Tolkien Gateway

Old Man Willow

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Old Man Willow by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Old Man Willow was a willow in the Old Forest from which much of the Forest's hatred of walking things came.[1] He might have been an Ent who had become tree-like, or possibly a Huorn, as the Old Forest was originally part of the same primordial forest as Fangorn. Tom Bombadil had power over Old Man Willow, and checked the evil as much as he could, or was willing.


On 26 September T.A. 3018[2] Old Man Willow cast a spell on the hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin ), causing them to feel sleepy. Merry and Pippin leaned against the trunk and fell asleep, while Frodo sat on a root to dangle his feet in the water, before also falling asleep. The tree trapped Merry and Pippin in cracks in the trunk, and tipped Frodo into the stream.

Sam managed to fight off the spell and rescued Frodo from the stream. Together they attempted to save Merry and Pippin by lighting a fire at the tree's base, but this only served to infuriate Old Man Willow, who threatened to kill the trapped hobbits. They were saved by the timely arrival of Tom Bombadil.[1]

Other Versions of the Legendarium

In The Return of the Shadow, in the early text for The Lord of the Rings, the incident with Old Man Willow has Bingo (who would later become Frodo) and Odo (who would become Pippin) laying against the tree. Frodo (who becomes Sam) is the one pushed into the river while Marmaduke (later Merry) is the one who resists the spell.[3]

Later in Tom Bombadil's house Tom relates the lore concerning Old Man Willow. He is described as a "grey thirsty earth-bound spirit" that had "become imprisoned in the greatest Willow of the Forest".[4]

Portrayals in adaptations

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

Although he did not appear in the 2001 movie adaptation, a very similar episode with Hobbits being swallowed by a tree was included in the extended edition, where Merry and Pippin are swallowed by a Huorn in Fangorn Forest, to be saved by Treebeard.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Old Forest"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: V. The Old Forest and the Withywindle"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: VI. Tom Bombadil"