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J. R. R. Tolkien - 8


He could hear the goblins beginning a horrible song:

Fifteen birds in five firtrees,
their feathers were fanned in a fiery breeze!
But, funny little birds, they had no wings!
O what shall we do with the funny little things?
Roast 'em alive, or stew them in a pot;
fry them, boil them and eat them hot?

Then they stopped and shouted out: “Fly away little birds! Fly away if you can! Come down little birds, or you will get roasted in your nests! Sing, sing little birds! Why don't you sing?”
“Go away! little boys!” shouted Gandalf in answer. “It isn't bird-nesting time. Also naughty little boys that play with fire get punished.” He said it to make them angry, and to show them he was not frightened of them-though of course he was, wizard though he was. But they took no notice, and they went on singing.

Burn, burn tree and fern!
Shrivel and scorch! A fizzling torch
To light the night for our delight,
Ya hey!

Bake and toast 'em, fry and roast 'em
till beards blaze, and eyes glaze;
till hair smells and skins crack,
fat melts, and bones black
in cinders lie
beneath the sky!

So dwarves shall die,
and light the night for our delight,
Ya hey!
Ya-harri-heyl
Ya hoy!

And with that Ya hoy! the flames were under Gandalf’s tree. In a moment it spread to the others. The bark caught fire, the lower branches cracked.
Then Gandalf climbed to the top of his tree. The sudden splendour flashed from his wand like lightning, as he got ready to spring down from on high right among the spears of the goblins. That would have been the end of him, though he would probably have killed many of them as he came hurtling down like a thunderbolt. But he never leaped.
Just at that moment the Lord of the Eagles swept down from above, seized him in his talons, and was gone.

