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Minas Tirith Forums » The Hobbit » Beorn (Page 1)
Author Topic: Beorn
Roll of Honor Nenya
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I have, since I read The Hobbit the first time, been wondering about who Bëorn was. Was he a man or a bear? And how did he become a skin-changer?

Does anybody know or have a guess?

[ 06-04-2002, 07:05 AM: Message edited by: Nenya ]

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Nimruzir
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LOL!

Yes, funny enough, another topic I have just explored on another board.

I'll simply go 'Get' my replies and you can run with that as an angle for discussion.

Fom another Board Messages by Nimruzir:

Topic: Beorn and skin-changing

Beorn is mentioned as being a bit of a Magician if that has any bearing, but this is ALSO mentioned in conjunction to the skin-changer thing.

The Beornings are stated as directly related to the Rohirrim in their past, so I doubt that it's a trait passed on through genes.

The close proximity or friendship to Radagast the Wizard is probably the source of the skin-changing ability, as Rhosgobel was very close to Beorn's Hall (less than 50 miles away).

I mention Radagast as a probable connection because Professor Tolkien seems to have made a point to place his old dwelling at Rhosgobel close to Beorn.

The Lord of the Rings placement of Rhosgobel is simply 'near the borders', but does make it clear it's his 'Old' dwelling. The Unfinished Tales descriptive placement make it even clearer: 'In the forest borders between the Carrock and the Old Forest Road'.

The 'Magician' bit isn't quite correct since it's mentioned as a seperate quality of Beorn.

Maiar can alter forms, so the speculation was that Radagast had 'taught' or possibly even granted this 'Trick' to Beorn. As a 'magician' already, he may have had the capacity to understand the information or 'Trick'. To what purpose seems the next question, and I think the comment about 'Radagast's Old Dwelling' tells a bit.

Beorn may have been set as a defender of Radagast's old area and an aid in keeping an eye out for changes while Radagast moved south to keep watch over the Dol Guldur area. The defender idea seems more likely, as Radagast could obtain the information from other birds and beasts.

{At this point there was a question regarding the term Skin-changer and it's possible common knowledge as a term)

Well; when he does mention it, Bilbo askes if it means he's a furrier.

I think skin-changing might be more common to Gandalf as a Maia (or Maia related bit of business) than it is to the world in general. Perhaps he just forgot this bit of info (even though it's a plot point to introduce the Bear shape ability of Beorn). Gandalf then explains what a skin-changer is and does.

I think it's interesting that Gandalf does not know Beorn personally, and that Beorn never heard of Gandalf. Gandalf seems to have probably heard of Beorn from Radagast.

When introducing himself he mentions Radagast (as if 'that' would explain things)and that 'He' (Gandalf) is also a wizard. Beorn then replies that he used to see him (Radagast) now and again.


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Tyann
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Gandalf thinks that Beorn came from the mountains themselves, and I tend to lean towards Gandalf's judgement.

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I am a hobbit in all but size.


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Mithrandir
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a point though....Beorn was around LONG before Ragadast.
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Miturian
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Nope he wasn't, Radagast was around at the exact same time as Gandalf, cause they arrived together.
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Mithrandir
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ok, but wasn't Beorn around before Gandalf? maybe im forgetting....
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Miturian
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Tou are, Gandalf had been there at least for the entire age, Beorn only had about the same "lifewidth" as a noraml human being.

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If you haven't been at the buttom,
and climbed all the way op,
then you don't know what you're standing on.


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Roll of Honor Nenya
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Thanx for all the answers...

But isn't it said that Saruman och Radagast came first to middleearth and Gandaf later? In Unfinished Tales.


