His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials

"He's a usurper, of sorts; tricked his way onto the throne, or so I understand; but a powerful figure, by no means a fool, in spite of his ludicrous affectations"
P. Trelawney[src]

Iofur Raknison was the king of the panserbjørne and ruler of Svalbard until he was defeated in combat by Iorek Byrnison, the rightful heir to the throne.


In his youth, Iofur argued, fought and killed a bear he met out on the ice, a great taboo among panserbjørne who are meant to accept a surrender in a fight. He later discovered that the other bear was his father, a fact he kept secret.[1]

He later conspired with Marisa Coulter, pledging to keep Lord Asriel imprisoned on Svalbard in exchange for her aid. She gave him a drug which he used on a bear who quarrelled with Iorek Byrnison over a she-bear. The other bear became confused, and failed to show the proper signs of defeat in combat with Iorek, who lost his temper and killed his opponent. Iorek was then banished, leaving the way open for Iofur to become king.

Iofur Raknison

Once in power, Iofur encouraged human practices among bears, such as wearing gold and silver ornaments, and had a palace of stone built for himself instead of the traditional panserbjørne ice fort. These changes were not popular, and even those who emulated their king in order to gain his favour seemed to feel uneasy about it.

Raknison's reign eventually came to an end when Lyra Belacqua, later Lyra Silvertongue, crash-landed in Svalbard and was brought into the king's dungeon. The girl talked her way into an audience with Iofur and, aware of his obsession, convinced him she was Iorek Byrnison's dæmon, claiming Iofur could take her for himself if he defeated Iorek in single combat. Iofur was convinced by her knowledge of his secrets (gleaned via the alethiometer), and allowed Iorek to enter Svalbard. Lyra explained her ruse to Iorek, who realised his opponent was vulnerable to tricks. Thus, despite Iofur's physical advantage and his own exhaustion, Iorek won the duel by feigning weakness and causing Iofur to expose himself. Iofur died in the duel, after having the bottom part of his jaw knocked off and his heart eaten, and his imposed human traditions were gladly abandoned by the panserbjørne when Iorek became king.


Iofur Raknison was large and powerful, even for a panserbjørn, but the thing that truly set him apart was that he thought like a human. Unlike other bears he kept secrets, used deceit and sought power, but more than this he wished to have his own dæmon and be baptized, making himself truly equal to the humans he emulated. This obsession led him to carry a human-shaped doll as a surrogate dæmon. Iofur's human-like behaviour dampened some aspects of his bear nature, most notably his ability to see through trickery. This proved his undoing when he was tricked by both Lyra Silvertongue and Iorek Byrnison.

Behind the scenes[]

  • In the film The Golden Compass, the character was renamed to Ragnar Sturlusson because, according to filmmakers, his name sounded too similar to Iorek Byrnison. His story is a bit different. Though he does have a human doll and desires to have a dæmon of his own, no mention of any alliances with mankind are mentioned. Instead, he simply poisoned the old king and then bested the smaller Iorek Byrnison in ritual combat for the throne. He is told by Lyra that she is Iorek's dæmon, and like the dæmons of witches, can travel far from her master, and like the book can become his dæmon if he defeats Iorek in combat. As per the books, Ragnar and Iorek fight to the death which results in Ragnar getting killed. However, it happens differently in the movie. The observation that he can be tricked due to thinking like a human is never made. In the duel, he injures Iorek's front leg, and, before finishing the duel, takes the time to gloat asking "is that all?". Iorek uses this moment to strike, using his front leg to sever Ragnar's lower jaw. Iorek then steps forward and calmly but firmly bites Ragnar in the throat, crushing his windpipe and snapping his neck. Iorek then says that "Yes, that is all", ending the reign of the treasonous ice bear. He was voiced by Ian McShane.
  • In the TV series, he is voiced by Peter Serafinowicz but presumably puppeteered by Joi Johannsson as both appear in the shows's credits.


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  1. Northern Lights, Chapter 19
Panserbjørne Hjalmur HjalmursonIofur RaknisonIofur Raknison's fatherIorek ByrnisonRagnar LokissonSøren Eisarson
Important Panserbjørn armourSky-ironSvalbard