“The Somebody I spoke of—a very great person. You must all be very polite when I introduce you. I shall introduce you slowly, two by two, I think; and you must be careful not to annoy him, or heaven knows what will happen. He can be appalling when he is angry, though he is kind enough if humouredl"
I did do last chapter's reading, but I never wrote a post, & now I think that it will be better to just forge on without back-tracking.
When the dwarves arrived at Bilbo's hobbit hole, they arrived two-by-two, which is the same way that they arrive to meet Beorn. Somehow, however, I doubt that Bilbo was described as a "very great person," nor do I suppose that Gandalf described him as "appalling when he is angry." I wish we were privy to the conversation that preceded their descent upon Bilbo, but I suppose we shall never know.
But Beorn is a very great somebody, and is undoubtedly appalling when angry. There is, nonetheless, something about this interlude that has always reminded me of the Tom Bombadil chapter in LOTR. I think it is the solitary nature of the two personages, and the interesting blend of nature and humanity that they each represent.
Beorn is primarily wild - both his human and his bear description are formidable indeed. His home, however, has many of the accoutrements of an Anglo-Saxon mead hall.
Although, indeed, his serving help is quite different. Mead was an important drink to the Anglo-Saxons, being a drink of fermented honey and water. Beorn, a bear, has combined his love of all things honey into most of his food and, presumably, drink as well.
I love the Beorn part of the story. We've now seen three different living spaces in addition to Bilbo's hobbit hole: Rivendell and the last Homely House, the aeries of the eagles, and Beorn's great hall, and all of them are representative of the creatures who live within them. Beorn is a mixture of wild animal and civilized man.
"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."
Gandalf and the rest of the party splits up at the end of this chapter, with Gandalf heading off to take care of wizard stuff in a different part of the world altogether, and the dwarves and Bilbo heading into the darkness of Mirkwood. So far, Bilbo has been more hindrance than help on the journey.
That is about to change.