Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bears: A Brief History by Bernd Brunner

"...according to the Tlingit, 'people must always speak carefully of them, since bears (no matter how far away) have the power to hear human speech. Even though a person murmurs a few careless words, the bear will take revenge.'"

This book was awesome. Not because it was particularly well written (it wasn't; it read more like an 11th grader's term paper) or because it was educational (it wasn't; I'm pretty sure a good 70% of the tidbits in this book were refuted observations by centuries dead scientists or various indigenous tribes). No, it was awesome because it was about BEARS. And bears are the best.

The book has several recurring themes, most notably that lots of ancient people thought bears were related to people (either through magic or evolutionarily) and that people don't really understand bears, I guess. Like I said, the author gave so much clearly erroneous information and sprinkled in so few actual facts about bears that after awhile I pretty much assumed everything was made up. Brunner even concludes one story with, "Like most stories that sound too good to be true, however, this account is pure invention."

But in the end I still loved this book, because it also had passages like this:

Waxing truly euphoric, he (some dumb 19th century "science author") even rhapsodized that a bear, out of principle, will touch nothing that is dead and likewise harms no innocent beings. 'He is known to have approached young girls hunting for strawberries and stolen the fruit right from their baskets, and then went on his way - we can almost dare to say - laughing,' he wrote. 'At the very least, he was surely laughing in his heart.'

Now that is awesome. I fault Brunner for not believing that, in fact, the bear was laughing in his heart, because as you and I know, he surely was. Although, to be perfectly honest, that particular bear (unlike most bears) sounded kinda like a dick (I mean, who steals strawberries from innocent little girls) and someone should have called him out for it. However, Brunner also included a picture of a bear and a little girl picking strawberries, so I let this one slide.

There were other fun stories, too, like the Roman who would stage fights between a thousand bears at once (can you imagine all those bears!?) and the guy who trained his bear to sit down and position itself so that the guy could sit on its knee like an easy chair. (For those of you who haven't gotten me a Christmas present yet, you can add "bear that will let Billy sit on it like an easy chair" to the list.)

I definitely recommend this book to everyone who likes awesome things. More because it's short, has pictures and is about BEARS than for any actual merit, but whatever, BEARS are awesome.

You might want to think twice before you disagree with me. I'd hate for you to murmur something that would make the BEARS take revenge.


Jim said...

Wow there are few things I'd like to see more than one thousand bears in a battle royale.

Christopher said...

One thousand bears and three tyrannosaurus rexes.

Nihil Novum said...

This wins the 2009 Best Cover award in a walk.