I must say that I have never thought of the Secret Fire as anything with a body, or much at all really. Is it anything more than the spark of life? If Tom is the fire, then what is Goldberry?
I just replied to Hargrove's comments, a couple of years late. I thought you may find his comments and my answers to be of value in the discussion. His comments are numbered, and my answers follow each point. There is always enough to disagree about, hehe...
1, On pages 3 and 4 you talk about Prometheus. I doubt that Tolkien was very
interested in Prometheus and the comparisons seem too complicated. You
indicate that Prometheus is the creator of man. In Tolkien’s world, Iluvatar
is the creator of humans, and elves. They are the children of Iluvatar. The
world was created by the Ainur under Iluvatar’s musical supervision.On page
4 you call Aule the creator. Probably maker would be better since he is
introduced in the Silmarillion ("Of the Valar’) as "a smith and a master of
all crafts." He did make the lands (in the sense of install them) but he did
so with the help of Manwe (the sky) and Ulmo (the water) and the lands were
finished or decorated by Yavanna, who filled them with plants and animals.
It would probably be more correct to say that Aule was "a maker" along with
others. A comparison between Aule and Sauron seems somewhat pointless, since
Sauron is such an insignificant being in comparison with Aule. In the
Silmarillion ("Of the Valar’) Aule is compared with Melkor. Sauron is a
former servant of Aule who switched to the service of Melkor. Sauron is
trying to carry on the work of his new master as best he can. The purpose of
the Ring is to increase Sauron’s power beyond that of a Maia. He would only
achieve a Vala-like status reunited with the ring. Without it he is
diminished, since he put some of himself in the ring. To me talking about
Aule and Sauron together is like talking about apples and oranges, so to
Tolkien was perhaps not overly interested in Prometheus, but he certainly was familiar with Greek mythology, and Prometheus is the first smith, then replicated in many other mythologies. I do not expect to find a single character in Tolkien's mythology to be an exact match, but there are qualities from Prometheus and his creation of Man that cast some light on Tolkien's rather complicated mythology.
The Ainur could perhaps be called draftsmen and the Valar could very well be called makers rather than creators. Illuvatar is responsible for everything in the sense that he supposedly thought it all out in advance. The Ainur sings his vision, and the Valar builds the reality from their song, but not limited to it. They are limited only by Illuvatar's vision, which they do not fully comprehend, but that does not matter. The Valar do not have actuall free will. Question is: Does anyone?
There is some of Prometheus even in Sauron. This is David Day's idea, which I can see, but I also conclude that Aulë is a much better match for Prometheus. What I am saying is that Sauron is not like Prometheus in David Day's sense. Tolkien's mythology has it's own parallels. Sauron mirrors Aulë's actions, not Prometheus'. To quote myself: "Tolkien’s Vala Aulë the Smith is much more like Prometheus than Sauron, who is a Maia; i.e. a lesser god. Since the Olympian gods are lesser gods than the Titans are, this places Sauron in Hephaestos’ position. Sauron is originally a servant of the Vala Aulë, the creator (The Silmarillion, 27), but turns away from creation when he starts serving the Vala Melkor, the destructor (The Silmarillion, 16ff). In fact, the one mirrored by Sauron is Aulë, who originally gives the gift of alchemy to the Elves."
2. On page 6 you assert that Aule created the hobbits. It seems to me to be
very unlikely that Aule would have done such a thing, given the trouble that
he got into over creating the dwarves. In the chapter of the Silmarillion
("Of Aule and Yavanna"), when Aule makes the dwarves, Iluvatar comes and
informs him that he does not have the power or authority to make creatures
of his own. That he does not have the authority means that Iluvatar doesn't
want him to do it. That he does not have the power refers to the fact that
Aule cannot give his creatures free will. Because Aule repents his actions,
Iluvatar permits the dwarves to live and gives them free will. It seems
unlikely that Iluvatar would have forgiven a second violation of his
authority. Thus, if Aule had created the hobitts, and Iluvatar didn't show
up to destroy them, the hobbits would have remained mindless puppets, able
to move only when Aule moved them. It is more reasonable to conclude that
they were in the Song of the Ainur, like the Ents, whom Yavanna only
remembered after Manwe told her to think about the song ("Of Aule and
If Aulë created the hobbits, who is to say that he didn't do so before he created the dwarves, or at the same time, or even afterwards. After all, Aulë cannot do anything wrong since nothing can be done that is not thought of in advance by Illuvatar. The Valar do not understand the entirety of Illuvatar's plan, since not all was covered in the Song of the Ainur, but they can still not do anything that is nott in Illuvatar's grand plan. Without the knowledge of that plan, we cannot say that Aulë did not create/make the hobbits. Which Vala would you have responsible? After all, as far as we know, the two major races are supposed to be Elves and Men. Why create a people that would never rule? That is why it fits that the Hobbits are created for a purpose. Their destiny is to overthrow Sauron and to make the way for Man, helping the vison of Illuvatar.
