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The Hobbit
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The Hobbit > Beorn

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Daniel Eavenson (DannyEaves) | 127 comments I found the appearance of this character to be rather strange. It seemed like such a weird place to put a bit of respite just as the action is starting to get going.

Also strange to just drop a whole new race of men right into the middle of the story without any sort of setup or really any resolution since he's only described later on and not really interactions.

I guess its something that you see in LotR. There seem to be a lot of long moments of nothing happening but some conversation about things long gone. I'm thinking of Tom Bombadill and Treebeard mostly.


message 2: by Matthew (last edited Dec 18, 2012 11:17AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matthew (masupert) | 207 comments I see where you are coming from and share a similar frustration with other aspects of the Middle Earth world. A lot of stuff is alluded to or almost assumed knowledge in this world when reading some novels. I always found it frustrating for example not knowing more about the dwarven race in general, yet they are fairly prominent in both the Hobbit and LOTR.

Some of this stuff is fleshed out in the Lost Tales and unfinished works, so perhaps Tolkien wanted to fill the world out and never got the chance. It just seems odd that we are plotted into a world at perhaps its end tail (3rd age) with no prep for everything that came before.


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Maclurker | 66 comments I agree not knowing more is frustrating. But I have always enjoyed Tolkien's ability to hint at a larger world as he tells his tale. It makes Middle-earth seem much more real to think there's all this background out there. It really pulls me in, wanting to find out more.

Also I agree that Beorn is a bit of plot device and clearly a foreshadowing of Tom Bombadil. But Tolkien does not have to explain everything.

Sometimes a bit of mystery is a good thing.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Agree with Maclurker, not knowing adds to the mystery. 9 times out of 10 it's the not knowing that's the best part.


Daniel Eavenson (DannyEaves) | 127 comments Stephen wrote: "Agree with Maclurker, not knowing adds to the mystery. 9 times out of 10 it's the not knowing that's the best part."

Do you really think people get to the end of their lives and think "Oh man I'm so glad I don't know a lot of stuff."?


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Did I say real life? Talking about fiction here and when it comes to fiction (in my opinion) I don't think you need to know EVERYTHING!


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Some people are capable of letting their imagination run away with themselves (half the fun) and obviously some aren't.


Ruth (tilltab) (till-tab) | 1344 comments Huh, I loved this scene, and for me, it marks the beginning of the real story. I found the scene like a deep breath before the real troubles begin. I don't even remember a great deal of mystery; at least, there was nothing in the scene that frustrated me. Beorn is one of my favourite characters from The Hobbit.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Mine to Ruth, I can just imagine the scene where Beorn is following the band to Mirkwood. There's just something about him that makes him one of my favourite characters as well, can't wait to see what P.J. does with him!


Michael Sommers | 57 comments Matthew wrote: "Some of this stuff is fleshed out in the Lost Tales and unfinished works, so perhaps Tolkien wanted to fill the world out and never got the chance."

He deliberately made references to unexplained events and people in order to give the world some depth. Sort of the way Conan Doyle referred to Sherlock Holmes cases he never wrote, such as the Giant Rat of Sumatra.


Daniel Eavenson (DannyEaves) | 127 comments My point was that i don't see the point of introducing something that you never pay off. In my opinion a mystery is only as good as its solution.


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David Krause | 3 comments I want to see his shape-shifting behind appear at one point. Tom Bombadil has been given the shaft. I don't want Beorn to be ignored as well.


Michael Sommers | 57 comments Daniel wrote: "My point was that i don't see the point of introducing something that you never pay off. In my opinion a mystery is only as good as its solution."

Beorn is the payoff.

'Beorn' == 'bear'
'Beowulf' == 'bee-wolf', a kenning for 'bear'
'Berserk' == 'bear shirt', which is what berserkers wore, which can be seen as a sort of shape-shifting.


message 14: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Ristea (alexristea) | 654 comments I think that whole mystery is the point entirely.

I hate when authors hold my hand through all parts of the book. I want to read, and not really know what's going on—as if I'm just getting a tiny glimpse into a world that's already has a past, present, and future.


Louann (Loulougirl) | 10 comments I love some mystery to my books, it lets my imagination free! :)

I have to say, Beorn is one of my fav characters too. I can just picture how it must have felt walking through his fields, past those huge bees, then staying in his house with his amazing animals, so fun! :)


Daniel Eavenson (DannyEaves) | 127 comments Like I sort of get what your saying. Like in Dark Tower there's a scene with a cyborg bear. That's cool on its own, it adds to the world and hints at a larger mythology. That scene also exists to move the plot along. Also after introducing cyborg animals and anachronistic tech those things become themes throughout the whole series.

