The Grey Fairy Book HTML version

The Bear
Once on a time there was a king who had an only daughter. He was so proud and so fond
of her, that he was in constant terror that something would happen to her if she went
outside the palace, and thus, owing to his great love for her, he forced her to lead the life
of a prisoner, shut up within her own rooms.
The princess did not like this at all, and one day she complained about it very bitterly to
her nurse. Now, the nurse was a witch, though the king did not know it. For some time
she listened and tried to soothe the princess; but when she saw that she would not be
comforted, she said to her: 'Your father loves you very dearly, as you know. Whatever
you were to ask from him he would give you. The one thing he will not grant you is
permission to leave the palace. Now, do as I tell you. Go to your father and ask him to
give you a wooden wheel-barrow, and a bear's skin. When you have got them bring them
to me, and I will touch them with my magic wand. The wheel-barrow will then move of
itself, and will take you at full speed wherever you want to go, and the bear's skin will
make such a covering for you, that no one will recognise you.'
So the princess did as the witch advised her. The king, when he heard her strange request,
was greatly astonished, and asked her what she meant to do with a wheel-barrow and a
bear's skin. And the princess answered, 'You never let me leave the house--at least you
might grant me this request' So the king granted it, and the princess went back to her
nurse, taking the barrow and the bear's skin with her.
As soon as the witch saw them, she touched them with her magic wand, and in a moment
the barrow began to move about in all directions. The princess next put on the bear's skin,
which so completely changed her appearance, that no one could have known that she was
a girl and not a bear. In this strange attire she seated herself on the barrow, and in a few
minutes she found herself far away from the palace, and moving rapidly through a great
forest. Here she stopped the barrow with a sign that the witch had shown her, and hid
herself and it in a thick grove of flowering shrubs.
Now it happened that the prince of that country was hunting with his dogs in the forest.
Suddenly he caught sight of the bear hiding among the shrubs, and calling his dogs,
hounded them on to attack it. But the girl, seeing what peril she was in, cried, 'Call off
your dogs, or they will kill me. What harm have I ever done to you?' At these words,
coming from a bear, the prince was so startled that for a moment he stood stock-still, then
he said quite gently, 'Will you come with me? I will take you to my home.'
'I will come gladly,' replied the bear; and seating herself on the barrow it at once began to
move in the direction of the prince's palace. You may imagine the surprise of the prince's
mother when she saw her son return accompanied by a bear, who at once set about doing
the house-work better than any servant that the queen had ever seen.