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**Queer Lodgings**: Beorn.

Pryderi
Rivendell

Aug 23 2012, 10:59am

Post #1 of 7 (1010 views)
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**Queer Lodgings**: Beorn. Can't Post

Hi Folks and welcome to this next posting. Today I want to talk about the chapter from the party's arrival at Beorn's house to the following morning.


Gandalf and Bilbo go through Beorn's gate and approach his house leaving instructions for the dwarves to follow them at intervals, which they do arriving mostly in pairs. This is the same strategy as that adopted by the dwarves (or was it Gandalf?) for the Unexpected Party. Except that this time Gandalf arrives first and back then he arrived last. Why does Tolkien choose to repeat the scene? Is the repetition effective as a literary device? Why does Gandalf change his time of arrival from last to first?


As Bilbo and Gandalf approach Beorn's house they encounter his horses “very sleek and well groomed”. We have already met Beorn's “giant bees” who seem industrious but not hostile. The horses “trot up” to them and “gallop off” to warn Beorn of their arrival, Gandalf thinks and of course he's right. Already we see that Beorn cares for his animals and that they respond with loyalty. How does this sit with the fearsome image of Beorn built up earlier?


When we meet Beorn he is in man form but a large and impressive man and he laughs “a great rolling laugh”. He is refreshingly direct in his speech after all the dwarves courtesies and “That is the polite thing to say among eagles”. “Who are you and what do you want?” he asks “gruffly”. As the dwarves gradually arrive Beorn seems to become increasingly irritated by all the at your services they offer and tells Balin and Dwalin straight: “I don't want your service just now, only your names”. Are courtesies redundant in life or is Beorn just plain rude? Or is there a “third way”? Beorn does though expect the courtesy of their names. This is a rather big question but here goes: Why are the names important to Beorn (and to everybody else it seems)?


Gandalf retells the story we have all read to Beorn as the dwarves arrive. I wouldn't be here if I didn't enjoy the whole section myself but is the repetition strictly necessary? For what it's worth I think that we get to know Beorn a lot better in this section and that Gandalf's description of the events previously “narrated” are interesting in themselves. How about you?


Beorn is impressed by the story even though he thinks, and tells them, that they “may be making it all up” and invites the whole party to eat with him. During the meal we meet more of Beorn's animals who seem to serve as domestic servants, in this case waiters. I remember seeing performing animals as a young boy at the circus. I recall being particularly impressed by a troupe of dogs that had been trained to “walk” on their hind legs etc. I believe that this sort of performance may now be illegal here in the UK. It is certainly politically incorrect and circuses no longer feature performing animals. I get the impression that it is thought to be cruel to train animals to behave in ways which are not natural to them and I do tend to agree with that. Is Beorn cruel to his animals? Paradoxically perhaps I think that nothing could be further from the truth. Beorn cares for his animals and they offer him their loyalty in return. What do you think?


After the meal tales are told, songs are sung etc. and Beorn offers advice about Mirkwood. The dwarves start being dwarvish and Beorn gets bored. He does not have much time for metal. In due course Beorn leaves although we do not find out where he is going until later. Gandalf warns them all not to leave the house during the night and they go to sleep in the beds that Beorn (probably his animals?) had prepared for them. In the night Bilbo wakes and hears “...a growling sound outside, and a noise as of some great animal scuffling at the door.”. Bilbo speculates that it is Beorn in bear form, which it almost certainly is. He is panic stricken and, very sensibly, hides under the blankets until he falls asleep again. Any comments on any of this?


I had intended to use this post to discuss a theory about Beorn's nature that I came across some time ago and which I found quite interesting. This post is quite long already though and, on reflection, it might be better to raise the point in my next post which will cover the rest of the party's stay in Beorn's house. So I suppose this is a bit of a “teaser trailer” for The Sojourn. See you then I hope.


Pryderi.


PhantomS
Rohan


Aug 23 2012, 5:33pm

Post #2 of 7 (718 views)
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don't get him a bearskin rug [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf and Bilbo go through Beorn's gate and approach his house leaving instructions for the dwarves to follow them at intervals, which they do arriving mostly in pairs. This is the same strategy as that adopted by the dwarves (or was it Gandalf?) for the Unexpected Party. Except that this time Gandalf arrives first and back then he arrived last. Why does Tolkien choose to repeat the scene? Is the repetition effective as a literary device? Why does Gandalf change his time of arrival from last to first?

