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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – Beorn’s Hall**


Feb 19 2007, 7:39pm

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**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – Beorn’s Hall** Can't Post

Welcome to the second installment of the discussion of J. R. R. Tolkien’s illustrations for The Hobbit, as presented in Hammond and Scull’s book, J. R. R. Tolkien, Artist and Illustrator. Things will be a lot saner but a lot duller this week, and for that we have to thank drogo(_drogo) for his really excellent presentation on Tim and Dim (ah! I can call them that again, now that the truce of courtesy has passed).

We’ll pick up where N. E. Brigand left off three weeks ago. Gandalf, the Dwarves, and the Hobbit have been rescued by the Eagles, and make their way to the lands of Beorn, the shape-shifting Man/Bear.

I’ll give the text of the story as much as it relates to the illustrations, but I’m not going to add Hammond and Scull’s excellent commentary. But any comments from you, on my questions or anything else, are welcome!

From The Hobbit, Chapter VII, ‘Queer Lodgings’:
They soon came to a wooden gate, high and broad, beyond which they could see gardens and a cluster of low wooden buildings, some thatched and made of unshaped logs; barns, stables, sheds, and a long low wooden house.
. . .
Soon they reached a courtyard, three walls of which were formed by the wooden house and its two long wings. In the middle there was lying a great oak-trunk with many lopped branches beside it. Standing near was a huge man with a thick black beard and hair, and great bare arms and legs with knotted muscles. He was clothed in a tunic of wool down to his knees, and was leaning on a large axe.
. . .
"Then you had better come inside and tell me some of it, if it won't take all day," said the man leading the way through a dark door that opened out of the courtyard into the house.

114. Untitled (Interior of a Norse Hall) by E.V. Gordon
Click here for a larger view.

Hammond and Scull provide this print as the probable inspiration for Tolkien’s obvious use of a “Viking structure” for Beorn’s hall.
How does Gordon compare with Tolkien as an artist?

Following him they found themselves in a wide hall with a fire-place in the middle. Though it was summer there was a wood-fire burning and the smoke was rising to the blackened rafters in search of the way out through an opening in the roof. They passed through this dim hall, lit only by the fire and the hole above it, and came through another smaller door into a sort of veranda propped on wooden posts made of single tree-trunks. It faced south and was still warm and filled with the light of the westering sun which slanted into it, and fell golden on the garden full of flowers that came right up to the steps.

Here they sat on wooden benches while Gandalf began his tale, and Bilbo swung his dangling legs and looked at the flowers in the garden, wondering what their names could be, as he had never seen half of them before.

115. Firelight in Beorn’s House (preliminary drawing, not used)
Click here for a larger view.

Inside the hall it was now quite dark. Beorn clapped his hands, and in trotted four beautiful white ponies and several large long-bodied grey dogs. Beorn said something to them in a queer language like animal noises turned into talk. They went out again and soon came back carrying torches in their mouths, which they lit at the fire and stuck in low brackets on the pillars of the hall about the central hearth.

The dogs could stand on their hind-legs when they wished, and carry things with their fore-feet. Quickly they got out boards and trestles from the side walls and set them up near the fire.

Then baa-baa-baa! was heard, and in came some snow-white sheep led by a large coal-black ram. One bore a white cloth embroidered at the edges with figures of animals; others bore on their broad backs trays with bowls and platters and knives and wooden spoons, which the dogs took and quickly laid on the trestle tables. These were very low, low enough even for Bilbo to sit at comfortably. Beside them a pony pushed two low-seated benches with wide rush-bottoms and little short thick legs for Gandalf and Thorin, while at the far end he put Beorn's big black chair of the same sort (in which he sat with his great legs stuck far out under the table). These were all the chairs he had in his hall, and he probably had them low like the tables for the convenience of the wonderful animals that waited on him. What did the rest sit on? They were not forgotten. The other ponies came in rolling round drum-shaped sections of logs, smoothed and polished, and low enough even for Bilbo; so soon they were all seated at Beorn's table, and the hall had not seen such a gathering for many a year.

116. Beorn’s Hall (published illustration)
Click here for a larger view.

What changes did Tolkien make between his first sketch and the final one? Why?
What is present, and what is missing, from the illustration that is mentioned in the text?
Do the differences matter?
Would anyone like to criticize Tolkien’s use of perspective?

They spoke most of gold and silver and jewels and the making of things by smith-craft, and Beorn did not appear to care for such things: there were no things of gold or silver in his hall, and few save the knives were made of metal at all.

They sat long at the table with their wooden drinking-bowls filled with mead. The dark night came on outside. The fires in the middle of the hall were built with fresh logs and the torches were put out, and still they sat in the light of the dancing flames with the pillars of the house standing tall behind them, and dark at the top like trees of the forest. Whether it was magic or not, it seemed to Bilbo that he heard a sound like wind in the branches stirring in the rafters, and the hoot of owls.
. . .
Bilbo found that beds had already been laid at the side of the hall, on a sort of raised platform between the pillars and the outer wall. For him there was a little mattress of straw and woollen blankets. He snuggled into them very gladly, summertime though it was. The fire burned low and he fell asleep. Yet in the night he woke: the fire had now sunk to a few embers; the dwarves and Gandalf were all asleep, to judge by their breathing; a splash of white on the floor came from the high moon, which was peering down through the smoke-hole in the roof.

What other Halls in Tolkien’s work are similar to this one? Are there any that are dissimilar?

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

Subject User Time
**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – Beorn’s Hall** squire Send a private message to squire Feb 19 2007, 7:39pm
    Tolkien's perspective. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Feb 19 2007, 7:53pm
    missing things... weyhoops Send a private message to weyhoops Feb 19 2007, 9:01pm
        Hi! Aerin Send a private message to Aerin Feb 20 2007, 7:59am
            Hi! weyhoops Send a private message to weyhoops Feb 20 2007, 2:37pm
                great! come by often a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Feb 21 2007, 1:00am
    It's unoccupied. Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Feb 20 2007, 12:48am
        empty buildings Luthien Rising Send a private message to Luthien Rising Feb 20 2007, 10:25pm
    Who *are* the Beornings? Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Feb 20 2007, 1:16am
    the long view a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Feb 20 2007, 11:06am
    An Art Deco Mead-Hall? drogo Send a private message to drogo Feb 20 2007, 12:22pm
    the perspective is definitely off in that second Tolkien image linkin-artelf Send a private message to linkin-artelf Feb 21 2007, 3:52am
    Both Elrond's Hall of Fire and Theoden's Meduseld are similar to Beorn's dwelling. Curious Send a private message to Curious Feb 21 2007, 7:06pm
        Rivendell can be thought of as Anglo-Saxon, not Art Nouveau. squire Send a private message to squire Feb 21 2007, 7:33pm
            a central hearth does make sense a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Feb 22 2007, 1:23am
    Late Perspective Daughter of Nienna Send a private message to Daughter of Nienna Feb 21 2007, 7:57pm
        Nice! / Aerin Send a private message to Aerin Feb 23 2007, 5:32am


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