The Strange Tale Of Brown Bear
: The Green Forest Fairy Book,
Long, long ago, in the very far north, there lived a mammoth Brown Bear.
Never in all the world was seen such a gigantic creature. Brown Bear was
so tall his eyes looked over tops of trees, and his footprints were so
deep that a grown man could stand full height in them. They were great
Now Brown Bear owned a gold mine so rich that the king envied it. Also
Brown Bear loved gold exceedingly, but as h
had no hands he could not
dig for it. Therefore he lay in wait for travelers journeying through
the forest, and seizing them, he would carry them off to be his slaves
and dig his gold. All folk suffered from this cruel custom,--the rich
and poor, the high and low, the young and old. The king of that land
offered rich rewards to the hunter who would slay this monster or to
the trapper who would snare him. But no arrow was made strong enough to
pierce the hide of Brown Bear and no trap could hold him. So he
continued to carry off all captured folk to his gold mine underneath the
mountain side. 'Twas said that Brown Bear had as many slaves as there
were subjects left in the kingdom. 'Twas also said, the walls of Brown
Bear's cave were lined so thick with gold that they outshone the sun.
It happened one evening that a poor peasant returning to his hut missed
his little child. His wife had lately died, and there was no one at home
to tend the little one. He asked the neighbors of the child and learned
that it had last been seen running toward the forest. In deep anxiety,
the peasant hurried to the forest, but though he searched all night and
called, he could not find his little one. When morning came at last and
it was light, he saw the child's bright scarlet cloak beneath a tree and
not far off the mighty footprints of Brown Bear.
"Alas!" the peasant wept, "my little one is carried off by this great
monster. I do not wish to live!" He seized the little scarlet cloak,
and weeping and lamenting pressed it to his heart. Then when he could
weep no more, he rose and began to follow in the path of Brown Bear's
"I'll seek this Brown Bear in his cave," thought he, "and if he make a
slave of me, I shall at least be with my little one, and if he kill me,
I care not."
For many hours then the peasant toiled through brush and bramble, and
when night came, from weariness he stumbled and fell headlong into one
of the mighty footprints of Brown Bear. He broke no bones, but for a
long time he knew nothing. When he awoke at last, he found beside him a
tiny baby bear that wept and shivered with the cold.
"You, little one, are not yet wicked," said the peasant; "and though
your race has done me injury, still if I warm and comfort you, so may
some good soul warm and comfort my own little one whom I have lost."
He wrapped the baby bear all in the scarlet cloak and fed it bread. Then
when it slept he took it in his arms and climbed out of the pit and set
upon his way once more. He had not gone far when he reached a cave all
lined with gold, and this he knew to be the home of Brown Bear. Caring
nothing for his life, the peasant boldly entered. When he was within, he
saw the wife of Brown Bear weeping bitterly.
"Why come you here, O Peasant?" cried the wife of Brown Bear. "Do you
not know that my husband makes slaves of all men? Hasten away before he
returns lest he do you greater harm than even that."
"I care not if Brown Bear make a slave of me," the peasant answered.
"Where is thy husband now, and why do you weep?"
"My husband, Brown Bear, is out seeking in the forest to find our little
one, who wandered off and who, alas, I fear is dead. Therefore I do
weep," she answered sobbingly, "and lest you know it not, O Peasant, let
me tell you this; the loss of children is the greatest grief that ever
"Indeed! I know too well what grief is that!" the peasant cried, and
bursting into tears, he told the tale of his own woes. Now as he told,
the wife of Brown Bear fixed her great eyes on the bundle wrapped in
scarlet that he carried.
"What have you there, O Peasant?" she asked eagerly.
"A tiny baby bear I found when I fell headlong into one of Brown Bear's
footprints," he replied. "The little one did weep from cold and hunger,
and so I fed and warmed him. And as I could not find it in my heart to
let him die, I took him from the pit with me."
"It is my little one! It is my little one!" the wife of Brown Bear
cried. She seized the baby bear and hugged and fondled it with joy. "But
for your kind heart, Peasant, he must have died down in the pit; so wait
you till my husband comes for your reward."
She raised her great voice in a mighty roar, and presently Brown Bear
came crashing through the trees. He seized the baby bear and hugged it
as his wife had done, and when he heard the story thanked the peasant
"Now for this service you have rendered me, I'll give you all my gold, O
Peasant," cried Brown Bear. "For though I do love gold beyond compare, I
love my little one far more."
"And just as dearly do I love my little one whom you did steal, O Brown
Bear," the peasant cried. "And likewise do all parents love their
little ones. Therefore if you will free all those you hold as slaves,
ten thousand homes will be made happy as this home of yours to-night. I
ask this boon, and you may keep your gold which you do love so dearly."
But Brown Bear would not have it so. "You shall have what you ask and
all my gold beside," said he. "For while I mourned because my little one
was lost, my gold brought me no gladness, but instead did mock me with
its brightness." So saying, he flung open wide the door that led beneath
the mountain side and bade his slaves go free. With shouts of joy these
folk ran to their homes, and all the forest rang with their rejoicing.
The peasant found his little one and held him to his heart.
"My little one! My little one!" he cried. "I wish no more reward than
this, O Brown Bear."
"But you shall have more, even so," said Brown Bear, and gave to him the
key of the gold mine. "Now you are richer than the king himself, and
indeed, 'tis right that you should be. For what his thousand hunters
with their poisoned barbs and cruel traps could never do, with your
kind heart you have accomplished, Peasant. Go tell the king and all his
subjects that they need fear me nevermore. Through mine own grief I know
the sorrows I have caused, and from henceforth I'll live in peace with
The peasant thanked him and with his little one departed for his home,
and there a multitude of grateful folk were gathered to greet him. And
from that day the peasant was no longer poor. As owner of the rich gold
mine, he now became a man of wealth. The king respected him and made him
noble because he had done noble service for the kingdom. His title was
In closing this strange tale, I too must say that Brown Bear kept his
word and nevermore molested travelers journeying through the forest.
Indeed, he grew so friendly with the king and court that he fought all
their wars for them and brought them many victories. When Brown Bear
died at last, as creatures all must do, the people wept for him, and all
the kingdom put on mourning.