Jan 3 2013 1:00pm

The Hobbit Reread: Chapter 7, “Queer Lodgings”

The Hobbit reread on Tor.comWelcome back to the chapter-by-chapter reread of The Hobbit (and Happy Gregorian New Year). You can find past posts at the reread index, or you can catch up with our previous reread of The Lord of the Rings. As always, the discussion will contain spoilers for everything Tolkien (that is: The Hobbit, LotR, The Silmarillion, and various posthumous tidbits); if you haven’t read the book before and would like to remain unspoiled, I recommend reading along with Mark Reads first.

This week, we consider Chapter 7, “Queer Lodgings,” the title of which demonstrates the continuing evolution of English, or possibly that Britain and the United States are two nations divided by a common language. Or both.


What Happens

The eagles set the travelers down on “a great rock, almost a hill of stone.” Gandalf tells them that he needs to leave them soon, and means to bring them to see Beorn, who may help them all: he is “a very great person” but also easy to anger (which is to be avoided because he is sometimes a bear). When they arrive at Beorn’s home, Gandalf brings Bilbo with him and tells the rest to come in pairs at five-minute intervals, once he whistles.

Gandalf introduces himself to Beorn and slowly tells him the story of their goblin encounter, gradually increasing the number of people in the story and using the interruptions of the dwarves’ arrival to keep Beorn’s interest. When Gandalf’s story is done, Beorn feeds them supper (served by intelligent animals) and eventually leaves. The travelers sleep in the hall, though Bilbo wakes in the night hearing animal noises outside.

The dwarves and Bilbo spend the day by themselves. Gandalf returns that night and tells them that he had been following tracks from “a regular bears’ meeting outside here last night,” one set of which headed toward the pine-woods where they were rescued by the Eagles. Bilbo thinks that Beorn has betrayed them, but the next morning Beorn wakes them, “in a splendidly good humour”: he’d not only confirmed their story but killed the goblin and Warg that he’d forced the information out of. He outfits them with ponies, food, and water.

The travelers come to the edge of Mirkwood, send back the ponies (Beorn had been watching them, in bear form, partly to make sure they did), and very reluctantly bid farewell to Gandalf before entering Mirkwood, “the most dangerous part of all the journey.”



Waaaay back in the comments to Chapter 1, JohnnyMac passed on an observation of Tom Shippey’s that “Bilbo is a very respectable, Edwardian middle class gentleman of independent means who finds himself dropped into a saga adventure with a bunch of characters straight from the Elder Edda.” This observation was much on my mind when reading about Beorn, as I believe he is a close relation, mythologically speaking, to the berserkers of Old Norse literature. I haven’t read any of the source texts myself, so I hope those of you who have will chime in, but I felt very strongly that he has his own story, one quite different than the one we’re reading and only slightly overlapping it.

Partly it’s because, even though we’ve met trolls and goblins, a shape-shifter feels more magical to me. Or, perhaps magical isn’t quite the right word, because it’s so intrinsic to his nature—but that he’s sometimes human and sometimes not feels more significant to me somehow than the existence of nonhuman people. Partly it’s the outsized directness of his personality: he’s “never very polite,” his emotions are vivid, and he doesn’t hesitate to let people know how he’s feeling.

And, of course, it’s partly the stark and, I must presume, deliberate juxtaposition of his being “in a splendidly good humor” and telling them funny stories over breakfast, and then showing them the goblin’s head and warg-skin he’s nailed up outside his gate. To be clear, I’m not saying that he’s a bad person, but that he is clearly not operating under the same worldview as I am, or as the vast majority of Tolkien’s expected audience. (Also, though I think that based on my knowledge of Lord of the Rings, we might expect the dwarves to be in a similarly jolly mood under these circumstances, I’m not sure that we could draw that conclusion just from what we’ve read so far in The Hobbit.)

