Beorn

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Beorn
Tolkien character
In-universe information
RaceSkin-Changer
Book(s)The Hobbit (1937)

Beorn is a fictional character created by J. R. R. Tolkien, and part of his Middle-earth legendarium. He appears in The Hobbit as a "skin-changer",[T 1] a man who could assume the form of a great black bear. His descendants or kinsmen, a group of Men known as the Beornings, dwell in the upper Vales of Anduin, between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains, and are counted among the Free Peoples of Middle-earth who oppose Sauron's forces during the War of the Ring.

Appearances[edit]

The Hobbit[edit]

Beorn, by J. M. Kilpatrick, 2013

Beorn lived in a wooden house on his pasture-lands between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood, to the east of the Anduin. His household included an animal retinue (horses, dogs, sheep, and cows, among others); according to Gandalf, Beorn did not eat his cattle, nor hunt wild animals.[T 1] He also grew large areas of clover for his bees.

Gandalf believed that Beorn was either a descendant of the bears who had lived in the Misty Mountains before the arrival of the giants, or he was a descendant of the men who had lived in the region before the arrival of the dragons or Orcs from the north.

Beorn was of immense size and strength for a man and retained his size and strength in bear-form. He had black hair (in either form) and a thick black beard and broad shoulders (in human form). While not a "giant" outright, Beorn's human form was of such great size that the three and a half foot tall Bilbo judged that he could have easily walked between Beorn's legs without touching his body. Beorn also named the large rock by the Anduin the Carrock (a name derived from the Welsh Carreg), and created the steps that led from its base to its flat top.

In The Hobbit, Beorn received Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins and 13 Dwarves and aided them in their quest to reclaim their kingdom beneath the Lonely Mountain. He was convinced of their trustworthiness after confirming their tale of encountering the Goblins of the Misty Mountains and Gandalf's slaying of their leader, the Great Goblin. In addition to giving the group much-needed supplies and lodging, Beorn gave them vital information about what path to take while crossing Mirkwood.

Later, hearing of a vast host of Goblins on the move, Beorn arrived at the Lonely Mountain in time to strike the decisive blow in the Battle of Five Armies. In his bear form he slew the Goblin leader, Bolg and his bodyguards. Without direction, the Goblin army scattered and were easy pickings for the other armies of Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Eagles. Beorn often left his home during the narrative of The Hobbit for hours or days at a time, for purposes not completely explained.

Later in The Hobbit, it is said that "Beorn indeed became a great chief afterwards in those regions and ruled a wide land between the mountains and the wood; and it is said that for many generations the men of his line had the power of taking bear's shape and some were grim men and bad, but most were in heart like Beorn, if less in size and strength."[T 2]

The Lord of the Rings[edit]

Bödvar Bjarki fights in bear form in his last battle. Lithograph by Louis Moe, 1898

In the years between the Battle of Five Armies and the War of the Ring, possibly spurred by his interaction with Thorin's company, Beorn emerged from his reclusion and rose to become a leader of the woodmen living between the Anduin river and the fringes of Mirkwood. Beorn was succeeded by his son Grimbeorn the Old.

As stated by Glóin in The Fellowship of the Ring, the Beornings "keep open the High Pass and the Ford of Carrock." In the events leading up to the War of the Ring, the Beornings assist Aragorn, who was taking Gollum to Mirkwood, to cross the Anduin. They also aid the Elves of Mirkwood in their battles against Sauron's forces. While wearing the One Ring at Amon Hen during the War of the Ring, Frodo Baggins perceived many things from afar, including the land of the Beornings aflame, suggesting an attack by Sauron's forces.

Concept and creation[edit]

In naming his character, Tolkien used beorn, an Old English word for man and warrior (with implications of freeman and nobleman in Anglo-Saxon society).[1] It is related to the Scandinavian names Björn (Swedish and Icelandic) and Bjørn (Norwegian and Danish), meaning bear; and the figure of Beorn can be related to the traditional Northern heroes Bödvar Bjarki and Beowulf, both of whose names also mean "bear".[2][3] The name Beorn survives in the name of the Scottish town Borrowstounness, which is derived from the Old English Beornweardstun ("the town with Beorn as its guardian").[4][5]

Adaptations[edit]

Film[edit]

Mikael Persbrandt portrayed Beorn in Peter Jackson's Hobbit films with a "primitive energy" and an accent that was "perfect for the role".[6]

The Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt portrays Beorn in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and in its sequel The Battle of the Five Armies.[7] In the DVD commentary, the production team explain that they normally ensured that all characters had accents from the British Isles, but they made an exception for Beorn by letting Persbrandt use his natural Swedish accent. They reasoned that Beorn should have a distinctive and foreign-sounding accent, since he is the last survivor of an isolated race.[8] Jackson stated that many actors were auditioned for the role, but that Persbrandt captured Beorn's primitive energy. Richard Armitage, who played Thorin Oakenshield, said that Persbrandt had a fantastic voice, and that his accent was perfect for the role.[6]

Games[edit]

In the 2003 video game adaptation the original encounter with Beorn at his lodge is omitted. Nevertheless, he shows up at the Battle of Five Armies to kill Bolg. Beorn only appears in bear form in the game.[9]

The Beornings appear as trainable units in The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring (2003). The Beornings were added as a playable class to the massively multiplayer online role-playing game The Lord of the Rings Online in Update 15 (November 2014). One can play as a male or a female Beorning, and can transform into a bear after building up sufficient wrath during combat. Grimbeorn's Lodge in the Vales of Anduin is a starter area for the Beorning class, and Grimbeorn makes a brief appearance.[10]

See also[edit]

  • Beorn leggi, a species of extinct tardigrades named after Beorn
  • Berserker, Viking warriors who wore the skins of bears into battle

References[edit]

Primary[edit]

This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. ^ a b Tolkien 1937, ch. 7 "Queer Lodgings"
  2. ^ Tolkien 1937, ch. 18 "The Return Journey"

Secondary[edit]

  1. ^ See definition: Bosworth, Joseph; Toller, T. Northcote. "BEORN". An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Online). Prague: Charles University., cognate to the Swedish and Icelandic björn
  2. ^ Shippey 2001, pp. 31–32.
  3. ^ Shippey 2005, p. 77.
  4. ^ Hanks, Patrick; Hodges, Flavia; Mills, A. D.; Room, Adrian (2002). The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: the University Press. p. 951. ISBN 0198605617.
  5. ^ Ross, David. Dictionary of Scottish Place-Names. Birlinn. p. 15.
  6. ^ a b Löwenskiold, Ebba (10 December 2012). "Persbrandt hyllas för sin roll i "Hobbit"" [Persbrandt is praised for his role in The Hobbit]. Expressen (in Swedish). Richard Armitage (Thorin): - Han har en fantastisk röst - för mig är rösten 80 procent av en karaktär. Hans accent var perfekt för rollen.
  7. ^ Dunerfors, Alexander. "Persbrandt åker tillbaka för mera "Hobbit"" [Persbrandt goes back for more "Hobbit"]. MovieZine (in Swedish). Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  8. ^ The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, DVD Commentary.
  9. ^ "The Hobbit Cheats". Games Radar. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  10. ^ Adams, Dan (24 November 2018). "Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring Review". IGN. Retrieved 24 March 2021.

Sources[edit]