This is a work of Bear fiction, a fairy tale of a magical Woodlands ruled over by a benevolent despot - the Bear. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, described herein, is purely coincidental.
The Woodlands Belong to God
"The Woodlands belong to God. The Man had been given authority to guard it and keep it, to govern it with wisdom, thoughtfulness and charity. He did not have authority to so much as pluck a dandelion except for the good of the Woodlands and its creatures. "
"He told us he owned us," said a three-legged pony, whose story is a long one and must be saved for another time. (And do not imagine the worst about your Bear!)
The Woodland creatures celebrated, each in its own voice. There were chirps and roars, and squeals and growls, and those who could make no sound at all, demonstrated their joy and agreement in ways left to them. Butterflies fluttered around the fire (but not too close), and earthworms spelled out "Long Live Bear!" with their bodies on convenient flat rocks.
"We live in the Woodlands, not on a farm," the Woodland creatures cried with joy. "We love the Bear, and the old ways."
"So what happened to the man?" someone asked after the hullabaloo had died down.
"Well, nothing," the Bear said.
"Nothing?" asked Badger. "That's a stupid end to your story, Bear."
"Perhaps," Bear said, "but it is true. He moved away. He still maintains he owns the Woodlands, writes its laws, and demands every Woodland creature bend the knee to him. We must believe everything he says."
|He's just a man. Why are people|
so afraid of him?
The Bear swept the frightened thing out of the stream and brought it up to his muzzle, where he looked at it down his nose. "You're right. He is just one man, but don't forget. He has armies of fanatical followers to enforce his will and punish those who would hold him to what is written in the scroll.
The Bear smiled at the salmon, showing his ferocious teeth, then tossed him back into the water.
The Free Folk of the Woodlands
"The Woodlands is one of many colonies of free beasts. We are all refugees now, in a way. But here, we do not forbid good beasts to learn to read and write. Most importantly, we do not forbid them from thinking."
"Thinking is scary," said the mole, who had nearly come all the way out of his hole until the mention of the word, "thinking.' "What if someone thought the wrong thing? Animals are not good at thinking."
The Bear growled softly, and a hush fell over the Big Clearing. Even the fire seemed to shrink at the sound. "Have you never seen Beaver's dam, or the tiny nest of the hummingbird, or the nest of the cormorant? Even Badger's, er, simple den is perfect for Badger. Why, our friends the crows are smarter than dogs. We animals are very good at thinking.
"And not only that," the Bear continued, "but we have noses! If men had noses, they would smell these problems. But it wouldn't matter. You see, they're afraid. They're afraid the Man will shake his scroll at them and burn them with fire. Even if that doesn't happen (and it never has, according to research of the Bear) his fanatic supporters will descend upon what they call 'fundamentalists' and much worse.
"Bear warns his beloved Woodland Creatures. Thinking is considered sedition. And, it is true, it is hard to think properly."
"But what about thinking the wrong thing?" the mole repeated.
The Bear shrugged.
"Anyone can think the wrong thing," he said. "The Man with the Scroll's claim to fame is that he cannot think the wrong thing. And yet, his thoughts are clearly not those of the Wise Woodsmen of the past. Perhaps if he tries not to think the wrong thing, he is given help to succeed. Perhaps whatever magic keeps his words true can be resisted by the Man with the Scroll.
The Bear does not know.
"Traps!" the Woodland Creatures cried out in alarm. "Those are horrible! We would rather be shot than left to die in a trap."
"There is no doubt, Bear fears. They are laying traps everywhere, and camouflaging them. Even the best of beasts might be caught. And they are baited with the best of baits, too. Lies that seem like the truth."
"But what about thinking the wrong thing?" the mole asked for the third time.
The Bear fixed the mole with his small eyes, twinkling in the red firelight. "It is possible to think a wrong thing, mole, even for your Bear. The question is, is it impossible for the Man with the Scroll to think the wrong thing?"
There was silence now, broken only by the snap of the campfire.
The Bear Remains Lord of the Woodlands,
But they are Owned by God
"But if he is careful, and takes into account the wise Woodsmen of the Past, and - now that he can read - the Bible, it is less likely. Certainly, Bear's best thinking is better than poorly-hidden traps baited with the stench of lies (humans do not have very good noses, and cannot smell their own lies, as we can).
