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The Skill of the Skin-Changers

Ancalagon

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We know Beorn was able to change form, from Man to Bear. However, where did this skill come from? Obviosuly Beren was the original skin-changer among the race of Men, though this was learnt from the Eldar and not actually part of his genetic make-up. Therefore, even if Beorn was a distant blood-relation, where did he learn this ability?
 

Gamil Zirak

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Was Beorn concidered a man? Or is he some sort of Maia? I'm not sure which one he is. I've only read the Hobbit, LoTR, and Silmarillion and they didn't discuss his origin in great detail. Didn't the Hobbit say that he had a line of children after the Battle of Five Armies? I don't have a copy with me at work so I can't verify that.
 

Beorn

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Beorn is dead; see vol I pp 241. He appeared in The Hobbit. It was the the year TA 2940 (S-R 1340). We are now in the years 2018-19 (1418-19). Though a skin-changer and no doubt a bit of a magician, Beorn was a man


Well, this answers 1 and a half questions. He was a man. And, he likely wasn't a relative of Beren, but rather a magician. I can't speculate where he learned it from...

Anyway, perhaps someone with all of HoMe can check the indeces (sp?). I know there is something about him in BLT I or BLT II.

Now, that's straight from the horse's mouth!
 
R

Rohansangel

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Beorn was a man, although maybe he has some weird magic in his blood or something. It's probably in Unfinished Tales, which of course I haven't read. Man I feel useless. j/j

~The Angel of Rohan
 

Tao

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If Beorn was a man, than it is possible that he could decieve people into thinking that he was something that he wasn't.

That, however, is highly unlikely. I assume Beorn was given a gift by Illúvatar, or maybe he was an experiment. But also, his magician roots might just have given him the power.

Also, somewhere in LotR, I believe it mentioned that he had a son (Beorning I believe). Who did he have the son with? It would have to be someone the same race as him....this brings up more questions...
 

Cian

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Originally posted by Beorn I know there is something about him in BLT I or BLT II.
Different Beorn than in The Hobbit though. In this early form of the Mythology, Beorn (in one conception) was Ottor Wæfre's uncle (Ottor's father was Eoh 'horse'). Eoh and Beorn were the sons of Heden (the leather and fur clad), Heden tracing his ancestry to the god Wóden (Odin).

Ottor was to be named Eriol, but here the conception is related, of course, to the "English element".

"In his earliest writings the mythology was anchored in the ancient legendary history of England; and more than that, it was peculiarly associated with certain places in England." C. Tolkien
Beorn (Old English 'warrior', but originally meaning 'bear'; cf. ON Björn) slew his brother Eoh. Ottor settled on an Island in the North Sea, and wed, and had two sons named 'after his father' Hengest and Horsa to 'avenge' Eoh.

Hengest and Horsa (both 'horse' names) avenged Eoh and became great chieftains while Ottor Wæfre (I can't make the needed acute accent in this name :)) set out to seek "Tol Eressëa" in Old English se uncú þa holm.

Ottor or Eriol here belonged to the period preceeding the Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain.

Of course this is all very early stuff, from an 'early' outline, and not the only conception -- but this is that Beorn, not the skin-changer of the later The Hobbit -- himself likely based on legendary skin-changer heroes like Bothvar Biarki for example.
 

Úlairi

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Originally posted by Beleg Strongbow
I always thought and so do others that beorn came from the house of beor im not sure how to prove thius but i remember ulairi and others and i discussing this a little while ago mayb he can remember some more stuff about it?? Sorry i couldnt help more

Well, I'm here. Well researched Cian and I congratulate you for beating me to it. About Beorn in LotR, Beorn was believed to be of the house of Beor, of which Beren is a descendant so it is likely that Beorn and Beren were related. Each descendant of the house of Beor was believed to have to ability to change into a bear (how peculiar!). Beorn was a descendant of Beor and it was believed that the teaching of skin-changing was taught from father to son. Beorn was definitely a magician, and so were his ancestors. I am unsure of whether or not Beren was a magician, as it is not stated in the Sil, but it is still a definite possiblity. Glad to be of service Ancalagon the Black.
 

Ancalagon

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You would like that wouldnt you Ulairi:) However, though I am at work now, I will throw a few posers into the debate a little later. Watch this space!
 

