Members Login
Username 
 
Password 
    Remember Me  
 

Topic: The Power of Beorn ???

Post Info
Witchking of Angmar - Rank 10
Status: Offline
Posts: 3118
Date: Dec 15, 2006
The Power of Beorn ???

OK, so I was re-re-re...-reading the Hobbit today, and I noticed something I hadn't before. Something about Beorn.
Anyway, I'll explain this all to make sure everyone understands what I mean.
As Gandalf says to Bilbo there two theories about the origins of Beorn in ME:

"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."

So as we see, he is descried as either a descendant of Men or of bears.

Tolkien however settles this problem. In letter #144 he clearly states:
"Though a skin-changer and no doubt a bit of a magician, Beorn was a Man."
Also in the Hobbit, and in the HOME12 he again states that the Beornings are related to the Woodmen of the western eaves of the forest and to the ancestors of the Rohirrim, the Eotheod, all of them being descendants of the people living in that region during the Second Age.

And here is where my troubles start:
“…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.”

Clearly this quote shows that the descendants of Beorn inherited this power and were also able to change their shape. But it also shows that this power did not remain with them forever, and that it was eventually lost. This is underlined by the words "less in size and strength", also showing that the Beornings of the Fourth Age were not as strong as their ancestor.

But if Beorn was a Man, and a "magician", it makes no sense that his descendants would lose their power. It would mean he somehow managed to learn this skill, and that this power was not ereditary by genes, but it was learned from generation to generation. So would it decrease...the only idea I had is that perhaps the Valar had something to do with it. As said in the quote, some of the later Beornings were no longer good, so perhaps this was done as a punishment.

Still, as far as this matter is concerned, it would also make sense that Beorn is a descendant of bears. In this case there would have been no way for him to have learnt this, so he clearly inherited it genetically. And in time, the genes might have slowly started to disappear, and become recesive genes. So in the end, the Beornings lost this power.

The problem is that both theories make sense, and the latter seems to make more sense in this case. The problem is that Gandalf himself rather believes the other one...

Anyway, please share your opinion on the topic.

__________________
Honor, Freedom, Fatherland
Valar
Status: Offline
Posts: 120
Date: Dec 16, 2006
Nice quotes Might and it seems that the answer to your question could lie in those. But i will give my opinion without studying those here but simple based on the change of Age3>4. Time of elves was over and time of men was starting. Now all magic are more or less connected to elves. Sil, LotR and also Hobbit. Now when elves were leaving the shores of ME, world would take a step to 'more normal' which is world without magic. Also that may be the case with others who possessed 'magic' like Beorn and his descentants. Beorn was a man but he had skills to change his form whenever he wanted and this shows that he was in 'peak' of magic abilities. Now when time moved on and world took a step to normal, that magic faded and it's show in his descentants. They were loosing their power like everything else in ME after III Age. 

__________________
I am Tulkas the Valiant who laughs ever in the face of Good or Evil.
Witchking of Angmar - Rank 10
Status: Offline
Posts: 3118
Date: Dec 16, 2006
I just suddently had another idea...
My theory is that he was indeed a "magician", and a Man descending from the old tribes of Men of the North. It would be very unlikely that he came to learn this trick by chance, so I am sure he as tought by someone.
Elves are quite unlikely, because Silvan Elves living in that region lacked the power of other Elves, and they were quite secretive, so I doubt one of them told Beorn how to do it.
There is however one person in that are who in my opinion tought him - Radagast.
From the Hobbit we learn that Beorn and Radagast were on good terms at the time of the Quest of Erebor:

"I am a wizard," continued Gandalf. "I have heard of you, if you have not heard of me; but perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood?"
"Yes; not a bad fellow as wizards go, I believe. I used to see him now and again," said Beorn. "Well, now I know who you are, or who you say you are. What do you want?"

Radagast's power is well known, and his comunion with nature and living beings is also well underlined in the UT:

"For Radagast, the fourth, became enamoured of the many beasts and birds that dwelt in Middle-earth, and forsook Elves and Men, and spent his days among the wild creatures. Thus he got his name (which is in the tongue of Numenor of old, and signifies, it is said, "tender of beasts")."

While Gandalf spent most of his time with the Elves, and Saruman with Men, Radagast cared most for the animals and plants of Middle-earth. Gandalf describes Radagast as:

"a worthy wizard, a master of shapes and changes of hue; and he has much lore of herbs and beasts, and birds are especially his friends."

