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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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After enjoying the hospitality of Beorn, the shape-changer,
Bilbo and the dwarves travel through Mirkwood Forest. Bilbo
has an opportunity to prove himself by twice coming to the
dwarves' rescue.

The next morning, the eagles deliver the travelers to the top of
a great rock near the house of someone named Beorn. Gandalf
warns the company that Beorn, a very great man, is easily
angered; they must be very polite to him.

Beorn, whom Gandalf describes as part bear, part man, gives
the group food and advice for their journey: They will have to
travel through the terrible forest of Mirkwood, but should stay
on the path and not drink or bathe in the water of a certain
stream. He also gives them ponies but asks that they be
returned when the travelers reach the edge of the woods.

NOTE: Beorn is a typical hero of the old legends. He is self-
assured and seldom polite. He's also extremely fierce, almost
bloodthirsty, as shown by the goblin head on the post outside
his house. Unlike the ancient heroes, however, Beorn seems to
belong more to the world of animals than to the world of men.
He speaks with his animals, who are friends rather than
possessions. He associates with bears and can turn into one
himself. On the other hand, he tries to avoid people, never
liking more than one visitor at a time. In The Lord of the Rings
you'll find other characters who, like Beorn, are closely
associated with nature.

The company reaches Mirkwood in four days. The dwarves
want to keep the ponies, but Gandalf insists they be sent back.
Then Gandalf says goodbye, and Bilbo and the dwarves are on
their own.

As the band travels through the eerie forest of Mirkwood,
Bilbo has an opportunity to convincingly prove his worth to the
others. At one point, he becomes separated from the band. A
giant spider attacks him and-alone and in the dark-he kills it
with his sword. This serves as an initiation for Bilbo, and,
proud of his victory, he finally names his sword; he calls it

Feeling bolder, Bilbo searches for his friends, only to find them
prisoners of the spiders. Using his ring to become invisible, he
sings insulting songs about the spiders and frees enough of the
band so they can fight their way to safety. This is the first time
Bilbo has made up a song, and it's the beginning of his
transition into the heroic world, where the use of songs and the
naming of swords are commonplace.

Bilbo has won the respect of the dwarves. Even though he has
had to reveal the secret of the ring, they admire his courage and
ingenuity in using it. They begin to look to him for help, just as
they used to look to Gandalf. Then suddenly they realize
Thorin is missing. It's too dark to look for him, so they go to
sleep with this new trouble on their minds.

We learn that Thorin has been captured by Wood-elves, who,
though good, are not friendly to dwarves. Knowing their king
is greedy for treasure, Thorin refuses to answer his questions
and is imprisoned.

As they wander in the forest the next evening, the rest of the
dwarves are captured by the Wood-elves. Bilbo evades capture
by slipping on his ring. The captives are taken to the king's
palace and imprisoned when they refuse to answer questions.
Bilbo, invisible, wanders around the palace. Ironically, he now
lives up to his role as burglar, sneaking around and stealing
food. He finds the imprisoned dwarves, who are quite
confident the hobbit will rescue them. Bilbo isn't so hopeful
and wishes that Gandalf were around. But with growing
maturity, he realizes that if the dwarves are to be rescued, he
must do it himself. You can see that Bilbo has grown from a
helpless, foolish hobbit into someone who can take
responsibility not only for himself, but for the lives of others.
And yet Bilbo is also dependent on the dwarves; he wouldn't
know where to go or what to do without them.

With a great deal of luck and ingenuity, Bilbo manages to free
his friends, then packs them into empty barrels, which the elves
throw into a stream that runs under the palace. They all float
off down the stream, with Bilbo clinging to an empty barrel.

NOTE: Much is made of Bilbo's luck in this chapter. Yet it was
not merely luck that made him successful: Bilbo was prepared
to take advantage of his luck. Throughout The Hobbit and The
Lord of the Rings, watch for other instances where luck serves
to help individuals who are already trying to help themselves.

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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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