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The Hobbit Read-Along: Chapter VII, Queer Lodgings

16 Oct

WARNING: I fully intended to write a straightforward reflection on chapter VII of The Hobbit. Really. But something happened as I started writing and I couldn’t stop myself. So I went with it, for good or ill. You have been warned.

So I’m reading chapter VII of The Hobbit, called “Queer Lodgings,” and I’m thinking to myself, “Didn’t Bilbo and

Bilbo Baggins

Bilbo Baggins (Photo credit: Dunechaser)

Thorin and the boys just have a rest three or four chapters back?” In fact they did, and the chapter was even called “A Short Rest.” Well, not that short really. They spent two weeks in Rivendell as guests of Elrond, for crying out loud! Sure, they had just escaped from some nasty trolls, but don’t you think three or four days would have sufficed?

So here we are four chapters on and the gang is taking another rest. Honestly, is this an adventure or a bed and breakfast tour? (Oh, but wouldn’t The Last Homely House be a great name for a B&B?) I guess I should cut them a little slack. After all, they did just escape lots of goblins and Wargs, and we all know how stress inducing THOSE can be! Besides, who can complain about free airfare?

This time the accommodations, and the host, are a bit, ah, different. Unlike Elrond, the new proprietor is large, hairy, gruff, easily angered and somewhat rude. Did I mention he’s also a skin-changer? Some cultures might call him a shape-shifter. He can transform himself into a bear. At will, evidently. His name is Beorn, which comes from Ye Olde English and means “bear.” So our heroes are holed-up with a werebear berserkr. (See, if I were writing a serious analysis of this chapter, I would tell you how the word “berserkr” comes from the Old Norse words, bjorn bear + serkr shirt. But I’m not so I won’t.) Guess there’ll be no “O, tra-la-la-lally here down in the valley!” during THIS stop.

Thank you very much, Gandalf! Did any of the traveling party think to check this guy’s references?

Now the actual facilities are pretty nice. A large lodge made of wood, clean and warm, with straw mattresses and woolen blankets. Plenty of food served by magical white ponies, grey dogs and white sheep. Most important, there is lots of mead! This is a very good thing. Trust me. I’ve had mead.

So Bilbo, Thorin and the gang have a grand meal with Beorn and listen to him tell tales of Mirkwood forest, which is a dark and terrifying place and which happens to be their very next destination. Cheery. But wait, there’s more! Not long after the meal is finished, the door to the lodge slams shut and Beorn is gone and Gandalf tells them, “you must not stray outside until the sun is up, on your peril.” So do you think a dwarf or two regretted drinking that sixth bowl of mead?

OK. Maybe this stop isn’t really much of a rest.

So after two nights away, Beorn returns in a very jovial mood. Nothing lifts the spirits like decorating your property with goblin heads and Warg pelts. Just in time for Halloween, too. He’s in such a good mood that he tells our company even more about the wonders of Mirkwood: “your way through Mirkwood is dark, dangerous and difficult. Water is not easy to find there, nor food. . . in there the wild things are dark, queer and savage.” Yes! On the plus side, Beorn does supply them with food, water and ponies to ride, but they have to send the ponies back when they reach the gate of the forest. (Forests have gates?)

Not to be outdone, Gandalf decides now’s the time to leave. He leads the company right to the forest’s gate and then says: “And good-bye to you all, good-bye! Straight through the forest is your way now. Don’t stray off the track! – if you do, it is a thousand to one you will never find it again and never get out of Mirkwood; and then I don’t suppose I, or any one else, will ever see you again.”

In a touching group farewell, the dwarves reply to Gandalf: “O good-bye and go away!”

Now I don’t know about the dwarves, but Bilbo evidently didn’t learn his lesson about Gandalf. He didn’t even bother to warn his cousin, Frodo, about getting involved in any adventures with this guy. Sure enough, guess who doesn’t show up at the Prancing Pony? Maybe someone should give Gandalf’s cousin Radagast a try.

