One year ago The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ended just before this chapter begins. My church reading group kept right on going — and now we’ll resume with the discussion points I wrote back then, here on SpecFaith. Lord willing, this series will continue through mid-December, ending before The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’s Dec. 13 (U.S.) release.
As with the first film, however, I can only make an educated guess at when the film will end. So far its trailers have shown nothing beyond the Dwarves’ arrival in Smaug’s cave, after the titular dragon flees for (to the Dwarves, at first) unknown reasons. So that’s my guess.
By the time you read this, I’ll be moved nearly half a continent away, from central Kentucky to central Texas, north of Austin. Fortunately there is a nice movie theater here that shows bright 3D films in high frame rate, as my wife and I plan to see The Hobbit part 2. Will you see the film? What do you hope most will be great? What do you not anticipate (Tauriel)?
This chapter begins how the film should begin: with Gandalf escorting the company to yet another episode with a fantastic creature. In this case Bilbo, Dwarves, and readers meet a man unlike any other in Middle-earth: the shapeshifter Beorn. You could call him a “were-bear,” except that as Hermione notes about werewolves in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, were-creatures cannot control their transformations. Beorn can, and uses his power — which has no detailed origin as Tolkien gives other creatures — to great effect.
Note I didn’t say positive effect. A simplistic “cast of characters” list would put Beorn on the side of the “good guys,” especially after he shows up busting goblin heads at the Battle of Five Armies. (We all know The Hobbit film director Peter Jackson won’t resist expanding Beorn’s battle role.) Yet Beorn is at best vague. Were-bear? More like medieval gangster.
Chapter 7: Queer Lodgings
- Read chapter 7, pages 106 (The next morning …) to 114 (“… about to tell you”).
- What would it be like to fly on the back of an eagle? Do you believe this is a Biblical allusion (“they shall mount up with wings like eagles,” Isaiah 41:31) or coincidence? How would we know the difference between a Biblical allusion and coincidence?
- There was a little cave (a wholesome one with a pebbly floor) (page 107). Does this make sense to you? How could a cave be more wholesome, at least to Bilbo and the others?
- “… I have some other pressing business to attend to.” (page 109) What does Gandalf’s announcement of his leaving mean to the others? (Hint: might this be an end to those deus ex machina escapes from impossible situations, and they know it?) Here we see that Gandalf has his own agenda, and isn’t at their beck and call. Any similarities?
- Gandalf says of Beorn: “He is a skin-changer. He changes his skin: sometimes he is a huge black bear, sometimes he is a great strong black-haired man …” (page 110). What about a “skin-changer” or “shape-shifter”? Some Christians object to having these in stories. One writer says (discussing another fantasy book): “Christians should remember that shape-shifting has been part of sorcery and shamanism through the centuries.” 1 Is this true? How would we know? Should we take this seriously? What does Scripture say (if anything) against trying to take the shape of an animal? Is this even possible in reality?
- Read chapter 7, pages 121 (It was full morning …) to the chapter’s end.
- Earlier, Gandalf used subtle flattery and an appeal to curiosity to smuggle one Hobbit and then all 13 Dwarves into Beorn’s house and hospitality. Is this deception on the wizard’s part — or perhaps a “shrewd as serpents” kind of game, which Beorn honors?
- A goblin’s head was stuck outside the gate and a warg-skin was nailed to a tree just beyond. Beorn was a fierce enemy. (page 124) Is Beorn a “good guy” or “bad guy”? Are his actions honorable? Do we sometimes need “rough characters” like Beorn to take care of business, or could we (even as heroes in the story) find a “better way”?
- How do the hints, foreshadowing, and even the sound of the name Mirkwood affect us?
- Three times now the group has fought a battle, then taken a rest. What might make us think this time will be different? Might those “coincidental” escapes have been planned.
- The Deadly Magic of Potter Movies: The Order of the Phoenix is not “just fantasy!”, Berit Kjos, dated 2007 ↩