But even as the text highlights Beorn’s ferocity, it emphasizes that it’s not his defining characteristic. He goes on to be incredibly generous to the travelers—even as he quietly safeguards the animals he is devoted to. (He’s also vegetarian, unlike actual bears, if a hasty web search can be believed.) And this complexity, combined with the amount of energy he brings to the story, all leads me to the aforementioned feeling that he walked in out of his own story (undoubtedly being told in epic verse) and will be heading back there after his appearances in this book. Did other people have a similar feeling?

Also, the only thing I have to say about his animals is that even if there are videos and pictures on the Internet of dogs walking upright on their hind legs, the idea still just seems wrong to me. I have no idea why this is the thing that stands out to me; tell me about your reactions to the animals instead!

The other sometimes-helpful, sometimes-cranky character central to this chapter is Gandalf. I have to wonder how often he’s used this ploy of gradually sending large groups of people to potentially-unwilling hosts. He used Bilbo’s manners against him, and Beorn’s interest in a good story (and hatred for goblins). I’m not sure what other common motives there are for not kicking out unexpected guests, but it amuses me to think of Gandalf perfecting this technique down the long years—getting kicked out of taverns in the early days, having friends roll their eyes when he practices on them again, that kind of thing. Or possibly it’s the head cold talking.

At any rate. Very little of Bilbo in this chapter: he doesn’t understand Beorn in the least, he has sharp eyes, and that’s about it. Lots of stuff about the dangers of Mirkwood, which I’m leaving for next time (feel free to comment on anything about that topic that you like, however). The first mention of the Battle of the Five Armies, at the Eagles’ departure. More dwarf singing, which seems to be part of the song in Chapter 1? (Gandalf’s smoke rings are another callback, as they again prepare to begin a significant stage of their journey.)

And, of course, the regular tallies. I have nothing to add to the dwarf characteristics, but I’m going to start carrying over the whole list just so I don’t have to keep looking back for it:

  • Dori and Nori “shared the hobbit’s views about regular meals, plenty and often.” (Chapter 2)
  • Oin and Gloin are “specially good at” making fire. (Chapter 2)
  • Balin “was always their look-out man.” (Chapter 2)
  • Fili and Kili “had very sharp eyes” and are “the youngest of the dwarves by some fifty years.” (Chapter 4)
  • Dori is “a decent fellow.” (Chapter 4, 6)
  • Bombur is “fat.” (Chapter 4, 6)

Did this chapter contain a reference to Bilbo thinking wistfully of his hobbit-hole? Yes (6/6), in the opening paragraph: “The next morning Bilbo woke up with the early sun in his eyes. He jumped up to look at the time and to go and put his kettle on—and found he was not home at all. So he sat down and wished in vain for a wash and a brush.”

Full-out horror show next time, y’all. See you then.

Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, and (in her copious free time) writing at Dreamwidth and her booklog.

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Angela Korra'ti
1. annathepiper
I'm up through Chapter 8 on my Trilingual Reread, so Chapter 7's still pretty clear in my brain. :) The things that stood out for me here were:

* I had totally forgotten about Gandalf's stunt with timing the arrival of the dwarves, and I did actually quite giggle at that. It's one of the few instances in the book where we're getting a lot of Tell rather than Show, and yet it doesn't bug me because Gandalf's demonstration of his knowledge of Beorn's personality is awesome.

(I gotta say, speaking as a newbie author who's grown up having Show Don't Tell hammered into her brain, it's simultaneously frustrating and fascinating to me how so much of this book is in fact Tell rather than Show. Several scenes in the first eight chapters struck me as 'Gandalf is telling Bilbo and the dwarves all about Stuff That Just Happened', stuff which in a modern novel would have needed to be shown directly on camera lest an editor jump all over it! And yet, The Hobbit moves at a rather gentler than modern pace.)

