His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials

"When bears act like people, perhaps they can be tricked. When bears act like bears, perhaps they can't. No bear would normally drink spirits. Iorek Byrnison drank to forget the shame of exile, and it was only that which let the Trollesund people trick him."
Serafina Pekkala[src]

The panserbjørn (pl. panserbjørne), also known as the armoured bear or ice bear, was a species of giant anthropomorphic polar bear. Panserbjørne were sentient and capable of speaking human languages. They were exceptionally difficult to deceive.

Physical traits[]

The panserbjørn was similar to the polar bear in appearance. However, the panserbjørn had opposable thumbs and was very dexterous, capable of skilled metalworking. Their paws were covered in horned skin an inch or more thick, each claw was as long as a child's hand, and as sharp as a knife.[1] They had notably small, black eyes.[2]


An example of Panserbjørn armour

Panserbjørne fashioned their own armour from sky-iron. As they matured, they forged the pieces one by one. By the time they were adults, they had a complete suit.[2] Panserbjørne considered their armour to be their soul.[3]


Panserbjørne were generally solitary creatures, but they had a loose society on the island of Svalbard. They were governed by a king who was usually determined by bloodline, but could be elected by combat.

Under the reign of Iofur Raknison, panserbjørn society became more human-like. He built a palace and had plans for a university on the island of Svalbard. Acting like a human made Iofur less able to perceive deception and so he was defeated by Iorek Byrnison who restored panserbjørn culture to its previous, more primitive state.

When the inter-dimensional rift created by Lord Asriel changed the climate of Svalbard, Iorek Byrnison led the panserbjørne to the Himalayas. They soon realised, however, that the ecosystem of the mountains was unable to support them.

Notable panserbjørne[]

Some important known panserbjørne were:


Panserbjørn is Norwegian and Danish for armoured bear. "Bjørn" is cognate with Old English "beorn", which also means bear.

Behind the scenes[]

  • Early UK editions of the novels had Panserbørne instead of Panserbjørne. This was clearly a mistake as "panserbjørn" translated easily into Norwegian and Danish as "armoured bear" while "panzerbørne" is a grammatically incorrect way of saying "armoured children" in Danish.



Panserbjørne Hjalmur HjalmursonIofur RaknisonIofur Raknison's fatherIorek ByrnisonRagnar LokissonSøren Eisarson
Important Panserbjørn armourSky-ironSvalbard
Humanoid AngelsDæmonsDeathsGallivespiansGhostsHumansMermaidsWitchesZombi
Other Cliff-ghastsHarpiesMulefaNight-ghastsPanserbjørneSpectresWill-o’-the-wykes