The Silmarillion calls Radagast "the friend of all beasts and birds."

Now there are 2 powers of Radagast which seem to be suggested in these quotes:
1. As a friend of all beasts and birds, it is very likely he was able to talk to them. If he had spent so much time living among them, and given his love for beasts and also his power as an Istar, I believe this is quite likely. Of course, he did not need to speak to the Eagles when he asked them to follow Gandalf on his journey, but I am sure he could use this with other beings.
2. He is a "master of shapes and hues". And this is in my opinion the most interesting quote, because it seems to very clearly indicate Radagast as a shape-shifter. Considering his power and connection to the natural world, I do believe that through study he was eventually able to change the form he took when coming from the West, and to transform in one of the beasts he so much loved.

The very interesting part, is that these are exactly the powers of Beorn. He too can speak to animals and change his shape. Considering that he knew Radagast and was on good terms with him, I believe it is quite likely that Beorn learned these "magic tricks" from Radagast.

And as far as his great size and power are concerned, I personally believe it might also have something to do with the new powers he received. As we are told he was related to the Woodmen of Mirkwood and to the Eotheod, still, we don't see any person of such size and strength among them. Perhaps, due to the constant transformation to a bear, Beorn started to become more like a bear even in his man form. He also got more hair, and grew in size and strength.

__________________
Honor, Freedom, Fatherland
Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
Status: Offline
Posts: 2161
Date: Dec 16, 2006

You do seem to have an affinity with Beorn The Might.


As the quote you provided above stated Beorn was a Man. Not a Bear or anything else. He has the power to enter a bear shape but whence that power came who can tell? Its ultimate origin has to be with Iluvatar of course. Where did the gift Elves have of being far-sighted originate from?


As for him being a magician I do not see the connection. A magician is someone who pretends to do magic with trivial tricks and so on. He does not actually possess magical abilities.



__________________

Utúlie'n  aurë!  Aiya  Eldalië  ar  Atanatári,  utúlie'n  aurë! 
Auta  i  lómë! 
Aurë entuluva!

Witchking of Angmar - Rank 10
Status: Offline
Posts: 3118
Date: Dec 16, 2006
Magic in ME, and this matter has already been discussed in other threads as well I believe, is not the kind of magic we think about - card tricks or disappearing acts.
Magic doesn't necessarily have to be something out of the ordinary, paranormal in ME. It might seem paranormal to Men, or lesser beings, but it is normal for others.
Magic is to most people - at least during the Third Age - a mysterious and fabulous power, whereas the ones who wield it are often considered dangerous and evil.
The Elves are the only people who consider magic as something natural and ordinary, even to the extent of magic being an inherent part of their culture. Thus, the Elves do not perceive magic as something extreme or "unnatural".
Shapeshifting is as seen in the Silmarillion a power one has or doesn't have. The Ainur have it, and so does Beorn. But while the Ainur received this gift directly from Eru, Beorn clearly learned it from someone else. And I personally suspect that "someone" is Radagast.

Btw, thank you for your remark, I am indeed very interested in Beorn and anything that has to do with the Beornings...

__________________
Honor, Freedom, Fatherland
Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
Status: Offline
Posts: 2161
Date: Dec 16, 2006

I am happy to provide my opinion on such things.


However in this are opinions are at variance. I think of the Beornings and any men that live between the Misty mountains and Mirkwood merely 'odd folk' as Gamgee would say. I do not delve further into them than that.



__________________

Utúlie'n  aurë!  Aiya  Eldalië  ar  Atanatári,  utúlie'n  aurë! 
Auta  i  lómë! 
Aurë entuluva!

Witchking of Angmar - Rank 10
Status: Offline
Posts: 3118
Date: Dec 17, 2006
And this exactly the reason why I like it...it is overlooked by many, and the part that people from this region played in the history of ME as well. Needless to say that without people like Beorn or Smeagol, the Ring would have probably never been destroyed.

__________________
Honor, Freedom, Fatherland
Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
Status: Offline
Posts: 2960
Date: May 21, 2008
Is anybody still working this thread?