* I found Beorn's animals almost a bit too twee, and yet, given that Tolkien's giving us a world here where giant Eagles, spiders, and Wargs all have dialogue, it's honestly not much of a stretch to imagine creatures who can act as Beorn's servitors like this. Though, after having seen the film, and Radagast's CGI hedgehog, I'm a bit afraid Beorn's critters are going to come across a bit too twee on the big screen. We'll have to see!

* And I'm REAL curious as to whether we're going to get Beorn's hunting down of that goblin and Warg directly on camera in the next film. See previous commentary re: Show Don't Tell.
2. a1ay
And, of course, it’s partly the stark and, I must presume, deliberate
juxtaposition of his being “in a splendidly good humor” and telling them funny stories over breakfast, and then showing them the goblin’s head and warg-skin he’s nailed up outside his gate.

Worth noting, too, that he comes up with all sorts of useful information about what the goblins are up to which he has "persuaded" the captured goblin to divulge. Somehow. Before he, you know, killed him.

Do we hear anything about Beorn in Lord of the Rings? I have a vague feeling we do...
3. pilgrimsoul
Like Bilbo, I did not understand Beorn on first reading, but now I recognize the truth of Shippey's assertions about Bilbo's being dropped into a saga--and of a particularly Germanic, northern foresty kind.
I recall how thrilled I was in a mythology class in college to read in the Elder Edda (?) what amounted to a whole character list of The Hobbit.
4. wiredog
Beorn is mentioned, as are the Beornings (so presumably there is a whole family/tribe of them) in LoTR as keeping the passages to Rivendell open. Also, Lembas is compared favorably to the honey cakes of the Beornings.

That bit about the goblin and warg will probaly be in the movie, and will be used as evidence that PJ is putting lots of violence into JRRT's pristine peaceful Hobbit.
Pamela Adams
5. PamAdams
Perhaps Beorn- my favorite character by the way- wandered in from the same saga that Bujold used as source material in The Hallowed Hunt, where the white bear was a Viking's pet.

Considering how careless the dwarves were with ponies, Beorn's concern makes lots of sense.
Kate Nepveu
6. katenepveu
annathepiper @ #1, I don't write fiction but I've never liked "Show Don't Tell" as a maxim. You've got to tell, words are all you've got (unless you're doing sequential art, of course). The question is what level of detail and at what remove, and that's far more complex than "Don't." As for the substance, I suspect Beorn is too visual not to have lots and lots of CGI lavished on him. Possibly a bear will look better than Wargs?

a1ay @ #2, I didn't think we did but I did a search anyway and I was glad of it! Here's dinner in Rivendell, with Gloin:
Frodo learned that Grimbeorn the Old, son of Beorn, was now the lord of many sturdy men, and to their land between the Mountains and Mirkwood neither orc nor wolf dared to go.

‘Indeed,’ said Glóin, ‘if it were not for the Beornings, the passage from Dale to Rivendell would long ago have become impossible. They are valiant men and keep open the High Pass and the Ford of Carrock. But their tolls are high,’ he added with a shake of his head; ‘and like Beorn of old they are not over fond of dwarves. Still, they are trusty, and that is much in these days.’
Now that's an interesting idea, isn't it, Beorn having a kid? Though it wasn't necessarily him that became a leader of men.
Kate Nepveu
7. katenepveu
wiredog @ #4, heh. There are degrees and degrees of violence--off-screen, perpetrated by the protagonists . . .

Pam Adams @ #5, yeah, I wouldn't have trusted the dwarves with my dependents either.
Steven Halter
8. stevenhalter
I was thinking about the talking animals and Beorns animals in general and Beorn's vegetarianism over the holidays. I wonder if Tolkien wasn't trying to make some sort of point here.
The Orcs and Goblins (and Gollum) eat pretty much everything--including people. The dwarves and hobbits don't eat people, but they do eat animals and I don't recall any sort of sentient animal sorting going on. Consuming sentient creatures seems like a bad idea--Beorn's point.
Angela Korra'ti
9. annathepiper
@katenepveu #6: Oh, absolutely, Show Don't Tell, is like just about all bits of writing advice, something you should follow as is appropriate for the art in question. Or not follow, if appropriate.

