Bearded men are rarely just secondary, background characters in literature. For the most part. Generally when you read of one, he has some sort of hierarchy or power. Whether it’s a political standing, magical power, a leader of a group of family or a captain, characters with beards seems to always fill these sorts of roles. Looking a few of the more well-known beards today, we’ll see examples of a couple of those hierarchies.
Gandalf the Grey/White (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings)
According to The Hobbit, the wizard Gandalf’s magical beard hangs down beneath his waist. It’s not often you’ll come across a powerful wizard who is beardless in literature or even films. Though a fair few of the characters (every single one of the dwarves, and then some) in the Hobbit sport some pretty hefty beards, the one made most famous by the book and in turn, the film, certainly has to be Gandalf’s. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf has returned from the dead after a lengthy and basically extremely dangerous battle with a Balrog (basically a demon of fire and darkness), all dressed in white, with a “sweeping silver beard”. So not only has he evolved from a grey wizard to a white one, but he has gone from his long, somewhat unkempt though very long grey beard, to a ravishing silver one to match his new powers. At this point, it’s Gandalf’s quest to battle the evil white wizard (with a beard to rival his own), Saruman. Needless to say, the length of these 2 powerful wizards (Gandalf and Saruman) are a visual indication of their internal magical powers.
Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard of Treasure Island)
His name really says it all. He had a long, menacing black beard. Blackbeard’s story today is quite loosely based on fact, from the real Edward Teach who died in 1718 at Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. Teach was born in Bristol, England, and became a notorious pirate who operated around the West Indies and the east coast of America. Because of his notorious nature and how his stories were passed on through centuries, myth and fiction has a factor in his legacy. There are about 5 real pirates named in the book “Treasure Island”, Blackbeard being one of them. It is said that Blackbeard proclaimed about his treasure “That no-body but himself and the Devil, knew where it was, and the longest liver should take all.” A little unsettling, no? He was feared greatly among his crew and other pirates, often killing a member of his own crew just to remind them who’s boss. Without his dark, black beard, somehow I think he may not have been as menacing.
Charles Ingalls (aka Pa of Little House on the Prairie)
Another character based on truth is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s father, Charles Ingalls. Though perhaps not as deep a character as the previous examples, Charles was a man of power within the family. He was a hunter-trapper, carpenter and farmer, as well a a man who pretty much loved living in low population, woodsy areas. How could he have been beardless with that record? There was a bit of commotion from fans of the books upon the airing of the TV show “Little House on the Prairie”, when Pa was shown beardless and strikingly clean-shaven. His real-life self looked rather like Abraham Lincoln. All in all though, bearded Pa was a family leader with survival and providing for his family on the mind.