__________________

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit
Called or uncalled, God is present

Chief Maiar
Status: Offline
Posts: 375
Date: May 21, 2008
Just had an idea reading this...It wont clarify his origins fully, but it would make some sense. What if, if, Beorn was like Luthien, a descendant of a Maiar, like Luthien was Melians?

"However Lúthien suddenly became possessed by the ancient angelic power in her blood and forced him into a deep slumber. "

Bla bla bla, I know it's wikipedia, but this is what the Sil says:

"Then suddenyl she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her. [ - ] She cast her cloak before his eyes, and set upon him a dream, as dark as the Outer Void where once he walked alone. However Lúthien suddenly became possessed by the ancient angelic power in her blood and forced him into a deep slumber. Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell."

So if Luthien, daughter of Melian the maiar can do such things to a Valar, and a bloody strong one I might add, perhaps Beorn can shape-shift because he is also descended from a Maiar? Would explain why the power faded over time, too...

"...and Mandos was moved to pity, who never before was so moved, nor has been since"

Of Luthien singing to Mandos

So she has "enchanted" two Valar, and yet is but an elf, though a daughter of a Maiar. So perhaps, perhaps, Beorn was the descendant of a maiar...

__________________

...But it was so that from Nienna he learned pity and patience.

Witchking of Angmar - Rank 10
Status: Offline
Posts: 3118
Date: May 21, 2008
Good idea Olorin, indeed a good one.
Only there is one quote that unfortunately at least in my eyes denies your theory.
As Tolkien said Beorn was a good magician, but still a MAN. There is no mentioning of Maiar blood there, and given that Tolkien always tells you if someone comes from a special line (like that of Dol Amroth with a bit Elvish blood in them) I am sure he would have done so here as well if that were the case. But he does not. As such, I personally conclude that Beorn was a mere Man, who in some way managed to learn how to change his shape. Given the fact that Radagast was calles a master of shapes and hues and given that the two were friends and met at times I personally still guess that it was the brown wizard who was responsible.

Nonetheless good theory and I must add that it is by no means proven wrong. Only that as I said above I personally find it unlikely that Tolkien would omit such information. ;)

__________________
Honor, Freedom, Fatherland
Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
Status: Offline
Posts: 2960
Date: May 23, 2008
Still another fascinating an amazing thread - your creativity amazes me. I am still digging slowly through the past forum and its past threads - and loving it.  Where did some of the other voices go?
Little progress can be made by merely attempting to repress what is evil; our great hope lies in developing what is good. - Calvin Coolidge the thirtieth President of the United States (19231929).
    Ok!  Back on topic
     I think you can guess this topic has something to do with the choice of my site name.  
    The story of the encounter of Gandalf, Bilbo, and the Dwarves with Beorn is one of my favorites.  I count 23 pages in the Hobbit (or There and Back Again) where Beorn is the subject or the supporting character.  These pages seem to ascribe supernatural powers to him. (shape shifter, super strength, ability to converse and control animals & insects, etc.)  And even without the supernatural stuff he has attributes to command respect; great height, great strength, can be kind if humored, appalling when angry, gets angry easily. Beorn so suspicious but  he was also generous. And he is a vegetarian
    At any rate he is under no enchantment but his own.  He lives in an oak-wood and has a great wooden house; and as a man he keeps cattle and horses which are nearly as marvelous as himself.  They work for him and talk to him.  He does not eat them; neither does he hunt or eat wild animals  He keeps hives and hives of great fierce bees, and lives most on cream and honey. (The Hobbit, Chapter 7; Queer Lodgings, pg 106-107)
     He was towering tall above Gandalf.  As for Bilbo he could have easily trotted through his legs without ducking his head to miss the fringe of the mans brown tunic. (The Hobbit, Chapter 7; Queer Lodgings, pg 108)
     Even though Beorn was still suspicious he still lodged and fed the company. . .said Beorn.Well, now I know who you are, or who you say you are.  What do you want?(The Hobbit, Chapter 7; Queer Lodgings, pg 109)
     Beorn seems to hold some serious doubt about the wizard especially with dwarves.  But based on his actions in checking to see if the wizards tale is true and finding proof of the groups killing of the Great Goblin, he confesses this later on in the chapter;  It was a good story, that of yours, said Beorn, but I like it still better now I am sure it is true.  You must forgive my not taking your word.  If you lived near the edge of Mirkwood, you would take the word of no one you did not know as well as your brother or better.  As it is, I can only say that I have hurried home as fast as I could to see that you are safe, and to offer you any help I can.  I shall think more kindly of dwarves after this(The Hobbit, Chapter 7; Queer Lodgings, pg 120-121)
 
