Bilbo wakes thinking he is home, but soon realizes he is not. After an unsatisfying breakfast (for a hobbit), the group clambers onto the eagles’ backs and thank the Lord of the Eagles for his hospitality. Mid flight, Bilbo gets scared, but the eagle carrying him teases him into silence. The eagles carefully set down their riders on a lonely hill and bid them adieu. This is when Gandalf tells the dwarves and Bilbo that he must soon be on his way, but that he will stay with them until they are on the right path and have gotten supplies. There is somebody nearby that may help, but they must go find him. They bathe and dry in the sun before setting on the road. Gandalf tells Bilbo that the somebody they are going to see is quick to anger by can be humored, so he thinks it best that the party are introduced in pairs. After some prodding by the dwarves, Gandalf reveals that somebody is Beorn, a skin-changer. (Bilbo hilariously thinks Gandalf means a furrier.) Beorn talks to animals and eats mostly cream and honey and no meat. He himself changes into a big black bear, and Gandalf is not sure if he is descended from a race of bears or men.
They first reach Beorn’s pastures filled with giant bees. Closer to the house, Gandalf stops them and tells the dwarves to come along every five minutes in pairs, after he has given the first signal. As Bombur is so fat, he must come alone and last. Gandalf and Bilbo set off for the house, and two horses spot them, then run ahead to tell Beorn of their coming. Gandalf introduces himself and Bilbo, and slides in a mention of his cousin Radagast. He tells Beorn of their plight, and the skin-changer invites them inside so that he can hear more of their story. A few minutes into his tale, Gandalf mentions other friends, so Beorn bids him call for them. Thorin and Dori are first to arrive, and Thorin’s name intrigues Beorn even more. As Gandalf talks, more and more dwarves make their way in, annoying and humoring Beorn. The disturbances make Beorn more interested in their story, and by the time Bombur waddles in, he agrees to host them for dinner.
The group head into Beorn’s hall, where they are waited on by dogs that can carry trays in their forepaws, sheep who bring food in on their backs, and ponies who carry in torches and seats. Over dinner Beorn and the dwarves exchange stories, though Beorn cares little for the material possessions dwarves love. Beorn leaves, but the dwarves continue to sing until Gandalf asks them all to sleep, and reminds them not to go outside until the sun is up. While they sleep, Bilbo is woken by growling and scuffling, but the animal remains outside.
The next day the party finds breakfast and service throughout the day, but no Gandalf or Beorn. Gandalf finally arrives at suppertime, but will not answer any questions until after he eats and enjoys a smoke. He then tells the others that he had been following bear tracks. A party of bears had been present around the house, and then Beorn seemingly headed towards the wargs’ and goblins’ meeting place in the woods. Bilbo thinks Beorn means to bring the goblins to them, but Gandalf laughs and tells him to sleep. The next morning Beorn wakes them all himself, and pokes fun at Bilbo, telling him he is getting fat again. Beorn tells them that he went to verify their story, and questioned a warg and goblin and found they did indeed kill the Great Goblin, which rather impresses him. Gandalf relates their whole mission, and Beorn promises them ponies and food. The ponies they must send back once they reach Mirkwood, but they will help speed their journey. He also warns them to not drink or kill anything around a stream that is black and strong, as its water cause drowsiness and forgetfulness. He offers his house to them again, should they need it. The dwarves and Bilbo thank him, but begin to feel the full weight of danger in their journey.
Beorn advises the group to take a road to the north, nearer the goblins but closer to a little-known road through Mirkwood that provides a straight path to the Lonely Mountain. After a few days of a quiet ride, the dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf reach the forest gates. As they near, they hear fewer birds, see no deer or even rabbits. Gandalf mentions near the gnarled trees that they must send back the ponies, at which the dwarves grumble. The wizard points out to them that Beorn has been following them the whole way, and their promises must be kept. It is also at this point that they realize Gandalf means to leave them the next day. After breakfast the next morning, Gandalf bids farewell and warns them not to stray from the path, or they will never find it again. Bilbo notes grumpily that the forest inside is as dark at morning as at night and groans at his plight. Gandalf scolds him for it, and tells Bilbo that there are no safe paths in the Edge of the Wild. Gandalf rides away, shouting at them to remember not to leave the path. Without the wizard and knowing the danger that lies ahead, the dwarves and Bilbo head into Mirkwood.
- I had completely forgotten that Beorn’s animals could serve like that. Can we train my cat to do that?
- Anyone else feel the power of the ominous forest as Tolkien describes its twisted trees and branches?
- Gandalf leaving raises a question about the movie adaptation – this must be the portion they plan on adding in, correct?