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Character Bios

Beorn

Meaning: Old English 'man, warrior'

Location(s):
Vales of Anduin, near the Carrock

Race/Species: Man

Title(s):
Chief of the lands between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood (after 2941 III)

Dates:
died before 3018 III

Children: Grimbeorn, Lord of the Beornings

Description:

Beorn was a skin-changer, a Man who could turn into a bear, who later became the leader of the Beornings:


Table of Contents:
Description
Family Relationships
Talents and Skills
History
Language
Etymology
Notes

Description

[Gandalf to Thorin's company:] '[His] name is Beorn. He is very strong, and he is a skin-changer.'

The Hobbit, Ch 7, Queer Lodgings

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....

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.

Ibid.

'He does not eat [cattle]; neither does he hunt or eat wild animals. He... lives most on cream and honey.'

Ibid.

'He lives in an oak-wood and has a great wooden house....'

Ibid.

... Beorn did not appear to care for [gold and silver and jewels and the making of things by smith-craft]: there were no things of gold or silver in his hall, and few save the knives were made of metal at all.

Ibid.

He never invited people into his house, if he could help it. He had very few friends and they lived a good way away; and he never invited more than a couple of these to his house at a time.

Ibid.

... Beorn... was never very polite.

Ibid.

'He can be appalling when he is angry, though he is kind enough if humoured. Still I warn you he gets angry easily.'

Ibid.

[Beorn:] 'I am not over fond of dwarves....'

Ibid.

[Gandalf:] '[You] had better keep your promises..., for he is a bad enemy. Mr. Baggins' eyes are sharper than yours, if you have not seen each night after dark a great bear... watching our camps. Not only to guard you and guide you, but to keep an eye on the ponies too. Beorn may be your friend, but he loves his animals as his children. You do not guess what kindness he has shown you in letting dwarves ride them..., nor what would happen to you, if you tried to take them into the forest.'

Ibid.

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.

Ibid.


Family Relationships
... Grimbeorn the Old, son of Beorn, was now [by 3018] the lord of many sturdy men....

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 1, Many Meetings


Talents and Skills
[Gandalf:] '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.'

The Hobbit, Ch 7, Queer Lodgings

'He is very strong....'

Ibid.

'[He] made the steps on the great rock — the Carrock I believe he calls it.'

Ibid.

'[As] a man he keeps cattle and horses which are nearly as marvellous as himself. They work for him and talk to him.... He keeps hives and hives of great fierce bees....'

Ibid.

Beorn clapped his hands, and in trotted four beautiful white ponies and several large long-bodied grey dogs. Beorn said something to them in a queer language like animal noises turned into talk.

Ibid.

Beorn in his deep rolling voice told tales of the wild lands on this side of the mountains, and especially of the dark and dangerous wood....

Ibid.

[Beorn] would provide... twice-baked cakes that would keep good a long time, and on a little of which they could march far. The making of these was one of his secrets; but honey was in them..., and they were good to eat, though they made one thirsty.

Ibid.

'As a bear he ranges far and wide.'

Ibid.

[He] could travel quickly, in bear's shape at any rate.

Ibid.


History
[Gandalf:] '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.'

The Hobbit, Ch 7, Queer Lodgings

'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.'

Ibid.

Late July,1 2941 Third Age, the Quest of Erebor:

The wizard and the hobbit pushed open the heavy creaking gate and went down a wide track towards the house. Some horses..., 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.... Standing near was a huge man with a thick black beard and hair....

'Who are you and what do you want?' he asked gruffly....

'I am Gandalf,' said the wizard.

'Never heard of him,' growled the man, 'And what's this little fellow?'....

'That is Mr. Baggins, a hobbit of good family and unimpeachable reputation,' said Gandalf. Bilbo bowed.... 'I am a wizard,' continued Gandalf... '[Perhaps] you have heard of my good cousin Radagast...?'

'Yes; not a bad fellow as wizards go...,' 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.... 'What did you go near them for?'

'We did not mean to. They surprised us at night in a pass which we had to cross, we were coming out of the Lands over West into these countries — it is a long tale.'

'Then you had better come inside and tell me some of it, if it won't take all day,' said the man leading the way... into the house....

By the time the wizard had finished his tale and had told of the eagles' rescue and of how they had all been brought to the Carrock,... the shadows were long in Beorn's garden.

'A very good tale!' said he. 'The best I have heard for a long while. If all beggars could tell such a good one, they might find me kinder. You may be making it all up, of course, but you deserve a supper for the story all the same. Let's have something to eat!'

'Yes, please!' they all said together. 'Thank you very much!'

Ibid.

Two days later:

... Gandalf thought it wise to tell [Beorn] their whole story and the reason of their journey, so that they could get the most help he could offer.