Ancalagon

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Ulairi, you might wish to elaborate on the 'magician' aspect of your response.....I'm intrigued. Surely the ability to skin-change is inherent if Beorn was clearly able to pass this ability through his own bloodline, yet Beren learnt the skill from the Eldar, who must also have this ability. Therefore it cannot be genetic, but a skill of magic, if Elves can teach a man to do this. On the other hand, if the Eldar can teach Beren to do this, then everyone; both of the First and Secondborn must have the natural ability to do this, meaning it IS actually a genetic ability in both Elves and Men, therefore not making it a magical act.
 

Úlairi

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Originally posted by Ancalagon
Ulairi, you might wish to elaborate on the 'magician' aspect of your response.....I'm intrigued. Surely the ability to skin-change is inherent if Beorn was clearly able to pass this ability through his own bloodline, yet Beren learnt the skill from the Eldar, who must also have this ability. Therefore it cannot be genetic, but a skill of magic, if Elves can teach a man to do this. On the other hand, if the Eldar can teach Beren to do this, then everyone; both of the First and Secondborn must have the natural ability to do this, meaning it IS actually a genetic ability in both Elves and Men, therefore not making it a magical act.
Well, your suggestions on genetics are two definite possibilities, as you have clearly outlined. I have always believed that it has been genetic, but one must be taught to do such things. So I do not believe that either one of your theories are right on their own. Rather, it is both. It is both genetic and it must be taught. So, firstly I believe skin-changing must be in your blood, but you must be taught how to do it. Therefore, I believe that Beren had it in his blood as he was of the house of Beor, but seeing as no one taught him, the Elves did. Beren taught the skill to his children and so on until Beorn was born. And then he taught it to his children. As for the magician aspect of my previous post, it was only a name given to them by other people as they could perform feats of magic which was both genetic and was taught to Beorn by his father or an ancestor. Do you understand Ancalagon?
 

Ancalagon

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Each descendant of the house of Beor was believed to have to ability to change into a bear
Not sure of this Ulairi, you may wish to offer some support to this claim.

Beren taught the skill to his children and so on until Beorn was born. And then he taught it to his children.
Ok, let's look at the Beren - Beorn descendant enigma;

Beren - Luthien = Elured, Elurin and Elwing

Elured, Elurin were both killed in the assault of Doriath by the Sons of Feanor. Neither had children.

Elwing - Earendil = Elrond and Elros

Elrond - Celebrian = Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen

Elladan and Elrohir did not have children, at least until afer the arrival of Beorn. Arwen we know married Aragorn.

Elros - Unknown = Vardamir Noliman, Tindomiel, Manwendil and Atanalcar. This line of Numenorians is numerous and is the beginnings of the line of the Dunedain of the North, who may possibly be the link of the early descendents of Beorn.
If Beorn was to be descended through the line of Beren, it could only have been through Elros. However, it is unclear where this could have developed or from whom this ability could have been passed. There is no record of any of the line of Elros ever possessing this ability or even using it. Therefore I would contest that the ability to skin-change was ever actually passed from the lineage of Beren.

One particular reason for this is the fact that Beren never actually change himself into any beast. Though there are some similarities between Beorn and Beren, the main one is the relationship between the Birds and the Beasts of the forests.

Thereafter for four years more Beren wandered still upon Dorthonion, a solitary outlaw; but he became the friend of birds and beasts, and they aided him, and did not betray him, and from that time forth he ate no flesh nor slew any living thing that was not in the service of Morgoth.
Gandalf said to Bilbo about Beorn;
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 marvellous as himself. They work for him and talk to him. He does not eat them; neither does he hunt or eat wild animals.
This is where the similarity ends in my opinion.

Beren is not recorded as ever having changed himself into any other shape or skin. This was achieved by the skills of both Felagund and Luthien.

. By the arts of Felagund their own forms and faces were changed into the likeness of Orcs; and thus disguised they came far upon their northward road, and ventured into the western pass, between Ered Wethrin and the highlands of Taur-nu-Fuin.
By the counsel of Huan and the arts of Lúthien he was arrayed now in the have of Draugluin, and she in the winged fell of Thuringwethil. Beren became in all things like a werewolf to look upon, save that in his eyes there shone a spirit grim indeed but clean; and horror was in his glance as he saw upon his flank a bat-like creature clinging with creased wings. Then howling under the moon he leaped down the hill, and the bat wheeled and flittered above him.
These are the only two instances where Beren was changed in form, neither of which has any relation to Bears and neither he managed himself. Therefore I do not believe that this ability was anything to do with Beren at all.
So, where does this leave Beorn? We still can’t answer how he managed to skin-change from Man to Bear.

