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Chapter 7: Queer Lodgings
The next morning, the eagles take Bilbo and the dwarves and set them down on a rocky hill in the middle of the Great River, which runs through the plains in between the Misty Mountains and the Mirkwood Forest. After thanking the eagles and bidding them farewell, the group crosses the river. Gandalf tells them that soon he will leave them on their own way, though he hopes to find them provisions and transportation before he departs. He tells them about Beorn, a man who can change into a bear. Since he lives nearby and may help them, the group decides to pay Beorn a visit. As they draw close to Beorn's house, they observe with interest large patches of planted flowers and huge honeybees.
Gandalf warns his companions that Beorn is wary of strangers and tells them his plan to introduce the dwarves slowly, in pairs. First, Bilbo and Gandalf go to Beorn's house and introduce themselves; Gandalf speaks of their adventures. In the course of his story, his "party" grows from two to more than a dozen. Meanwhile, the dwarves actually arrive in pairs every five minutes. At first Beorn is irritated, then amused, by Gandalf's trick. He finds Gandalf's tale so interesting that he permits the dwarves to stay and invites them all to supper.
During the meal, the visitors are waited on by Beorn's ponies and dogs. After dinner, they sit together telling tales. Beorn leaves them before they retire, and the next day the groups see neither Beorn nor Gandalf. When Gandalf returns in the evening, he tells them that Beorn, in the shape of a bear, has held a meeting of bears. After their meeting, they had all headed west into the mountains, in the direction of the goblins and Wargs. Bilbo worries that Beorn may harm the party by leading the goblins and Wargs down to them; as a result, he has a fitful sleep.
By the next morning, Beorn has returned and is in a good mood at breakfast. He tells them that he has verified the truth of their tale and now offers to help them in any way he can. He provides them with ponies, a horse for Gandalf, and food. He also advises them as to how to negotiate Mirkwood Forest and tells them that they will find little to eat or drink in the woods. He also warns them that they should not drink from one stream, which causes forgetfulness, and they should not stray from the path, under any circumstance. They are also told to send back the ponies and horse before they enter Mirkwood.
Refreshed and rested, the party cautiously sets out once again. Before entering Mirkwood, they are told by Gandalf that he will be leaving them. The dwarves are upset, but he tells them not to worry, for they can rely on Bilbo to help them. The dwarves grumble about having to send the ponies back, but are reminded by Gandalf that Beorn, although a great friend, could become a terrible enemy. In fact, he has been following them in the shape of a bear to keep a protective eye on them and his ponies. Before departing, Gandalf reminds them of the importance of staying on the path. The dwarves and Bilbo set off into the forest in gloomy spirits.
This chapter is again a peaceful interlude, where the mood lightens. The stay with Beorn allows the travelling group to rest and restore their bodies and spirits while they share good cheer, food, and fellowship. It is only towards the end of the chapter that the clouds begin to gather again, as they learn of the dangers that await them and realize they have to say good-bye to Gandalf too.
The theme of good vs. evil continues to be highlighted as the plot develops. Beorn is added to the cast of "good" characters who ally with the dwarves. In addition, there is a direct reference to the battle that will occur at the end of the novel with an indication that the eagles will aid the forces of good. The theme of the ill effects of greed is also developed. The dwarves desire to keep Beorn's ponies for their own comfort, but are persuaded to send them back when Gandalf convinces them that Beorn is close by. This incident foreshadows the happenings of the final chapters, when the dwarves are reluctant to part with their treasure even when threatened.
The main characters also continue to develop in this chapter. Bilbo remains slightly laughable, and Beorn pokes fun at him, calling him "little bunny." Gandalf is shown to be a fine psychologist in the way he manages the dwarves' slow appearance at Beorn's door, allowing the man/bear to allow fifteen strangers into his house.
In the typical style of a romance, Tolkien introduces strange characters throughout the novel. Beorn is one such character, and the description of his lifestyle, home, and animal companions is meant to arouse curiosity and engage interest on the part of the reader. The dangers of Mirkwood are also clearly stated. Beorn warns them against straying from the path or drinking from the stream of forgetfulness. His warning suggests that trouble in Mirkwood will occur.