    Also, he seems to have the respect of a least two wizards, Gandalf and Radagast.
Gandalf makes some remarks about his respect for Beorn;
    The Somebody I spoke of - a very great person. (The Hobbit, Chapter 7; Queer Lodgings, pg 105)
    "I am a wizard," continued Gandalf. "I have heard of you, if you have not heard of me; but perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood?"
    "Yes; not a bad fellow as wizards go, I believe. I used to see him now and again," said Beorn. 
(The Hobbit, Chapter 7; Queer Lodgings, pg 109)
    The brief reference in Chapter 18 does even more to enhance and enrich Beorns  character;
    In that last hour Beorn himself had appeared - no one knew how or from where.  He came alone, and in a bears 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.  Then dismay fell on the Goblins and they fled in all directions
(The Hobbit, Chapter 18; The Return Journey, pgs.259-260)


        
    I am also very interested in the "Radagast Training Beorn" theory proposed by The Might on December 16th, 2006...
    There is however one person in that are who in my opinion taught him - Radagast.
    From the Hobbit we learn that Beorn and Radagast were on good terms at the time of the Quest of Erebor: Radagast's power is well known, and his communion with nature and living beings is also well underlined in the Unfinished Tales.:
    "For Radagast, the fourth, became enamoured of the many beasts and birds that dwelt in Middle-earth, and forsook Elves and Men, and spent his days among the wild creatures. Thus he got his name (which is in the tongue of Numenor of old, and signifies, it is said, tender of beasts)." 
   (Unfinished Tales, Part IV, Chapter 2 ;The Istari, pg. 390)
    Now there are 2 powers of Radagast which seem to be suggested in these quotes:
1. As a friend of all beasts and birds, it is very likely he was able to talk to them. If he had spent so much time living among them, and given his love for beasts and also his power as an Istar, I believe this is quite likely. Of course, he did not need to speak to the Eagles when he asked them to follow Gandalf on his journey, but I am sure he could use this with other beings.
2. He is a "master of shapes and hues". And this is in my opinion the most interesting quote, because it seems to very clearly indicate Radagast as a shape-shifter. Considering his power and connection to the natural world, I do believe that through study he was eventually able to change the form he took when coming from the West, and to transform in one of the beasts he so much loved.
    The very interesting part, is that these are exactly the powers of Beorn. He too can speak to animals and change his shape. Considering that he knew Radagast and was on good terms with him, I believe it is quite likely that Beorn learned these "magic tricks" from Radagast.  (The Tolkien Forums, The Unknown Powers, The Powers of Beorn - The Might December 16th, 2006...)
    I support this idea based on some obscure inferences.
    Gandalf says, Beorn loves his animals as his children; Beorn may be your friend, but he loves his animals as his children.  You do not quess what kindness he has shown you in letting dwarves ride them so far and so fast, nor what would happen to you, if you tried to take them into the forest. (The Hobbit, Chapter 7; Queer Lodgings, pg 124-125)  
    As any parent keeps an open and close relationship with their pediatrician so I think Beorn would keep in touch with Radagast.  How close? I dont think he would tell the whole truth to Gandalf when they first met.
 An intuitive guess would put Radagast at the best place at Beorns  table.  And Beorns bear as Radagasts right hand bear-man.  
    That would certainly could have made another wonderful childrens story.

Then there is this wonderful thread introduced and proposed by Olorin/Gandalf;
    Just had an idea reading this...It wont clarify his origins fully, but it would make some sense. What if, if, Beorn was like Luthien, a descendant of a Maiar, like Luthien was Melians?
    "Then suddenly she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her
    She cast her cloak before his eyes, and set upon him a dream, as dark as the Outer Void where once he walked alone. However Lúthien suddenly became possessed by the ancient angelic power in her blood and forced him into a deep slumber. Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell."
(The Silmarillion, Chapter 19; Of Beren and Luthien, pgs 180-181)
    So if Luthien, daughter of Melian the Maiar can do such things to a Valar, and a bloody strong one I might add, perhaps Beorn can shape-shift because he is also descended from a Maiar? Would explain why the power faded over time, too...(The Tolkien Forums, The Unknown Powers, The Powers of Beorn - Olorin/Gandalf - May 22nd, 2008)

