What Became of the Beornings?

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Lilu Olnathron 07/Jun/2006 at 10:24 AM
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From the details I can gather, the Beornings were a race of men who settled in the Vale of the Anduin around 2941 Third Age. They survived for many generations, but seem to have disappeared. Could any of you fill me in with more details? Points I already have include:

  • They are the descendants of Beorn, a man, who "had some magician in him" and could shape shift into a bear.
  • Beorn’s son, Grimbeorn the Old, also shared this power.
  • The Beornings were Men, and it seems only Beorn and Grimbeorn could shape shift.

The questions I have include:

1. Could Beorn and Grimbeorn shape shift at will, or could this only happen at night?

2. What became of Beorn and Grimbeorn?

3. Did the Beornings have any special affinity with their surroundings?

4. What type of settlements did they dwell in? (I imagined them to live like the tribes of Germania, living practically self sufficiently, relying on themselves for food and material goods; their houses being built in remote locations or in small hamlets, and made of wood)

5. What became of the race? Did they die out? Were they slain?

6. What is the likelihood that they traded with other local races? (The Galadhrim lived somewhat secluded lives in Lóthlorien, but the Mirkwood Elves traded with the Dwarves - leading me to think that perhaps they had dealings with the Beornings)

7. Did they have any historical enemies? For example, goblins and wargs?

Bearamir 07/Jun/2006 at 12:24 PM
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Lilu:  This is a very good question, and well worth the kind of attention of those Lore Masters (and Mistresses) who frequent the Ad Lore forum.  With your permission, I would like to move this thread to that forum.  If you don’t want me to, let me know and I will move it back here...
Endaewen 07/Jun/2006 at 12:44 PM
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1. Could Beorn and Grimbeorn shape shift at will, or could this only happen at night?

Well, I can’t find any incidence of Beorn shifting during the day that is outright stated. Even his arrival during the Battle of the Five Armies in bear shape was after sunset (which was described as red). On the other hand, he would likely not have had much travel time to arrive at the Lonely Mountain. Would it have been faster for him to travel as a bear rather than as a man on two legs?

We don’t hear much about Grimbeorn, so I don’t know if he can add much in the way of information.

7. Did they have any historical enemies? For example, goblins and wargs?

As the leader of the Beornings, Beorn’s enemies would probably be counted as historical enemies, if that is what you mean, and goblins would certainly appear to count as such.

Lilu Olnathron 07/Jun/2006 at 01:18 PM
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Bael - and to think I was just about to make a "where has my thread gone?" post in Admin Messages!  I am honoured that you deem this topic worthy for Ad Lore. My thanks to you.

Thank you Endaewen. That is an interesting question; indeed, would it have taken him less time to travel as a bear? And would this be evidence to suggest that he could in fact transform himself during daylight? Bears can out run a man and have amazing stamina, so in this form, Beorn would have managed to get to the Lonely Mountain in time for the Battle of the Five Armies. As a man on foot, although not impossible, it is improbable that he would have reached the battle in time.

Pangor 10/Jun/2006 at 05:03 PM
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I had the impression that the transformations were performed at night. However once the transformation to one form or the other has been taken it can be maintained at night or day. I consider Beorn’s estate as presented in The Hobbit as the exemplar of their lifestyle.
Melyanna Falas 10/Jun/2006 at 08:23 PM
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I’m only responding to two of the questions, and you probably know this already!

4. What type of settlements did they dwell in? (I imagined them to live like the tribes of Germania, living practically self sufficiently, relying on themselves for food and material goods; their houses being built in remote locations or in small hamlets, and made of wood).   
I don’t know if you are familiar, Lilu with the book: JRR Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, but it has most of JRRT’s drawings and sketches, many of which were used in some of the editions of his books. There are two drawings: ‘Firelight in Beorn’s House’ and ‘Beorn’s Hall’ meant to represent Tokien’s view of Beorn’s home. In addition it has a picture of E.V. Gordon’s ‘interior of a Norse Hall’ from his book, An Introduction to Old Norse , 1927.
“It has long been recognized that Tolkien modeled the house of the shape-shifter, Beorn, whom Bilbo and company meet in chapter 7 of The Hobbit, on a Viking structure: ‘a wide hall with a fire-place in the middle.” [JRR Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, Hammond and Scull, Houghton Mifflin Co, NY, 1995; 124].

