“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Queer Lodgings

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My favorite character in The Hobbit is the skin-changer Beorn. It is he who offers Bilbo and company a place of rest and security between periods of great adventure and danger. This is a common pattern for Tolkien. After danger, rest. After adventure, security.

Beorn is a skin-changer that can transform into a bear. The big question of the story is whether Beorn is a man that transforms into a bear or a bear that transforms into a bear. In other words, is Beorn a man who is good or a bear that should be feared?

We are never given an answer and thus even while enjoying his hospitality, the company are never truly safe. And that creates an interesting tension in the narrative.

Beorn reminds me of a famous description in of Aslan in the “Chronicles of Narnia”: he is good, but he is not safe. This is illustrated in how Gandalf introduces the hobbit and the dwarves. Though a humorous scene, Gandalf is clearly on edge before Beorn. We soon discover that Beorn does not like dwarves. What is more, he hates Goblins and Wargs more. The dwarves’s story of killing the goblin-chief is a delightful story for the skin-changer.

This juxtaposition between the man and animal is also illustrated in his love of animals and his love for violence. His home is described as a safe haven for animals of all kind. The image suggest Beorn as a kind, gentle being yet before we can assume our host is safe, we discover his enjoyment of goblin blood. We later find him following the company even after he supplies them with his ponies. Because in the end, he cares more about keeping his ponies than supplying the dwarves and hobbit.

From a Christian perspective, Beorn reminds me of the double sides of all of us. One the one hand, he is a kind, domesticated figure we want to love. Yet suddenly, the dangerous side can easily come out. Beorn is a man torn between his two identies: man and bear.

In the end (spoiler alert), Beorn will return to fight in the Battle of the Five Armies in favor of the dwarves. Thus Tolkien gives him a heroic story arc, a pleasant surprise to this lonely character.

One last point regarding Beorn. Both his name and character reminds me of my favorite eponymous character: Beowulf. The two names are similar and no doubt Tolkien, an expert on the Beowulf poem, took Beorn’s name from Beowulf. Both names mean “bear” (Beowulf means “bee-wolf” which means “bear.”). Likewise, Beorn’s actions are very Beowulf-like. Beorn tears the goblin and warg monsters apart like Beowulf does Grendel. Perhaps this is why I love Beorn so much. It is Tolkien’s wink at his (and my) love of the ancient poem.

 

For more:

The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – An Unexpected Party
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Roast Mutton
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – A Short Rest
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Over Hill and Under Hill
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Riddles in the Dark
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire

“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Queer Lodgings
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Flies and Spiders
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Barrels Out of Bond
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – A Warm Welcome
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – On the Doorstep
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Inside Information
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Not at Home
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Fire and Water
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Gathering of the Clouds
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – A Thief in the Night
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Clouds Burst
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Return Journey
“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – The Last Stage

For more:
“The Hobbit” by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
A Few Thoughts on The Battle of the Five Armies
“The Fellowship of the Ring” by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
“The Two Towers” by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
“The Return of the King” by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
Longing for Eden: Tolkien’s Insight into the Longing of Every Human Soul
An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence
How to Read J. R. R. Tolkien
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien’s Monsters Documentary
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Dramatized Audio
“Beyond The Movie”: A National Geographic Documentary on the Lord of the Rings

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