Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Queer Lodgings

The Movie: Beorn, in bear form, guards his house against the orcs lurking outside. Everybody is asleep when he returns, in the middle of the night. The next morning, Bilbo Baggins is woken by the sounds of ponies and bumblebees. He is the last one up; everybody else is already at breakfast, being served by Beorn. He serves milk, fruit, bread, and cheese. All of the furniture and tableware is huge for the dwarves and Bilbo, since it is made to fit a very large man.

Or thirteen tiny little people. 

In a somber conversation, they discuss Beorn's history and Gandalf's plans for the company. Beorn warns them about the evil in Mirkwood. He lists orcs, wood elves, and the Necromancer as things to be careful of. Gandalf says that they plan on taking the elf path through the forest. Beorn offers the use of his ponies to help the dwarves reach the woods. This all happens in the span of no more than a few hours.

The Book: Thorin's Company, having already met Beorn, are invited to supper. At Beorn's instruction, they are all served by his animals. His ponies carry torches in their mouths and push together tables. His dogs, standing on their hind-legs, set the table. Beorn serves nuts, fruits, honey, and bread. They exchange stories; Beorn talks about, among other things, the dangers of Mirkwood. After dinner, Beorn leaves, and the dwarves sit around the fireplace, drinking mead and singing a song. Bilbo could hear the growling and scuffling of a bear outside and, terrified, dives under his blankets.

Everybody else is eating breakfast when he awakes. Neither Gandalf nor Beorn are around. Bilbo and the dwarves just sort of wait around all day until Gandalf returns in the evening. Gandalf refuses to answer any of their questions until he has eaten and smoked. Gandalf says that he noticed several bear tracks, not all belonging to Beorn; there had been a meeting of bears last night. Bilbo is frightened that Beorn has gone to bring the goblins back. They go to sleep for the night. Beorn himself awakens them the next morning by picking Bilbo up and laughing at his fat belly.

"Have some waffles, you chubby little bunny!"

Beorn is acting "most jolly" and tells jokes and funny stories over breakfast. Beorn tells the dwarves that he had noticed that the goblins, angry over the death of their king, were amassing an army to find the dwarves. Beorn shows Bilbo a goblin's head on a stick, thus allaying the hobbits concerns of betrayal, and tells the dwarves that they have won his respect by killing the Great Goblin.

Gandalf tells Beorn the whole story of their journey. Beorn offers enough food to last them for weeks, as well as ponies (and a horse for Gandalf). He warns them to avoid drinking water in Mirkwood, especially the great black river that carries "a great drowsiness and forgetfullness." He insists that they do not stray from the path, for any reason.

My Opinion: As usual, the movie streamlines some things. This is understandable in an adaptation from book to movie. Still though, I'm a little disappointed in how rushed this scene feels. Beorn speaks almost exclusively in cliches ("Once there were many, you are running out of time, etc.") and the dwarves are rushed out as soon as breakfast is over. We know that the orcs are in Dol Guldur right now, so this suspense is entirely manufactured. Why not at least imply that Thorin's Company stayed for a few days, like in the book? Maybe then it wouldn't feel like we were being hustled from scene to scene. You don't necessarily need to show the dwarves singing, but it wouldn't hurt to inject some of the levity of the book into the movie.

Why have songs and funny stories when you can talk about slavery and genocide instead?

Everything else about Beorn's long hall was fantastic. It looks just like I imagined. I guess I could whine about the omission of the serving animals, but I don't think I could stomach seeing a dog walking around on its hind-legs, serving plates in its paws. I think I had trouble accepting that as a very young child reading this book. And, as a vegetarian myself, I am very happy that they kept Beorn's larders meat-free!

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