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Magic: The Gathering answers one of Lord of the Rings’ biggest mysteries in Tales of Middle-earth

Just what is Tom Bombadil, anyway?

Image credit: Wizards of the Coast/Marie Magny

One of The Lord of the Rings’ enduring mysteries has been given yet another possible answer from an unexpected place: the next Magic: The Gathering expansion.

Tales of Middle-earth sees a crossover between the trading card game and JRR Tolkien’s fantasy epic, bringing its many characters, places and story moments from across the author’s trilogy of books to a complete set of cards.

While there are all the faces you’d expect from a Lord of the Rings set - albeit often in new forms - such as the Fellowship of the Ring, the Dark Lord Sauron and his Nazgûl, one of the characters found in the set is one of Tolkien’s most endearingly enigmatic.

A first look at Tales of Middle-earthWatch on YouTube

Tom Bombadil appears in The Fellowship of the Ring as a particularly mysterious figure encountered by Frodo and the hobbits during a multi-chapter diversion as they travel out of the Shire. The jolly, singing Bombadil is able to command the living tree Old Man Willow to let go of the captured Merry and Pippin, before he invites the group for a feast.

As Frodo discusses his quest to destroy The One Ring, Bombadil slips on the Ring, but doesn’t vanish or appear to suffer any ill effect - in contrast to the Ring’s powerful effect over others who carry or wear it. Later, he rescues the hobbits from Barrow-wights and gives them each a Barrow-blade - which would go on to play a vital role in Merry’s helping Éowyn to defeat the Witch-king two books later.

While Bombadil is discussed later in the Lord of the Rings, he isn’t directly seen again - and his mysterious, supernatural nature has led to endless debate between fans over whether he is simply a wise hermit, a reincarnated forest spirit, a physical embodiment of Time or the living World, an angel-like being or something else entirely. (Such as Stan Lee!)

Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

While the true answer of what Tom Bombadil is will no doubt remain in contention - if there is even a single answer to be found - the designers of Magic: The Gathering’s upcoming Lord of the Rings set believe they know the answer.

Tom Bombadil appears in Tales of Middle-earth as a 4/4 legendary creature card costing one of each type of mana. If the player has four or more lore counters on sagas they control, Bombadil becomes hexproof and indestructible. When the final chapter of a saga activates, that player can reveal cards from the top of their deck until they reveal another saga, allowing them to play it to the battlefield straight away.

Most notable, though, is Tom Bombadil’s creature type, which seems to align itself with the belief that Bombadil’s true nature is a natural deity by defining him as a “God Bard”.

“There’s a lot of theories,” senior art director Ovidio Cartagena acknowledged during a recent press preview. “Let’s just say that with the creature type, I think we asserted what we believe Tom Bombadil is.”

Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

Bombadil’s love of singing is also referenced in the separate instant sorcery Bombadil’s Song, which allows the player to grant a creature +1/+1 and hexproof, while also being tempted by the Ring via Tales of Middle-earth’s new gameplay mechanic. The card includes Bombadil’s rhyming ditty as its flavour text, drawn directly from Tolkien’s writing.

“I love that we were able to put Bombadil in,” Cartagena added. “We went for a little bit of a Da Vinci vibe with him. All-knowing, all-perfect, all-smart.”

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Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis


After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.