Gandalf has to introduce the Party to Beorn, wheras in Bilbo's house the Dwarves can just introduce themselves - Gandalf imposes the Dwarves on Bilbo whereas in Beorn's house he cannot do so and thus arrives first to make sure no one gets bear claws on their back.

As Bilbo and Gandalf approach Beorn's house they encounter his horses “very sleek and well groomed”. We have already met Beorn's “giant bees” who seem industrious but not hostile. The horses “trot up” to them and “gallop off” to warn Beorn of their arrival, Gandalf thinks and of course he's right. Already we see that Beorn cares for his animals and that they respond with loyalty. How does this sit with the fearsome image of Beorn built up earlier?

Loyal animals do not translate to a benovelent master, as we know from the Nazgul in LoTR with their horses and Fell beasts. We're told Beorn is fearsome and haughty, but not some kind of pseudo troll that lives alone in a spooky cottage.

When we meet Beorn he is in man form but a large and impressive man and he laughs “a great rolling laugh”. He is refreshingly direct in his speech after all the dwarves courtesies and “That is the polite thing to say among eagles”. “Who are you and what do you want?” he asks “gruffly”. As the dwarves gradually arrive Beorn seems to become increasingly irritated by all the at your services they offer and tells Balin and Dwalin straight: “I don't want your service just now, only your names”. Are courtesies redundant in life or is Beorn just plain rude? Or is there a “third way”? Beorn does though expect the courtesy of their names. This is a rather big question but here goes: Why are the names important to Beorn (and to everybody else it seems)?

Like Treebeard with Merry and Pippin, Beorn probably thinks the Dwarves can't really do anything for him apart from telling him their names, which is the only thing they have that he wants. Beorn's reputation is that of someone who doesn't need anyone at all, what with him throwing wolves against the mountainside for fun and such. We do remember that Beorn lives East of the Misty Mountains, where customs and dialects are different to people on the Western side, according to Frodo at least-the Dwarves are acting as if they are going to Bilbo's house to offer some craftwork, but Beorn doesn't need any of that; he doesn't even need the Dwarves themselves. They are unwanted guests to a large extent even with Gandalf there.

Beorn is impressed by the story even though he thinks, and tells them, that they “may be making it all up” and invites the whole party to eat with him. During the meal we meet more of Beorn's animals who seem to serve as domestic servants, in this case waiters. I remember seeing performing animals as a young boy at the circus. I recall being particularly impressed by a troupe of dogs that had been trained to “walk” on their hind legs etc. I believe that this sort of performance may now be illegal here in the UK. It is certainly politically incorrect and circuses no longer feature performing animals. I get the impression that it is thought to be cruel to train animals to behave in ways which are not natural to them and I do tend to agree with that. Is Beorn cruel to his animals? Paradoxically perhaps I think that nothing could be further from the truth. Beorn cares for his animals and they offer him their loyalty in return. What do you think?

Beorn's house is full of animals (indeed he is a bear himself) and thus the rules of human etiquette do not apply at all- there are other examples of animals ruling other animals (Shadowfax, Shelob and Felarof come to mind) but Beorn lives in a domestic setting rather than a natural setting, which makes their behavior 'unusual' to people. Like the Mad Hatter and the Hare, Beorn probably eats like this every day!

After the meal tales are told, songs are sung etc. and Beorn offers advice about Mirkwood. The dwarves start being dwarvish and Beorn gets bored. He does not have much time for metal. In due course Beorn leaves although we do not find out where he is going until later. Gandalf warns them all not to leave the house during the night and they go to sleep in the beds that Beorn (probably his animals?) had prepared for them. In the night Bilbo wakes and hears “...a growling sound outside, and a noise as of some great animal scuffling at the door.”. Bilbo speculates that it is Beorn in bear form, which it almost certainly is. He is panic stricken and, very sensibly, hides under the blankets until he falls asleep again. Any comments on any of this?


