Great Goblin


In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, Beorn was a shape-shifter (or, in the actual text, a "skin-changer"), a man who could assume the appearance of a great black bear.



He lived with his animals (horses, dogs and ponies among others) in a wooden house between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood, to the east of the Anduin.

Beorn was of immense size and strength for a man, and retained his size and strength in bear-form. He had brown hair and a thick black beard and broad shoulders.

Beorn often left his home, for hours or days at a time, for purposes not completely known. It is possible he could have left to drive out or eliminate enemies and other threats from the surrounding lands, and/or to find edible vegetation from further away. Beorn could be nocturnal as well, as he seemed to leave at night in bear-form. His origins lay in the distant past, and Gandalf the Grey suspected he and his people had originally come from the mountains.

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

In The Hobbit, Beorn received Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, and the thirteen Dwarves and aided them in their quest to reclaim the Dwarves' kingdom beneath Erebor, the Lonely Mountain. He was convinced of their trustworthiness after confirming their tale of encountering the Goblins of the Misty Mountains, and Gandalf's slaying of their leader, the Great Goblin.

Later, hearing of a vast host of Goblins on the move, Beorn arrived at the Lonely Mountain in time to strike the decisive blow in the Battle of Five Armies, slaying the new Goblin leader, Bolg, and his bodyguards; without direction, the Goblin army scattered and were easy pickings for the other armies of Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Eagles.

In the years between the Battle of Five Armies and the War of the Ring, Beorn became a leader of Men, including other shape-shifters, and woodsmen. His people were known as the Beornings, and they helped defend Thranduil's kingdom at northern Mirkwood. He died some time before the War of the Ring itself began, and was succeeded by his son Grimbeorn the Old.


Beorn does not appear in the Rankin-Bass animated adaptation of The Hobbit. In the edition of the book illustrated with art from this film, Beorn was illustrated with drawings in the same visual style, which may or may not have been pre-production art from the film.


Beorn was a skilled woodworker and builder, especially within his property, as he was also adroit with hand tools. He was very protective of his trained animals, who were of high intelligence. He was usually suspicious and distrustful of strangers, so Gandalf had to trick him into giving his party shelter (which he received in good humour). He was also fearless and intimidating, and a fearsome enemy (after capturing and interrogating a goblin and a warg hunting for Gandalf's party, he mounted the goblin's head on a pike and skinned the warg).

Beorn lived on simple diet of bread, honey and clotted cream.

Concept and creation

In naming his character, Tolkien used beorn, the Old English word for "bear", which later came to mean "man" and "warrior" (with implications of "freeman" and "nobleman" in Anglo-Saxon society). It is related to the Scandinavian names Björn (Icelandic and Swedish) and Bjørn (Norwegian and Danish), meaning "bear". The word baron is indirectly related to beorn.

See also

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