    While I agree with The Might about Beorn being a man, (after all he does manage to have a son - as well as keeping a pass open in the Misty Mountains - charging tolls)
    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 not for the Beornings, the passage from Dale to Rivendell would long ago have become impossible.  They 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 overfond of dwarves.  Still, they are trusty, and that is much these days..
(Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter1; Many Meetings. Pg. 276)
     But I also like the idea of Beorn having an ancestor who has the supernatural power, inherited or gifted, from some branch of the Ainur concerned with the animal life of Middle Earth.
    Might it not be possible that as the Valar, with the consent of Eru, sent the Istari, who, say through Radagast, before he went to Middle Earth, had married and had offspring who came ( were sent) to Middle Earth as a were-bear to counter the power of Sauron who had the power to become a were-wolf.
    Perhaps Beorn is the great, great, great, grandson of a much mixed birth line?
    That seems at least feasible.

    I think Ill keep my eyes opensome of the people I hang out with call me The Bear.  My daughter calls me her Papa Bear.  Some of my incarcerated patients call me the Grizzly Bear.
    I think Ill go get some honey and cream.

Bear an Elf-Friend 


__________________

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit
Called or uncalled, God is present

Witchking of Angmar - Rank 10
Status: Offline
Posts: 3118
Date: May 25, 2008
Lol, Bear, always like your endings.

Umm, yeah, of course it is possible, but I don't really see why. Tolkien usually never misses out on any important spirits doing stuff in Middle-earth.

As I said, as a good example, take the story of Mithrellas and that Numenorean guy Imrazor. These two didn't do much during their lives, except to marry and to create the line of Dol Amroth. And because their descendants have Elvish blood Tolkien mentions it. So I would except that if some Maia were to also say marry some Northman and give birth to little human-bear creatures, Tolkien would also mention it.

__________________
Honor, Freedom, Fatherland
Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
Status: Offline
Posts: 2960
Date: May 26, 2008
The Might,
I think you maybe right. Tolkien left so many different endings and unfinished characters that it does seem odd that Beorn and Grimbeorn are just left out there with no connection to the 1st, 2nd, and 4th age.
But as an alternative story I would love to see little Elanor hook up with a great, great, grand child of Beorn's (sort of Teddy-Bear) and they go off on adventures and meet Elves, and Dwarves, and maybe hook up with Faramir and Eowyn's daughter or son.
That is what I love about Tolkien. He created so much that our imaginations are left with a plethora of material and we can make his world our own.(with all due respect to Tolkien of course.)

-- Edited by Bear at 00:40, 2008-05-26

__________________

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit
Called or uncalled, God is present

Witchking of Angmar - Rank 10
Status: Offline
Posts: 3118
Date: May 29, 2008
Indeed... it is quite fascinating... problem is that anything one could imagine could not beat Tolkien's stuff. Not because fans don't have a good imagination, on the contrary, but simply because if it really would be that grand it would no longer fit into the LotR universe.
Tolkien himself tried to write a story taking place in an increasingly corrupt Gondor some 150 years after Aragorn's death or smth like that. He eventually abandoned it because he realised that anything he would create from that point on related to M-e would simply pale in comparison with the great battles and alliances of the three precedent ages.

__________________
Honor, Freedom, Fatherland
Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
Status: Offline
Posts: 2960
Date: May 29, 2008
The Might,
I do notice that in some of the re-write senarios our attempts to "out -Tolkien" Tolkien can get pretty flat.  But still your material, Arwen Legolas, Glorfindal 1235, Olorin/Gandalf, mouth of sauron, Lord Tulkas and others that my poor brain admired but I can't remember have really brought to light all manner of variations.
Its that creativity that keeps me coming back for more.

__________________

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit
Called or uncalled, God is present

Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
Status: Offline
Posts: 23
Date: Jan 30, 2011
"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."

I always felt that this part stood out the most to me about Beorn.
It reminded me of a lot of myths among indiginous people about shapeshifting and animal-tribe associations. 

But then I found the idea of men originally being this way to be an idea that brought up more questions than answers, perhaps.
There are hints here and there about other shape-shifters in the stories (or at least on some maps).

