen.”

And that, in a nutshell, is the story of Tom Bombadil as it relates to The Lord of The Rings and, by extension, the Tales of Middle-Earth Magic: The Gathering set.

If you’re wondering what the inspiration for Tom Bombadil was, it was a Dutch doll that belonged to Tolkien’s second son, Michael.  It looked something like this.


As for exactly what Tom Bombadil is, we’ll probably never know.  As Tolkien himself wrote in one of his letters:

“…even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are.  Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).”
-    JRR Tolkien

So, what do you think about Tom Bombadil?  Do you have any theories about him, his nature, and his overall role on Middle-Earth?

Please, share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Thank you for watching.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.