The Bear Tells a Remarkable Tale
|The Woodlands belonged|
to a man?
The Great Bear, in particular, seemed to unusually bright. The Bear looked up to it and drew strength, thinking that God knew the names of every light, not just in the Great Bear but all of them. He was moved to awe by his God.
"The Woodlands were not always the Bear's," he began at the right moment, when anticipation was at is peak, and before boredom began to soften its edge. All the Woodland Creatures were there: Badger and Red Squirrel; Owl and Nightingale; Sheep and Wolf, and many others besides.
"They belonged to a Man," he said.
The gathered creatures breathed a collective gasp.
"You took the Woodlands from Man?" piped up mole, then popped down into his tunnel.
"Get back up here ya little earth rat," said Badger. "It's only a story."
The Man with the Magic Flame-Shooting Scroll of Bona Fides
"That's right," said the Bear. "It's only a story. And it happened a long time ago. This Man did whatever he pleased. He made fun of the Woodland Creatures he did not like, he refused to obey ancient customs, and even changed the sacred laws. It is more accurate to say, the Man claimed the Woodlands belonged to him."
"Why didn't anyone stop him?" asked the egret, who was out past her bedtime.
"He said the Woodlands belonged to him," the Bear said with a shrug. "He said he had bona fides. That is no small thing for a beast to challenge! Even a Bear."
|Bear skeptical of bona fides.|
"Bona fides? What are those," asked a young chipmunk."
"From the Latin, 'good faith,'" said Owl from his high perch. "In general it means tokens of authority. Reasons to hold a person in respect."
"That's right," said the Bear. "He had a long scroll, with an impressive red wax seal. Whenever the Woodland Creatures objected to something, he would shake his scroll at them and threaten to make flames shoot out of it and burn them with fire!"
"Ooooh," the younger creatures said in chorus.
"Indeed, there were fires aplenty in the woodlands, but they were the work of an arsonist, not his Magic Scroll." the Bear continued, "The Woodland Creatures could not read the writings, and were not permitted to study the scroll in any case. He became an object of worship by many Woodland Creatures. And the powers allegedly contained in his scroll were always growing."
"Did the scroll get bigger?" asked a Hen.
"No," said the Bear. "The funny thing is, the scroll never got bigger and yet all the while the Man who said he owned the Woodlands added more and more powers to himself. The more he exalted himself over them, the more his faction in the Woodlands held him in awe."
"So did you eat the Man?" asked a young wolf.
"Of course he didn't eat the Man," said Badger. "Er, you didn't eat the Man, did you, Bear?"
|And the Bear left the Woodlands on a long journey.|
The Bear Leaves the Woodlands
"No, Bear did not eat the Man. The Bear left the Woodlands and went far away. Perhaps the Man with the Scroll was right. He was a Man, after all. Perhaps there was no place in the Woodlands for a Bear. For many years, the Woodland Creatures waited for the Bear's return, but the supporters of the Man with the Scroll boasted that the Bear had gone forever. That he had probably died in the bear pits!
"And eventually, the Woodland Creatures forgot about the Bear."
"We did?" bleated a goat mournfully. "That was rotten of us."
|The ancient oaks were|
chopped down, and guns
were brought into the
"The Man with the Scroll lived safe in a tall fort, made of many tough old oaks he had his followers hew down. Many of your ancestors sat beneath those oaks and gathered acorns. The ax is just cold fire that works slow. He surrounded himself with many guards with guns. The Man, of course, condemned guns and all who made them or used them, but made an exception for himself.
"He ordered all the Woodland Creatures to assemble in front of his new 'Halls of Man' he built all over the Woodlands, and the day's changes in the ancient laws would be read aloud, But the Woodland Creatures were not permitted to ask questions.
"Every day, they were more confused and discouraged than the day before. The Man with the Scroll looked upon their downcast faces and said, 'Cheer up, my friends. See how happy I am? Unhappiness is a sin. Especially unhappiness about me. Unless you are joyful, I will burn you with fire from my scroll.'"
"What ever happened to the man?"
The Bear Came Back
"The Bear came back." answered the Bear in a matter-of-fact tone, as if were no big thing for a Bear to come back.
"Oh, so that's when you ate the man," said the young wolf.
"No, it is wrong to eat men," scolded the Bear. "But sometimes it is good to roar and to growl and to speak the truth no matter what. The Bear returned with something far mightier than even his powerful jaws, or his crushing arms, or his ripping claws."
"A cannon?" asked one of the Woodland Creatures.
"A regiment of Winged Hussars?" asked another.
"A squadron of fighter bombers?" asked a turtle sitting on a log in the pond.
The Bear smiled, and shook his head. He brought the honey bowl up and lapped the sweet and sticky golden gift of bees with his long tongue, keeping his muzzle neat.
"No," he said at last. "The Bear brought the one thing Man had always kept from animals."
"Clothes?" the spider asked in a thin voice, but was quickly shushed.
|Bear can read - and think!|
"Literacy? You mean like sandwich wrappers and plastic soda bottles tourists leave behind?" asked the wren in a scolding voice. She was clearly angered by the very idea. Everyone groaned, because they knew it would be a while before she calmed herself down.
"No," said the Bear, when the wren had wound down. "It means knowing how to read. The Bear recruited the ferret, who is very stealthy, to steal the Man's scroll. Well, it would be more correct to say he 'borrowed' it for the Bear. Since the Bear always intended to give it back to the Man."
"Didn't he miss it?" asked the Owl skeptically.
"No," said the Bear. "Ne never read it himself. It was just his bona fides, and something to shake at the Woodland Creatures to frighten them."
"So did Bear read it?" chirped titmouse.
"Indeed, he did," said the Bear with a satisfied look on his face. "He spent many a day and many a night working his way through the Latin. Months passed, and the Bear took his time, for it was important work. Owl helped, and others. Do you know what we learned?"
"No," the Woodland Creatures said in one voice.
"The scroll never said the Woodlands belonged to him,"
There was another collective gasp. "The Woodlands don't belong to the Man with the Scroll?" many voices asked at once. The Bear had to hold up a paw to restore order.
"No," he said, then there was another, shorter pause as he got onto his hind legs.
Part II - Coming Soon