But mostly I'm just thinking about this in connection with how so much modern SF/F is paced. I have a very hard time imagining most current editors being willing to deal with so many scenes where Character A is telling Characters B-M about This Awesome Thing That Just Happened--instead of scenes just showing us the Awesome Thing. Unless the work in question is targeted at middle grade readers, or younger!

Also thinking about this in connection with the movie, as I noted above. :) After reading chapters 7 and 8 I have all KINDS of questions about how the next movie's going to implement the stuff in those chapters. Gandalf telling Bilbo and the dwarves about what he just did, and then Beorn himself coming back and telling them what HE just did, would be way less effective as is on screen.
David Levinson
10. DemetriosX
Although Kate saw it a little humorously, the introduction of the dwarves to Beorn makes an interesting parallel to their arrival at Bag End. I think they come in a somewhat different order, but it a call-back. It will also give the movies an interesting parallel, since they will most likely both start with a history lesson, an interlude with Gandalf, and then the staggered arrival of the dwarves.

Like annathepiper @1, I found the animals a bit twee. We've wobbled back over the line into Edwardian children's literature and not necessarily for the better. They are probably meant to demonstrate Beorn's connection to nature and animals. I don't know of anything similar in northern legends and tales. It has always made me think of the animals on Circe's island, but they were enchanted men.

The Beornings also appear in the appendices to LotR. They are one of the combatant armies who help defend the North around the Lonely Mountain, along with the men of Dale under the leadership of a descendant of Bard.

I suspect that instead of Beorn simple telling us about what he does to confirm Gandalf's story, we will get to see it. A justifiable action scene for PJ.
11. (still) Steve Morrison
I haven't finished Rateliff's commentary for the drafts of this chapter (this one has a lot of commentary), but there are some points of interest already:
Rateliff points out that Tolkien was writing to the tastes of his audience, which at that point consisted of his three sons John, Michael, and Christopher, since their sister Priscilla was the youngest child. Judging from The Hobbit, Letters from Father Christmas, and Mr. Bliss, bears were one of the things they liked quite a bit; whereas girls were not among the things they wanted to hear about! (And that does explain quite a bit about this book, doesn't it?)
Rateliff also points out that Beorn seems to be based on the Norse character Bödvar Bjarki, whose story is lost in its original form but can be gleaned in part from the saga of Hrolf Kraki; relevant links I've found so far are: this and this and this.
Re the "talk to the animals" motif, Rateliff believes that Doctor Dolittle was a major source for The Hobbit. Which makes sense, though it had never occured to me.
Andrew Foss
12. alfoss1540
My view of Beorn comes from my first Read - where my 4th grade teacher (who will always be the face and voice of Beorn) acted it out masterfully (Shout out to Nick Lentine). The teacher himself was as scarey and forboding as Beorn is depicted from the beginning.

Anyone with The QPB Companion to Lord of the Rings can get the recipe for Beorn's Honey Nut Cakes as well as Mirkwood Cookies as well.

The difference in tone and narration Hobbit vs LOTR is very stark here. During the LOTR reread, I also reread the Hobbit in the middle. Tolkein was a different and much younger writer when he wrote the Hobbit.

Beorn had said ". . . Be off now as quick as you may!"

That is why they were now riding in silence, galloping wherever the ground was grassy and smooth. . . "

You can almost hear the voice of the narrator speaking this to you as you read.
13. Gardner Dozois
They're going to have real trouble filming this chapter. The dwarves popping in two at a time is going to seem much sillier than them arriving thusly at Bilbo's house in the first chapter, and although CGI may well be capable of showing us animals walking around on their hind legs serving food, I'm not sure it's capable of showing us that without it looking silly or twee. The hedgehog from the current movie, was, yes, pretty twee, and doesn't fill me with confidence about how Beorn's servants are going to come out.