The scene with Beorn is totally pointless. You can remove Beorn from the book and it doesn't change anything. Except you don't know there are shape shifting bear people around somewhere. That's cool and all, but it just doesn't seem like good writing.

It's the same with Tom Bombadill. Literally we know you can remove him from the series and still get the same story, because Peter Jackson did it. Actually now that I think about it Rankin Bass already proved out my point about Beorn also.


message 17: by Rick (last edited Dec 26, 2012 10:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick | 1748 comments "The scene with Beorn is totally pointless. You can remove Beorn from the book and it doesn't change anything. Except you don't know there are shape shifting bear people around somewhere. That's cool and all, but it just doesn't seem like good writing."

Sigh. This is kind of why I ignore most people who talk about the quality of the writing.

The fact that there are things in a world that are odd, unique and don't seem necessary lends that world a feeling of being a real, complex thing. Saying that this is bad writing is a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of what makes a created world feel real. Having a world that only has what we need to drive the story forward and no more would risk the world feeling limited and artificial.

We don't know the entire history because if you dropped us into the world, we wouldn't have all of that information...just as Bilbo doesn't. Face it, you don't know every historical detail of our world going back 2000 years and you've lived in this world for decades. - why should everything in a fictional world with a deep history be contained on the surface? It's far more realistic that most people in Middle Earth will be like us... we know about the Greeks on a superficial level but aside from true enthusiasts we don't know the ins and outs of ancient Greek politics, culture and history. In the same vein, someone of Middle Earth won't know every detail of ancient Numenor or the conflicts of the First and Second Ages.

The presence of Beorn and Tom Bombadil is a way of telling us that the world has odd little surprises hidden in its corners. It's not just hobbits and men and dwarves and orcs and elves. LIke a real world, strange, unexpected things arose throughout Middle Earth.


message 18: by Jon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jon (jon17) | 27 comments http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50...

There is also a 12 volume history of Middle Earth.


Ruth (tilltab) (till-tab) | 1344 comments Daniel wrote: "The scene with Beorn is totally pointless. You can remove Beorn from the book and it doesn't change anything."

I'd say the scene with Beorn is entirely necessary for the pacing of the book. A lot of bad, and pretty important, stuff just happened, and this is a chance for the party to rest and regroup, and prepare for what is to come. Bilbo, in particular, has gone through a number of changes, and now is the time when he can pause and decide just what kind of hobbit he will be. Beorn's home is a comfortable place, somewhere you don't want to leave, but have to to continue the journey. You know that from here on in, things will get dangerous once more, and that the party will probably face dangers much greater than those they have already faced.


message 20: by Rick (last edited Dec 27, 2012 12:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick | 1748 comments Ruth,

That's a good point and I'll add that Tom Bombadil's house is a similar place of respite in LotR. Why not have Tom take the Ring and keep it there? It seems to have no effect on him. Then the hobbits (who've just had a harrowing experience on the barrows) could be relieved of their burden, be out of danger and go back home. Alas, that easy solution isn't one that really solves anything. Tom could not stand against Sauron and doesn't really have any interest in trying. The solution is no solution and the hobbits, having rested a bit, need to push on.

Indeed Rivendell itself serves as a waypoint also, the difference being that Elrond lives there and can impart wisdom and advice. Still, he cannot really solve the problem... only help.


Alterjess | 318 comments Rick wrote: "Why not have Tom take the Ring and keep it there? It seems to have no effect on him."

I love that this conversation actually happens at Rivendell. You get the feeling that Elrond likes Tom Bombadil about as much as Peter Jackson did.


message 22: by Rick (last edited Dec 27, 2012 01:54PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick | 1748 comments Yeah, I can imagine Elrond has little time for someone who seems to have great power but just sits things out and lets the world happen.

Incidentally the brief interlude isn't a rare thing in fairytales and other classic myths. It often serves the surface purpose of allowing the characters a bit of rest but it also usually is a period for some or all of them to reflect and make decisions. See also the time in Lothlorien in LotR.


