I was raised on two bear stories – neither of which was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The first was “The Story of Horace.” It was a delightful book about a bear who lived with Ma, Pa, Grandma, Grandpa, a number of other family members, and Little Lulu. Each day Pa went out hunting and each time he returned, Horace had eaten someone. And each time, so the story goes, “Pa was very angry about this and he said, ‘I’m going to kill that Horace!’ but they all took on so that he didn’t have the heart to do it.” Warning – plot spoiler. Eventually Horace eats Pa and we read, “The next day Horace went out hunting…”
I’m sure the author, 수원스웨디시 Alice Coates, intended it to be a morality story – with the message being, “If you are lenient, you will suffer.” But that’s not the message I got at all. What I learned as a child is that if I asked to have the book “The Story of Horace” every week from the library, my older brother, Jim, would have to get it for me. Ha! Ha! Not only that, if my grandfather, with whom we lived, was sitting in his captain’s swivel chair and I asked him to read it to me, he would – every time. He might change the words around a little, just to tease me, but I would correct him.
I tried to find this book for my own children. Who wouldn’t want to hear the story of a bear that systematically kills an entire family? But alas, I could not lay my hands on it at the local library. I can’t imagine why. Just recently I went on the web to find a copy – it’s selling for $85.00 American. Obviously, I’m not the only one with a hankering for Horace. Not one to be easily defeated, I have been able to find it reprinted in “A Treasury of Stories for Four Year Olds” by Edward Blishen. “The Story of Horace” is not mentioned on the front or back cover. In fact, it’s the last story in the book. Quelle surprise!
What about the second bear story? My brother didn’t have to go to the library for this one. Nope, it was right in the King James Version of the Bible – in the Old Testament. My mom shared this one with me – just as her mom had. The prophet Elisha was going to town and some children came out of the city and made fun of him, saying “Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.” Elisha was not feeling particularly forbearing and called upon God. And here’s the startling conclusion: “And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.” Some versions of the Bible imply that the bears actually ate the children.
Did I get the message in this story? You betcha. Even today I cannot hear someone make fun of another without checking my peripheral vision for two very irritable carnivores. Did I share this story with my children? Oh yeah. To this day if I hear any of my offspring make fun of someone or something – I say, “Remember the she-bears!”
But apparently not every child gets the moral. One Sunday School teacher, on telling this story to her class, asked them what they had learned from this. One of her pupils answered, “I guess it just goes to show you how many children a she-bear can hold!”