From Tolkien Gateway
This article is about the skin-changer. For the uncle of Eriol, see Beorn (son of Heden).
"Beorn" by Lelia
Biographical Information
LocationBeorn's Hall
AffiliationThorin and Company
DeathBefore the War of the Ring
Notable forbeing a Skin-changer
Physical Description
Hair colorBlack
ClothingWoollen tunic
GalleryImages of Beorn

Beorn was a Skin-changer, a man who could assume the form of a huge black bear. He aided Thorin and Company during their Quest of Erebor.


Jef Murray - At the Carrock

His origins lay in the distant past, and Gandalf suspected he and his people had originally come from the mountains, until the Orcs of the Misty Mountains drove them away. 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.

Beorn named the stone eyot, the Carrock because he named such eyots "carrocks" and this one was closer to his home. He created the steps that led from its base to the flat top. Once Gandalf saw him as a huge black bear sitting all alone on the top of the Carrock watching the moon sinking towards the Misty Mountains, and heard him growl in the tongue of bears "The day will come when they will perish and I shall go back!". While Gandalf knew him, Beorn did not know Gandalf; but he knew his fellow wizard, Radagast.[1]

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 black bear, rescued Thorin from the Goblins and killed their leader, Bolg.[2].

After Thorin's burial, Beorn followed Bilbo, Gandalf and Thranduil on their way back to the west. Beorn once more hosted Bilbo and Gandalf and other Woodmen who came to celebrate Yule.[2]

Eventually, he 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][source?]. Beorn presumably died some time before the War of the Ring began[5] and was succeeded by his son Grimbeorn the Old.[6]

Character & Appearance

Beorn was a great strong black-haired man with huge arms and a great beard. He was generally benevolent and hated goblins and wargs; but he was also a loner and distrustful of travelers and beggars. He was never polite, and became easily angry. He never invited people into his house and his very few friends, who lived a good way away, came no more than a couple to his house at a time. Added to this, Beorn was not fond of Dwarves. Although fierce to his enemies, once convinced of the others' goodwill, he was welcoming, generous and helpful. He did not eat any meat, as he could talk with his animals, who helped him. His grove was occupied by huge bees. Beorn's diet was mainly honey and cream.


Beorn is an Old English word, which originally meant "bear" and in a heroic sense "man".[7] It also means "warrior", "hero", "man of valour" (or poetic "man") in Old English and is cognate to Old Norse björn ("bear").[8][9][10] In the Scandinavian-speaking countries Björn/Bjørn is a personal name, attested since the 11th century.


fl. T.A. 2941
fl. T.A. 3019

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.[11] It has been suggested that Medwed is a Slavic name.[12][13] The similarity between Medwed and Medved, the common Slavic word for "bear", is striking, but it is ultimately unknown if Tolkien had this in mind. But it should be noted that Medved is a taboo word for "bear" and the literal sense of the word is "honey-eater", which is an apt description of Beorn's diet.

In the Etymologies, Ilkorin ber ("valiant man, warrior") and Danian beorn ("man") derive from the Elvish root BER.[14]


It has been suggested that the character Beorn was influenced by the Norse Saga of Hrólfr Kraki.[15] 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;[8] but even more importantly as Tolkien himself wrote an unpublished short story of the tale, entitled Sellic Spell.[16]

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."[15]

Portrayal in adaptations

Beorn in adaptations
Beorn in Middle-earth Role Playing
Beorn in MECCG
Beorn in MECCG  
Beorn in The Hobbit (film series)
Beorn in bear form in The Hobbit (film series)
Beorn in bear form in The Hobbit (film series)  
Beorn in The Lord of the Rings Online

1980: Der Hobbit (1980 German radio series):

Beorn is played by Martin Hirthe.

1982-97: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Beorn is one of the Lords of the Beijabar (Beornings). His manor is called Muidwe Beorn.[17][18]

1995-8: Middle-earth Collectible Card Game:

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

2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):

In the GBA version, Beorn is visited after Thorin and Company depart from the Carrock. In the console and PC versions, Beorn appears only during the Battle of Five Armies and the ending cutscene, both times in the shape of a black bear.[19]

2012-14: The Hobbit (film series)

Mikael Persbrandt portrays Beorn.[20] In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, while in bear form, he picks up on the Company's trail and chases them into his home. He stands guard overnight, thwarting the plans of Azog and his Orc pack to attack. The next morning, he lends the Company some of his horses in order to get to Mirkwood before the Orcs. In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, he arrives with Radagast on the back of one of the Eagles late in the battle, and leaps down to the ground, transforming into his bear form in midair. Along with the rest of the Eagles, he helps decimate the remaining Orc army. He is also present during the funeral of Thorin, Fili and Kili.

2019: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Beorn makes a brief cameo in a flashback sequence where he saved a Woodmen child from Gollum the child-snatcher.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 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. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth (revised and expanded ed. 2012), p. 91
  8. 8.0 8.1 J.R.R. Tolkien; Douglas A. Anderson, (ed.), (2002) The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition, pp. 164-5
  9. Peter Gilliver, Edmund Weiner and Jeremy Marshall, The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, pp. 95-6
  10. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 207
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The Second Phase, "Medwed"
  12. Jim Allan (1978), An Introduction to Elvish, p. 175
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The Second Phase, "Medwed", 'vi. Radagast', 'The Name Radagast'
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", p. 352 (root BER-; cf. root BES-)
  15. 15.0 15.1 Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth (revised and expanded ed. 2012), pp. 91-2
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, pp. 256-60
  17. Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. et al. (1987), Lords of Middle-earth Vol II: The Mannish Races (#8003), p. 19
  18. John David Ruemmler, Susan Tyler Hitchcock, Peter C. Fenlon (1995), Mirkwood (2nd edition) (#2019), pp. 105-6
  19. The Hobbit (2003 video game), "The Clouds Burst"
  20. "Persbrandt den bäste för jobbet" dated 30 April 2011, AFTONBLADET (accessed 23 December 2011)
The Hobbit film series
Source material: The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
Films An Unexpected Journey (extended editionThe Desolation of Smaug (extended edition) · The Battle of the Five Armies (extended edition)
Music An Unexpected Journey (Special Edition) · The Desolation of Smaug (Special Edition) · The Battle of the Five Armies (Special Edition) · "Song of the Lonely Mountain" · "I See Fire" · "The Last Goodbye"
Tie-in books An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2013 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: Creatures & Characters · The World of Hobbits
The Desolation of Smaug Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2014 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: Cloaks & Daggers · Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon · Activity Book · Sticker Book · Ultimate Sticker Collection
The Battle of the Five Armies Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2015 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: The Art of War · Activity Book
Video games Kingdoms of Middle-earth · Armies of The Third Age · Lego The Hobbit
Characters Bilbo · Thorin · Gandalf · Balin · Fíli · Kíli · Dwalin · Dori · Nori · Ori · Óin · Glóin · Bifur · Bofur · Bombur · Smaug · Radagast · Elrond · Galadriel · Saruman · Azog · Bolg · Thranduil · Legolas · Tauriel · Bard · Bain · Tilda · Sigrid · Master of Lake-town · Alfrid · Dáin Ironfoot · Necromancer · Bert · William · Tom · Beorn · Thráin · Thrór · Goblin King · Gollum · Frodo