Someone- I won’t say who- thinks he saw a bear in the neighbor’s backyard last night. It’s not impossible, but bears in town usually get publicity and as far as I can tell, no one else has seen this one yet. And his friends at work had been talking about hunting and about the bear one of them has seen on his property, which is nowhere near us. Not that someone is suggestible, but. . . I did ask him if the bear asked for honey and he said no. Anyway it did make me look up a tale about a bear for today. “The Hunter and the Polar Bear” is an Inuit folk tale retold in The Eskimo of Alaska by Norman Chance, 1966.

Once there was a poor hunter. He always went out but never got anything. Finally one day he saw a polar bear. As he crawled toward it over the ice, the bear said to him, “Don’t shoot me. If you follow me and do what I say, I will make it so you will always be able to get whatever animals you think about.”

The bear told the man to climb on his back and close his eyes. “Do not open them until I tell you to.” Then, the man and the bear went down into the sea a long way. ‘Do not open your eyes,’ the bear reminded him. Finally, they came back up and the man saw an igloo along the edge of the pack. They went inside and the man saw another bear with a spear in his haunch. The first bear said, “If you can take that spear out of the bear and make him well, you will become a good hunter.” The man broke off the shaft, eased the spear point out of the bear’s haunch, and the wound began to heal. Then the first bear took off his bearskin “parka” and became a man.

After the wound was healed completely, the bear-man put back on his bearskin “parka,” told the poor hunter to climb on his back and close his eyes, and together they went back into the sea. When the bear finally stopped he asked the man to open his eyes. Looking around, the man realized he had been returned to the spot from which he began his journey. He thought he had only been gone a day, but on arriving home he found that he had been away a month. From then on, the man was always a good hunter.

Once again we learn to help those we can, that we can benefit by helping others. Of course, a talking bear is going to get you attention. The polar bear is interesting; he kind of reminds me of a selkie, who can take of her seal skin and be a human on land. I’m a little bothered by the fact that for healing one bear, he doomed how many other animals to be killed by the hunter, but that was the way of life there. The hunter waking up is reminiscent of someone who hasn’t visited a fairy land. Time doesn’t pass the same.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


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