Stories-Discuss-An Article About Hunting

While I'm by no means an expert on bears, the "bear" in the story seems to act rather un-bear-like and/or smarter than your average bear. If it is a bear as we know bears, perhaps the bear is a metaphor for humanity? Or maybe it's some kind of bear-man, not unlike the human-like genetically engineered pets of Sonya, Crane Wessleman, and Kittee. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it seems like Wolfe has more going on here than it initially appears. Here is my supporting evidence from the text:

  • It's "not simply ... any bear" (emphasis Wolfe's) but rather "a particular one who has done a great deal of damage." It could be argued that humanity has done a lot of damage to the planet Earth. (Aside: In this case, the "damage"--eating apples, most of which were rotten--is ridiculously minor compared to the 50-100 acres of woods that was destroyed by the oil drilling in the vicinity. That contrast is the central point of the story, I think.)
  • It's said to be interested in eating apples but not the chickens. The presence of apples in the story is probably significant and is suggestive of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge, of course.
  • The writer describes the "face" of the bear as like "the face of a man suffering from a gross deformity to the nose and jaws."
  • "The bear, who must have understood that he was to be hunted as soon as he heard me call to Banks, at once displayed the extreme agility which renders all his kind such formidable antagonists." Of course, the writer is wrong about a lot of things, but the implication is that the bear understood him. Also, I've never heard or read that bears are extremely agile. It seems to me would have difficulty changing direction due to the large mass.
  • Even though the bear is only inches away from the narrator, the bear does not attack but rather runs in the opposite direction. Is it likely that a startled bear's reaction might be to take flight instead of to fight?
  • A minor point, but the bear is always referred to with male pronouns ("he"/"his"/"him"), never "it".
  • Bears "on other occasions" have tried to escape from being hunted by "hitching rides on trains"! That seems to indicate an above-bear level of intelligence.
  • The bear seems to have human-like facial expressions and understanding of his situation: "I raised my camera for a picture, and as I did so I could see from the expression of dispair [sic] that he believed it to be a gun. His look of relief when the camera made only a harmless click was quite comic."

Also, the head dog's name is "Wanderer". That's an unusual name for a dog, no? Perhaps a reference to the Old English poem? Wikipedia says, "The degeneration of 'earthly glory' is presented as inevitable in the poem, contrasting with the theme of salvation through faith in God." Seems like it could be a Wolfe theme. Or maybe it's a reference to the Wandering Jew? The other dogs are named Nip, Tuck, Sweet Sue, and Lancelot. Not sure if there's any clue in the other names, except Lancelot, which of course is intriguing.

-- DarthEd November 04, 2010, at 05:10 PM

  • I agree with you DarthEd, I've always thought it was not quite the average bear, in this sense -- Mo November 04, 2010, at 05:34 PM

We've both danced around it, but could the bear actually be (or at least inspired by) Yogi Bear from the cartoons? He seems to fit what we're told of this most unusual (IMHO) bear (recognizable facial expressions, human-level intelligence and understanding of language, non-aggressiveness toward humans, etc.), and Wolfe has written a story about another well-known cartoon character. -- DarthEd November 04, 2010, at 06:11 PM

  • I'm not convinced we aren't seeing natural bear behaviour through the eyes of a very stupid and unreliable reporter, possibly embellishing to make his article more interesting. The way he describes the bear putting his hind paws right behind his front ones seems like a good description of bear loping. Yogi runs like a human, and he'd also be smart enough to avoid pesticide-sprayed apples. For a really smarter-than-average bear, see Try and Kill It. -- DaveTallman Nov 4, 2010 13:06:31 MDT

Just for the record, I was mostly joking with the suggestion that the bear is Yogi Bear. While I agree that your reading is a good one, I still think the nature of the bear is unresolved. The abundance of human-like aspects suggest to me that it's more than just an unreliable narrator. I'd like to take the "evidence" I've collated above (with suitable editing and making it clear that it could very well be that the reporter is just unreliable and/or embellishing) and either add it to the Analysis section or create a new page and add a link to it under Analysis. Anyone have a preference? -- DarthEd November 10, 2010, at 06:59 PM

Up to you where you want to put it. It may be too short for a page by itself. -- DaveTallman November 10, 2010, at 07:45 PM

  • Yep, I think probably keep separate pages for when a theory is sufficiently extensive that it would break up the main story page and make it difficult to read at a glance. -- Mo November 11, 2010, at 11:34 AM