The importance and characteristics of Tom Bombadil also give clues about Tolkien’s conception of nature. When the hobbits arrive at Tom’s house, Goldberry tells them that now they need not worry about “untame things.” This wording, combined with the perfectly manicured landscape around Tom’s house, suggests that Tolkien does not necessarily view nature as the same thing as wildness or pristine wilderness. Nature, without the controlling hand of man, is unruly and perhaps even unsafe. The most idyllic places in Tolkien’s world—whether the comfortable confines of the Shire, the magical bower of the High Elves, or Tom’s domain—are places where nature has been tamed. This idea of a domesticated, softened nature is often cited in literature, music, and the visual arts as the ideal of the pastoral. For Tolkien, the pastoral has a powerful appeal.

Tom speaks briefly to the hobbits about the kings of Westernesse, some of whom held kingdoms and fought battles where the Barrow-downs now lie. Westernesse is the land west of Middle-earth, given by the Valar (the angelic gods of Middle-earth) as a reward to the men who fought against Morgoth, the Great Enemy (and Sauron’s master), in the First Age. The land of Westernesse is also known as Númenor. Because some of its inhabitants grew restless and proud, they sailed back to Middle-earth and a few fell under the rule of Sauron. Still, they were considered the greatest race of Men in the world. Isildur, who took the Ring from Sauron, was a Númenorean, and it was Númenóreans who lived in the North near the Barrow-downs and fought Sauron’s servants from the ancient northern realm of Angmar. Now, however, there are but a few Men of pure Westernesse blood left. As we see later, those who remain have a crucial role to play in the story of The Lord of the Rings.