There was a howl of anger and surprise from the goblins. Loud cried the Lord of the Eagles, to whom Gandalf had now spoken. Back swept the great birds that were with him, and down they came like huge black shadows. The wolves yammered and gnashed their teeth; the goblins yelled and stamped with rage, and flung their heavy spears in the air in vain. Over them swooped the eagles; the dark rush of their beating wings smote them to the floor or drove them far away; their talons tore at goblin faces. Other birds flew to the tree-tops and seized the dwarves, who were scrambling up now as far as ever they dared to go.
Poor little Bilbo was very nearly left behind again! He just managed to catch hold of Dori's legs, as Dori was borne off last of all; and they went together above the tumult and the burning, Bilbo swinging in the air with his arms nearly breaking.
Now far below the goblins and the wolves were scattering far and wide in the woods. A few eagles were still circling and sweeping above the battle-ground. The flames about the trees sprang suddenly up above the highest branches. They went up in crackling fire. There was a sudden flurry of sparks and smoke. Bilbo had escaped only just in time!
Soon the light of the burning was faint below, a red twinkle on the black floor; and they were high up in the sky, rising all the time in strong sweeping circles. Bilbo never forgot that flight, clinging onto Dori's ankles. He moaned “my arms, my arms!”; but Dori groaned “my poor legs, my poor legs!”
At the best of times heights made Bilbo giddy. He used to turn queer if he looked over the edge of quite a little cliff; and he had never liked ladders, let alone trees (never having had to escape from wolves before). So you can imagine how his head swam now, when he looked down between his dangling toes and saw the dark lands opening wide underneath him, touched here and there with the light of the moon on a hill-side rock or a stream in the plains.
The pale peaks of the mountains were coming nearer, moonlit spikes of rock sticking out of black shadows. Summer or not, it seemed very cold. He shut his eyes and wondered if he could hold on any longer. Then he imagined what would happen if he did not. He felt sick. The flight ended only just in time for him, just before his arms gave way. He loosed Dori's ankles with a gasp and fell onto the rough platform of an eagle's eyrie. There he lay without speaking, and his thoughts were a mixture of surprise at being saved from the fire, and fear lest he fell off that narrow place into the deep shadows on either side. He was feeling very queer indeed in his head by this time after the dreadful adventures of the last three days with next to nothing to eat, and he found himself saying aloud: “Now I know what a piece of bacon feels like when it is suddenly picked out of the pan on a fork and put back on the shelf!”
“No you don't!” be heard Dori answering, “because the bacon knows that it will get back in the pan sooner or later; and it is to be hoped we shan't. Also eagles aren't forks!”
“O no! Not a bit like storks-forks, I mean,” said Bilbo sitting up and looking anxiously at the eagle who was perched close by. He wondered what other nonsense he had been saying, and if the eagle would think it rude. You ought not to be rude to an eagle, when you are only the size of a hobbit, and are up in his eyrie at night!
The eagle only sharpened his beak on a stone and trimmed his feathers and took no notice.
Soon another eagle flew up. “The Lord of the Eagles bids you to bring your prisoners to the Great Shelf,” he cried and was off again. The other seized Dori in his claws and flew away with him into the night leaving Bilbo all alone. He had just strength to wonder what the messenger had meant by 'prisoners,' and to begin to think of being torn up for supper like a rabbit, when his own turn came. The eagle came back, seized him in his talons by the back of his coat, and swooped off. This time he flew only a short way. Very soon Bilbo was laid down, trembling with fear, on a wide shelf of rock on the mountain-side. There was no path down on to it save by flying; and no path down off it except by jumping over a precipice. There he found all the others sitting with their backs to the mountain wall. The Lord of the Eagles also was there and was speaking to Gandalf.
It seemed that Bilbo was not going to be eaten after all. The wizard and the eagle-lord appeared to know one another slightly, and even to be on friendly terms. As a matter of fact Gandalf, who had often been in the mountains, had once rendered a service to the eagles and healed their lord from an arrow-wound. So you see 'prisoners' had meant 'prisoners rescued from the goblins' only, and not captives of the eagles. As Bilbo listened to the talk of Gandalf he realized that at last they were going to escape really and truly from the dreadful mountains. He was discussing plans with the Great Eagle for carrying the dwarves and himself and Bilbo far away and setting them down well on their journey across the plains below.
The Lord of the Eagles would not take them anywhere near where men lived. “They would shoot at us with their great bows of yew,” he said, “for they would think we were after their sheep. And at other times they would be right. No! we are glad to cheat the goblins of their sport, and glad to repay our thanks to you, but we will not risk ourselves for dwarves in the southward plains.”
“Very well,” said Gandalf. “Take us where and as far as you will! We are already deeply obliged to you. But in the meantime we are famished with hunger.”
“I am nearly dead of it,” said Bilbo in a weak little voice that nobody heard.
“That can perhaps be mended,” said the Lord of the Eagles.
Later on you might have seen a bright fire on the shelf of rock and the figures of the dwarves round it cooking and making a fine roasting smell. The eagles had brought up dry boughs for fuel, and they had brought rabbits, hares, and a small sheep. The dwarves managed all the preparations. Bilbo was too weak to help, and anyway he was not much good at skinning rabbits or cutting up meat, being used to having it delivered by the butcher all ready to cook. Gandalf, too, was lying down after doing his part in setting the fire going, since Oin and Gloin had lost their tinder-boxes. (Dwarves have never taken to matches even yet.)
So ended the adventures of the Misty Mountains. Soon Bilbo's stomach was feeling full and comfortable again, and he felt he could sleep contentedly, though really he would have liked a loaf and butter better than bits of meat toasted on sticks. He slept curled up on the hard rock more soundly than ever he had done on his feather-bed in his own little hole at home. But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find nor remember what it looked like.