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Mithrandir
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no, im sure Beorn had longer lifespan that mortal Men, that im sure of.
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Miturian
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Yearh, but I also only said about, not exact.
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Dingalen
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I think Nimruzir has a good point referring to Radagast and pointing out the shape changing ability of (some of) the Maia, but 1. appears this ability to be rather limited with most Maia after they have chosen a form (like the werewolves of Morgoth, Sauron after the fall of Numenor, the wizards ("Ithryn": Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, Alatar & Pallando, according to Unfinished Tales),
2. says Gandalf in The Hobbit that "Beorn came down from the mountains from whence he was driven out" (*by the goblins, by the kingdom of Angmar, who knows*) - and that he already possessed that ability then. Especially, it is implied that he met at the Carrock with other bears - which could be other shape changed men, implying that it could be a whole tribe with that capability.
It is remarkable though, that the relationship of Beorn and his animals is what you also could imagine with a "bird and beast" loving Maia or wizard like Radagast - so that indicates a similarity between them, if not a connection. Another interesting point is that Radagast is called "the brown", an expression used in germanic mythology with the bear as a mighty force of nature or half-divine entity. (Something that would have been well known to Prof. Tolkien)
Which brings me to my final point:
The Northmen (like the Rohirrim), to which Beorn is related, have a germanic "appearance" (like for example the Rohirrim names resemble strongly those of the Saxons which invaded England - even Christofer Tolkien comments on such connections to early english history in his comments in Lost Tales). These germans whorshipped bears - in order to receive the bear's strength and stamina. So how far reached is it, that in the magical world of middle earth one 'northman' achieved that goal?
As for Beorn being there before Gandalf: According to Unfinished Tales (I think!) the order of the wizards arrived in the grey havens in western middle earth around the year 1000 third age (2000 years before the war of the Ring). As Beorn is definitely mortal - it is said (in The Hobbit, I think) that his gift of shape changing was passed down through many generations of his line - it is unlikely that he had existed for 2000 years. Especially without Gandalf knowing him - as he is a force to be reckoned with.
As Prof. Tolkien got a lot of his elements of his world from scandinavic, germanic or celtic mythology, digging into the Beowulf Saga and look for parallels would most certainly give some insight.

------------------
As silent as greenwood the great.


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Mithrandir
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don't have time to fully elaborate on your good post, but Beorn wasn't that close with Ragadast. Beorn says of him "i had some encouters with him awhile back, a respectable fellow as far as wizards go i suppose" so you know he wasn't to involved.
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Black Rider
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I think that Beorn was before Radagast. But neither of them can compare tooo.....


TOM BOMBADIL!

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Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord in his Dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where Shadows lie.


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Orofacion of the Vanyar
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*bump*

I find it interesting that Beorn's ability was passed down from past generations. How far back did this ability go? Did it reach back to the original Rohirrim? How did they get this ability?

As was stated, Beorn was forced from the mountains by whatever it was, probably orcs (Angmar was long desolate by then), but had already had the ability by then. So the origin of the ability may be found around the mountains or surrounding areas. Magic was a quality men lacked, except for those 9 who were given rings. Perhaps during the time of these kings, before they were transformed into wraiths, they taught Beorn's ancestors this ability for a service they had provided. It might even be speculated that the Witch-King himself was the one that taught the ability, of course during the pre-witch time period. Angmar's proximity to the mountains support this idea. Thoughts?

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Telperion
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Tolkien liked to use similar names for relatives. So could Beorn be a descendant of Beor the old from the Sil?
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Roll of Honor Herendil
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I think I read somewhere that Tolkien got the idea for 'Beorn' from the Old English word for bear, 'beorn'. 'björn' (pronounced 'b-yerrn) is the Swedish word. Maybe I noticed this myself, but it does make sense. It implies that Beorn has nothing to do with Bëor the Old.

[ 06-02-2002, 04:19 PM: Message edited by: Isildur of the Númenóreans ]

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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I think that in the Council of Elrond (or maybe at the great feast in Rivendell??) Gloin talks of the Beornings - with the clear implication that Beorn was dead - i.e., he had a mortal lifespan. I'm not positive, so if someone has a copy handy they could doublecheck.
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Glóin the Dark
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I vaguely recall saying something to Frodo (at the feast) about Grimbeorn, the son of Beorn, being the current leader of the Beornings.

I'm almost certain that Tolkien said in a letter (in response to someone asking him what Beorn was up to during the War of the Ring) that Beorn was dead.

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Orofacion of the Vanyar
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Yes Beorn is mortal and descended from mortal men, the ancient Rohirrim, no debate. But what of the origin of his powers?
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Aldaron of Lorien
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viking warriors called berserkers, meaning bear skins were in scvandanavian lit. they get their powers from expertice and prowess on the battlefield. maybe there was a similiar expieriance in beorns ancestry.

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"Throughout the history of mankind there have been murderers and tyrants; and while it may seem momentarily that they have the upper hand, they have always fallen. Always."
...Mahatma Ghandi

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Roll of Honor Lord Mithrandir
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Beorn got the name from norwegian's Bjørn, meaning bear, but tolkien thought that no one would know how to pronounce it so he spelled it phonetically
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Aldaron of Lorien
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but . . . where did his powers come from? that is the question.

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
"Throughout the history of mankind there have been murderers and tyrants; and while it may seem momentarily that they have the upper hand, they have always fallen. Always."
...Mahatma Ghandi

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cian
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Beorn means "man, noble, hero, warrior ..." in Old English, but originally meant "bear" according to Christopher Tolkien, compare cognate Old Norse björn.
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Eldorian
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Thorin you are correct it was said in the council of Elrond that Beorn had died.
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Roll of Honor Herendil
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cian, 'björn' exists in today's Swedish and Norwegian, and probably Danish too.
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