Sun Bear and Star Bear
This is our story. It was written by Peter Christie’s and appears in his book “Every Leader a Storyteller: Breathing Brightness into Business” (KnowRes Publishing)
Once upon a time, there was a young grizzly bear name Boris who was very much in love with Betty Bear, his one and only true love. Boris and Betty were part of the Better Bear community, which lived in a faraway forest, the coldest forest on earth. But the Better Bears were very unhappy, because other bears in the neighbourhood, the Bitter Bears, started to oppress members of the Better Bear community.
“You Better Bears had better watch out,” shouted the Bitter Bears. “There isn’t enough space in this forest for both of us.”
The Bitter Bears were very evil, and, when things got so bad that the Better Bears had to hide all their mothers and daughters for fear of what might befall them, Boris was forced to make a very difficult decision.
“I’m leaving the forest whilst I’m still young and can fend for myself,” Boris told the other members of the Better Bears.
Betty was naturally distraught and, although Boris’s papa and mama and brothers and sisters were also very unhappy, they all accepted that Boris was making the right decision and could always start a Better Bear family somewhere else in the forest.
“One day we will be reunited again,” promised Boris who, filled with great sadness and with nothing but a small knapsack upon his back, started to adventure into a distant and more peaceful part of the forest. Along the way, he faced a great danger, including being attacked by some Bitter Bears, who stole his knapsack but were unable to otherwise capture and harm him.
Eventually, Boris arrived at a place in the forest that was cool, green and, most importantly, tranquil, with not a Bitter Bear in sight.
“I’m going to work very hard to make this place as comfortable as possible, and then I will have Betty Bear join me,” Boris resolved. For months and months, he toiled at tearing down some trees, stripping the bark and making a beautiful home on top of the sturdiest birch in the forest. Then he asked one of the swallows that shared his new home to fly to his family.
The swallow, appreciative of Boris’s kindly and peaceful nature, did as he was asked. So, after a long absence, it came to pass that Betty eventually joined up with Boris.
Boris and Betty Bear were very happy and soon they had a bear family of their very own, with there being much fun and laughter in the Better Bear family. But, as with happy times all over, the years passed quickly until even the Better Bears grandchildren were born. One of these bear grandchildren, whose name was Sun Bear, was very special.
“Don’t tell anyone,” Betty confided to Boris one day, “but I think Sun Bear is the cutest boy a granny bear could ever wish for.”
“He’s rather like me, isn’t he?” Boris responded, with a bright twinkle in his eye. “Just look at his playful and peaceful nature, and the warm way he interacts with the other bonnie bears.”
Now Sun Bear grew up a little and, one day, his mama and papa took him and the Better Bear family to picnic with some of their distant relatives in a lovely pristine part of the forest.
Sun Bear was busy scoffing some honey behind a great oak tree at the picnic, minding his own business, when he stumbled upon Star Bear, who was playing in a big hole at the base of the oak tree’s trunk, as if it were a doll’s house. Sun Bear’s mouth hang agape as he cast his deep-blue, kindly eyes upon the most beautiful bear he had ever seen in his young life.
“Where did you come from?” asked a startled Star Bear, surprised at Sun Bear’s sudden appearance and secretly hoping that he might share some of his honey with her.
“Never mind about that,” he answered just a little timidly for such a big boy bear, adding, “Would you like to share some of my honey?”
Sun Bear and Star Bear were hardly separated for the length of that picnic, until their mama and papa bears had to gather their families about them and leave for home in opposite directions in the forest, and many years passed until the young bears were to see each other again. But, when they did, although Star Bear had any number of other boy bears at her side, it was just like the first time Sun Bear and Star Bear had met, and they were soon happily in love and planning to spend the rest of their lives together.
