We model the 1990 giant X-ray flare of the quiescent galaxy NGC 5905 as the tidal disruption of a star by a supermassive black hole. From the observed rapid decline of the luminosity, over a timescale of a few years, we argue that the flare was powered by the fallback of debris rather than subsequent accretion via a thin disk. The fallback model allows constraints to be set on the black hole mass and the mass of debris. The latter must be very much less than a solar mass to explain the very low luminosity of the flare. The observations can be explained either as the partial stripping of the outer layers of a low-mass main-sequence star or as the disruption of a brown dwarf or a giant planet. We find that the X-ray emission in the flare must have originated within a small patch rather than over the entire torus of circularized material surrounding the black hole. We suggest that the patch corresponds to the ``bright spot'' where the stream of returning debris impacts the torus. Interestingly, although the peak luminosity of the flare was highly sub-Eddington, the peak flux from the bright spot was close to the Eddington limit. We speculate on the implications of this result for observations of other flare events.