Thread: Thuringwethil
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Old 04-30-2018, 05:39 AM   #31
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I mean... Beorn isn't that much of an enigma. Here's what Gandalf says about him:

Originally Posted by Gandalf
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.
Okay, Gandalf doesn't know for sure (he's more into elves and hobbits; Men and their ways are Saruman's field), but he thinks it pretty likely that Beorn is a Man who learnt to change his shape (he says a couple of lines on that 'he is under no enchantment but his own'). That means that, regardless of what Beorn is, Gandalf the Grey - Istar, Maia, Ainu - thinks it's possible for a mortal Man, and not even one of the Edain, to learn the trick of transforming himself, and not even with a bear-skin to put on!

We know that Finrod was able to transform himself, Beren, and the Ten well enough to fool Sauron (to a point). We know that, when confronting Sauron, Finrod sang a song "of changing and of shifting shape", which line is quoted directly in the published Silmarillion. We know that Luthien was able to fly wearing Thuringwethil's bat-fell, but that she was also affected by the sun while wearing it. We know that Beren was a convincing enough werewolf to briefly fool Carcharoth while wearing Draugluin's skin. I'm pretty sure that can't have been Beren crawling along under a rug!

All of these last examples come from the Lay of Leithian, but they persist in later texts, and paint a consistent picture: shapeshifting by way of 'sympathetic magic', incorporating part of another creature as a basis for your change, is entirely possible for at least high-ranking Eldar (Luthien is part-Maia, which gives her an advantage, but Finrod is 'just' a Noldo of the Blessed Realm). Innate shapeshifting, whether inborn or learnt, is also possible, and for Men as well as elves - but may be somewhat frowned upon, as the only person we know of who does it is the morally-ambiguous Beorn.

Random thought: could Beorn have learnt his skin-change from Radagast? We know they get on, and Radagast is known to be a 'master of shapes and changes of hue'. Obviously he wouldn't be able to teach a Man the way a Maia might change form... but so far as we know, the Istari couldn't do that any more anyway. Could Radagast have spent his time studying the Enemy's transformation enchantments (that 'no enchantment but his own' implies the possibility that someone could have put it on him), and teaching 'cleaned-up' versions to the locals? (... this is straying a bit far afield, isn't it?)

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