Chapter 7
^ QUEER LODGINGS

The next morning Bilbo woke up with the early sun in his eyes. He jumped up to look at the time and to go and put his kettle on-and found he was not home at all. So he sat down and wished in vain for a wash and a brush. He did not get either, nor tea nor toast nor bacon for his breakfast, only cold mutton and rabbit. And after that he had to get ready for a fresh start.
This time he was allowed to climb on to an eagle's back and cling between his wings. The air rushed over him and he shut his eyes. The dwarves were crying farewells and promising to repay the lord of the eagles if ever they could, as off rose fifteen great birds from the mountain's side. The sun was still close to the eastern edge of things. The morning was cool, and mists were in the valleys and hollows and twined here and there about the peaks and pinnacles of the hills. Bilbo opened an eye to peep and saw that the birds were already high up and the world was far away, and the mountains were falling back behind them into the distance. He shut his eyes again and held on tighter.
“Don't pinch!” said his eagle. “You need not be frightened like a rabbit, even if you look rather like one. It is a fair morning with little wind. What is finer than flying?”
Bilbo would have liked to say: “A warm bath and late breakfast on the lawn afterwards;” but he thought it better to say nothing at all, and to let go his clutch just a tiny bit.
After a good while the eagles must have seen the point they were making for, 'even from their great height, for they began to go down circling round in great spirals. They did this for a long while, and at last the hobbit opened his eyes again. The earth was much nearer, and below them were trees that looked like oaks and elms, and wide grass lands, and a river running through it all. But cropping out of the ground, right in the path of the stream which looped itself about it, was a great rock, almost a hill of stone, like a last outpost of the distant mountains, or a huge piece cast miles into the plain by some giant among giants.
Quickly now to the top of this rock the eagles swooped one by one and set down their passengers.
“Farewell!” they cried, “wherever you fare, till your eyries receive you at the journey's end!” That is the polite thing to say among eagles.
“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,” answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.
And so they parted. And though the lord of the eagles became in after days the King of All Birds and wore a golden crown, and his fifteen chieftains golden collars (made of the gold that the dwarves gave them), Bilbo never saw them again-except high and far off in the battle of Five Armies. But as that comes in at the end of this tale we will say no more about it just now.
There was a flat space on the top of the hill of stone and a well worn path with many steps leading down it to the river, across which a ford of huge flat stones led to the grass-land beyond the stream. There was a little cave (a wholesome one with a pebbly floor) at the foot of the steps and near the end of the stony ford. Here the party gathered and discussed what was to be done.
“I always meant to see you all safe (if possible) over the mountains,” said the wizard, “and now by good management and good luck I have done it. Indeed we are now a good deal further east than I ever meant to come with you, for after all this is not my adventure. I may look in on it again before it is all over, but in the meanwhile I have some other pressing business to attend to.”
The dwarves groaned and looked most distressed, and Bilbo wept. They had begun to think Gandalf was going in come all the way and would always be there to help them out of difficulties. “I am not going to disappear this very instant,” said he. “I can give you a day or two more. Probably I can help you out of your present plight, and I need a little help myself. We have no food, and no baggage, and no ponies to ride; and you don't know where you are. Now I can tell you that. You are still some miles north of the path which we should have been following, if we had not left the mountain pass in a hurry. Very few people live in these parts, unless they have come here since I was last down this way, which is some years ago. But there is somebody that I know of, who lives not far away. That Somebody made the
steps on the great rock-the Carrock I believe he calls it. He does not come here often, certainly not in the daytime, and it is no good waiting for him. In fact it would be very dangerous. We must go and find him; and if all goes well at our meeting, I think I shall be off and wish you like the eagles 'farewell wherever you fare!' “
They begged him not to leave them. They offered him dragon-gold and silver and jewels, but he would not change his mind.
“We shall see, we shall see!” he said, “and I think I have earned already some of your dragon-gold—when you have got it.”

After that they stopped pleading. Then they took off their clothes and bathed in the river, which was shallow and clear and stony at the ford. When they had dried in the sun, which was now strong and warm, they were refreshed, if still sore and a little hungry. Soon they crossed the ford (carrying the hobbit), and then began to march through the long green grass and down the lines of the wide-armed oaks and the tall elms.
“And why is it called the Carrock?” asked Bilbo as he went along at the wizard's side.
“He called it the Carrock, because carrock is his word for it. He calls things like that carrocks, and this one is the Carrock because it is the only one near his home and he knows it well.”
“Who calls it? Who knows it?”
“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 humoured. Still I warn you he gets angry easily.”
The dwarves all gathered round when they heard the wizard talking like this to Bilbo. “Is that the person you are taking us to now?” they asked. “Couldn't you find someone more easy-tempered? Hadn't you better explain it all a bit clearer?"-and so on.
“Yes it certainly is! No I could not! And I was explaining very carefully,” answered the wizard crossly. “If you must know more, his name is Beorn. He is very strong, and he is a skin-changer.”
“What! a furrier, a man that calls rabbits conies, when he doesn't turn their skins into squirrels?” asked Bilbo.
“Good gracious heavens, no, no, NO, NO!” said Gandalf. “Don't be a fool Mr. Baggins if you can help it; and in the name of all wonder don't mention the word furrier again as long as you are within a hundred miles of his house, nor, rug, cape, tippet, muff, nor any other such unfortunate word! 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 with huge arms and a great beard. I cannot tell you much more, though that ought to be enough. Some say that he is a bear descended from the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came. Others say that he is a man descended from the first men who lived before Smaug or the other dragons came into this part of the world, and before the goblins came into the hills out of the North. I cannot say, though I fancy the last is the true tale. He is not the sort of person to ask questions of.
“At any rate he is under no enchantment but his own. He lives in an oak-wood and has a great wooden house; and as a man he keeps cattle and horses which are nearly is marvellous as himself. They work for him and talk to him. He does not eat them; neither does he hunt or eat wild animals. He keeps hives and hives of great fierce bees, and lives most on cream and honey. As a bear he ranges far and wide. I once saw him sitting all alone on the top of the Carrock at night watching the moon sinking towards the Misty Mountains, and I heard him growl in the tongue of bears; 'The day will come when they will perish and I shall go back!' That is why I believe he once came from the mountains himself.”

