Sonntag, 16. Juli 2017

Saturday, 14 July 2941, T. A.: The strangest beasts of Middle-earth

But where those guys got pipeweed from
will stay the secret of Horus Weber,
artist of this 1957 "Hobbit" illustration.
On this day, in 2941 T. A., Bilbo is awakened late while the others have breakfast. The Dwarves stay carefully in Beorn's hall all day long while Gandalf is out to examine the tracks of the night before. He returns late and tells his story of a congregation of bears while Beorn is not seen all day. He seems not to expect his guests to leave before his return, nor do his animals who are waiting on with all their unnatural skills.

Beorn's beasts have been the subject of much discussion because they are hard to reconcile with the post-LotR world of Middle-earth. Sure, we have seen Huan, the talking dog of the Silmarillion, and Thuringwethil the bat messenger, but a whole gang of beasts behaving humanly in all respects but their physical form? Even the popular default assumption - They are Maiar! - fails, for why would they serve a mere man? And Tolkien was unequivocal about Beorn being no more than that. Allow me to propose my own suggestion that I have not yet heard before:

The animals in Beorn's household are in fact his wife and daughters. Like him, they are skinchangers, but the social standards of their ethnic group do not permit them to show their human shape to strangers (let's call it a sexual taboo, if you like). Hence, they keep their animalic shapes throughout, though with a distinctly human touch to it.