I think the concept of there being some ancestor of non-human origin is an interesting thought.


__________________
RevisionIcon.gifeCardIcon.gifPrintIcon.gifBookmarkIcon.gifdiscuss.gifSourceIcon.gif
4star.gifI Like this quoteI dislike this quoteThere is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.
-J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit)
Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
Status: Offline
Posts: 2960
Date: Feb 1, 2011
Meimei,
I thought it was interesting that Tolkien brought that concept into the Hobbit.
And I also wondered why he chose the bear. I mean it is an omnivore. It is territorial.
Except for mating or maternal interactions it is a solitary creature. It does not make friends and when in contact with humans in a natural environment avoids or eats them!!!
That dichotomy between natural occurance and the fantasy of Tolkien led me to look at other aspects of the shape-shifting elements. And one of the main structures which led to some illumination of Tolkien's choice was, along with the wolf and eagle, in most culture's mythology there is a shape-shifting being of human and bear.
Ursine behavior being what it is one would think the mythological link would focus on the strength and ferocious nature of the beast. And in some mythological systems this was true.  But more numerous was the construct as bear as brother, benevolent wisdom, shaman-like human-animal interaction, maternal loving, as well as strength, power, and ferocious warrior-like imagery.
I have found that by viewing Tolkien through a Jungian-archetypal-mythological lens there are creations which are logical, rational. and of higher consciousness. But much more exciting to my mind were the various creatures or beings that spring from a well of subliminal, mytho-archetypal, and cultural fantasy.

As a depth psychologist I have been privilaged to share the dreams of many folks.
That has allowed me to see reflected many "nightmare" images. Some are triggered by post-taumatic stress like being attacked by a dog. And some images come from a deeper archetypal level - images such as wolves, sharks, spiders, the undead, demonic creatures and they are common. Nightmare images usually are accompanied by feelings of anxiety, sometimes even terror.
In neither of these psychological landscapes has a bear been a nightmare image.
There are also dream images that in their numinous expression are positive. They are accompanied by feelings of well-being or happiness. And reflective in most literature and cultures the dreams with ursine figures are mostly positive.
This is not to say that those mauled by a bear would not have post-traumatic nightmares of a bear. In fact I am positive they would. But aside from those traumatic incidents the bear is usually a positive image.


You are so right Meimei ... "It reminded me of a lot of myths among indiginous people about shapeshifting and animal-tribe associations."
Infact in twenty different mythological substrates I have found positive attributes projected on ursine characters.
I have had opportunity to participate in some exploration of Shawnee mythological and cultural images. The bear was an archetypal symbol which represented desirable characteristics.

Putting aside the specific ursine image of Beorn and seeking to extrapolate the motives behind Tolkien's choice of this image for his story, I believe, becauseof his work with Germanic, Nordic, and Anglican mythology, he was influenced to create shape-shifting characters such that canis lupus images projected evil (like Sauron's wolf) and ursine images projected good.(like Beorn's bear)
His use of the archetype of warrior in all stories (elven, human, dwarf, ainur, maiar) and his mythological heirarchy does not contain much shape-shifting characterization. But Sauron's shape-shifting lupus character in The Silmarillion and Beorn's shape-shifting ursine character in The Hobbit has that bipolar moral axis.
His use of animals in his stories (which are not always connected to shape-shifting) none the less have human characteristics reinforcing his anthropormorphical fantasy images. Eagles,spiders, fox, horse, squirrels, different bird species, and other animals interact with Elves, Men, Dwarves, and others in fantastic ways.

There are lots of ways to look at Tolkien's creation of "The Power of Beorn."
And I agree "
the concept of there being some ancestor of non-human origin is an interesting thought."
Once again Tolkien, the master, opens a door ... one which resonates with our deepest archetypal-mythological- psychological longings.
I mean after all ... who would identify with an animal ... especially a Bear.
Hmmm?


-- Edited by Bear on Tuesday 1st of February 2011 06:49:34 AM

__________________

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit
Called or uncalled, God is present

Tom Bombadil
Status: Offline
Posts: 1886
Date: Feb 1, 2011
Shape shifters changing into Bears is a popular notion with writers. Elizabeth Moon in her Book "The Deed of Paksenarrion" wrote about Master Oakhollow a Kuakgan, a person who heals and maintains nature and knows the languages of animals who according to popular belief in the village in which he lives, turned into a bear at night and roams his Grove. I can also remember that something hinted at old Tom Bombadil turning into a bear at night and that's why the Hobbits were cautioned to not open the windows and stay inside and to not go out.