Sun Bear liked nothing more than just to hear Star Bear speak, for the words seemed to flow from her like water flowing from the forest spring, and sometimes she wrote words down in love letters and Sun Bear treasured these like little jewels cupped in his big paws. And, when this happened, it was as if magic were possible, for the feelings that were aroused in Sun Bear’s heart were irresistible. Whenever Sun Bear was feeling a little poorly, all he needed was to ask Star Bear for a story, and soon he was feeling well again. This got Sun Bear thinking about another sickness, the sickness of the forest itself, which had suffered a drought and left all its colourful creatures feeling disheartened.
Sun Bear knew how good it would be if other bears could also drink of Star Bear’s medicine and, one day, he invited some others bears for a romp. Then, when the forest frolics were over, Sun Bear lit a fire and asked the gathering to sit down and listen. Sitting in the middle of the clearing, with the flames of the fire flickering about her, Star Bear began to weave her magic and the audience was entranced at the tales she spun, mostly about the antics of the other bears. In these stories, the ordinary bears were given extraordinary powers, which pleased them greatly, so much so that, soon, there wasn’t a bear in the territory that wouldn’t insist on coming to the fireside storytelling.
Even Rock Bear, the toughest and meanest bear in the territory, who didn’t think much of stories and spoke disparagingly about them, saying “They’re only for the lesser, more simple-minded creatures of the forest,” was mesmerized and under the liquid spell of Star Bear’s magic mouth.
One day, Rock Bear exclaimed, after a particularly good story from Star Bear, “this is meat of the tongue like no other,” which amused the other bears who knew of Rock Bear’s great appetite. So, Rock Bear, who was very powerful in the bear community because of his huge size, insisted on every bear from near and far attending Sun Bear and Star Bear’s story telling circles, and soon these became the biggest social events in the bear calendar.
Sun Bear spent all his time preparing for these celebrations, cooking up food fit for royalty, cutting up old logs from the forest on which to seat the older bears, gathering flowers to make the clearing as pretty and fragrant as a meadow in early spring, and collecting honey by the bucket-load so that his guests never went hungry.
Then something happened at one such fireside bear party that created a great disturbance. Star Bear had just finished a beautiful story about the marriage of a polar bear and a grizzly bear when Rock Bear stood up from his haunches in a rage.
“BEAR WITCH!” boomed Rock Bear, an all of the other bears, who had been lulled into a sleepy state by the time Star Bear had ended her story, were rudely awakened, their ears pricking alert and their eyes sharply focused.
“Where on earth does a grizzly bear marry a polar bear?” Rock Bear continued. “That would be the undoing of the natural order of things. Only in hell I say. I’ve a mind to tear her head off now, and whoever tries to stop me will suffer the consequences.”
All of the other bears kept quiet.
“I knew this Star Bear was poison when I started to enjoy her stories, for all witches concoct magic potions,” Rock Bear droned on. “Her tongue is as rancid as a crocodile’s dinner, just dressed up for an occasion, and she must never speak before us again. You, Sun Bear, had better find us another storyteller, or this is the last you will see of me and the other bears at the story circles. Come now fellow bears, follow me out of this cauldron if you know what is right and true.”
“I’ll never do as you ask,” replied Sun Bear sternly. “There is no other bear in this forest who can heal our spirits as Star Bear can. If you must go, then do so now, but as long as the hair grows out of my ears, Star Bear will always be the one who sits closest to the fire.”
It was hard for Sun Bear and Star Bear to witness Rock Bear leave together with his large following, never to return to the fireside gatherings, although their passion remained for the stories and their potency. But Rock Bear’s sheer size and aggressive temperament intimidated all the other bears into submission and, soon, the gatherings became smaller and smaller, the honey spoiled, the glowers wilted and the logs sat empty.
Sun Bear could see that, without her stories to share, Star Bear was sickening and becoming weak as was much of the forest, and so he put his mind to work at a solution. One day, he was in conversation with Abel Chat, one of the birds that lived near the Better Bears, when the solution came to him.