Daniel Eavenson (DannyEaves) | 127 comments I'll give you a maybe on the scene being important. The pacing is likely helped by the little lag between the events of the mountains and Mirkwood. Beorn being in that scene doesn't really do anything for it.

I mean I agree with everyone that there is some merit to be had by having some mystery in the story that's not all resolved completely at the end. Gandalf is probably the best example of this. His back story and origins are incredibly complex and meaningful to the universe as a whole but left unexplored in the context of the Hobbit. Beorn as a character just doesn't contribute anything. Maybe I'm just more utilitarian in my examination but I don't understand having this character show up here and not really do anything but be talked at, and then wonder off into the ether with only a couple references to his actions later on. It just seems wasteful.


message 24: by Rick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick | 1748 comments It's not about Beorn actively contributing to the novel. It's about building the world and about how the dwarves and Bilbo react and change. Beorn and his people add complexity to the equation. It's a bit less "Go with dwarves, steal treasure, kill dragon."


Ruth (tilltab) (till-tab) | 1344 comments Daniel wrote: " Beorn as a character just doesn't contribute anything."

Hmm, I'd be interested in what you consider a contribution. I haven't read the book recently, so perhaps I'm mistaken, but I'm sure he offered provisions and advice to the party, along with a safe place to rest. You could argue that the trolls added nothing to the story, so perhaps you could leave them out of the story. The elves were little more than a singing, giggling interlude, so lets scrap those too. For that matter, was there really a need to have the dwarves be attacked by the goblins in the caves? Couldn't Bilbo simply have fallen down a hole while taking a walk and had his little adventure with the ring while the dwarves were all perfectly fine? But that doesn't happen, does it?

To my mind, Beorn was in the story because he happened to live in a place the party was passing by, and since they were passing by, it makes sense that they would find food and shelter there, and get provisions for the journey ahead. Had their journey taken them elsewhere, they might have found such things in an inn, or similar, but since there were no such places around, Beorn served this role instead.


message 26: by A.L. (last edited Dec 30, 2012 06:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

A.L. Butcher (ALB2012) | 313 comments I think Beorn is one of the Mirkwood and creepy forest mysteries. He doesn't like people much. It states he is kind to his animals and eats honey and milk- at least as a man but WHAT does he eat as a bear.

Beorn sets them up after they lose their gear and way after the encounter with the goblins, he gives them some guidance about the paths to take, not drinking from the enchanted stream etc etc and he escorts them some way, although from a distance. I think is where Gandalf leaves them too so it is a passing point, a bit of respite before the midden really hits the windmill as it were.

Most of the secondary characters such as Elrond or the Wood-elf king, or the Laketowners could be removed and they would still get to the dragon, unless they starved, got lost, or whatever but this would make for rather a dull adventure. I think the respite stops are needed if only to break up the bad things happening to them, getting lost, chased, nearly eaten, lost, chased, split up nearly eaten again etc.

I think Beorn also provides evidence that there are other races than elves, men and dwarves and the forest holds secrets.

The dwarves seem rather unprepared, yes they have food etc when they start out but they don't actually have a plan for what to do when they meet Smaug, how are they planning to get the gold back? Even on the way they seem badly planned, they have a few weapons and some rope but they have a map, they know they need to cross Mirkwood but there is no discussion before hand of what they might encounter, they are not warriors as such and the fights they win ( at least up to the dragon, which is as far as I have got this time) are luck. They dash in to the wood elves party, yes they are hungry but how difficult would it be nominate a spokesman? Unless I missed something there the first time.

It seems to me they have a vague plan of "let's go fetch back this treasure from the mean old dragon" and everything else they trust their luck.


message 27: by A.L. (new) - rated it 4 stars

A.L. Butcher (ALB2012) | 313 comments Rick wrote: "Ruth,

That's a good point and I'll add that Tom Bombadil's house is a similar place of respite in LotR. Why not have Tom take the Ring and keep it there? It seems to have no effect on him. Then t..."


Indeed I never understood why he didn't or why he doesn't help later. He seems to be some form of local god or spirit and has some power he just seems to help them the once, sing a lot and then disappears from the book.


message 28: by A.L. (new) - rated it 4 stars

A.L. Butcher (ALB2012) | 313 comments Regarding Beorn... he has his place in the book if you read to the end


message 29: by Rick (last edited Dec 30, 2012 01:00PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rick | 1748 comments Alexandra wrote: "Indeed I never understood why he didn't or why he doesn't help later. He seems to be some form of local god or spirit and has some power he just seems to help them the once, sing a lot and then disappears from the book. "

It's been a while since I read Fellowship but as I recall it when this option was brought up at the council meeting in Rivendell Elrond (or Gandalf...) noted that a) even Bombadil could not stand against all of Mordor and b) he didn't seem to have a care for or understanding of things like the Ring and would likely forget it, misplace or simply lose track of it (which is perhaps why it has no power over him). Of course, in the context of LotR as a book, leaving the Ring with Tom had to be ruled out to advance the story.

