Tolkien’s Beorn as a Personification of Russia

There are times when an article or an idea would sit as a draft for some time before seeing the light of publication, as if waiting for something. This article is of that kind, and it seemed to have been waiting for Lada Ray’s Forbidden History and Forgotten Origins webinars to catalyse me into putting some finishing touches and publishing it.

I first had an inkling of there being a connection between Tolkien’s depiction of Beorn and Rus when I was reading his books. Much later, that feeling returned as I was watching Peter Jackson’s dramatisation of The Hobbit. And the final pieces fell into place, while watching the behind the scenes documentaries on construction of Beorn’s house set and the visualisation of his character. I have created the shortened versions of the two documentaries to showcase the fragments that are especially interesting and telling for the topic at hand:

Before I proceed, let me reference my reader to another article of Lada Ray – Forbidden History: Are Scandinavians Slavs?. Many of the prerequisites are discussed there, so I would be repeating much of that article otherwise.

Tolkien based his works on the Norse mythology, right? But that same mythology, with some minor variations was also that of the Slavs, down to the use of the runes – the Rus Runnitsa.

So, Beorn? Let’s start with the animal that Beorn represents – the bear. If there is any animal that stands for Russia in people’s mind, it is bear. Either in a positive or in fear-mongering, the image of the bear will meet you whenever Russia is presented.

Bear is an interesting animal linguistically. The root of the word is “ber”. You will find it in the English (“bear”), Norwegian (“bjørn”), German (“bern”). You will also find it in Russian, if you know where to look. Bear in the Russian folklore is a much-revered animal. As such, its name was not spoken, but replaced by a substitute – “medved”, which literally means “he, who knows where the honey is”. But what about the “ber” root? It survived in Russian in the name of the place, where bear spends the winter – the “bear’s layer” – “berloga” in Russian. There you have “ber” for bear and “log”, which is a Russian root meaning something horizontal, laying flat. English kept this original Slavic meaning in “log” and “lay”. In German, you’ll find it in the seemingly most unlikely place – the name of the capital. Berlin – “ber-log-in”, carrying the meaning of “in the bear’s den”.

And so, Beorn in The Hobbit keeps bees. As they said in the documentary – “he is big on bees and his bees are big”. And now remember the Russian placeholder name for a bear – “he, who knows where honey is”.

The set has a lot of artistic carvings, inspired by the Norse carvings. But those carvings are even more common in the traditional Russian wooden architecture. Just run the following image search to see a few examples, one like this:

In the Beorn house set you can glean a stove, and it looks like the one below, seen in a typical Russian village house. More images of Russian stoves can be found by this image search. Incidentally, a stove, like the one below was what Anna Yaroslavna tried the teach the French to build.

Beorn’s backstory wakes even more thoughts – his race being driven and enslaved by the hordes of the Orcs, encroaching on his lands, or rather mountains, at which point the origins of the Slav people in the Urals and the abandoned grads and walls there come to mind. And then there is the name itself – Middle-Earth or Midgard (incidentally, “gard” is a form of the Russian word “grad” or “gorod”, meaning “fortified city”). Scandinavians live on what amounts to a peninsular, surrounded by seas and oceans, while the name Middle-Earth suggests something more inland…

Then there is his ability to turn into a fierce opponent, when he must defend his land, yet being described as a gentle and kind creature. This fits perfectly to the Russian national psyche – kind, friendly to those being friendly with them, yet unyielding and fierce to those, who try to take their land by force. You will notice how various actors and designers in the documentary refer to the same set as both friendly and threatening. A very keen observation – both Beorn’s place and Russia can be characterised as being what you yourself bring there in your mind and heart and intentions.

And if you do not come in peace, this is what awaits you:

The final quote from the documentary makes one pause. It’s as if John Howe subconciously summed up what would happen to our Earth if Russia with her duality and balancing power is no more…

It’s actually very moving, because you realise: when Beorn is no more, then Middle-Earth will be very, very different.
— John Howe, conceptual designer.