__________________

Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
Tom Bom, Jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!

Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
Status: Offline
Posts: 562
Date: Feb 1, 2011
On a related note, there is an unpublished work by JRRT that I greatly hope wil someday reach bookstores.

In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight (The Monsters And The Critics) can be found the statement that 'the Bear-boy lurks behind the heroic Beowulf', and Scull and Hammond note (Reader's Guide page 86) that Tolkien's story Sellic Spell was an attempt to reconstruct the Anglo-Saxon tale that lies behind the folk or fairy-tale element in Beowulf. 'He felt, however, that in many points it was not possible to do so with certainty, and in some points the tale was not quite the same. The 'principle object' of Sellic Spell, Tolkien wrote in a late note, was 'to exhibit the difference of style, tone and atmosphere if the particular heroic or historical is cut out.'

In the History of The Hobbit, John Rateliff writes: 'Underrlying both the epic poem and the saga according to some theories is a folk-tale about a feral child raised by bears, the Bear's-son Story. Tolkien himself was greatly interested in these speculations, and actuall re-created the lost folktale in an unpublished short story, 'Sellic Spell'.* (ii Bothvar Bjarki, Medwed)
 
*note 8 goes on to inform that Selllic Spell was accepted for publication in The Welsh Review, which ceased publication however before the issue that was to contain this story saw print. And: 'For more on the Bear's Son story, see Klaeber, Beowulf and The Fight at Finnsburg, third edition, pages xiiiff.'
 
I plan to!


__________________
Soldier of Beleriand - Rank 3
Status: Offline
Posts: 121
Date: Feb 2, 2011
This is an interesting topic. Personally I never paid much attention to the 'power' Beorn had to change shape and become a bear. In many traditional fairy tales, shape-shifting is not uncommon, and 'The Hobbit' is a book that incorporates such elements of faerie to a greater extent than the rest of Tolkien's legendarium, which is normal, seeing that the book was not at first planned to go into the canon of works.

However the matter can be traced, if somewhat conjencturally, by comparing earlier versions of the Beorn story with that published in 'The Hobbit', and by looking at some notes that Tolkien made on the subject. All these can be found, luckily, in John Rateliff's 'The History of The Hobbit' (HH).

Passages of significance are:

"I can't tell you much more. Whether he is a bear descended from the great bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came, or a man descended from the old men who lived there before Smaug invaded the land and the goblins came into the hills out of the North, I can't say. At any rate he is under no enchantment but his own." - in the earliest draft, published in Rateliff, HH, "Medwed"

"I cannot tell you much more, though that ought to be enough. 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. He is not the sort of person to ask questions of.
At any rate he is under no enchantment but his own.
" - in chapter VII, "Queer Lodgings", 'The Hobbit'

In the first text there is no suggestion of what the wizard Gandalf (the speaker in both passages) thinks is the true tale of Beorn. However in the early stages of composition of this part of the story, Tolkien clearly considered Beorn (at that time called 'Medwed' to be human, because in some notes immediately following the composition for this chapter, there is a note stating 'let bear be enchanted'. This, as Rateliff points out with examples, would seem to connect Beorn to the older tradition of sagas where we find people magically enchanted to look like bears at certain times. In the second text, however, with Gandalf's suggestion we see in fact Tolkien's desire that Beorn was not a bear, but a man who could take bear shape.

In fact this deduction only comes as a reinforcement of what Tolkien himself said in a letter to Naomi Mitchinson:

"Beorn is dead; see vol. I p 241. He appeared in The Hobbit. It was then the year Third Age 2940 (Shire-reckoning 1340). We are now in the years 3018-19 (1418-19). Though a skin-changer and no doubt a bit of a magician, Beorn was a Man." - from Letter 144

Now that this is established, we must turn to the more complicated question of where Beorn got his power. In the text published in 'The Hobbit' (which I cited above), is not Gandalf's statement: "He is not the sort of person to ask questions of." rather an oblique way of Tolkien telling the readers not to inquire into Beorn's power? Because we have no clear statement of Tolkien among published texts clearly indicated how Beorn got his power. In his earlier posts, The Might suggested that Beorn could have learnt to change shape from Radagast, and I must say there is considerable substance in this possibility. Again we shall look at the old texts and compare them with the published ones:

