Brunie, the Bear
by Ellen Velvin
Brunie was feeling very lonely and sad, and sat, with her brown body
all huddled up, sucking the soles of her feet in a subdued,
For the summer was over; October had come with its autumnal chills and
cloudy days, and Brunie's husband had already betaken himself to his
winter quarters to commence his long sleep, utterly regardless, and
supremely indifferent, as to what became of his wife.
He had fattened himself well before retiring by eating large
quantities of honey, nice ripe cranberries, blueberries, raspberries,
strawberries, cloudberries, and all sorts of other berries which grow
so plentifully in the Scandinavian forests; not to speak of some
beautiful, ripe corn, which he had eaten in a luxurious manner—
seating himself on his wide haunches, and collecting with his
outstretched arms great sheaves at a time, the ears of which he picked
off and consumed at his leisure.
Then he had laid in a good stock of ants and ants' eggs, together with
the remains of pine leaves, and other substances which he had
scratched out of the ants' nests.
Old Bruin knew perfectly well that this matter, composed of pine
leaves and other substances, was absolutely essential to him for the
winter, for this is what makes the "tappen." And as the bear sleeps
the whole of the winter without food, nature has provided this
wonderful contrivance by which he can go on sleeping and remain as fat
As his stomach receives no food, it naturally becomes empty, and, when
empty, subsides into a very small space. Then the "tappen" comes
forward, blocks up a passage in the stomach, so that no food can pass
through the system, and stays there until the bear wakes up in the
spring. Then, as soon as he begins to take food, everything goes on as
Brunie knew perfectly well, as she sat there sucking her feet—for she
changed the thick, hard skin which covered the soles of her feet every
winter, and the sucking helped the new growth—that it was quite time
she also looked out for and prepared her winter home.
And so when she had sucked them a little while longer, she hunted
round for some nice convenient cave or hollow, and chose one which was
hidden so cunningly that no one but a bear would have guessed at its
Some bears make a big hillock of moss, and crawl into the middle of
it, but Brunie preferred a cave; it was warmer, more private, and not
so likely to be discovered, for she was looking forward to an
important domestic event, and wished for privacy.
Having selected her winter home, she collected as many branches of the
pine tree as she could find, and with some dry leaves, grass and twigs
nearly filled up the cave, only leaving just enough room for herself
to crawl in.
She, also, had been feeding well, and had become tremendously fat, for
some of her feasts had been enormous.
But it was the end of October before she had completed her house and
prepared to settle herself for her winter nap. The last thing she did
before she went in was to have a big feed of honey, and a lot of
bother and trouble she had to take to obtain it. For the little bees
resented the big, brown animal coming and deliberately, eating up the
whole of their winter stock which had taken them one long, long summer
But Brunie cared nothing about their anger, and their tiny stings
could not penetrate her long, thick coat, and a good feed of honey was
always worth a little trouble.
So, after patting the hives with her big paws in order to make the
bees fly away, she lifted up the beautifully made honeycombs and
devoured them ravenously.
Having eaten as much as she possibly could, she then betook herself,
feeling very subdued and lonely, and very, very sleepy, to her nice,
comfortable cave, and in a short time was fast asleep.
She remembered nothing more and never knew—and indeed was far too
sleepy to care—that one of those horrible hunters had passed by the
very mouth of her cave without knowing she was there.
But he had found Mr. Bruin, however, a little further on. He also was
so dreadfully sleepy that he could not rouse himself, and the hunter
could hardly get him even to turn over so that he could get a good
shot at him.
But he was able to manage the deed very comfortably, as Bruin showed
no signs of waking up; and having killed him, dragged him out with the
help of some other hunters, stripped off his nice warm coat, and then
had a good meal of bear steak, of which hunters are very fond.
But Brunie never even heard the shots which killed her husband,
although they were so close by, and the vibrations made the very
leaves and twigs on which she was lying quiver again.
She slept heavily on and on, in her snug home, but about the beginning
of February woke up, gave one big yawn, and then bustled about.
For she was a very important bear that day.
The next day she was a more important bear still, for she was a mother
bear, and had four pretty little children—very small, only about six
or eight inches in length, but finely made little animals, and all
healthy and strong.
