The Bear Meets the Shepherd
One day the Bear was patrolling the edges of the woodlands, far to the south, when he spied a great many sheep approaching. Knowing that there was nowhere to pasture or water such a large flock nearby, he approached the shepherd. The shepherd was accompanied by a number of wolves.
"Good afternoon, shepherd," said the Bear.
"Peace be to you, Bear," replied the shepherd, leaning on his staff.
When the Bear observed that he had never seen a shepherd with wolves before, the shepherd announced that they were not wolves, but highly trained mercy dogs all the way from Germany. "I am certain I would lose even more sheep but for them."
The Bear looked at the wolves suspiciously. "The Bear is afraid that there is nothing for sheep in the woodlands ahead. No pasture. No water. No shepherd has ever approached from this direction. But the Bear would be happy to help you find someplace more suitable."
The Bear and the Shepherd Argue
"Oh, Bear, I'm afraid you don't understand. I am the shepherd of these sheep. They are mine. I am their shepherd and do not need advice from a Bear!"
"Be that as it may," the Bear said, feeling a little irritated by the shepherd's tone, "it is a simple fact you are leading your sheep into the woods, where they will find little to eat, nothing to drink, and many animals that enjoy the flavor of sheep."
"Are you a shepherd?" the shepherd snapped.
"No. Well, the woodland creatures may, some of them, look to the Bear as a sort of protector and guide. But in the strict sense of the word, no, the Bear is not a shepherd."
"So you admit you are completely ignorant about sheep and their needs, and have no authority whatsoever over me or my sheep!"
"The Bear admits no such thing," he growled. "The Bear knows sheep well enough, and it is you that know nothing about the woodlands where you would lead poor, trusting ruminants."
The shepherd barked a laugh, then barked another. He sounded quite like a dog. "You ignorant beast! I am a shepherd. I know everything! For example, I know that just beyond the skirt of yonder woods of which you are so protective, there is a huge meadow that stays green all year round, and watered by crystal falls of lemonade. How dare you suggest a shepherd does not know how to lead his sheep? Anathema! Anathema!"
The Bear walked up to the shepherd, and raised himself on his hind legs so that he towered over the old man, who began beating him ineffectually in the ribs with his staff, crying "Anathema! Anathema!"
The shepherd stopped and leaned on his staff exhausted. "I suppose you're going to martyr me now," the shepherd said with a smile. "Go ahead, beast. Grind my bones to flour with those great teeth of yours. My name shall live forever! Behold, I lay down my life for my sheep!"
The Bear Addresses the Sheep
Argument the First. The Bear sighed and walked past him toward the sheep, and stopped. "Sheep. The Bear is lord of these woodlands. Your shepherd is bad, perhaps mad. The Bear can never tell with humans. But there is no pasture, no lemonade. Life is hard here. Animal helps animal. We believe as our ancestors did. But real is real and we do not much go in for make believe All you will find here are trees that will leave you scattered and lost, and woodland creatures who will justifiably sate their appetites on animals so foolish as to follow your so-called shepherd."
"Baaaa," said the sheep. "He's our shepher-er-er-erd," they bleated.
Argument the Second. The Bear rolled his eyes and sighed. "Listen to me, sheep! The Bear cannot protect you if you follow this man. He has no idea what he is talking about. You won't last two days in those woodlands. Survival in these parts takes cunning and courage, and a strong sense of reality. And you are sheep. Go back to wherever you were before the bad shepherd brought you to this pretty pass." Behind him he could hear the old shepherd cackle.
"They won't listen to you, beast!" cried the shepherd shrilly. "You know nothing. You have no authority."
"Baaa," said the sheep in agreement with the shepherd.
Argument the Third, and the Final One. The Bear decided to give the sheep a third chance (which is three more than a Bear usually gives) because his heart was moved to pity for them. He roared, and sheep backed away from him.
"Now you listen to the Bear and listen good, sheep," he snarled. "Surely there are at least a few of you who will wait with the Bear until a better shepherd comes along. No, the Bear is not a shepherd, but he knows the lay of the land, and cannot lie."
"Now, it is true that there are lush, old pastures," the Bear continued, "and ancient running streams. But they are far away and your shepherd does not know the way. It will not be easy. It means breaking from the flock, who will bleat at you. And you shall miss your shepherd, whose regular beatings you have become accustomed to. You would have to learn the ancient woodland lore."
The Bear looked at the sheep, and the sheep looked back with the same, identical, uncurious expressions. Nonetheless, the Bear concluded. "Brother beasts! Listen! Before you stands Great and Baptized Bear the Deathless, Lord the of the Woodlands, King of the Mountain Without a Peak, and Speaker to Men. He is ready to lead you to real grass that tastes like you remember, and pure streams untainted by the poison of bad shepherds. Today, the Bear sets before you life and death. Will you choose to come with the Bear and live?"
The Bear had to admit in all modesty that it was one of his better speeches.
"No-o-o-o," replied the sheep.
The shepherd began chirping and clapping his hands together while hopping from foot to foot. The Bear returned to his side.
"Alright," said the Bear to the shepherd. "Let's go. Take your sheep into the wood, where you will die with them. But these sheep belong to someone. They are not yours to lead to destruction. One day you will be held to account."
The old shepherd stuck his tongue out at the Bear and led the flock into the woodlands.
Not all died. Some learned the woodland lore, and became creatures under the protection of the Bear. Others escaped and found protection here and there beyond the woodlands. But most of them uttered one last "baaa" and died, dreaming of their shepherd, and lush pastures with crystal falls of lemonade. The last time the Bear saw the shepherd, he was sitting among the branches of a sycamore tree giving a speech to a half-dozen squirrels. The Bear chased them off with a stern warning.
Much later, a great lord with a retinue splashed across the River of Reality at The Shallows. News of his arrival was quickly carried to the Bear's ears by woodland creatures, and he went out to meet the lord, bending the knee. The lord enquired about his sheep. The Bear recounted his meeting with the shepherd. The lord was not pleased. The Bear gathered the pitifully few sheep that were under his protection and presented them to the lord, who grimly thanked him.
They had begun to ride off, herding the remnant of the flock, when the lord turned his horse around and looked at the Bear. "What did you do with the shepherd?" the lord asked.
"Nothing," the Bear answered. "He seemed pitiful enough. The Bear helped whom he could help."
The lord charged toward the Bear, furious, then checked his mount. "Those were the King's sheep, Bear. Is there no law in your woodlands?"
"With all due respect, my lord, the Bear keeps the law. But your servant has no jurisdiction over humans. It is the First Law, as all beasts here know. Recite the First Law," the Bear roared.
Many of the woodland creatures had crept into hiding where they could observe the grand scene without being noticed. But they all stepped into view and said with one voice: "And God blessed Man, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth."
The lord nodded. "You are lucky you are not a human, Bear."
"The Good God made a Bear, my lord, and he is content."
"Expect a few of my men in your woodlands. You will hardly notice them. They will find this hireling and bring him to justice at my hand."
"My lord's writ runs here, as all good beasts know."
"Remember, you are only a Bear," the lord said sternly, then smiled. "Make the most of it." He turned his horse and led his party splashing across the river with the surviving sheep.