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