It always seemed to me that Beorn was the Tom Bombadil of THE HOBBIT, and served a similar fictive purpose--a very powerful and mysterious and yet ultimately benign figure who affords the travellers a night or two of respite in safety and comfort before giving them gifts and sending them out again into the deadly danger ahead.
14. zenspinner
I do love Beorn, but I worry that no matter what they do with the animals, they're going to come off looking like the dogs from "Up."
15. peachy
I love Beorn - definitely my favourite of all the peripheral characters in The Hobbit & LOTR. And I'm a little sad we only get a couple of glancing mentions of the Beornings... I do wish there had been a bit more attention paid to the other 'Free Peoples', though I can see why Tolkien wouldn't want to distract from the main narrative. (A modern author might have shown us the Beornings, and the Lake Men, and the assorted Elven & Dwarven sovereignties... and it would have taken them eight massive books to tell a story Tolkien told in three modest ones. So I guess there are trade-offs everywhere.)
Angela Korra'ti
16. annathepiper
And OH OH I forgot to mention...

One of the big reasons I'm doing the Trilingual Reread is to find the bits that are unique to the German and French editions I own. And I found one such in this chapter. In the English original, Beorn calls Bilbo "little bunny". But in the French edition, he calls him "Jeannot Lapin"! I had to google for that, and I came across "Jeannot Lapin" being the French translation of a Beatrix Potter character, Benjamin Bunny!

Despite my finding Beorn's animals kind of twee, I have to admit, I was kind of charmed by the French translator apparently sneaking a Beatrix Potter reference into a chapter about a big gruff guy who can turn into a bear and who apparently has no compunction whatsoever about killing goblins and Wargs. :)
David Levinson
17. DemetriosX
Like many others, I'm a little worried about some of this in the next movie. A lot of the potential tweeness could be avoided, I suppose, by simply not having the animals walking on their hind legs, just carrying stuff in their mouths. Or they could imply that the animals are actually skinchangers themselves. Of course, no matter what they do, I will be disappointed, because I remain firmly convinced that the only person who can possibly play Beorn is Brian Blessed umm... BRIAN BLESSED!
18. JohnnyMac
Beorn does seem to be drawn out of the darker corners of the Norse sagas. A shapeshifter, he also seems to have some of the characteristic of a berserker as well (we will see this when we get to The Battle of Five Armies).

(still) Steve Morrison @11 above, cites Bodvar Bjarki from "Hrolf Kraki's Saga" and I agree that was very likely a prime source for Tolkien when he invented Beorn. By the way, in addition to the sources he links to, I would recommend Poul Anderson's modern retelling of "Hrolf Kraki's Saga" (Ballentine, 1973).

Another example of the shapeshifter in the sagas comes from "Egil's Saga". In typical saga style, it begins by introducing Egil's grandfathers (Norse sagas are very big on geneology). One of them is named Ulf Bjalfason and he used to go on Viking raids together with his best friend Berle-Kari of whom we are bluntly told: "He was a berserk." When Ulf retires from his career as a Viking, he marries into Berle-Kari's family and settles down to become a prosperous farmer, sought out by others for his shrewd advice. However "... every day, as it drew towards evening, he would grow so ill-tempered that no one could speak to him, and it wasn't long before he would go to bed. There was talk about his being a shape-changer, and people called him Kveld-Ulf." ("Kveld-Ulf"; literally "Evening Wolf").

Kveld-Ulf's son, Grimm, inherits his father's tendency to become dangerously ill-tempered at sun down. In one such incident, he kills a friend of his son Egil's and attacks Egil himself.