Gandalf again to Bilbo;
He is a skin-changer. 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. 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.
We cannot doubt either that he is a man, although Gandalf stated;
I once saw him sitting all along on the top of the Carrock at night watching the moon sinking towards the Misty Mountains, and I heard him growl in the tongue of bears: "The day will come when they will perish and I shall go back!" That is why I believe he once came from the mountains himself.'
In addition, Tolkien makes it clear in his letters that Beorn's lifespan was no greater than that of an ordinary Man. It's very unlikely, then, that he survived much beyond TA 3000. (See The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien No 144, dated 1954). In the same letter, Tolkien explains that despite his remarkable abilities, Beorn definitely belonged to the race of Men: 'Though a skin-changer and no doubt a bit of a magician, Beorn was a Man'.

This also dispels the Maia myth that is frequently suggested.

So at least there is some confirmation of your magician theory, which is why I was keen for you (Ulairi) to elaborate on the idea. Yet it is also clear that Beorn must have been the first of his line or people to have this ability, hence the people being known as Beornings.

Beorn indeed became a great chief afterwards in those regions and ruled a wide land between the mountains and the wood; and 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. In their day the last goblins were hunted from the Misty Mountains and a new peace came over the edge of the Wild.
My theory is complete speculation; Beorn has no known descendants, though he is from the race of Men. Is it impossible to imagine that Beorn may have been both of Men, yet raised by Bears? He has an intense dislike of Goblins, who may have been responsible for attacking his family home in the mountains of the North. This is not dissimilar to Kiplings, 'Jungle-Book', where Wolves rear the young Mowgli. A book Tolkien would have read as he penned his early thoughts. Beorn could only have learnt his skill from the Bears he was akin too, over years having been in their company, been fed on milk and honey and assuming the ability to control his own form. Possibly Radagast may have had a hand in his upbringing, although this idea is not developed, only that Gandalf says;
'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.
I do not believe in the link with Beren, or Beren's genetic ability to skin-change. He was never responsible for his form changing and only managed this by the skills of others and their enchantments upon him. Beorn is skilled in skin-changing; he has a natural ability to do this at will. Only through magic of his own or that of the animals he is akin too can he do this.

That's my line and I'm more than happy for anyone to contest it.
 

Úlairi

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I do not believe that anyone could contest that, save a few of us like myself. However Ancalagon, I can see no holes in your argument that jump out at me. Therefore if Beorn was a descendant of Beren, it would of have to have gone through the Line of Elros, as you have clearly stated. If what I have said in my previous post is true (which in some ways I still believe) than we can presume that Beorn was a Numenorean. Your theory is specultion Ancalagon, but with proof. I like the theory on the Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli, however, I find it highly impossible as I do not believe that Tolkien would in some ways 'copy' Rudyard Kipling. Therefore, I will present my theory, which is entirely speculation. For argument's sake, let's presume that Beorn was a descendant of Beren, and he was of the Line of Elros. Therefore, the only way Beorn could have been born is is his ancestors were of the same blood line as Elros, and were members of the Faithful (the people who stuck to the old Numenorean traditions), and escaped Numenor. Perhaps Beorn's ancestors left Arnor or Gondor and settled secretly in Mirkwood, where they befriended bears and animals, and somehow, in this mysterious bonding, the power of shape-shifting is rekindled within them. And the art of skin-changing is passed down from generation to generation. Beorn's stature is suggestive that there was a slight possibility that he was Numenorean as he was:

"...a great man with huge arms..."
So, what I am saying is that the descendants of Elros could actually skin-change, but the art was forgotten but rekindled some thousands of years later. It's just a theory Ancalagon, but IMO it is extremely good and it cannot be disproven. Do you agree Ancalagon?
 

Elias

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skinman

I have never thought that where does all that skin comefrom, but I'm sure that Beorn was a man. In fact the books tells that in many places. Correct me if I'm wrong.
 

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