3. On page 15 and 16 you present an incorrect version of my argument. In
"The Voice of Saruman" Gimli says, "I wish to see him [Saruman] and learn if
he really looks like you," to which Gandalf replies, "And how will you learn
that, Master Dwarf? . . . Saruman could look like me in your eyes, if it
suited his purpose with you." My point is not that Tom can change his
appearance, but that if he wer a Vala or a Maia, he would be able to. My
conclusion is not as you present it that "this ability supports the theory
that Tom is a Vala." My position is not that a chameleon act makes a Vala.
Rather, my point is that if Tom is a Vala or Maia, his appearance is
irrelevant. Of course, if he cannot change his appearance (a matter about
which we have no evidence one way or the other), then his appearance would
be relevant. In other words, I am only arguing that Tom's appearance does
not rule out the possibility that he is Aule. However, it does not provide
evidence that he is.
I perfectly understand your argument, and I am sorry that you interpret my text as giving proof for, rather than just provide no evidence either way. In my view, it matters not. No proof against is enough.
4. In the same paragraph, you state "Since Tom existed before Melkor, the
Dark Lord, and the other Valar descended to Middle-earth, he can be nothing
other than a Vala." I suppose the basis for this claim is the paragraph you
quote on page 15. There are a lot of different times mentioned in Tom's
quote. "Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first
raindrop and the first acorn" seems to refer to the time when Aule worked
with Ulmo to create the seas and the rivers and with Yavanna to add plants
to the lands. It is hard to imagine what "here" means since before the
rivers and the trees would seem to be before the land as well, unless he
just appeared between the making of the land and the watering and planting
of it. The arrival of the big and little people was much more recent. The
arrival of the big people would be before the end of the first age (the
bending of the seas). The arrival of the little people would be in the third
age. The hobbits arrived in the Shire in 1601. The reference to the coming
of the Barrow-wights is also third age, 1409. The next sentence about the
elves and the bending of the seas refers back again to the first age. The
reference to the dark under the stars before the Dark Lord came from the
outside is confusing. Melkor was not the Dark Lord when he came from the
outside. He became the Dark Lord when he openly fought with the other Valar
under the name Morgoth the Enemy. To make sense of this last sentence in
your quote, it seems to me that "outside" would have to refer to the
Uttermost West, where the Valar resided. If so, then we are back to the time
in "Of the Beginning of Days" in the Silmarillion when order was brought to
the seas, lands, and mountains and Yavanna planted the last of her seeds, at
which point Melkor grew dark as the Night of the Void and began building his
fortress in Middle-earth. To me, the only useful reference is the one to the
time before the river and the trees, since all the other events are later,
stretching from the first to the third ages. So, does this quote show that
Tom "existed before Melkor, the Dark Lord"? If Tom is Aule, then it would
seem that "existed" is too strong a word for he and Melkor would have
existed from about the same time before the making of Middle-earth. They
were both created by Iluvatar for the purpose of participating in the Song
of the Ainur. In the Ainulindale, there is no reference to some Valar
coming earlier than others, except for Tulkas who came as a replacement for
Melkor when Melkor turned evil. Presumably all of the first came together.
It is stated moreover that when the work started to build the world, "Melkor
too was there from the first. . . ." Thus, if the Dark Lord coming from the
outside refers to Melkor leaving the Uttermost West, it does not help
establish Tom as a Vala, since there were lots of things in Middle-earth at
It is interesting that you do not, as so many others have, point to an idea in the drafts, in which Melkor enter first. As the drafts a many and varied, written over a very long time, I stick to the words of the Silmarillion. I see that as Tolkien's last words on the subject, and therefore disregard any earlier ideas when it comes to discussing Tolkien's World. This is a limitation that I see as necessary for any meaningful discussion on how it all fits together.
I guess that I am in a similar position again. There is no evidence to say that Aulë was not the first to enter, or that he at least entered before Melkor, but it is certainly possible. I would argue that since Aulë was necessary in order to create/make the very building blocks, he would have to be there before anything could really be done. This does not necessarily mean that he must be the first to enter the sphere, but again, it could very well be so. Atmosphere and oceans cannot exist without Earth, whether that Earth is a globe or otherwise.
5. Further down, you state "I have already expressed the idea that Aule
created the hobbits, which would have to mean that Tom is Aule." As I note
in 2 above, it is very unlikely that Aule would have deliberately sinned
against Iluvatar a second time, since he now knows that creating creatures
is forbidden. If they were not created like elves, humans, and ents, as part
of the song, then they were probably created by someone other than Aule, and
that someone would have to be more powerful that Iluvatar, since creating
the hobbits would challenge his authority and would require the power to
bestow free will. Aule is unwilling to challenge that authority and does not
have the power to bestow free will.
You really think there could be someone more powerful than Illuvatar? Again, the fact is that the Ainur did not see it all. Illuvatar must have envisioned the Dwarves as well as the Hobbits. And since Aulë is responsible for the Dwarves, why not the Hobbits...