“I think Star Bear should write her stories down and, when we have visitors, they can always read them,” said Sun Bear to Abel Chat.
“That’s a wonderful idea, but I have an even better one,” replied his feathered friend. “Why doesn’t Star Bear write down the stories on the leaves of the forest trees and I will get all the birds to carry them the length and breadth of the forest, dropping one in every nook and cranny.”
“Brilliant!” exclaimed Sun Bear, who rushed off to share this inspiration with his ailing wife.
“I don’t think so, although you are very sweet,” Star Bear responded. “None of the other bears will read them.”
They will, more than you can ever imagine,” implored Sun Bear. “And all the other creatures will as well. Do it this once; please just do it once for me, your good husband.”
Reluctantly, Star Bear agreed, writing a short story on a giant maple leaf, which Abel Bird shortly flew off with between his beak, dropping it near a small gang of beavers who were busily constructing a bridge across the river. Lifting his snout from his work, the biggest beaver was just about to chew up the giant maple leaf, tempted by its sweet fragrance, when he noticed that this was no ordinary snack.
”What have we here?” mused the big beaver, whilst starting to read the story aloud. When he spoke, all of the other beavers lifted their own snouts in unison, settling back on their haunches, then lying down on their backs and closing their eyes. Not a word was spoken until the very last word of the story. Then, there was a very long silence, after which one of the beavers snatched the maple leaf and immediately began copying the words of the story onto a tablet of bark he had thoughtlessly been chewing upon.
“I’d like to take that story home to tell my children,” he said sheepishly, noticing the frowns of his friends.
“Well, let me have it after you then,” said one of the other beavers. “My wife has always enjoyed a good story, and I’d like to share that one with her.”
“Once you’re finished, let me have a quick look,” added another beaver, and there wasn’t one of those beavers that didn’t want to make its own copy before leaving for home.
“I wonder where that story came from?” asked the biggest beaver when all the copying was complete. “It just dropped out of the sky, like a message from the gods above. Well then, I’d like to thank those in heaven, and send a little note in reply.”
The beaver turned over the maple leaf and wrote a little thank-you note on the underside, as well as a suggestion.
“Could you,” asked the beaver, “perhaps send us another story, just a wee bit longer that this one please?” and he tossed the leaf into the air when he had finished writing. Then the beavers made their way home, and all of them had slightly more spring in their step than when they had earlier journeyed to the river.
Abel Chat, who had all the while observed the beavers from a perch above, swooped back down when the maple leaf was tossed into the air, clutched it once more within his beak, and quickly returned to the Better Bears.
“I gave the story to some beavers,” explained Able Chat, “and the loved it. They all copied the story for their families and, look, one of them even wrote a message on the back.”
When Star Bear read the biggest beaver’s message, she was greatly encouraged, and it took neither cajoling nor tempting from Sun Bear to persuade her to write another story, this time on a giant fig leaf. And, as soon as she was finished, Abel Chat swiftly made his way across the forest once again. And then again. And again, and again. Soon, the demands for more stories for more stories from the other forest creatures, every one of them, became overwhelming.
“I can’t keep up,” cried Star Bear.
“Well then,” suggested Sun Bear, who always had the wisest ideas, “why don’t we find some other storytellers? They can join our community, and the river of stories will be overflowing.”
So it was that Star Bear invited other storytellers to the Better Bear storytelling circles, and the story river did indeed overflow. There was never again a drought in that faraway forest. On the contrary, the forest flourished, and even Rock Bear was often seen nestled with his back against a rock, a grandson bear perched upon his knee, fervently studying the back of the forest leaves. If ever he should be disturbed in this furtive behaviour, he would exclaim excitedly, “I’ve been teaching botany to this young bear and feel 10 years younger for the love of it.” Then the other animals would wink at one another, grateful for the many transformations they had witnessed.
As for Sun Bear and Star Bear, they were never happier than when telling their children the story of their ancestors, Bruno and Betty of the Better Bear family.