In the introduction to The Tolkien Reader Peter Beagle commented that should Frodo, Aragorn and co. have failed, and Sauron had total dominion over Middle Earth, Tom Bombadil would have been the last to fall. I'm not sure of the textual basis for this but it got me wondering what that would look like.
If I was a true Tolkienite I would have written this in some obscure Anglo-Saxon meter but I'm not so I didn't. Call it fan-fiction if you want, I don't really care. Tolkien left too many undeveloped areas to justify the creation an entirely new epic; in other words, if this is fan fiction so is the Aeneid.
The Death of Tom Bombadil
Bombadil is going to war. He has taken up his wood-ax and is shaping it upon ground stone. From hardest ironwood he has hewn himself a sturdy shield and from his mantelpiece his has taken a mighty halberd, gift from some ancient Dwarven king. He is garbing himself in leather and tying his hair and beard into braids. For Melkor had come back through the doors of night and all the earth has hearkened to him.
No elven lord now stands to mar him nor elven maiden to bind him with sleep. No mountain kings to withstand the fiery assault of his dragons nor tree herders to bring the waters down upon his citadel. From the deepest pits his Balrogs have awoken and from the withered heath his wyrms descend. His orcs and trolls were hunted from the earth but men now people the ranks of his host. Men of every land and tongue to fight for the author of all evil. And so old Tom girds himself for battle and, having sent Goldberry west to the halls of Tulkas, prepares his home of the coming of the enemy.
About his lands he casts a mighty enchantment so that no fires will burn and among the trees many traps he lays, pits and springs and wires to dispatch the unwary. He teaches the streams to swallow up any who step even a little into their waters and the badgers to haul trespassers below into their dens and slay them with their own knives. Old Man Willow needs no instruction.
For himself Tom takes up his weapons, ax, halberd and iron-shod stave, and seems to be on all paths at once, patrolling every border and watching every gate. But though many a scout is caught unawares still the host of Melkor comes. Last of all men and maiar is Bombadil to fall and smoke drifts ever through the treetops of his home.
When Melkor’s armies at last converge the land in every direction is burned and barren and flying high as he dares Tom’s sparrow cannot see the far end of their great encampment. The night before the assault a wind seems to blow in every direction from Bombadil’s house and the clouds are banished from the sky. Last of all nights Tom gazes at the stars, Earendil shining still though his nemesis has risen again.
The morning is dim and fog-bound when Melkor commands his forces forth into the wood. First are men, frightened, confused, easily ensnared and cut down. Tom is grieved to do it but he strikes not at the children of Illuvatar but at Melkor himself, of whom they have become a member. Many fall in the mist but slowly his deceptions are found out. Tom is seen to be struck by a dart but no body is found and he is soon seen unhurt on another path. At last come the mighty of Melkor’s servants and the forests are leveled. The dragon’s fire dies in their throats but their cold strength cannot be ruined. On the hillock where once his home stood Tom gives them battle and the wyrms are struck down as by the mountain kings of old. But men come still. Tom’s halberd splinters and so he casts it away and draws stave and shield to fight until he stands on a great mound of smote bodies. At this time night falls and Melkor’s lieutenants tally their slain. Many, they count, have fallen to this one man or elder being and their lord is displeased. His great drakes are all but slaughtered and Bombadil’s enchantment stands still, holding his Balrogs at bay. Men seem of no use against this wild primordial thing and so he resolves to do battle himself on the morrow.
The night is long and Tom had no living thing to keep vigil with him. All around him are the hewn and the fallen, men and trees and beasts. He thinks of his long life, of Goldberry the river-woman’s daughter, of the hobbit folk and their merriment now silenced, of the stillness of the river at dawn and the warm peace of the evening. The evil clouds have come and he has not the strength to drive them away and so neither moon nor stars he sees, only the glow the fires of his enemy.
Again at first light he sends forth a mist, but Melkor, emerging with his terrible mace, banishes it and they fight in the open fields of carnage. The dark lord towered above even the trees in the elder times and now is strong as he ever was but Tom seem to grow to match him and fights him as a peer. Across the battlefield the combat rages until Tom’s shield is shattered and Grond hangs in fragments. At noon they take reprieve and Melkor is frightened, for even in Fingolfin he had not such a foe. When again the duel resumes Tom wields ax and stave together and Melkor draws a great black sword, larger in handle than the height of a man and set with all manner of barbs and hooks, but both are tired and the day ends before either have fallen.
At this Tom takes heart, for he cannot know what else they could send at him; what, he thinks, could best he who fought Melkor to a draw? And thinking thusly for half the night Melkor despairs and wonders from where such an enemy could have come then recalls his youth and giving order to the greatest of his lieutenants he sleeps.
Tom is awakened by a great stench and he knows that this day he will die. Brought forth from the deepest cavern of old Mordor is the last daughter of Ungoliant, and she has feasted since dawn on the flesh of the dead. Swollen she is and strong, as Bombadil rises and takes up his ax Melkor reminds her of their promise - kill this last Aniur and all of Middle-Earth shall be hers. She turns to him, eight eyes ravenous, fangs dripping with venom, spinnerets preparing a hideous web, and he is afraid. But as they circle each other a different thought enters Tom’s mind: he will die, there is no preventing that now, nothing he can do can avert that fate and so likewise he should have no fear for no action of his can truly affect his life, its length or its composition. All that stands before him now is to fight and to die and to do each of these well he knows he can.
At that moment the great beast saw in his eye a tear and thinking it to be of terror instead of joy she struck. And Bombadil fought. And his ax cleaved from her two hairy legs but her poison and her entangling web found him and he was overcome and consumed.
Thus did Tom Bombadil die, slain by the most terrible thing ever to walk on Middle-Earth.