One last thing. Frodo and his traveling buddies have an encounter strangely similar to the one Bilbo and Thorin had with Beorn. They accept lodging with a strange character in an amazing place in the middle of nowhere. And get this: both incidents happen in CHAPTER VII!

Coincidence? I think not.

__________

The Hobbit Read-Along continues on Thursday with Chapter VIII, Flies and Spiders, over at http://jubilare.wordpress.com/. Don’t miss it!

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10 Comments

Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Book Review

 

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10 responses to “The Hobbit Read-Along: Chapter VII, Queer Lodgings

  1. jubilare

    October 16, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    You had me grinning throughout this. 🙂

    Beorn is such an interesting oddness in The Hobbit. I never know quite what to think of him, and I wouldn’t have the courage to ask him.

    “He didn’t even bother to warn his cousin, Frodo, about getting involved in any adventures with this guy.” I know, right? Gandalf may be trustworthy, but he’s hardly reliable.

     
    • Rob

      October 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      Thank you, Jubilare. Sometimes a silliness comes over me and I just can’t help myself. I’m glad you enjoyed it! And, yes, you are absolutely right about Gandalf. You can trust him with anything, but getting him to show up can be a real pain! Thanks for your comment. Hope things are well in your world.

       
      • jubilare

        October 17, 2012 at 11:14 am

        Periodic silliness is a welcome thing, to me. 🙂

        Thank you! I hope the same for you.

         
  2. David

    October 17, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Reblogged this on The Warden's Walk and commented:
    A humorous alternative look at the oddities in Chapter 7, including the dubious wisdom of lodging with a dangerous, tempestuous were-bear.

     
  3. Mary

    October 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    I just finished reading a book about The Hobbit and one of the comments that the author made about this chapter was that If Beorn, a werebear beserkr as you call him, was warning the dwarves about how queer and savage Mirkwood is, well, it should be an interesting trip through for them, to say the least.

     
    • Rob

      October 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      That’s a great point, Mary. Perhaps Gandalf had a reason for setting the gang up with Beorn after all. Good preparation for Mirkwood! Appreciate your comment.

       
  4. emilykazakh

    October 18, 2012 at 2:20 am

    Reblogged this on WanderLust and commented:
    Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves take a break.
    Again.

     
  5. David

    October 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Next to the Wood Elves, Beorn is probably the incident I was most looking forward to. He’s such an intriguing oddity — good, but not tame (like another powerful animal-shaped Person we know from another fantasy series. In fact, the part where Bilbo notices Bear-Beorn following them softly from the shadows reminds me of nothing so much as Aslan in The Horse and His Boy.), prefers the company of animals to people but is a very generous host when he decides he likes you, and, most intriguingly, isn’t given any history or particular explanation. He fits the world of The Hobbit well enough, and isn’t as jarring as Tom Bombadil seemed to some, but there still doesn’t seem to be anyone else like him. Although, the way the animals of his house serve food in an almost human manner is rather odd by Middle-Earth standards.

     
    • Rob

      October 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm

      I agree with you about Beorn. Wonderful character who fits and yet doesn’t. Much like Tom B. in LOTR. I was so disappointed that Peter Jackson left Tom out of the films. I’m hoping he corrects that error and includes Beorn in The Hobbit. Your observation that Beorn’s animals were “odd by Middle-earth standards” is spot on. I love the way Tolkien puts us in an amazing world with mythic inhabitants, and then suddenly those inhabitants are confronted by things that are wondrous even by their standards! Wonders within wonders.

      BTW, sorry I went goofy on you with this chapter. I promise to be on my best behavior when I get to Chapter XVI, A Thief in the Night. Honest. And thanks, as always, for your insights.

       
      • David

        October 20, 2012 at 10:49 pm

        Haha, no worries. I deliberately didn’t set many rules for this Read-Along — I wanted to see the different ways you guys would approach the story! And yours was very amusing and easy to read. Can’t wait to read your thoughts on chapter 16, serious or silly.

         

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