The Beornings as a people existed under this name since the time after the Battle of Five Armies when Beorn the Skin-changer united the wide-spread tribes and scattered groups of the Men of the Northern Anduin Vales under his mighty Axe to clean their lands from the remnants of the Misty Mountain Goblins, of whom small bands still roamed the mountain valleys and raided lonely farms. After Beorn's death the sons of his Warriors proudly called themselves the Beornings (Éo.:"Sons of Beorn") which soon became the name under which the new Northman nation was known. However the true origins of the Beornings and many of their strange traditions reached far more back into the Second and even First Age, and little was known about their origins since hardly any records were made about the Men of this part of the World in the old times. As can be seen by the straw-blonde hair and blue eyes of most of the Beornings, they seemed to be the descendants of Éothéod farmers who did not follow their King Eorl the Young to the South into Calenardhon but stayed in their ancestral home, but few of them showed blood traces which leaned into another direction, Men as Beorn himself, taller than most Northmen and with dark brown or almost black hair and light grey eyes, Men who were believed to be the last descendants of the Old Tribes of the Misty Mountains who lived there in the First Age and were known to the Wood-elves as the Ordvir (N.:"Mountain Men"). Some people believed that they were closely akin to the Edain of Beleriand and originally belonged to the same people as the ancestors of the Beorians. In the Second Age they had close contact with the Dwarves of Dúrin's House who at the time ruled the Misty Mountains, and it seems that the Mountainmen spoke a language which was very similar to that of which still many names existed in the Kingdom of Dale near the end of the Third Age, and as some of the Bardings just like their King Bard I the Bowman seem also of darker hair than most of the Northmen it seemed obvious that there were originally close ties between the Men of the Misty Mountains and the ancestors of the Dale-men. According to the Dwarves, the Men of the Misty Mountains called themselves Beiabarnae (old Rh.: "Nearby-born-ones") or earlier Beroiagonari (old Rh.:"Hunting-bears"), and it was them who first gave the father of the Longbeards the Old Rhovanian name "Daurrein". There were old legends among the Beornings that their forefathers were protected by bears in mountain caves, and legends spoke of "the Gift from the Great Bear", but many of these old traditions were now forgotten or held in secret by the Beornings. At last there were many hints that the Gift of Skin-changing at first appeared among the Beiabarnae. When the Orcish hordes of the Northern Waste began to invade the Misty Mountains and Gundabad was lost, the expulsion of the Beiabarnae from the Misty Mountains began, and many fled into the Anduin Vales while others fled into the Northern Waste; these were known in the Third Age as the Berseggi (Del.:"Bear-Warriors") or Biornungs (Del.: "Bear-Sons") and were a small people which shared many obvious traditions with the Beornings of the Anduin Vales, although smaller in number and different in appearance through intermixion with the Forodwaith. Of the early Beiabarn leaders in the Anduin Vales only two were told of in the Beorning Myths, Barnbinevian and Beruvacar. It seems that there were serious tribal feuds with the Austrorathias, Northmen who lived near the Anduin Springs and served the Witch-king of Angmar. These feuds decimated the Beiabarnae so that with the arrival of the Éothéod in the North, who drove away or destroyed the last servants of Angmar in Rhovanion, the Beiabarnae became a part of the Éothéod people and intermixed with the newly arrived farmers and horsemen from the south. But even if the old Mountainmen took over the new language and some traditions, they stayed mostly among themselves and did not leave the Anduin Valley when Eorl's messengers arrived in the North to lead his people into Calenardhon. Too much Beiabarn blood was shed and too much had the people suffered for their home to give it easily up, so most Mountainmen descendants and some of the Éothéod who were related to them by marriage stayed in the north and lived long as a scattered people without leader. It was Beorn (Éo.:"Warrior"), probably the greatest son of the old Mountain Folk, who again built a nation out of these scattered Men, and his son Grimbeorn (Éo.: "Angry Warrior") and right-hand Man Wecca (Éo.:"Guardian") continued his effords into the Fourth Age.