" 'I am a wizard - I have heard of you, if you have not heard of me. But perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the borders of Mirkwood?'
'Yes, yes: not a bad fellow.'
" - first draft of the text, published in Rateliff, HH, "Medwed"

It is a dialogue between the wizard Gandalf (at the time identified by the name 'Bladorthin') and Medwed. Medwed's answer suffered some modification. Here's a later version:

" 'Yes, yes: not a bad fellow I know him well.' " - published in Rateliff, HH, "Medwed"

And, as published in 'The Hobbit':

" 'I am a wizard," continued Gandalf. 'I have heard of you, if you have not heard of me; but perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood?'
'Yes; not a bad fellow as wizards go, I believe. I used to see him now and again,' said Beorn.
" - in chapter VII, "Queer Lodgings", 'The Hobbit'

While the published text diminishes the connection between Beorn and Radagast, not the same can be said of the earlier drafts: in the first, the missing words 'as wizards go, I believe' in Medwed's answer show that Medwed held Radagast in a good light, more so than in the published text, where he is rather ironical about the whole affair. In the emended draft, Medwed goes on to say that he knows Radagast well, which would imply a close relationship that might include Radagast's teaching Beorn how to change his shape.

On the other hand, this is not said by Tolkien, so we might conclude that he either did not think of the matter himself, or he did not consider the matter needed to be rationally explained. It is in a way the same as with Tom Bombadil. I give two quotes:

"There is of course a clash between 'literary' technique, and the fascination of elaborating in detail an imaginary mythical Age (mythical, not allegorical: my mind does not work allegorically.) As a story, I think it is good that there should be a lot of things unexplained (especially if an explanation actually exists); and I have perhaps from this point of view erred in trying to explain too much, and give too much past history. Many readers have, for instance, rather stuck at the Council of Elrond. And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally)." - from Letter 144

"I don't think Tom needs philosophizing about, and is not improved by it. But many have found him an odd or indeed discordant ingredient. In historical fact I put him in because I had already 'invented' him independently (he first appeared in the Oxford Magazine) and wanted an 'adventure' on the way. But I kept him in, and as he was, because he represents certain things otherwise left out. I do not mean him to be an allegory - or I should not have given him so particular, individual, and ridiculous a name - but 'allegory' is the only mode of exhibiting certain functions: he is then an 'allegory', or an exemplar, a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science [...]" - from Letter 153

It may be that Tolkien expressly wished Beorn to remain a mystery, and while the deductions made above make sense, they in no way represent facts, but merely speculation.

__________________
Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
Status: Offline
Posts: 2960
Date: Feb 2, 2011
John Wain,
An interesting set of perspectives.
But I always feel that in most of his letters Tolkien is on the defensive. But it is good hard evidence none the less.
I would have loved to be there when he read these passages aloud to "The Inklings."
What fun that would have been!!!
Thank you John for the research and the references.
What an amazing and complicated psyche Tolkien was.


I have one small and slight perspective which differs from your posting.
"He is not the sort of person to ask questions of." (The Hobbit, Chapter VII ~ "Queer Lodgings," pg. 106)
I think this is not some hint from Tolkien to not explore the history and mystery of Beorn.  I think it is a clear literary device in which Gandalf is warning the ill mannered and disrespectful dwarves to have a care and be very aware that Beorn is not someone to tolerate disrespect ... so that the dwarves and Mr.Baggins will keep a civil tongue in their heads.  Or they might lose them!

There are many connections to archetypal and mythological  hierarchies in Tolkien's works.
Indeed, we can see patterns of the archetype of warrior, healer, wizard, sage, shieldmaiden, the lost soul, noble corruption, and other themes that James Hillman, Joseph Campbell, and Carl Jung had and have written about that can relate direct to the skin-changing mythos that Tolkien hints at but does not firmly confirm.

Still, if picking sides, I want Beorn on my team; as a bear or not!


__________________

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit
Called or uncalled, God is present

 
Page 1 of 1  sorted by
Quick Reply

Please log in to post quick replies.



Create your own FREE Forum
Report Abuse
Powered by ActiveBoard