Cage Match 2012: Round 1: Iorek Byrnison versus Susannah Dean


The Contestants


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Iorek Byrnison
King of Svalbard
Age: Unknown
Race: Panserbjorne (armored polar bear)
Weapons / Artifacts: Teeth and claws
He’s armored polar bear—use your imagination

Susannah Dean
Age: 30
Race: Human
Weapons / Artifacts: Gun
Multiple personalities distract you…then she shoots you

The Breakdown


  • Larger, faster, and vastly more intelligent than an ordinary polar bear
  • completely clad in impenetrable “sky-iron armor”
  • has almost supernatural blacksmithing skills

  • A gunslinger: has perfect marksmanship, deadly accuracy, and near-superhuman drawing speed
  • Schizophrenic, but can call on the skills and temperaments of her other personalities, Detta Walker and Odetta Holmes
  • Has the extraordinary will and courage to face down the powers of darkness, including demons

  • A little too fond of alcohol (has yet to discover the joy and camaraderie of Coke)

  • Wheelchair-bound

  • N/A

  • N/A

How we think the fight will go

Before the battle, those who loved the two contestants and did not wish them to die consulted their augurs.

Roland Deschain was awake all the night peering into the Wizard’s Glass; but when he tried to tell Susannah Dean of his visions, she simply raised her hand and said,
“We must leave it to ka.” And then she went back to polishing her guns, and saying to herself, over and over again, the gunslinger’s oath: “I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.

And Lyra Belacqua asked questions of the alethiometer all night, but Iorek refused to even look at the device, which he had never much liked or trusted anyway. When Lyra tearfully insisted, he said gruffly “It is not honorable.” And he went back to his workshop, where he had been “improving” his armor for the past several weeks.

Neither Lyra nor Roland looked especially hopeful the morning of the battle. But as Roland wheeled Susannah into the arena, he was able to say one word to her: “Shardik.” And Lyra, just as she gave Iorek one last hug, whispering in his great furry ear, “There are other worlds than these.”

If Iorek or Susannah shared their fears, however, it would have required the prescience of the gods to see it. Susannah’s face was a blank mask of determination, even though she saw at once that the plan she had relied on—“aim for the heart”—would not work. The bear had re-forged his armor, leaving not a single open gap—save for the two holes from which his black, pitiless eyes gazed murderously.

And Iorek, who had never been the slightest bit intimidated by any human, had to concede that this tiny, wheelchair-bound woman, nevertheless had the formidable air of a true panserbjorne about her.

When Iorek leapt at the gunslinger, it was with no thought but of the sound of Lyra’s voice, and those last words: “There are other worlds than these.” His mind was usually so clear when he was fighting; Iorek loved how the blinding blood and thunderous roar of battle cleared his mind. But this time he had the peculiar sensation of perfect silence and perfect calm, as if he were not in battle at all—or even in Unbound Worlds Stadium—but in a blank and beautiful void.

The bear charged, far more quickly than a creature of his formidable size, and weighted down with colossal armored plates, should have—and still Susannah was able to draw before he left the ground. No sooner had she pulled her gun than she found herself in that distinctive mental space Eddie Dean used to call “gunslinger time”: The bear seemed to be coming towards her in slow motion; the crowd in the stadium seemed to have fallen silent; she suspected that even the multiverse, wheeling endlessly around the Dark Tower, had come to a stop.

“Shardik,” she said to herself as she aimed, looking for just the right spot. She would have to choose well; once the bear was upon her, she was finished. At first, all she could remember of the bear was the rhyme from Eddie’s dream-vision—“See the BEAR of fearsome size/All the WORLD’s within his eyes/TIME grows thin, the past’s a riddle/The TOWER awaits you in the middle.”

Once she had repeated the words to herself, what she saw before her was not an armored polar bear, but another bear, seemingly as tall as the Tower, with a gleam of madness in his eyes—and a tiny metal plate upon his head. Shardik. She remembered—not with her hands, not with her eyes, but with her heart—the shot to the dead center of that metal plate that brought the colossal beast low. And it was with her heart that she shot the bear twice…once in each eye.

But darkness never fell for Iorek. He never even felt any pain as the bullets found his eyes. It was only in one world that Susannah wheeled over to his motionless body, that blood drained from his sightless eyes. In another—just beyond the blank void he saw as he leapt, the void whose shape Lyra had discerned in the alethiometer—he opened his eyes to see Susannah’s broken body, her blood staining the ground of the arena, and Lyra running towards him to say to him again, “There are other worlds than these.”

