day 6 – Tom Bombadil country

Dropping down from the moorland toward Hay-on-Wye, the countryside opens up like the Shire in The Hobbit, rolling green farmland, hedgerows and the river winding gently through. To reinforce this, coming down the hill the woodland to the right and hedge-line to the left converge, but seem to lead nowhere; instead, apparently filling the way ahead, a gnarled Tom Bombadil tree, maw open, tempting you to rest within, and then swallow you in darkness, your only hope that Tom himself comes to sing you free. I sidestep the inviting hollowness and realise there is a gate at the bottom, leading to a path that is not sure whether it is a stream. And then, walking up the path towards me, it is no other than Tom Bombadil himself: green felted jerkin, balding head and sharp pointed goatee beard. We nod our heads and speak a word of greeting, but no more; what do you say to a character of legend?

I am reminded of the landlady in Nash, who said she lived in a little bubble and sometimes preferred not to think of or even know the things happening around. This was in the days after the Boston Marathon bombings. In Lord of the Rings, the Shire is a bubble; the folk of the Shire do not believe the things of the outside world are or should be their concern. Of course, it is not just Bilbo, Frodo and companions who go out from the Shire who make an impact on the greater world, but the dark and good forces from without make their own impact on the Shire.

Can some of the bubbles, stuck out of time, in the places through which I pass remain in a hyper-connected world? Should they, even? The folk in these bubbles vote for governments who can make or break the lives of many in our own country and overseas. Even in a bubble the outside can be seen, if only through a rainbow film.

However, it is precisely the innocence of the Shire that Gandalf values, a place worth fighting for.  And it is the one born in that innocence who can save the world.

So, I hope some of these bubbles can survive, wafted and gently billowing in the wind, so that when we look to the sky, we may all see it through that rainbow haze.

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