7. Did they have any historical enemies? For example, goblins and wargs?
Besides what is said in The Hobbit re these, Gloin speaks of Grimbeorn the Old and his sturdy men, “and that to their land…neither orc nor wolf dared to go.” So presumably these are still traditional enemies. ["Many Meetings", FOTR]
Arthur Weasley 13/Jun/2006 at 03:16 PM
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As to what happened in the Fourth Age, I would think the Beornings would have continued living where they did in the Vales of Anduin.  They would continue to charge tolls for travellers and keep the area clear of orcs etc.  Perhaps they would eventually merge with the reconstituted kingdom of Arnor once Arnor began to expand again.
Lontryuin 13/Jun/2006 at 11:23 PM
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I have no answers, unfortunately, but would like to add one question:

Where did they come from? Who where they descended from? Why did they have the ability to Shape-shift?

well, three questions...

Arthur Weasley 14/Jun/2006 at 06:49 AM
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Lontryuin - We know the Beornings are akin to the Men of Dale (about the Lonely Mountain) and that they crossed Mirkwood forest and set up hamlets on the Western side of the forest.  I have not spotted anything about how Beorn acquired his shape shifting abilities but I bet the Elves would be involved somehow in that.
Goldorin 14/Jun/2006 at 01:52 PM
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Hummmm... horooooom... I got some knowledge on this point and i will try to share it clear for all.

First to the added question - it`s of course a faster way to travel in shape of bear, for if a human even could make such a journey so fast to the Battle Of Five armies, he surely would be unable to fight for some time... he would need a rest! However we can not exclude a variant, that Beorn was following and keeping eye on the things and just was there, when everything started.

*reading*

I found it obvious, that Beorn of which we talk about is a descendant of Beōr the Old and therefore they come from the northeast, from Dorthonion and from the First house of Edain [Ladros] the whole kin came. As a son of Beorn, Grimbeorn must have had a lesser abilities to shapeshift and lesser might in him. I think, that bear-shifting can be resembled as a counterpart for tha lychantropes of ME. As werewolves are evil part of shapeshifters, bear-shifters are the good. Though I cannot say how such abilitie is gained.

As for the second main question... nothing special! Grimbeorn inherited all lands of Grimbeorn and lived happily ever after, though nothing is said about their part in the War Of The Rings and nothing is said in Apendixes what became later. I think, that they were some kind of Viking and Celtic druid mix in Tolkien`s mind and sothey were neutral to all and like Eagles or Ents, did not or did not want to participate in great deeds or change the flow of things in ME. They were passive, defensive and intravert.

Of course the way of living could be an advantage for Beornings, cause it was very healthy and so, they were very stout folk and lived by traditional means. Surroundings always were the fields and some kind of healthy aura... Just like it is told in `Hobbit` ...maybe the way of life granted them some special abilities, cause they were so close with nature.

I think, that most of the questions are answered somehow here...
Kaulargorn 20/Jun/2006 at 02:05 AM
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5. What became of the race? Did they die out? Were they slain?

It is almost sure that their blood mixed with common people’s blood and like Numenorians their gift fade out. It is more probable than the probability of dying from enemy hands because if they died during the war of the ring it would be mentioned and the next years the dangers were less.

6. What is the likelihood that they traded with other local races? (The Galadhrim lived somewhat secluded lives in Lóthlorien, but the Mirkwood Elves traded with the Dwarves - leading me to think that perhaps they had dealings with the Beornings)

I beleive they could have some trade with them but the society of Beornings were self-sufficient.