The Beornings were mostly farmers and to a degree breeders of cattle who lived in small villages and great farms. Although a part of this people, due to their descent from the Éothéod, ate meat, many Beornings had revived the ancient tradition of living only from honey, milk, and bread, or vegetarian food. Especially the Warrior Caste formed by Beorn lived by this strict ritual way and rejected to eat animals (except wild beasts which they themselves hunted of course). The strict refusal was probably out of religious reasons, for the Beornings saw themselves closely tied to nature and animals. They had a number of spirits or deities who were, through their contacts with merchants from Gondor and Eriador, identified with different Valar whom they called "the Bregas" (Éo.:"Rulers"), for most Warriors loved the God Magol (Éo.: "The Mighty") who appeared a God of War and Strength. He was often described as a tall, strong Man with red-blonde hair and beard who wore a bear-skin, an iron glove, and a longbow. This War-God was often identified with Tulkas who also, in few ancient records, was depicted with a longbow and closely connected with bears. The other much beloved deity was the Goddess Blostma who was connected with the Wild, the Animals, and Nature, and whose holy animal was the Stag. Mostly because of the Stag and her connection with Magol she was seen as corresponding with Nessa, even if there was also some resemblance to Yavanna. Magol was preferred by most Men who were Warriors and was closely connected with the few Beornings who were chosen to be Skin-changers (Éo.: "Fellwidhas"). These mostly male Beornings were direct descendants of the ancient Mountainmen who achieved the Gift of changing into Bears. This transformation was performed by the use of a sacred Bear-skin which was given from generation to generation. The Beorning took off his clothes and covered himself with the Bear-skin and concentrated on his animal instincts which rested deep in every Beorning, the individual became one with the spirit of the Bear and woke up in the shape of a huge Bear, having all the animal's instincts and strengths. The Head of the Fellwidhas was the Leader of the Beorning people and bore the title Waldend (Éo.:"Ruler") which meant that he had the most important voice in the Beorning Thing. This Thing was a large Meeting at a holy place, the Eorcnan-Stanas (Éo.: "Precious-Stones") a collection of three large Carrocks (Éo.: "Stones of Sorrow") where all Beornings who were in position to vote gathered and held court, selected a new Waldend, or introduced young men in the Communtity of Warriors. Carrocks were hugh stone islands which towered up from the landscape and were considered holy places of sorrow and meditation by the Beornings. Every Fellwidha inherited to his magic Bear-skin also a Carrock-place. While the Warrior Caste, which was so strongly connected with Magol, consisted mostly out of Men and was led by the Waldend, who was the Leader of the Hafódmannas (Éo.:"Headmen"), as the Beorning Chieftains were called, the Women who dedicated themselves to Blostma were led by the Megen-Môder (Éo.:"Great Mother"), a kind of Head-priestess who resided at the Wîf-stede, the Place of Women where no male was allowed to enter. The Megen-Môder theoretically was equal to the Waldend and had the power to block up his word in the Thing by a veto, but in general she did not take part at Things and kept out of the matters of the Warrior-caste. The greatest two Beorning settlements were the remnants of Framsburg, the ancient capital of the Éothéod where still a fortified place was held up, and the town of Methelburg (Éo.:"Market-Fortress"), a fortified town in a valley of the Misty Mountains were the main Beorning market-place was. Smaller settlements were also at Waldendbaru, the Holy Grove were the Skin-changers used to meet, at Wîf-Stede, the Place of Women, and the Éorcnan-stanas, where the Beorning Thing was held; most other settlements were simply big farmsteads, such as Beornedor, Beorn's parental homestead. The Beornings spoke Éothéodan, the same language as the Rohirrim, but of course a slightly different dialect than that of the Riddermark, additionally to the normal speech Beornings knew a sign language which they used in the woods and which they referred to as Woldtacen. Woldtacen consisted of a number of signs as for example a simple broken off branch or three acorns on the ground which probably would not be identified as a secret message by a stranger but could mean a quite complex message to a learned Beorning Ranger.
Beorning clothes were usually of wool or deerskin, since the animals they held at their farms were usually not eaten. Men wore tunics with short sleeves, narrow trousers and heavy pelt boots, usually Wolf or Warg pelts. Women tended to wear long gowns sometimes combined with a coat. In the colder times of the year pelt-wraps were worn, but only the Skin-changers wore heavy wraps of bear-skin and the bear was forbidden to be hunted.
The traditional Beorning weapons were the two-handed axe and the spear. Beorning shields were usually big Roundshields which were covered with Wolf-skin. Heavy armor was mostly unknown due to the lack of advanced iron-working.
Beornings of renown
Aer, Baldbeorn, Beadula, Beigwóm, Beorn the Skinchanger, Beorn Geong, Bera, Fram Framson, Freobeort, Grimbeorn, Grimbold of Mirkwood, Ides, Langhár, Medulynn, Ofolmóth, Sigric, Sterkist, Varthmath, Wecca
According to LOTRO the shape-shifting ability of the Beornings was a gift of Radagast the Brown to their ancestors. This contradicts the concept of a "first Beorn" or a "Great Bear" in MERP, unless the Great Bear was Radagast in an earlier incarnation.
Changes to nomenclature
This Wiki incorporates a number of changes to nomenclature from the sources, to bring them into concordance with the latest scholarship on Tolkien's lexicons:
- Beijabar → Beiabarn
- Beijagahar → Beriaskbers
- Berningas → Biornungs, Berseggi
- Estaravi → Austrorathias, later Estanrewas
- Great Mother → Megen-Môder
- Headman → Hafódman
- Mathlaburg → Mathleisbaurg, later Melburg
- Place of Women → Wîf-Stede
- Wacho → Wecca
- Waildanbair → Waldanbero
- Waildnabar → Waldanbero
- Waildyth → Woldtacen
- Skin-Changers → Fellwidhas
- Beoraborn → Berubaur
- Waulfa → Wulfila