Why Beorn has a lot of beds is a mystery since he is not known to be a lodging provider like Butterbur and his animals no doubt sleep as they naturally do. Unless they're sleeping on the floor, Mr Beorn has a lot to explain regarding the beds....


sador
Half-elven


Aug 28 2012, 1:49pm

Post #3 of 7 (632 views)
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Late answers [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
This is the same strategy as that adopted by the dwarves (or was it Gandalf?) for the Unexpected Party.

According to The Quest of Erebor, it was.

Why does Tolkien choose to repeat the scene? Is the repetition effective as a literary device?
It reminds us of the names of all the Dwarves!

Why does Gandalf change his time of arrival from last to first?
Someone has to drop the name of Radagast. And Dwalin doesn't know him well enough.

How does this sit with the fearsome image of Beorn built up earlier?

Didn't you find Mufasa fearsome?

Are courtesies redundant in life or is Beorn just plain rude?

Yes.

Why are the names important to Beorn (and to everybody else it seems)?
Just in case he needs to curse them.
However, he does seem to know Thorin - but not Gandalf!
Ha! I bet that hurt a bit.

but is the repetition strictly necessary?

We get to know Beorn better, and to admire Gandalf more.

Is Beorn cruel to his animals?
You know, there was a time when this was considered to be somehow "improving" the animals, by teaching them new skills.
Personally, I never understood this line of reasoning.

Any comments on any of this?
Very effective in telling kids they need to stay in bed.



"When light finally begins to come into our lives after a long darkness, only to reveal that one has still farther to go, what various ways might one react?"
- Dreamdeer



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telain
Rohan

Aug 30 2012, 4:38pm

Post #4 of 7 (635 views)
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a few tangents [In reply to] Can't Post

Why are the names important to Beorn (and to everybody else it seems)?

I understand this from a mythological perspective. To know someone's true name is to have a certain power over them (Rumplestilskin is by far one of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon.)

I wouldn't say Beorn is "rude", but i would say he is blunt. I don't think he sees the necessity of all the courtesies, especially since he has no idea why they are at his door in the first place.

Is Beorn cruel to his animals?

I see this description in a more children's fairy-tale way. Perhaps the animals choose do behave differently (out of loyalty to Beorn). Maybe all animals can walk, talk, or do whatever they do in fairy-stories whenever they want to, it's just they don't choose to do it in our presence. But in a very different household (Beorn/werebear) they can (and do) behave in a radically different way.


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 3 2012, 1:40am

Post #5 of 7 (629 views)
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Beds and bedding [In reply to] Can't Post

Hm, but what if those beds that Beorn's guests slept in really were his animals' beds? They've already shown that they can act in decidedly "human" fashion; perhaps they, too, like a nice soft mattress of straw, and a cozy blanket?

"Aw, nuts, there's two-footers in the Hall, we've got to sleep out in the barn! Why doesn't Master make them sleep out there?"


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915




telain
Rohan

Sep 5 2012, 1:18am

Post #6 of 7 (550 views)
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rumpled feathers [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sure Bilbo would have been aghast if he knew he was sleeping in the dog's bed!

I know our cat Merlin loved to sleep on soft mattresses and warm blankets - don't see why others animals wouldn't!


Elizabeth
Valinor


Sep 5 2012, 6:52am

Post #7 of 7 (715 views)
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Regarding trained animals... [In reply to] Can't Post

My experience with dogs and, to a lesser extent, horses, is that they are happiest when given a role to play.

There is an old tale that I can't swear is true, but is consistent with my experience of horses, that there was a horse who for many years spent many hours a day harnessed to a wheel that ran a pump, going round and round. He became old, and was put out to pasture. He seemed depressed, and wouldn't eat. Then the farmer who was caring for him started him walking around a tree in the pasture, and for the rest of his days he did this for hours every day, and gave every sign of being a happy old horse.

My German Shepherd (long dead, now) was obedience-trained. He was never happier, from all indications, than when we were out practicing his routines, or when he was being asked to Fetch! or perform other services.

My Indian friends similarly swear that the elephants they knew years ago were happiest doing routine chores like the horse.

Now, serving tea is farther removed from "normal" animal behavior than services such as turning a wheel, but who's to say these animals didn't take pride in it?






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