Bilbo and the dwarves had now plenty to think about, and they asked no more questions. They still had a long way to walk before them. Up slope and down dale they plodded. It grew very hot. Sometimes they rested under the trees, and then Bilbo felt so hungry that he would have eaten acorns, if any had been ripe enough yet to have fallen to the ground.
It was the middle of the afternoon before they noticed that great patches of flowers had begun to spring up, all the same kinds growing together as if they had been planted. Especially there was clover, waving patches of cockscomb clover, and purple clover, and wide stretches of short white sweet honey-smelling clover. There was a buzzing and a whirring and a droning in the air. Bees were busy everywhere. And such bees! Bilbo had never seen anything like them.
“If one was to sting me,” he thought, “I should swell up as big again as I am!”
They were bigger than hornets. The drones were bigger than your thumb, a good deal, and the bands of yellow on their deep black bodies shone like fiery gold.
“We are getting near,” said Gandalf. “We are on the edge of his bee-pastures.”
After a while they came to a belt of tall and very ancient oaks, and beyond these to a high thorn-hedge through which you could neither see nor scramble.
“You had better wait here,” said the wizard to the dwarves; “and when I call or whistle begin to come after me— you will see the way I go-but only in pairs, mind, about five minutes between each pair of you. Bombur is fattest and will do for two, he had better come alone and last. Come on Mr. Baggins! There is a gate somewhere round this way.” And with that he went off along the hedge taking the frightened hobbit with him.
They soon came to a wooden gate, high and broad, beyond which they could see gardens and a cluster of low wooden buildings, some thatched and made of unshaped logs; barns, stables, sheds, and a long low wooden house.
Inside on the southward side of the great hedge were rows and rows of hives with bell-shaped tops made of straw. The noise of the giant bees flying to and fro and crawling in and out filled all the air.
The wizard and the hobbit pushed open the heavy creaking gate and went down a wide track towards the house. Some horses, very sleek and well-groomed, trotted up across the grass and looked at them intently with very intelligent faces; then off they galloped to the buildings.
“They have gone to tell him of the arrival of strangers,” said Gandalf.
Soon they reached a courtyard, three walls of which were formed by the wooden house and its two long wings. In the middle there was lying a great oak-trunk with many lopped branches beside it. Standing near was a huge man with a thick black beard and' hair, and great bare arms and legs with knotted muscles. He was clothed in a tunic of wool down to his knees, and was leaning on a large axe.
The horses were standing by him with their noses at his shoulder.
“Ugh! here they are!” he said to the horses. “They don't look dangerous. You can be off!” He laughed a great rolling laugh, put down his axe and came forward.
“Who are you and what do you want?” he asked gruffly, standing in front of them and towering tall above Gandalf.
As for Bilbo he could easily have trotted through his legs without ducking his head to miss the fringe of the man's brown tunic.
“I am Gandalf,” said the wizard.
“Never heard of him,” growled the man, “And what's this little fellow?” he said, stooping down to frown at the hobbit with his bushy eyebrows.
“That is Mr. Baggins, a hobbit of good family and unimpeachable reputation,” said Gandalf. Bilbo bowed. He had no hat to take off, and was painfully conscious of his many missing buttons. “I am a wizard,” continued Gandalf. “I have heard of you, if you have not heard of me; but perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood?”
“Yes; not a bad fellow as wizards go, I believe. I used to see him now and again,” said Beorn. “Well, now I know who you are, or who you say you are. What do you want?”
“To tell you the truth, we have lost our luggage and nearly lost our way, and are rather in need of help, or at least advice. I may say we have had rather a bad time with goblins in the mountains.”
“Goblins?” said the big man less gruffly. “O ho, so you've been having trouble with them have you? What did you go near them for?”
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