Kaos the Gold 21/Jun/2006 at 10:44 AM
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        After the fall of Dol Guldur, the elves gave Mirkwood (or Greenwood the great, as known in the Fourth age) to the beornings and woodmen.  The two races, then probably merged and the Beornings lost their gift of shape-shifting, but they would have continued to trade with the other peoples and kept the land free of wolves and goblins from the mountains.
Ethirost 25/Jun/2006 at 10:15 AM
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4. What type of settlements did they dwell in? (I imagined them to live like the tribes of Germania, living practically self sufficiently, relying on themselves for food and material goods; their houses being built in remote locations or in small hamlets, and made of wood)

Now, this might be a difference of human scale to Beorn’s scale or a hobbit’s skewed scale to every Big Person’s scale.  From reading the introduction Beorn’s house and hall.  The high and long fence seems to be a palisade.  There seems to be agriculture and buildings to suggest that Beorn’s hall wasn’t alone inside the fortifications.  There’s mention of plural structures "barns, stables, sheds."  Now maybe Beorn needs plural structures owing to his size...but I think that Beorns house might have had more inside the wall.  This would all follow Norse culture which much of the men of Rhovanion seem to be based upon.

6. What is the likelihood that they traded with other local races? (The Galadhrim lived somewhat secluded lives in Lóthlorien, but the Mirkwood Elves traded with the Dwarves - leading me to think that perhaps they had dealings with the Beornings)

Now before hand, the Beornings seem to be a very isolated race, not liking, or dealing with any race, but war has the effect of cultural diffusion.  Aiding in the Battle of the Five Armies instantly put the Beornings on a good footing with the Dwarves, Elves, and Bardings (men of Dale).  Even though the Beornings seem to be largely self-sufficient, travel and seeing the goods of others creates envy, and envy is the foundation of trade.

Seeing as Beorn is stated as leaning on an axe when he is first wary of Gandalf and Bilbo, we can see the Beornings have a use for weapons.  The Dwarves, mostly likely being very grateful to Beorn, would no doubt make the man a massive axe of Dwarven-craft.  Beorn gives the company bows before they enter Mirkwood, so I am lead to believe that they are bowyers and would probably respect and want the skill of the bowyers of Mirkwood.  In turn, Beorn has agricultural products and a breed of horses that is perhaps superior to those in the surrounding areas, so he has export items to trade.

Did they trade?  Was Beorn’s House a town of Norse influnce?  I can find no word in Tolkien that suggests any of it, but I know Tolkien was detailed to a fault and intent on making Middle Earth as realistic as possible.  He also a researcher of history and culture, so it seems likely that the peoples and regions of Middle Earth would react most like those of the Dark Ages of Earth, economically, culturally, and...grammatically (blame Jack Sparrow for the last adverb).

Bjorn 25/Jun/2006 at 06:17 PM
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1. Could Beorn and Grimbeorn shape shift at will, or could this only happen at night?
Well, on page 109 of the Hobbit, Gandalf says (about Beorn),  "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." This statement doesn’t seem to imply that he changes only at certain times during the day, quite the contrary in fact. However, throughout the book he only seems to be a bear during the night (and indeed he warns the company not to stray outside his halls until the sun is up. There also is another matter, that Beorn warns his company (the Dwarves, Gandalf, and Bilbo) not to stray outside at night, at their own peril. Why? This echos the berserkr’s of Norse legend, warriors who whipped themselves into a frenzy before a battle, and when in that state of ’berserkr rage’ they knew not friend from foe. Perhaps in this ’enchanted’ state (as it is reffered to in the Hobbit) the same thing occurs. Maybe he is a werebear (man bear), akin to a werewolf (man wolf) in the fact that he changes only at night. The berserkrs are said to have sometimes go into their rages unexpectadly during civilian life, which is why they usually lived their lives as outlaws, called upon by kings or noble-men  only at times of war.

