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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The Hobbit: Beorn and Skins


Jul 7 2013, 3:59am

Post #1 of 8 (236 views)
The Hobbit: Beorn and Skins Can't Post

Mae govannen! I've been studying The Hobbit in depth the past couple years and while I realize this is nothing life-changing, there was a curiosity that arose in me as I read "Queer Lodgings" the other day.

Early in the chapter Gandalf says to Bilbo, "...and in the name of all wonder don't mention the word furrier again as long as you are within a hundred miles of his house, nor rug, cape, tippet, muff, nor any such unfortunate word!" Yet, a couple times in this chapter and I believe the next, Beorn gives them skins "for carrying water..."

Now, did he make these skins out of the warg that he killed? Or are they other animal skins? It is not really a big deal of course, but the curiosity to me was that Gandalf essentially (in my mind) tells Bilbo not to talk about animals used in a particular way yet... he's got skins for drinks? I realize the practicality and historical usage of skins. Simply thought I'd ask for others thoughts!


Jul 7 2013, 4:02am

Post #2 of 8 (164 views)
Insult [In reply to] Can't Post

I Beorns way of thinking a most terrible thing insult or slight to do to someone

I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.


Jul 7 2013, 4:07am

Post #3 of 8 (154 views)
Skins [In reply to] Can't Post

To make use of animal skins, you mean? I realize why Gandalf gives the warning, just a tad confused on why he gives them skins for water if he doesn't want that sort of thing for his fellow animals. So the warg skin is what I came up with.


Jul 7 2013, 4:11am

Post #4 of 8 (157 views)
tolkien overlooked it [In reply to] Can't Post

my take was that tolkien just made a mistake. overlooked it.

it can be retconned into the story by, as others say, thinking of them as warg skins. as gross as that is (who would want to drink out of them, if they were? ugh.).

cheers --


aka. fili orc-enshield
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Jul 7 2013, 4:21am

Post #5 of 8 (144 views)
True enough [In reply to] Can't Post

And I suppose I should rather prefer not to drink from a warg skin, come to think of it!


Jul 7 2013, 4:42am

Post #6 of 8 (190 views)
Beorn keeps his own ethic about killing... [In reply to] Can't Post

...as do we all. Most of us eat meat, but try not to reflect on the fact that we have assumed the moral responsibility for killing the animal that provided it. And we think it's quite ok to kill certain creatures but not others. You would be massively offended by someone having your pet cat for dinner, even though you ate a lamb last night.

Beorn is sometimes a bear, and he knows that some Men and maybe even Elves like bearskin rugs and other useful articles. And he has animal kingdom friends that he would mightily resent the Dwarves skinning for their own purposes. Still, there are probably creatures that he does kill and skin, and maybe even eat. Most bears are carnivores, after all.

So, Gandalf's advice is that there are potential dangers here that are best avoided by watching certain words.

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Jul 7 2013, 4:46am)


Jul 8 2013, 9:37pm

Post #7 of 8 (82 views)
"Overlooked it" seems most likely to me [In reply to] Can't Post

Ideally, should have struck "skins" and substituted "gourds"
On the other hand, warg skins is a clever solution! Though might taint the water, I do agree.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowim I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Jul 8 2013, 11:27pm

Post #8 of 8 (90 views)
I believe you are correct Elizabeth [In reply to] Can't Post

While Tolkien did overlook some things I think your solution makes the most sense. After all, Beorn seems prone to "go off the handle" and may be easily offended hence Gandalf's caution. Nonetheless bears and humans for that matter, tend to be omnivores. So of course Beorn has an ethic for killing. I don't have the quote in front of me, but Tolkien stated that he was obsessed with creating a consistent world and that he had been over his work countless times and none of the thousands of words has not been considered carefully, of course I believe that quote was in reference to LoTR, but if there is an easy solution like Elizabeth has suggested I feel it is best to accept that rather than assuming Tolkien goofed up.

Not all who wander are lost


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