🍇🌸 Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo! He is probably *the* character, fans miss the most in the LotR movies. 🌳 But alas, his exact words have found their way into the films, in the voice of our beloved Treebeard.
((I’m pretty sure you’re talking about mewlips, as I couldn’t find any reference to mewlinks, and both words are weird and similar sounding, lol. But if I’m wrong, let me know!))
Mewlips are said to be evil creatures that eat travelers. Based on the poem, it sounds like mewlips live in caves or something similar underneath marshy ponds. They’re also mentioned as counting their gold and collecting their victims’ bones in a sack. All in all, very unpleasant. To me, they sound like a cross between an orc and Gollum, really.
Mewlips are only mentioned once, in a poem by the same name, included in the Adventures of Tom Bombadil. It’s a hobbit myth, and like others (such as were-worms), it’s likely that, even within Middle Earth, mewlips are fictional creatures.
But, assuming that the legend is based on at least a little truth, several Tolkien scholars have tried to decipher where mewlips lived. In the poem, they’re said to live beyond the Merlock Mountains, the spider-shadows, and the marsh of Tode. There’s no record of any of these places, but if we assume that, throughout the years, the hobbits have smudged the names a bit, it’s possible that Merlock Mountains are meant to be the Misty Mountains. The spider-shadows could refer to Mirkwood. And the marsh of Tode might be referring to the Long Marshes in between Mirkwood and the Long Lake.
If so, then it’s interesting to point out that Bilbo and the dwarves travel through the Long Marshes on their way to Laketown. They discover later (though this wasn’t included in the published version) that there are stories of rafts, men, and beasts disappearing in the marshes. Based on this, John Rateliff (who wrote The History of the Hobbit) suggested that Tolkien may have originally intended for Bilbo and the dwarves to encounter mewlips during their journey.
Whether you believe that mewlips are real or fictional, they certainly make for an interesting (and, frankly, creepy) hobbit legend!
SOURCES: The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (“Mewlips”), The Hobbit, The History of the Hobbit (by John Rateliff)
When the moon was new and the sun young
of silver and gold the gods sung:
in the green grass they silver spilled,
and the white waters they with gold filled.
Ere the pit was dug or Hell yawned,
ere dwarf was bred or dragon spawned,
there were Elves of old, and strong spells
under green hills in hollow dells
they sang as they wrought many fair things,
and the bright crowns of the Elf-kings.
But their doom fell, and their song waned,
by iron hewn and by steel chained.
Greed that sang not, nor with mouth smiled,
in dark holes their wealth piled,
graven silver and carven gold:
over Elvenhome the shadow rolled.
There was an old dwarf in a dark cave,
to silver and gold his fingers clave;
with hammer and tongs and anvil-stone
he worked his hands to the hard bone.
and coins he made, and strings of rings,
and thought to buy the power of kings.
But his eyes grew dim and his ears dull
and the skin yellow on his old skull;
through his bony claw with a pale sheen
the stony jewels slipped unseen.
No feet he heard, though the earth quaked.
when the young dragon his thirst slaked.
and the stream smoked at his dark door.
The flames hissed on the dank floor,
and he died alone in the red fire;
his bones were ashes in the hot mire.
There was an old dragon under grey stone;
his red eyes blinked as he lay alone.
His joy was dead and his youth spent,
he was knobbed and wrinkled, and his limbs bent
in the long years to his gold chained;
in his heart’s furnace the fire waned.
To his belly’s slime gems stuck thick,
silver and gold he would snuff and lick:
he knew the place of the least ring
beneath the shadow of his black wing.
Of thieves he thought on his hard bed,
and dreamed that on their flesh he fed,
their bones crushed, and their blood drank:
his ears drooped and his breath sank.
Mail-rings rang. He heard them not.
A voice echoed in his deep grot:
a young warrior with a bright sword
called him forth to defend his hoard.
His teeth were knives, and of horn his hide,
but iron tore him, and his flame died.
There was an old king on a high throne:
his white beard lay on knees of bone;
his mouth savoured neither meat nor drink,
nor his ears song; he could only think
of his huge chest with carven lid
where pale gems and gold lay hid
in secret treasury in the dark ground;
its strong doors were iron-bound.
The swords of his thanes were dull with rust,
his glory fallen, his rule unjust,
his halls hollow, and his bowers cold,
but king he was of elvish gold.
He heard not the horns in the mountain-pass,
he smelt not the blood on the trodden grass,
but his halls were burned, his kingdom lost;
in a cold pit his bones were tossed.
There is an old hoard in a dark rock,
forgotten behind doors none can unlock;
that grim gate no man can pass.
On the mound grows the green grass;
there sheep feed and the larks soar,
and the wind blows from the sea-shore.
The old hoard the Night shall keep,
while earth waits and the Elves sleep.
There are lions in Arda, but it’s not clear if they ever lived in Middle Earth proper (as in, the central region where the stories take place.) Tolkien lists a Quenya word for lion (s: “ra”, p: “ravi”). And in one of the hobbit poems in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, lions are mentioned as living in the east and hunting “beasts and tender men.”
We can make some assumptions and educated guesses based on these two references to lions. Of course, the hobbit poem tells us the most, and in the clearest way - we know that lions live in the east, which is most probably a reference to the Farthest or Uttermost East, the lands of Rhun and beyond. We already know that hobbits have a few legends or folktales from this area (see this post about the “were-worms of the last desert”), so it’s not impossible that they’d get stories of dragons from this region too.
The Quenya word for lion has a vaguer explanation. For there to be an elvish word for lion means that the elves must have, at some point, come into contact with lions. But the fact that it’s a Quenya word, and not Sindarin or Avarin or anything, is especially important. If lions were something that elves only heard about from men, or if it was something that some of the wandering Avari learned about later on, then we would see a Sindarin word for the animal. For there to be a Quenya word means that the elves probably came into contact with lions much earlier in their history - before the Eldar travelled to Valinor, even. Which, honestly, makes sense - if lions lived in the east, and Cuivienen was located in the east, then it’s not surprising that lions and elves met at some point.
So, I’m sure that dwarves knew of lions (especially if the dwarves in the east passed stories along to the dwarves of Moria and Erebor.) However, I suspect that the lion wasn’t quite as iconic as it is in the “real world.”
SOURCES: The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, History of Middle Earth vol. 5 (“The Etymologies”)
Tom Bombadil. I’m going to go ahead and tell you why I like him and what makes him so fascinating. Yes, I agree with Jackson’s decision to leave him out of the films as he doesn’t play a real role. But he’s fascinating because he’s the one person that not only doesn’t want the Ring, but isn’t affected by it at all. Gandalf resisted the lure of the Ring as did Galadriel. Faramir didn’t want it and Aragorn wasn’t tempted. But Tom would have forgotten it. It didn’t even turn him invisible. He’s immune to it completely. This means that in actual fact he’s more powerful than even Sauron. However, it’s true that he doesn’t really care. He likes his cozy home in the middle of the Old Forest. He doesn’t care what goes on outside.
Theories abound that he’s a leftover Maia or perhaps one of the Valar or even Eru the creator himself. There are theories that Bombadil is the equivalent to Mother Nature. Or that he is the Song of the Ainur embodied. Regardless of speculation, Tolkien firmly intended Tom to be a mystery. Perhaps he didn’t know himself. Perhaps he’d had a bit too much of the Hobbit’s leaf.
Anyhow, I adore Tom Bombadil. I love his rhymes. I love how he won his wife. And how he got his blue kingfisher feather for his hat. He’s silly, but he’s admirable.