The Bear Facts

Illustration: Liz Argall

Illustration: Liz Argall

Fiction by Jane Sibley

It was a scene of pure slaughter. Bamse had strolled into a smallish clearing, to see hordes of yellow and black bodies zinging through the air, frantic to chase down the criminal who had plundered and destroyed their home. Bamse was on good terms with these bees; he had on several occasions led his father away from their hive, and the bees appreciated that fact. Now someone or something had come and wrecked their home. Six bees danced to Bamse what they knew; and Bamse, who had spent hours watching them and learning their “talk,” nodded gravely. Apparently it had been a night attack, when the bees were all asleep. By the time they awoke and flew to attack their enemy, it was too late. Most of their honey had been ripped from the old hollow tree, which showed deep gashes where the attacker had dug into the rotting wood. It would be up to Bamse to discover the facts of the case and bring the criminal to justice.

Bamse had always wanted to be a detective. He loved to figure things out, and he had spent much of his short life rambling around in the deep woods, learning the ways of those who lived there. He nodded again, and slowly padded up to the remains of the hive to sniff at the deep slashes in the wood and to peer at any footprints at the base of the tree. The bees continued their circling, but did not disturb him as he studied the evidence. They knew that he wished them well, and that he would do his best to find out who or what had done this deed.

Yes, there were scuffed large footprints near the base of the tree, and Bamse gently sniffed at them, memorizing their shapes and odor. He had a very keen nose, which picked up the minute traces of the scent of a deer. But deer don’t go around attacking beehives. A hint of wood smoke was also there, and deer avoided fire. Plus, the footprints were much larger than those made by a deer. Bamse now had his first real case.

The gashes in the old tree were clean cuts, not like those of animal claws. Sniffing at them, he detected the cold smell of iron. A man-made tool had done this, not anyone who lived in the forest. Bamse figured that if he followed his nose, he could track down the perpetrator, especially since droplets of honey were scattered on the ground next to the footprints. He nodded once again and set off, carefully examining the ground as he went, and trying to not make any noise. A number of the bees followed him, ready to report back to the queen what Bamse discovered, so that her warriors could then deal with the hive’s bane.

The trail was long, and eventually led to another clearing, in which stood a log house with a turf roof. Smoke wafted up from the central chimney, but nobody was in sight. Bamse cautiously approached the woodpile next to the house, and sniffed at the axe laying on a large stump next to it. Yes, that was what was used; it smelled of honey and dead bees. Some of Bamse’s escorts dashed back to the hive, where they would get reinforcements, while several others located two nearby nests of white-faced hornets. Bamse picked up two largish pebbles, and waited for the bees to return. But before they did, a tall bearded man, clad in a tunic and baggy trousers tucked into deerskin boots, came out of the house and headed toward the woodpile. Bamse carefully aimed and threw, each pebble smacking into a hornet nest. He then curled up, pretending to be a rock. The hornets, furious at having been disturbed, homed in on the man.

Revenge was sweet. By the time the bees returned, the hornets had inflicted major punishment on the criminal, who had dashed into his house, followed by at least seventy of their number. Bamse heard a lot of screaming and crashing about, and he grinned. Score one for the bear cub and zero for the Viking.

Jane T. Sibley, Ph.D., is the author of Norse Mythology…According to Uncle Einar, The Hammer of the Smith, The Divine Thunderbolt: Missile of the Gods, and A Different Dragon. Her fifth book, The Way of the Wise: Traditional Norwegian Folk and Magic Medicine, is at the publisher, and should appear later this year. This will be her second story published in NAW; the first was “Treet som Bli” (The Tree Who Became).

This article originally appeared in the July 24, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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