Ten of Spades: The Story of the Three Bears


Once upon a time there were three bears; a mummy bear, a daddy bear and a baby bear. After they had finished their porridge one evening, it was time for Baby Bear to go to bed. So Mummy Bear tucked Baby Bear in and gave him a kiss goodnight, and then Daddy Bear started to tell him a story.

Once upon a time, there were three humans: a mummy human and the two human cubs she’d had the previous winter. One day, while they were out looking for some fruit for the winter, a young bear found their den and went inside. He could smell delicious trash and blackberries, and soon found three piles of it on the floor. He tasted the first one, but it was too trashy. He tasted the second one, but it was too sweet. Then he tasted the third one, and it was just right, so he ate it all up. He looked around and found some fruit, but it was too fermented and didn’t taste good. Then he found a pile of leaves. He was so sleepy after eating so much that he lay down in the pile of leaves and went to sleep.

When the human family came home, they could smell that something was different.

“Somebody’s been eating my garbage!” huffed Mummy Human.

“Somebody’s been eating my garbage too!” moaned Girl Human

“Somebody’s been eating my garbage, and they’ve eaten it all up!” barked Boy Human.

The three humans sniffed around the den, trying to find the culprit.

“The garbage smells like bear!” huffed Mummy Human.

“The fruit smells like bear!” moaned Girl Human.

“The leaves smell like bear, and there’s a bear here!” barked Boy Human.

The excited barking of the human cub woke up the bear, who jumped up and ran away as quickly as he could. And the humans never saw the bear again.

Baby Bear went to sleep, happily clutching his teddy human.

A few weeks later, when the family came home from their walk and Baby Bear found a human girl in his bed, Baby Bear decided to let it sleep there for the rest of the winter and maybe have babies. He didn’t tell his parents, and went to find some fermented fruit to put next to the bed. When he came back, he tripped and fell, and the human woke up, screamed, jumped out the window and ran away. Baby Bear cried and cried and cried. His parents heard his crying, and scolded him for trying to keep the human a secret. They explained that real humans weren’t like the ones in the story, and they had guns that could kill baby bears like him, so he should never try to be friends with one.

Baby Bear cried and cried and cried and cried.

This card reminded me of a magnificent tree down the road from where my sister used to live, which you can see above. It’s on the side of the road near some downward-sloping driveways, and it is surrounded by the letterboxes of the houses at the ends of the driveways. From a certain angle, it looks as if the letterboxes belong to the tree. I always imagined families of anthropomorphic squirrels and other fairy tale creatures living in the tree. So this week, I thought about writing about anthropomorphic squirrels, and then I wondered about the stories they would tell their children — surely about ‘sciuriomorphised’ humans, sciuriomorpha being the suborder containing squirrels. I figured such a story would be fun to write, and looked about for a well-known story about anthropomorphised squirrels I could model it on.

In the end, I settled for bears, and the well-known tale of Golidilocks, which has an interesting history, as it turns out. Why bears that are themselves anthropomorphised would ‘ursomorphise’ the humans in their fairy tales, I’m not sure, but I had to anthropomorphise the bears to have them telling a bedtime story at all, and I thought this might enhance the contrast. The bear in the inner story, though, is more like a real bear (it smells the food rather than seeing it, though for some reason he doesn’t like the fermented fruit) so that both species act similarly.

I found out a bit about bear habitat and behaviour, and essentially tried to tell the Goldilocks story as a bear might imagine it about humans, if they assumed humans did things the way they did. I hope I replaced every obvious instance of anthropomorphism in the original story with the appropriate ursomorphism. The three piles of garbage are a bit of a stretch; bears will eat whatever comes their way, and would be most likely to assume humans eat garbage, since that’s the food humans most often stash near their dwellings, but I don’t know where the bears would get the idea it would be left in three piles. I couldn’t think of an equivalent of the chairs either, nor of separate beds.

Probably the most interesting thing I found out, or perhaps was reminded of, is that bears give birth while hibernating (or as close as bears come to hibernating) during the winter, and then go back to sleep while the cubs drink their milk for three months. Motherhood comes easy to some.

The unhappy ending might be influenced by the Very Grimm Fairy Tales I’ve been reading lately. Or it might just be sound advice. Don’t try to make friends with bears, no matter how much you love your teddy bear. They don’t usually attack unprovoked, but I don’t think they’d enjoy a tight hug as much as you might think. Be bear wise.

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