Before Third Age
When Tom Bombadil ventured into the Eriador region, several of the valley's mysterious residents, including Goldberry, attempted to capture Bombadil for their own ends, but quail at the power of Tom's voice, which defeated their enchantments and commands them to return to their natural existence. However, according to a tale, Goldberry was in the Withywindle when she pulled Tom by his beard under the water-lilies out of mischief, but he ordered her to let him free. The next day he came to the River-woman and asked Goldberry to be his wife, and the creatures of the Old Forest (the badger-folk and other animals) attended their wedding.
Apparently, Goldberry lived in a little house by the river Withywindle in the Old Forest, together with her lovely husband Tom Bombadil, since the beginning of the Third Age. Like Tom, she also interacted occasionally with Hobbits, specifically the Bucklanders, who lived in the region what would become the Shire.
War of the Ring
In 3018 Tom Bombadil travelled to the lower reaches of the Withywindle to gather white water-lilies for her, and it was while returning from a lily-gathering expedition that he discovered Frodo and his companions, and rescued them from Old Man Willow. Goldberry seems to have used her lilies to recreate her original home in the river: when Tom brought the Hobbits back to his house, they found a seated Goldberry surrounded by water-lilies floating in pots of earthenware.
Goldberry hosted the Hobbits and they found her to be as mysterious as Tom, but were grateful for her kindness to them and were enchanted by her presence. She then explained a little about Tom to the group and then asked them to clean up to have dinner with them. The next day, while washing the house, she interrupted Bombadil when he told the Hobbits of their origin and called them to eat. The next morning she said goodbye to Frodo and the others when they left for Barrow-downs.
Goldberry had long, yellow hair and her voice was beautiful, "as young and as ancient as spring, like the song of a glad water flowing down into the night from a bright morning in the hills." When the Hobbits first saw her she was wearing a gown "green as young reeds, shot with silver like beads of dew; and her belt was of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lilies set with the pale-blue eyes of forget-me-nots." She was standing amid wide vessels of green and brown earthenware in which "white water-lilies were floating, so that she seemed to be enthroned in the midst of a pool.
Although Goldberry's origins are uncertain, Bombadil clearly identifies her as having been found by him in the river and her title "River-woman's daughter" strongly suggests that she is not a mortal human being, but rather a spirit of the river Withywindle in the Old Forest. This is similar to the many named river spirits of traditional English folklore such as Jenny Greenteeth or Peg Powler of the River Tees, (though Goldberry is a noticeably gentler figure), or to the naiads of the Greeks. Otherwise, she and Bombadil are enigmas in Legendarium, not fitting easily into any of his definitions of sentient beings in his world.
One frequently proposed explanation is that she is a (minor) Maia associated with the element of water and in some way with the river Withywindle in particular, though that is by no means the only possible answer John D. Rateliff suggested that, at least in terms of Tolkien's early mythology, she should be seen as one of the wide category of fays, spirits, and elementals (including the Maia): "Thus Melian is a 'fay', (as, in all probability, are Goldberry and Bombadil; the one a nymph, the other a genius loci).
Tolkien based his mythic personages on Eurasian myth and cosmology: The Great Goddess who is mother of all things was, before Time existed, the element of water, undifferentiated. Time begins when her first offspring is born, and, according to Tom Bombadil, he is the Eldest, or first-born. The River is the local manifestation of the primal Great Goddess, and Goldberry is her daughter, the spirit of all local waters existing in Time, alive and embodied. Both Tom and Goldberry are primal spirits of nature, he of the land and its produce and she of the water. In early Eurasian myth, the element of water is feminine and the land or earth is masculine; therefore, Goldberry represents the female principle of life while Tom represents the male. Together as husband and wife they are the totality of primal Nature, endlessly proceeding in an eternal circle from season to season forever.
Portrayal in adaptations
Trading Card Game
In The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, Goldberry is portrayed by Amanda Niel.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Залатая ягада|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||金莓|
|Galician||Baga de ouro|
|Kazakh||Алтын жидек (Cyrillic) Altın jïdek (Latin)|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Златна Бери|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Алт жимс|
|Portuguese (Brazil)||Fruta d'Ouro|
|Romanian||Bacă de aur|
|Serbian||Златна бобица (Cyrillic) Zlatna bobica (Latin)|
|Spanish (Spain and Latin America)||Baya de Oro|
- The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
- The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter VI: "The Old Forest"
- The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter VII: "In the House of Tom Bombadil"
- The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter VIII: "Fog on the Barrow-downs"
- J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century (London 2001) p. 60
- J. Rateliff, Mr Baggins (London 2007), p. 59 and p. 50
- The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien
- In The Fellowship of the Ring Sourcebook for the Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game, Goldberry is listed as a nature-spirit and is closely connected to the weather of the Old Forest. "She is the rain and snows that arise from the waters and replenish them again."
- In The Lord of the Rings, Tom Bombadil describes the rain as Goldberry's washing day and her autumn cleaning.