2. What became of Beorn and Grimbeorn?
  Good question, my only answer is that they died after a long, happy, healthy life! It seems evident that Beorn had already passed on when Gloin was speaking with Frodo in Rivendell.

3. Did the Beornings have any special affinity with their surroundings?
  Well I wouldn’t imagine it to be ’special’, but I suppose they cherished their surroundings merely for the fact that it was their own tract of land. It was open, aesthetically pleasing, ’clean’... It was theirs!

4. What type of settlements did they dwell in? (I imagined them to live like the tribes of Germania, living practically self sufficiently, relying on themselves for food and material goods; their houses being built in remote locations or in small hamlets, and made of wood).
  What you said pretty much sums it up. Beorn’s Hall is pretty much your typical Scandanavian Karl’s (or ’Free’Man’) dwelling: A long-house with one room (sometimes one seperate room, but otherwise just one long hall), a fire in the middle, tables lined up on the walls to be taken down when the occasion arrises. Beorn also had something of a farm: barns, stables, sheds, beehives (well, he is a bear), which are all pretty much the staples of a Karl’s farm. But the Hobbit also mentions that he lives within an Oak wood, and that his ’property’, rathers where his lodgings are, is encircled by a great hedge (well it doesn’t say encircled...), and there is a great gate barring ones entrance to them. Obviously he was something of a secretive man, a hermit, if you will. And that’s all right because he doesn’t particularily enjoy company, being quite content with his animals.

5. What became of the race? Did they die out? Were they slain?
  Assimilated over time I’d presume. By whom? With any number of folk: the Rohirrim, the Mirkwood Elves (they became somewhat of a wild, and diminished elven-folk after the end of the Third-Age), and whatever woodsmen dwelt about Mirkwood.

6. What is the likelihood that they traded with other local races? (The Galadhrim lived somewhat secluded lives in Lóthlorien, but the Mirkwood Elves traded with the Dwarves - leading me to think that perhaps they had dealings with the Beornings).
  Maybe with the Mirkwood Elves, at least they seem somewhat in tune with the Beornings. As for the Dwarves? Nah. It is stated by Gloin, to Frodo, in the FotR that the Beornings did not fancy dwarves over-much. Besides, the only thing dwarves are worth in exports are metals, and it is clear that such things are not needed or used by the Beornings (the only metallic things Beorn had was the cutlery, and his axe). And that they should deal with the Dwarves solely for those items seems absurd - they were no over-populous folk (so much as I can surmise), and I’m sure would have access to some iron reserve nearby (perhaps bog-iron?).

7. Did they have any historical enemies? For example, goblins and wargs?
  You’ve answered your own question there, "and to their land between the Mountains and Mirkwood neither orc nor wolf dared to go."- Gloin, FotR, P.298.

Wood Walker 15/Aug/2006 at 04:34 PM
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Is there any way of knowingor guessing where/ how Beorn got his um gift? I’ve tried to find it in the book that I have and that are in the library could find it. Am I just kissing it or is it the books?

Also the fact of him changing in night time has be settled I think, but did he have to change every night or could he choose when he wanted to at night time?

sacredfeminine 17/Aug/2006 at 03:20 AM
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In all my experience through LOTR lore i have never encountere any evidence of any previous descendents of Beorn or his hairy brethren. Although i dont know the chronology of the order of books written by Tolkien, at a very innacurate guess i would assume THE HOBBIT was written first of the major stories in the third age. Therefore in later stories or works i believe Tolien has failed to provide urther evidence of this possible race and its origins. Or perhaps simply he was a one of a kind creature. Who really knows?  
shadowoflegolas 18/Aug/2006 at 02:49 PM
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But when Bilbo noticed his shadow following them to see if their party was going to return his ponies, was this during the day time or at night? If it was during the day, that means he could take bear shape during the day.