So, in describing Beorn as someone whom you do not want to anger and is risky to be around after dark, JRRT was certainly using a type well known in Norse legend.
19. Dr. Thanatos
There are a lot of parallels between Beorn and Tom: the friendly waystation, the omnipotent guardian. But I also note that both seem out of place. We know that Bombadil was an independent creation of JRRT and in someways feels "shoehorned" into the story and I sometimes feel the same way about Beorn. Shapechanging? A were-bear? A guy with animals in Disney-esque servitude? Where in Middle-Earth does this fit? We see no other weres except for the werewolves. Is Beorn connected to them? While he's a fun guy and everyone enjoys his presence, from a writing, theme, and consistency standpoint he's the Bombadil: clearly not from around here...
20. HelenS
I've always wondered who on earth Beorn had his children with. A human woman? Another shape-changer?
21. peachy
We tend to think of the civilised cultures - hobbits & dwarves etc - as being "normal"... but even in the good old days of the High Kings, there was a lot of empty space on the map, and there's vastly more by the time of The Hobbit, to the degree that the patches of civilisation - especially in Eriador - are little islands in a sea of wilderness. So maybe Beorn is the one who belongs, and our heroes are the ones who are out of place. (A chap who cheerfully tortures a goblin for information and then nails its severed head above his gate certainly seems more in tune with the late Third Age than any hobbit we ever meet.)
John Rodenbiker
22. jrodenbiker
What about Beorn's hall? Why would he have built it in the first place? Why build it like that?

That is the kind of hall that pops into my mind when I think of a Viking or Conan-esque gathering hall: wide, yes; tall, yes; looooong, absolutely. Wood, plaster, smoke, shadows, echoes... A large echoey place for the telling and retelling of large and echoey tales.

Unadorned. Minimalistic.
John Rodenbiker
23. jrodenbiker
I thought Radagast in the film trailers implied Beorn's absence. I figured Radagast would be the deus ex machina that appeared to restock the company just before they entire the wood.

I hope I'm not spoiling anythign to say that is not the case.

Now as I anxiously await the second film, I hope Beorn appears and has justice served. I won't be surprised if he is cut as Tom Bombadil was. I will be more disappointed.
24. a1ay
I've always wondered who on earth Beorn had his children with. A human woman? Another shape-changer?

"So, Beorn, you being a shape-changer, and all these, uh, unusually intelligent animals around the place, do you ever, I mean, are they --"

"Servants. Just servants. Totally servants. In conclusion: servants."
25. a1ay
Where in Middle-Earth does this fit? We see no other weres except for the werewolves.

Sauron's been known to change shape - into a bat, at one point, IIRC.
Birgit F
26. birgit
The dwarf song in this chapter is missing in the German version. There is only a mention in the text that the dwarves sing again.
David Levinson
27. DemetriosX
@23 jrodenbiker
Beorn is definitely in the next movie and possibly the third. He's being played by Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt, who frankly doesn't look right at all to me. We'll have to wait another 11.5 months to see how well he actually does.
Angela Korra'ti
28. annathepiper
@birgit #26: I noticed that too! I was wondering if that was perhaps because the translator couldn't figure out a way to make it rhyme and scan properly in German. (As opposed to the French edition, where the translator's pretty much doing a straight translation and not trying to worry about making it scan or rhyme in the target language.)
29. Gardner Dozois
@ 25 That must've been one big bat!
Kate Nepveu
30. katenepveu
stevenhalter @ #8, re: ethics of being a carnivore: I'm going to tentatively posit that in _The Hobbit_, the animals that the dwarves and Bilbo would eat are not sentient. Isn't it just the birds and Beorn's animals, who are obviously special in some way? (I think the ravens at the Mountain are too in some way.) Of course there's that fox in _LotR_, but at least it doesn't have spoken language . . .

annathepiper @ #9, indeed! Even omitting Awesome Things is noteworthy (see Patrick Rothfuss).

(still) Steve Morrison @ #11, thanks for the links about the Hrolf Kraki, which is also in print from Penguin Classics translated by Jesse L Byock.