Predicted Winner: Susannah Dean


Check out the previous match!

Check out the next match!

Check out the Bracket

Iorek Brynison is a character from the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman; Susannah Dean is a character from the Dark Tower series by Stephen King

Iorek image courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers. Susannah image courtesy of Signet

Cage Match fans: We are looking forward to hearing your responses! If possible, please abstain from including potential spoilers about the books in your comments (and if you need spoilers to make your case, start your comments with: “SPOILER ALERT!”


  • D.I. Waisanen

    If Iorek was going to reforge his armor, he should have left out the eye-holes entirely: Fighting blind when you have a bear’s keen sense of smell and are going up against an opponent with mobility as limited as Susannah isn’t that much of a disadvantage.

    With every the smallest opening, Susannah wins. Give a gunslinger an opening any larger than the bullets they use, and they’ll shoot it. Once in each eye? More like three times in each eye, and then Susannah has to reload.

  • Here’s the thing you’re forgetting about Iorek – he cannot be bluffed. As long as he is true to his own nature, lies, feints, and bluffs do not work on him. So he’d know exactly where she was aiming, and let his lightning fast reflexes and impenetrable armor do the rest.

    Also, in the real world, when people shoot charging bears or tigers, the animal is moving at around 50 mph, so if the marksman shoots with anything smaller than a tank gun, the bullets don’t stop the charge, and the impact of the oncoming animal will take out the person shooting at them (unless the person has something big between her and the animal, obviously). The animal might die thereafter, depending on where it was shot, but that’s no victory for the very dead human with the gun.

  • Matt

    susannah hands down…. shoot before the charge, and even an armored bear would be slowed by a full body plate…

  • Gemini

    But Iorek’s armor is an extension of himself. It’s like his very soul. I agree with Nina that he would have recognized where Susannah was aiming and not given her that opening.

  • Meggs

    Wow, ths is tough. It seems to come down to whether or not Suzannah would hit Iorek. It’s basically a miss = dead situation from what I can see. I’m not familiar with the Gunslinger but a pistol shot doesn’t really count as a bluff unless she’s trying to fake him out, which is doesn’t seem so, and it *is* possible to shoot a charging animal before it gets to you, though you’d better get it right the first time.

    I gave Suzannah the benefit of the doubt that she’d be able to put a bullet through one eye before Iorek got there. Close though. I like the multiple ending thing the writer has here.

  • MrIzzy

    Sussanah without a doubt. Gunslingers are not like normal shooters; they do not miss. And she wouln’t “bluff” him. She’d just draw and fire so fast he wouldn’t have time to react. This same argument played out a few years back with Roland vs. everyone else. Basically, unless you came into the fight bulletproof with no openings, you’d be dead.

  • Boron

    Sorry Nina, that doesn´t sound right to me.

    First of, knowing where she´s gonna shoot has absolutly nothing to do wit bluffing or lying, so this argument doesn´t work out. But perhaps he could have anticipated it, it´s not so hard to guess.
    Your estimated speed is a little to high too, it´s more like 40 mph (i looked it up) but that doesn´t make a big difference. you´re right, most likely he wouldn´t have stopped in front of Susanah, but after two bullets through the eyes, thus directly into the brain, he´d surly be dead by the time he´d hit her, so he´d hurt her quite a bit, but it´s very unlikely he´d kill her.

    But anyway, i think this match is a very tough one. Both actually could win, considering that Susanah isn´t a fully educated gunslinger, she´s actually still in a very early stage of her training, if i remember right. However it goes, it will be a very short fight, she either shots him very quickly or he tears her apart wit his first stroke.

  • Matt

    Boron at the end of the book she was fully fledged and gunslingers have prenatural speed not redualr peson speed, repeatedly shown throughout the books

  • Boron

    Non doubt about the speed. I just thought she, eddy and jake weren´t full grown guslingers yet, as they startet training very late and didn´t have much time to practice on their way. But its been quite a while since i read the books and i could be wrong about that. If she was at the end of her training it would have been exactly like in the write up.

  • Meggs

    Well, I voted for Suzannah but I’m secretly happy Iorek because I like him. :).

    Iorek versus Napoleon on a dragon ought to be interesting (if I’m reading the brackets right). Being a king and all, would he get access to his catapult team?

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