This is what he promised to do for them. He would provide ponies for each of them, and a horse for Gandalf, for their journey to the forest, and he would lade them with food to last them for weeks with care.... Water, he said, they would not need to carry this side of the forest.... 'But your way through Mirkwood is dark, dangerous and difficult,' he said.... 'I will provide you with skins for carrying water, and I will give you some bows and arrows. But I doubt very much whether anything you find in Mirkwood will be wholesome to eat or to drink. There is one stream there, I know, black and strong which crosses the path. That you should neither drink of, nor bathe in; for I have heard that it carries enchantment and a great drowsiness and forgetfulness. And in the dim shadows of that place I don't think you will shoot anything, wholesome or unwholesome, without straying from the path. That you MUST NOT do, for any reason.

'That is all the advice I can give you.... But I wish you all speed, and my house is open to you, if ever you come back this way again.'

Ibid.

Early November,1 2941, after the death of Smaug:

Very great indeed was the commotion among all things with wings that dwelt on the borders of the Desolation of the Dragon.... Far over Mirkwood tidings spread: 'Smaug is dead!'.... [The] news had passed west right to the pinewoods of the Misty Mountains; Beorn had heard it in his wooden house, and the goblins were at council in their caves.

The Hobbit, Ch 14, Fire and Water

Late November,1 the Battle of Five Armies:

Thorin drove right against the bodyguards of Bolg. But he could not pierce their ranks.... Soon the attackers were attacked, and they were forced into a great ring, facing every way, hemmed all about with goblins and wolves returning to the assault.... Their friends could not help them, for the assault from the Mountain was renewed with redoubled force, and upon either side men and elves were being slowly beaten down.

The Hobbit, Ch 17, The Clouds Burst



In that last hour Beorn himself had appeared — no one knew how or from where. He came alone, and in bear's shape; and he seemed to have grown almost to giant-size in his wrath.

The roar of his voice was like drums and guns; and he tossed wolves and goblins from his path like straws and feathers. He fell upon their rear, and broke like a clap of thunder through the ring. The dwarves were making a stand still about their lords upon a low rounded hill. Then Beorn stooped and lifted Thorin, who had fallen pierced with spears, and bore him out of the fray.

Swiftly he returned and his wrath was redoubled, so that nothing could withstand him, and no weapon seemed to bite upon him. He scattered the bodyguard, and pulled down Bolg himself and crushed him.2 Then dismay fell on the Goblins and they fled in all directions.



The Hobbit, Ch 18, The Return Journey

Winter 2941-42:

Anyway by mid-winter Gandalf and Bilbo had come all the way back... to the doors of Beorn's house; and there for a while they both stayed. Yule-tide was warm and merry there; and men came from far and wide to feast at Beorn's bidding. The goblins of the Misty Mountains were now few and terrified... and the Wargs had vanished from the woods, so that men went abroad without fear.

Ibid.

Approximately 2942-3018:

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.

Ibid.

Approximately 3018:

Grimbeorn the Old, son of Beorn, was now the lord of many sturdy men, and to their land between the Mountains and Mirkwood neither orc nor wolf dared to go.

"lndeed," said Glóin, "if it were not for the Beornings, the passage from Dale to Rivendell would long ago have become impossible. They are valiant men and keep open the High Pass and the Ford of Carrock [read: the Old Ford3]. But their tolls are high," he added with a shake of his head; "and like Beorn of old they are not over fond of dwarves. Still, they are trusty, and that is much in these days."

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 1, Many Meetings


Language
East of the Misty Mountains, even far to the north, the Common Speech was known; though there, as beside the Long Lake or in Dale, or among the Beornings and the Woodmen of the west-eaves of Mirkwood, Men also retained their own tongues in daily use.

The Peoples of Middle-Earth, HoME Vol 12, Part 1, Ch 2, The Appendix on Languages


Etymology
The name Beorn is actually an Old English word for 'man, warrior,' but originally meant 'bear'; it is a cognate with the Old Norse björn, 'bear.'

The Annotated Hobbit, Annotated by Douglas A. Anderson, Ch 7, Queer Lodgings, Note 4


Notes
1The months during which these events occurred are estimates made by Fonstad, but the year is canon, according to the Tale of Years.

The Atlas of Middle-earth, Revised Edition, by Karen Wynn Fonstad, Section 5, The Hobbit: Introduction
The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Third Age

2Here Beorn exhibits some of the qualities of the legendary Old Norse berserker, which Christopher Tolkien defined in the glossary to his edition of The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise as follows:
a man capable of fits of frenzied rage, or running amok. Berserks were said to fight without corselets, raging like wolves with the strength of bears, and might be regarded almost as shape-changers, who acquired the strength and ferocity of beasts. During pagan times, berserks were highly prized as warriors, but under Christian law those who "went berserk" were liable to heavy penalties. The word berserkr, "bear-shirted," implies perhaps that berserks sometimes disguised themselves as bears.

The Annotated Hobbit, Annotated by Douglas A. Anderson, Ch 18, The Return Journey, Note 3

3Ford of Carrock: Ford over Anduin between the Carrock and the east bank of the river; but probably here referring to the Old Ford, where the Old Forest Road crossed Anduin, south of the Ford of Carrock.

Unfinished Tales, Index

Contributors:
Elena Tiriel 10Jul04, 29Aug09

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