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"...It is a long tale..." — Aragorn
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Biographical Information
DeathSometime between T.A. 2941 and T.A. 3018
Physical Description
Hair colorBlack
GalleryImages of Beorn

Beorn was a skin-changer, a man who could assume the appearance of a bear.



He lived with his tame horses in a wooden house (Beorn's Hall) between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood, to the east of the Great River of Wilderland. His origins lay in the distant past, and Gandalf suspected he and his people had originally come from the mountains.

Beorn named the Carrock and created the steps that led from its base to the flat top.

During the Quest of Erebor, Beorn received Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, and the thirteen Dwarves and gave the Dwarves and Bilbo help in their quest.[1]

In the Battle of Five Armies, Beorn appeared transformed into a giant bear, and rescued Thorin Oakenshield from the Goblins and killed their leader Bolg.[2]

After the Battle of Five Armies, Beorn became a "great chief" in the Vales of Anduin, and it is said that his descendants also were skin-changers, able to take the shape of a bear.[2] His people became known as the Beornings,[3] and they helped defend Thranduil's kingdom of northern Mirkwood.[4] Beorn died some time before the War of the Ring began,[5] and was succeeded by his son Grimbeorn the Old.[6]


Beorn is an Old English word meaning "a warrior, a hero, a man of valour", cognate to Old Norse björn ("bear").[7][8] In the Scandinavian-speaking countries Björn/Bjørn is a personal name, attested since the 11th century.[9]

Other versions of the Legendarium

In early manuscripts of The Hobbit, the name of the character that would become Beorn is Medwed. Medwed's ability to change shape to a bear was due to an enchantment, perhaps of his own.[10]

In the Etymologies, Ilkorin ber ("valiant man, warrior") and Danian beorn ("man") derive from the Elvish root BER.[11]


It has been suggested that the character Beorn was influenced by the Norse Saga of Hrólfr Kraki.[12] In the saga appears a great bear defending Hrólfr Kraki, and also a man cursed to being transformed into a bear during nighttime. The work was well-known to J.R.R. Tolkien, as one of his students and friend, Stella Miller, made a translation of the saga dedicated to Tolkien, E.V. Gordon and C.T. Onions;[7] but even more importantly as Tolkien himself wrote an unpublished short story of the tale, entitled Sellic Spell.[13]

Another suggested inspiration is the character of Beowulf, "whose name is commonly explained as Beowulf = 'bees' wolf' = honey-eater = bear, and one who breaks swords, rips off arms and cracks ribs with ursine power and clumsiness."[12]

Portrayal in Adaptations

1982-97: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Beorn is one of the Lords of the Beijabar (Beornings). His manor is called Muidwe Beorn.[14][15]

1995-8: Middle-earth Collectible Card Game:

Beorn is a Character, with the Home Site Beorn's House.

2003: Sierra's The Hobbit:

Beorn appears only in the shape of a black bear.[16]

2012-3: The Hobbit films

Mikael Persbrandt will portray Beorn.

See Also


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Return Journey"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, passim
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144, (dated 25 April 1954)
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Douglas A. Anderson, (ed.), (2002) The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition, pp. 164-5
  8. Peter Gilliver, Edmund Weiner and Jeremy Marshall, The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, pp. 95-6
  9. Historiska Museet Nomina at Historiska Museet (The National Historical Museum of Sweden) (accessed 2 January 2010)
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, "Chapter VII: Medwed", passim
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Three: The Etymologies", p. 352 (root BER-; cf. root BES-)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth (second edition), pp. 73-4
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, pp. 256-60
  14. Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. et al. (1987), Lords of Middle-earth Vol II: The Mannish Races (#8003), p. 19
  15. John David Ruemmler, Susan Tyler Hitchcock, Peter C. Fenlon (1995), Mirkwood (2nd edition) (#2019), pp. 105-6
  16. The Hobbit (2003 video game), "The Clouds Burst"