Gardner Dozois @ #13, you're quite right that Beorn is this book's Bombadil, and yet it never occurred to me before, probably because the tales they walked out of feel so different to me.

peachy @ #15, tradeoffs indeed. But now I'm wondering if the filmmakers might move up the bit I asked to see, several years ago now, of Galadriel throwing down the walls of Dol Guldur, to after the driving-out of the Necromancer instead of after the fall of Sauron. Which ought to make me howl but if they do it well (dubious, after "all shall love me and despair"), I don't think I can bring myself to care.

annathepiper @ #16, Benjamin Bunny is lovely, thank you for sharing.

JohnnyMac @ #18, thanks to you as well for the saga summaries! That's great.

HelenS @ #20, that's one of the things that struck me about that--I'd like to think whoever she was, she was kickass and not wimpy or dead like so many of the mothers in this universe.

peachy @ #21, Beorn belongs very emphatically where he is, wherever he is. => He doesn't fit in Bilbo's story, which is not the same as not fitting in Middle-earth!
31. Dr. Thanatos

So we can then conclude that Beorn is Sauron?
32. Bolg
FWLIW, this is one of the sections where you can read Tolkien in the process of making up his mind on the chronology of his mythology.

Beorn is one of the first humans in this part of the world. He was driven out of the Misty Mountains by the goblins, according to Gandalf. En otras palabras, he dates from around the time of the Fall of Gondolin. This isn't yet the Third Age. At the time he was writing this, Tolkien was still working out whether or not Beren was Noldor/Sindarin (Gnomish) or human. FWIW, Beren IIRC was a shapeshifter from way back, but I don't have my copies of HoME handy at the moment. And I don't have a copy - yet - of The Annotated Hobbit.

Read from the perspective of tLotR, he's crammed everything in together; read from The Hobbit perspective, he was still working out the chronology of the wider mythology that would insist on intruding into his children's story.
33. RonG
jrodenbiker @ 22: Tolkien drew a picture of Beorn's hall and it is indeed a hall out of the sagas.
Kate Nepveu
34. katenepveu
RonG's link has a stray letter at the front; here it is properly: picture of Beorn's hall. It is also in the edition of the (e)book I have.

Bolg, nice point about the chronology! I registered vaguely that it seemed odd compared to _The Silmarillion_ when I was reading, but it wasn't until I was chasing the Necklace of the Dwarves down through the years for the next chapter that it really struck me how fluid it was here (whereas some things were reasonably set, like the idea of different types of Elves going overseas or not).
35. (still) Steve Morrison
Here’s what Rateliff has to say about the illustration of Beorn’s hall:
A curious feature of the original, rejected illustration was discovered by Tolkien scholar J. S. Ryan in 1990. Tolkien had modelled ‘Firelight in Beorn’s House’ very closely on an illustration of a Norse mead-hall that had appeared in a work published just a few years before, An Introduction to Old Norse (1927), by his friend and collaborator, E. V. Gordon. And not just any mead-hall: the illustration appears in the midst of Gordon’s excerpt from Hrolf Kraki’s Saga, a section he titles ‘Bothvar Bjarki at the Court of King Hrolf’ (EVG, pp. 27–8). What‘s more, since Hrolf Kraki is the same figure as Beowulf’s Hrothulf, nephew to the Danish king, his hall is better known to modern-day readers by its Old English name: Heorot, the Grendel-haunted seat of old King Hrothgar. Tolkien, then, has modeled Medwed-Beorn’s hall on a building he had studied carefully – in fact, the most famous such hall in Old English literature, every detail of whose description had been scrutinized by generations of philologists and archeologists. It’s just another example of his fiction bringing vividly to life something that came out of his scholarship, offering us a re-creation of what it’d be like to spend the night in such a building.
(Medwed was Beorn’s original name in the drafts; likewise, Gandalf was originally called Bladorthin, and Thorin was originally called Gandalf!)

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