- The Eagles were truly wonderful to have on one’s side in a pinch, and they always delivered as promised.
- The most effective way to end Dwarven complaints was to mention deserving a cut of their treasure.
- Beorn was the original tree-hugging-sustainable-self-sufficiency- consumerism-use-local-ethical-vegan. He was also short-tempered and impatient.
- Gandalf always knew how to manage the ones he needed help from, or just stay on the good side of.
- Beorn was a being full of mystery and his own boys’ club. He didn’t trust easily either. He too the trouble to get out and validated the travellers’ story on an overnight trip… well two days.
- Gandalf had some stealth skills on him, and daring to track Beorn all that way.
- Dwarves earned some cred with Beorn for the mess they caused the goblins and the wargs. The highlight for Beorn was the Great Goblin’s death.
- Beorn did have good days too. And he was generous to those whom he felt camaraderie.
- As a neighbour, he knew Mirkwood and its dangers. Portable water was a necessity.
- Beorn had secret recipes for cakes and was partial to using honey in them.
- It took five days’ pony ride from Beorn’s house to get to the Forest Gate.
- Gandalf left them at the edge of Mirkwood after spending the night with them, and headed south for pressing business he could not delay anymore.
- Cutting through Mirkwood was to save the Company time getting to Erebor.
- It was important to stick to the path through Mirkwood. Both Beorn and Gandalf repeatedly reminded the Company.
- Dwarves had abandonment issues.
“Good gracious heavens, no, no, NO, NO!” said Gandalf. “Don’t be a fool Mr. Baggins if you can help it; 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 other such unfortunate word! He is a skin-changer. He changes his skin: sometimes he is a huge black bear, sometimes he is a great strong black-haired man with huge arms and a great beard. I cannot tell you much more, though that ought to be enough. Some say that he is a bear descended from the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came. Others say that he is a man descended from the first men who lived before Smaug or the other dragons came into this part of the world, and before the goblins came into the hills out of the North. I cannot say, though I fancy the last is the true tale. He is not the sort of person to ask questions of.
“At any rate he is under no enchantment but his own. He lives in an oak-wood and has a great wooden house; and as a man he keeps cattle and horses which are nearly as marvellous as himself. They work for him and talk to him. He does not eat them; neither does he hunt or eat wild animals. He keeps hives and hives of great fierce bees, and lives most on cream and honey. As a bear he ranges far and wide. I once saw him sitting all alone on the top of the Carrock at night watching the moon sinking towards the Misty Mountains, and I heard him growl in the tongue of bears: ‘The day will come when they will perish and I shall go back!’ That is why I believe he once came
from the mountains himself.”
“I have been picking out bear-tracks,” he said at last. “There must have been a regular bears’ meeting outside here last night. I soon saw that Beorn could not have made them all: there were far too many of them, and they were of various sizes too. I should say there were little bears, large bears, ordinary bears, and gigantic big bears, all dancing outside from dark to nearly dawn. They came from almost every direction, except from the west over the river, from the Mountains. In that direction only one set of footprints led—none coming, only ones going away from here. I followed these as far as the Carrock. There they disappeared into the river, but the water was too deep and strong beyond the rock for me to cross. It is easy enough, as you remember, to get from this bank to the Carrock by the ford, but on the other side is a cliff standing up from a swirling channel. I had to walk miles before I found a place where the river was wide and shallow enough for me to wade and swim, and then miles back again to pick up the tracks again. By that time it was too late for me to follow them far. They went straight off in the direction of the pine-woods on the east side of the Misty Mountains, where we had our pleasant little party with the Wargs the night before last. And now I think I have answered your first question, too,” ended Gandalf, and he sat a long while silent.
Liking this bit of Beorn character arc, courtesy of Gandalf. Beorn’s ancestry is intriguing, and his hinted-at history with the Goblins laid the groundwork for his participation in later events.
Water, he said, they would not need to carry this side of the forest, for there
were streams and springs along the road. “But your way through Mirkwood is dark, dangerous and difficult,” he said. “Water is not easy to find there, nor food. The time is not yet come for nuts (though it may be past and gone indeed before you get to the other side), and nuts are about all that grows there fit for food; in there the wild things are dark, queer, and savage. I will provide you with skins for carrying water, and I will give you some bows and arrows. But I doubt very much whether anything you find in Mirkwood will be wholesome to eat or to drink. There is one stream there, I know, black and strong which crosses the path. That you should neither drink of, nor bathe in; for I have heard that it carries enchantment and a great drowsiness and forgetfulness. And in the dim shadows of that place I don’t think you will shoot anything, wholesome or unwholesome, without straying from the path. That you MUST NOT do, for any reason.
Important travel notes for a hike into Mirkwood, it is serious business indeed!
North of the Carrock the edge of Mirkwood drew closer to the borders of the Great River, and though here the Mountains too drew down nearer, Beorn advised them to take this way; for at a place a few days’ ride due north of the Carrock was the gate of a little-known pathway through Mirkwood that led almost straight towards the Lonely Mountain.
“There is, if you care to go two hundred miles or so out of your way north, and twice that south. But you wouldn’t get a safe path even then. There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go. Before you could get round Mirkwood in the North you would be right among the slopes of the Grey Mountains, and they are simply stiff with goblins, hobgoblins, and orcs of the worst description. Before you could get round it in the South, you would get into the land of the Necromancer; and even you, Bilbo, won’t need me to tell you tales of that black sorcerer. I don’t advise you to go anywhere near the places overlooked by his dark tower! Stick to the forest-track, keep your spirits up, hope for the best, and with a tremendous slice of luck you may come out one day and see the Long Marshes lying below you, and beyond them, high in the East, the Lonely Mountain where dear old Smaug lives, though I hope he is not expecting you.”
The lay of the land. Interesting indeed.
This was both a fun chapter, and an educational one. Fun with the clever way Gandalf managed to sequester the whole Company from danger into the best room and board in the neighbourhood. Beorn’s history, directness, and generosity of character for those he deemed enemies of the goblins (enemies of my enemies are my friends and so on) were traits that I had found intriguing when I first researched the Beornings.