6. On page 15 you state: "Song is fundamental to his being, suggesting he
might case to cease to exist if he stops singing, though it is more likely
that Tom's singing creates and sustains the world within the boundaries he
has set for himself. Within these boundaries lies the Shire, which means
that the hobbits are created by Tom." The first sentence is wild speculation
for which you give no evidence. It is also inconsistent with Goldberry's
explanation of who Tom is. She stresses that the strange land where he lives
is independent of Tom, he is just the master. If his singing sustains the
world around him, then the Old Forest is not independent. "The trees and the
grasses and all things growing or living in the land each belong to
themselves." If they belonged to Tom, "that would indeed be a burden." If
Tom was sustaining them from moment to moment by singing, that would really
be a burden. Tom delights in the independent status of the things around
him. If he is in the relationship that you suggest, then they are not
independent. They are part of him. Further, the boundaries that Tom has set
for himself cannot be the basis for an argument that Tom created the
hobbits. The remark about boundaries comes from Gandalf in "The Council of
Elrond": "And now he has withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he
has set, though none can see them, waiting for a change of days, and he will
not step beyond them." Tom wandered over to the Old Forest and decided to
stay there most of the time. The statement says nothing about creation or
sustaining the Old Forest through song.
By creating and sustaining, I guess I mean rejuvenating. Tom is certainly the Master of his domain, but do you really think that such a small area would weigh heavily on the mind of a Vala? I believe that he must be in perfect control within his boundaries, but he is to care-free and loving to exert that control to. He is happy to make small adjustments in order to keep everything running smoothly, enjoying Illuvatar's creation, but also protecting it. The other Vala surely knows where he is and what he is doing, but I think it tracks that they cannot keep him or Yavanna away from Middle-Earth.
7. You state in the next sentence that "Hobbits are in many ways like Tom,
suggesting that Tom does not change his appearance to be like the hobbits,
but rather suggesting that he created them in his image." In the
"Ainulindale" it is stated that when the Valar arrived in the world, they
"took to themselves shape and hue; and because they were drawn into the
World by love of the Children of Iluvatar, for whom they hoped, they took
shape after that manner which they had beheld in the Vision of Iluvatar,
save only in majesty and splendour." According to this passage, the Valar
chose to look like the Children of Iluvatar, as best they could remember,
and to the degree that they were able to copy the look. Since Aule also was
a Vala, he would have taken the form that he remembered from the song of the
Children of Iluvatar. We know what that memory was, to the degree that he
could execute it: it is a dwarf. Thus, if Tom is Aule, and Aule created the
hobbits in his image, then the hobbits should look like dwarves. As it is
stated in "Of Aule and Yavanna," the dwarves look as they do because "the
forms of the Children who were to come were unclear in his [Aule's] mind." I
think my view is more likely: that Tom decided to look like a hobbit. Since
you agree that Tom is Aule, and he took a form to look like the Children of
Illuvatar, it seems unlikely that he had a form of his own. Aule came from
the Void, where the nature of existence was different. What he looked like
was his choice since his appearance in the world had nothing to do with his
form and nature in the Void. I discuss this matter in my essay and give a
reference to Unfinished Tales about the conversion of the wizards into
living beings. You might consider looking at the reference.
So, now you are saying that Aulë saw the Dwarves in the Song? Any evidence of that? That the image was unclear is clearly not enough. He may just as well create hobbits from that. If he tried one model, why not another? His appearance is indeed his choice. Over time, might he not change his appearance? After all, Tom is not exactly the shape of a hobbit, just hobbit-like. It is like he is the idea of the perfect hobbit. The spirit if you will; not the body. The Dwarves are flawed and represent the work of a 'young' eager Aulë, while the Hobbits are created with much more care by a more mature and wise Aulë. This old and wise Vala is what we see in Tom Bombadil. This is why I say that the Hobbits are like him, rather than the other way around.
8. In the last sentence on page 16, you say that Tom sends the hobbits "out
into the world again, trusting the naked will and courage of his hobbits." I
see no basis for this claim. He doesn't send them; rather he takes them to
Bree. I don't think he trusts their will and courage. As you know, I hold
that he is limited by the song he sang. A more standard view would be as in
"The Council of Elrond" that he is a little senile: such things as the ring
"have no hold on his mind."
Aulë is not limited by the Song he sang, he is limited by Illuvatar's vison. Tom does not know what will happen, but he trusts the will of Illuvatar, therefore I conclude that he understands that the Hobbits have a purpose. The words I am paraphrasing are of course Tolkien's own: “It is the strength of the northern mythological imagination that it faced this problem, put the monsters in the centre, gave them victory but no honour, and found a potent but terrible solution in naked will and courage” (“The Monsters and the Critics”, 25-26). I believe this is an important clue when trying to understand Tom Bombadil and the Hobbits. Tom does send them on their way, and makes sure that they do get to Bree, as you say. He is bound by Illuvatar's vison, and therefore we cannot question why he does not do more. He simply cannot.