"It is true, there is a risk in thinking. There always is, no matter who does it. That is why we must learn humility.
When Man has sawed down an ancient tree, we see rings on the stump. Each of those rings - so very many of them - are one year in the life of the Woodlands. We possess, friends of Bear, a few rings, but must always remember our rings are not more important than the older rings, just because they are new, or the Man with the Scroll threatens to burn us with fire. They may be our rings, but the rings of the past were rings of the Elders, who were wiser than we, and holier.
"The Bear would rather risk making a mistake with a good heart, than stick his paw into a trap that smells bad. At least his mistakes would be his own, and offered to God. At least he would not permit the Woodland Creatures to be caught in traps, or beaten by the fanatic followers of the Man with the Scroll. The Bear does not threaten to burn you with fire, or shake mysterious scrolls at you in order to frighten you to do his will.
"The Bear is Lord of these Woodlands by the consent of the Woodland Creatures and the dread charge of the Father to be constantly on the prowl for traps, and sniff the air without tiring for the smell of torches borne by fanatics."
"So, who will be Lord of the Woodlands after Bear," asked Raccoon.
The Bear sat down, and looked grave. "The Bear has always been Lord of the Woodlands, in the sense of its guardian. The Bear tore down the Halls of Man and rebuilt the Woodland Chapels of old. The Bear searched far and wide for good and kind Priests to instruct the Woodland Creatures, although our status is irregular for the time being.
"He will be the Lord of the Woodlands unless he turns back into the dumb brute he was, thinking only of killing ponies. The Bear will stay with you until his fangs grow loose and fall out, and his arms wither, and his claws grow dull, and his nose loses its keenness."
"I'll bring Bear food when he grows that old," said a young fox. "I will chew it up for Bear, and somehow bring honey and tender salmon. Perhaps Raccoon can help." There was a chorus of agreement following the pledge.
The Bear looked at the fox with love, and when he cast his eyes over the Woodland Creatures, they were filled with tears. "Ah, thank you fox. Bear is certain you would make a very good nurse. But all Woodland Creatures come to the day when they are no longer about to survive in their own home. The Bear is no different. Father will provide another guardian. Perhaps days will come when the need for Bears will be done."
"Not very likely," said Badger with a snort.
"But, for now," said the Bear, "the Woodlands are a safe enough place where Woodland Creatures may gather -" he paused for effect "- and say whatever they wish. They may discuss matters theological and share the locations of traps that our Raccoon sappers have not yet dismantled. The Halls of Man may have been torn down, but the fanatical followers of the Man with the Scroll yet hammer the supposed changes onto the doors of our chapels. Every day, we must all begin by looking for traps and use our noses to find the truth, or at least expose the lies."
"But most of all, we must do the simple things all Catholics must do. Pray. Read the Bible. Use the Sacraments. Help others, and follow our Rule, whatever that is for each of us. The Rule of St. Benedict is full of wisdom."
The Woodlands are Free, not a Farm; the Good Beasts
Are Not Owned Like the Cow and Pig
"This is the Woodlands, not a farm. You are free beasts, not slaves. We all serve the Good God with love and obedience, but obedience to the Ancient Faith in our time, in which the Man with the Scroll is but a part. When he gives us a piece that will not fit into the puzzle left to us, no matter how we try, we must choose how to respond."
The Bear began to notice yawns among the younger Woodland Creatures, and the fire was a bed of hot coals (perfect or broiling salmon).
"Let us rise, then free Woodland Creatures, and cast our thoughts toward the starry sky that is so beautiful tonight. We ask protection against fire and bullets. We ask that our offspring increase. We most of all ask that we love one another and our Father in Heaven, and his Son, the Great Shepherd of us all, and the Holy Spirit, who hovers over us and enlightens us and gives each of gifts for the good of all. And we bless him with our praise.
"And let us pray for the Man with the Scroll, as well, and his followers. May be make a good servant to the Father, and become a friend of the Woodlands, and may the setting of traps and stirring of confusion, despair and discord cease."
And and all the Woodland Creatures said "Amen."