A couple of other people have mentioned this but if one views a story as simply the main thread and that all things that are not directly about that main plotline are useless you end up with a fairly boring book.

Imagine, for a moment, LotR without side plots. Frodo goes from the Shire to Bree. Meets Aragorn. Goes to Rivendell. It's determined that Frodo needs to take the Ring to Mt Doom and cast it into the fire. The Fellowship sets out, goes over or through the mountains, down the other side, continues through Mordor where they toss the Ring in. End. Oh, they confront enemies, but here's what wouldn't happen:


No storm that forces them through Moria.
If they choose to go through Moria for some other reason, no Balrog with Gandalf falling (or he falls and is gone for good).
No stop in Lothlorien or, if they do stop there, they rest up, get supplies and move on. There's no scene between Frodo and Galadriel and in fact none of the explanatory prose there happens. No vials of light, etc.
No splitting of the Fellowship. That means...
No Merry and Pippin getting taken by Orcs. Probably the entire Saruman subplot goes away, actually. But if that stays, no Ents. No pursuit across the plains by Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas. No meeting with the riders in Rohan and the Theoden subplot goes away. This also kills off the Eowyn subpot.
No Aragorn traveling through the lands of the dead, recruiting them and their arrival at Gondor.
Oh and no Gondor subplot... since the Fellowship would have never split, Aragorn would not have come to Gondor that way.
No confrontation at the gates of Mordor.
None of the struggles that only Sam and Frodo see (Shelob, etc). Again, the Fellowship would never have broken if the plot was nice and linear.

Now, does that sound like an interesting set of books?

Regarding The Hobbit, Bilbo gets forced to go on an adventure. They go to Rivendell, get some more supplies, head to the mountain (via Mirkwood, where nothing much happens). Bilbo has his encounter with Gollum and gets the Ring. They get to the mountain. That stuff happens. Then Bilbo comes home. The End.

yawn...


message 30: by A.L. (new) - rated it 4 stars

A.L. Butcher (ALB2012) | 313 comments Indeed. Thanks I had forgotten that about Tom. He is a fun character anyway and he does save them from the wicked treeman.

Every character has his or her part to play, even if it seems small. I like the side plots, they bring depth to the story. Adventures aren't just set out to find/destroy magic item, follow path directly to said item/place of destruction, do the deed go home having got a ton of shiny loot/saved the world.

In LOTR the whole Gondor Aragorn subplot is great, you can understand Boromir's resentment after all the Stewards are king in all but name and have been for some time.

On the matter of the hobbit I do think it is a little slow to start but once the actual adventure starts it is great:)


message 31: by Joe (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joe (joeliedtke) | 1 comments One detail that I love about the scene where we meet Beorn is the the insight that we gain into Gandalf. Specifically how Gandalf instructs the dwarves to show up one or two at a time with a few minutes in between each other. That sounds familiar, where did I see that before? Oh yes, when the dwarves show up at Bilbo's house!

One dwarf or two dwarves will not be turned away, but a whole gaggle of dwarves (and a hobbit) will likely be sent off. Its just a nice bit of insight into why the dwarves showed up as they did earlier in the book, and perhaps the way that Gandalf thinks...


message 32: by A.L. (new) - rated it 4 stars

A.L. Butcher (ALB2012) | 313 comments Well I would be annoyed if 13 people suddenly turned up on my doorstep;)


Paul R | 43 comments ahh love a good debate. Michael in message 13 is on track- JRR Tolkien had a real life- he never really looked at writing to be his real life. if you study the man you see he was quite accomplished teaching, translating and reading the older norse languages. Even the Rune language in the books is derived from his studies.

So much he took from them - it is a delight to read a work he translated or helped translate and see the connection

JRR never had time to organize his writings- because he wished to live his life, be with his family and correct what was already out there.

you cannot compare him to anyone else currently writing, i am not sure he ever saw himself as a full time author


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