 

 

Oin 18/Aug/2006 at 05:15 PM
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"And on the day of the New Year of the Elves, Celeborn and Thranduil met in the midst of the forest; and they renamed Mirkwood Eryn Lasgalen, The Wood of Greenleaves. Thranduil took all the northern region as far as the mountains that rise in the forest for his realm; and Celeborn took the southern wood below the Narrows, and named it East Lorien; but all the wide forest between was given to the Beornings and the Woodmen." (RotK, The Tale of Years)

I think it was logical to assume that the Beornings thrived, and perhaps assimilated with the Woodmen into one people (it makes sense, seeing as they were a related people anyway). After the War of the Ring Dol Guldur was destroyed, the Easterling threat was destroyed, and they had new land in which to grow. I think Neidr Wen is spot on in her assessment.

However, there is no way that the Elves would have merged with the Beornings - the Elves dwindled and disappeared into legend, while Men thrived - they would not have intermingled.

Adindrius 26/Aug/2006 at 10:14 PM
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heres my view of things... theyre not fact just what i think

1. Could Beorn and Grimbeorn shape shift at will, or could this only happen at night? it may seem like they could only shift at night, but i highly doubt that they wouldnt be able to shift during the day. they probably dont do it because they dont want to reveal their power or identity so as not alarm wandering travelers and the such

3. Did the Beornings have any special affinity with their surroundings? of course they did. did you read the hobbit? beorn lived with animals and they listened to him and did his will with joy. he loved nature and was very loved by the animals he lived with. and i would imagine that he would pass that on to his species... or offspring.... or however you say it

5. What became of the race? Did they die out? Were they slain? im not sure, but itd be pretty hard to kill of a bunch of huge, strong, shapeshifting men

7. Did they have any historical enemies? For example, goblins and wargs? their enemies would probably be anyone that threatened the forest and/or nature. since the goblins and wargs are pretty much good at that they would be enemies to them. but really any1 that threatened the balance of nature and any living thing in their land. maybe intrusive dwarves chasing after some dreams of a great mine hidden beneath the forests...

celembrimor 27/Aug/2006 at 07:54 AM
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the beornings are the the sons and so  on of beorn who appeared t the battle of five armies kiled azog and rescued thorin oakenshields body all in the body of a bear as he was a skinchanger.i hope this helps you
Lilu Olnathron 03/Sep/2006 at 04:57 AM
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Thanks for all this information - it certainly has helped me get a feel for the Beornings as a culture. I have this mental image of them being "Vikings of the forest", and in bear form, it is quite possible that Beorn could have had diminished control of his rages - in his animal form, it is possible that he would have less control of his urges and have less sense of action and consequence - hence making him dangerous to anyone who encountered him. It would have been the same as coming upon any bear in the forest - it might leave you alone, or it might attack you. Of course, I’d imagine he had some will and awareness, otherwise, he would not have fought as a bear during the Battle of the Five Armies - he would have gone berzerk, killing everything he came across (friends and foes).

Can anyone give me any rough dates as to when Grimbeorn would have been around, and what was going on in the rest of ME? I’d imagine he would have ruled his people just before the War of the Ring, around the time Frodo was setting off from the Shire to destroy the One Ring?

simpsonim 03/Sep/2006 at 06:11 AM
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Here is a quote that answers your question almost completely:

"..., while Gloin had much to tell of events in the northern regions of Wilderland. Frodo learned that 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.
’Indeed’, said Gloin, ’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. 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." - LotR FotR, Many Meetings

From that quote you can see that Grimbeorn the Old was still alive at the time of the War of the Ring and was the lord of the Beornings. I pressume that he was still alive and in charge of the Beornings at the time the Ring was destroyed.

I don’t know anything after that but something might be written in HoME and/or Letters which I haven’t read. Hope this helps

Lilu Olnathron 03/Sep/2006 at 06:50 AM
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Ah Simpsonim, indeed, that most certainly does! Many thanks.
simpsonim 03/Sep/2006 at 07:18 AM
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np