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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Why Tom Bombadil is not Aule

News from Bree
spymaster@theonering.net

Nov 7 2012, 4:26am

Post #1 of 10 (1563 views)
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Why Tom Bombadil is not Aule Can't Post

The question of Tom Bombadil is one of the longest-running debates in Tolkien's Middle-earth. Of all the possible answers that have been thrown around, the suggestion that he could be Aule the smith -- and Goldberry therefore Yavanna -- seems to have unusual tenacity. Steuard Jensen, maintainer of the The Tolkien Newsgroups FAQ, explains in this detailed essay why it is a flawed theory.

This essay is an extension of his original essay What is Tom Bombadil? that specifically addresses the flaws in the Aule theory.

As Jensen himself writes:

In my full essay "What is Tom Bombadil", I categorize the idea that he is the Vala Aule as a "theory with fatal flaws". Although I believe my arguments there to be more than sufficient, many readers have considered them too brief and dismissive and claim instead that Gene Hargrove's detailed and well written essay "Who is Tom Bombadil?" makes a compelling case that I have not refuted.

I have a great deal of respect for Hargrove's writing; indeed, the desire to improve on his conclusions while doing justice to the quality of his article was one of my own motives in exploring the topic. I intentionally did not frame any portion of my essay explicitly as a refutation of his article because that felt far more negative and adversarial than I wanted to be. But as his flawed theory has continued to be very popular in the ten years since my essay appeared, it seems to be worth confronting the claim that Bombadil is Aule in detail. I will begin by collecting all of my arguments against it in one place (many taken directly from my full essay), and then I will address Hargrove's arguments in its favor.


Essay: Why Bombadil cannot be Aule


Elizabeth
Valinor


Nov 7 2012, 5:41pm

Post #2 of 10 (827 views)
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Why does anyone think he is Aule? [In reply to] Can't Post

I confess I've never seen the theory that Tom is Aule, and have trouble imagining why anyone thinks he might be. Aule is linked to technology, mechanics, and craftsmanship. Tom is all about nature. No match at all.






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Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Demosthenes
Sr. Staff


Nov 7 2012, 11:56pm

Post #3 of 10 (659 views)
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it's beyond me [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I confess I've never seen the theory that Tom is Aule, and have trouble imagining why anyone thinks he might be. Aule is linked to technology, mechanics, and craftsmanship. Tom is all about nature. No match at all.


But Steuard says it seems to persist in some corners. And i know when I ran a "who is tom bombadil?" chat earlier this year, the Aule theory did get mentioned by some people.

Perhaps it's because it's superficially attractive until you start thinking about it.

Anyway, as such, I thought Steuard's essays deserved a much wider audience. The Meta-FAQ is a great reference.

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IRC Admin and Hall of Fire moderator


Escapist
Gondor


Nov 8 2012, 12:29am

Post #4 of 10 (765 views)
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I could see it. [In reply to] Can't Post

All of this is pure conjecture but:

(1) Aule and Tom had a thematic connection to the earth
(2) Tom resembles dwarves on a surface aesthetic level (height, beard, etc.)
(3) Tom seems to have spiritual power that gives him extra resistance to the ring's influence

I'm not saying that this proves anything. I just think that there is a reason for people to formulate that theory.
It's really hard to prove anything conclusively using just the text. That's why Tom gets argued about so much.


Tolkien Forever
Gondor

Nov 9 2012, 4:40am

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It never Fails [In reply to] Can't Post

To amaze me with the nonsensical ways folks reinterpret Tolkien's work to fit their own agenda & come up with things the good author absolutely never intended or gave a thought to himself ~ even left contrary statements to which are constantly ignored by those which said personal agenda...

Tolkien said Bombadil was an inigma.

So who's trying to figure out what Tolkien hadn't figured out?

But will anybody stop just because Tolkien gave us the answer himself?

Never.

That would be too simple & require us to put aside our own opinions.

Never happen in this age.

And for Aule, yeah, Bombadil does an awful lot of stuff to remind one of Aule, lol. Crazy

The only thing the dude ever built in 30,000 years is a single house while he spends his time skipping upon the lilly fields. Sly

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ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Nov 9 2012, 9:47am

Post #6 of 10 (730 views)
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Never mind the fact [In reply to] Can't Post

that the Istari are the emmissaries of the Valar in Middle Earth, soooo if any Vala were present why bother with emmissaries. Aule would have just knocked the snot out of Sauron and be done with.


Plurmo
Rohan

Nov 9 2012, 3:07pm

Post #7 of 10 (648 views)
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I think the original motivation for that theory was: [In reply to] Can't Post

since Goldberry happens to be portrayed in ways that resemble Yavanna perhaps there are some aspects in which Bombadil resembles Aulë. I, for one, had this exact thought when I first read the Silmarillion.


CuriousG
Valinor


Nov 14 2012, 7:42pm

Post #8 of 10 (630 views)
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Exactly my thoughts; and, what about hobbits? [In reply to] Can't Post

I have trouble picturing Aule understanding a willow intimately and telling it what to do and being obeyed. Bombadil is more like a male Yavanna.

I will say for my part, however, that Tolkien created such a detailed world that I couldn't imagine Bombadil being left out of the whole order of things, so I figured he was a Vala or Ainu who stayed behind, as Melian did. Or moved back after the fall of Morgoth, or for whatever reason.

I think it's a sign of the loyalty of Tolkien readers that we figure he doesn't leave anything dangling, and even the cats of Queen Beruthiel have a backstory, so Bombadil must too. But if Tolkien admitted somewhere that Bombadil exists outside of the Big Picture, no one can argue with him.

Now that I think about it, is the creation of hobbits ever accounted for? I can't think of where it is. There have the same enigmatic origins that Bombadil does.


Elenorflower
Gondor


Nov 15 2012, 12:16am

Post #9 of 10 (693 views)
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If we ever found out [In reply to] Can't Post

who he is, he wouldnt be so fascinating, he is an enigma and should stay an enigma. Wink Although it is fun to wonder and debate, as I have done many times myself. I think he could be a genius loci or as in the Shinto faith, a Kami.

'kami could be the guardian spirits of the land Traditionally, kami possess two souls, one gentle and the other assertive. This powerful form of kami was also divided into amatsu-kami ("the heavenly deities") and kunitsu-kami ("the gods of the earthly realm"). A deity would behave differently according to which soul was in control at a given time. In many ways, this was representative of nature's sudden changes and would explain why there were kami for every meteorological event: snowfall, rain, typhoons, floods, lightning and volcanoes'. wikipedia.


Eärwen of Mithlond
The Shire


Dec 14 2012, 5:42am

Post #10 of 10 (1023 views)
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RE: what about hobbits [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought it was implied in the Prologue ("Of Hobbits") to The Lord of the Rings that hobbits are an offshoot of men? Someone please correct if this is a wrong assumption.

Occupation: Ship-building
Hobbies: Swimming, long walks on the shore

 
 

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