Very, very pleased and proud Brunie was of them, and very tender and
She had forgotten all about Bruin, her husband, now, her only thought
being for her little ones.
She kept them carefully in the nice warm cave until the cold weather
had passed, and the little bears knew that all they had to do if they
felt chilly was to creep up to their mother, and nestle in among her
nice warm fur.
And, oh, how proud Brunie felt when she had them all nestling up to
her like that! And, oh, how happy she was! Surely no bear ever had
such beautiful cubs as hers! And so well had she chosen her home that
no one—not even a hunter—ever found the mother bear and her little
Her naturally affectionate nature glowed with love, and not once did
she leave her children until the spring had fairly set in, and she
began to think it was time to set about finding a little food for
It was, however, very scarce. There were no nice berries or corn, and
very little honey left. But she found some winter vegetables and
several kinds of roots, nuts, snails, small limbs of aspen trees, and
plenty of acorns; so that she was able to make a good meal, and then
lumber heavily back to her cave.
It was April now, and the other mother-bears began to make their
appearance with their various families, and the male bears, too, began
to wake up and come out.
Once having got over their long winter sleep, bears begin to be
sociable again, and take an interest in their fellow-creatures.
The mother-bears were particularly busy, for they had to teach and
educate their little ones, and there is no quainter sight on the earth
than a heavy, lumbering, brown mother-bear followed by her funny
little woolly cubs.
Brunie commenced to take her children now for daily walks, showed them
the most likely places to find dainty bits of food, taught them to
climb and dig, and, as they grew older, to swim; and, by way of
amusement when resting occasionally, told them about their many
relations who existed in all parts of the world.
She told them about their various cousins: the Black Bear, the Syrian
bear, the Grizzly bear of America the Thibetan sun bear, the Polar
bear of the Arctic regions, the Aswail hear of India, the Bruany bear
(also of India), the Sloth bear, the White bear, and the Brown bears
who lived in Asia.
The bear family was so varied, and so enormously large, Brunie
explained to them, that she did not even know one-quarter of her own
brown bears who lived in Northern Europe.
She told them, too—for she was a very intelligent mother-bear—that
in whatever country bears lived they were peculiarly adapted to it.
The Polar bear, for instance, had nice thick fur all over the bottoms
of his feet; this protected him from the intense cold of the ice, and
also prevented him from slipping. Then the bears who lived in hot
countries did not have such thick coats as those who lived where it
"But," said Brunie, in conclusion, "all bears are very much alike, and
have much the same habits; all can climb, dig and swim, and all are
very, very fond of honey."
And the little bears listened to it all, and thought what a nice
little mother-bear Brunie was, and what an extremely important family
they belonged to.
But, as the months went on, Brunie began to get very thin and very
touchy and irritable, and by the time June came she was so cross and
savage that even her little ones were sometimes afraid of her.
Curiously enough, all the other bears were just as cross and savage as
Brunie; perhaps it was that they were all so dreadfully thin. But,
whatever the reason, they snarled and growled, quarreled and fought
until sometimes the little bears wondered what on earth was the
The male bears seemed to be particularly savage, and even the hunters
—those men who never seemed to be afraid of anything: not even a bear
—were very careful to keep at a safe distance, and never attempted to
molest them in any way.
All through that month of June the amiable affectionate nature of the
bears seemed to have departed, and left in its place a vindictive,
irritable and savage one—savage to their companions and to everything
but the little cubs, and these the mother-bears never forsook. They
took the same care of them as formerly, and fed and cared for them in
spite of their irritable, bad-tempered mood. And woe betide anything,
whether man or beast, who attempted to touch their little ones.
Brunie herself had a terrible time one day, when a band of hunters,
seeing a mother-bear and her cubs alone, tried to capture them.
Furious with rage, Brunie rose up, and in her stiff, ungainly way went
to meet them. Each of the hunters held a hatchet in his hands ready to
strike at her, but Brunie cared not for hatchets, or anything else,
where her little ones were concerned, and, going straight up to one of
the hunters, she reared up on her hind feet, and with a terrific blow
with one of her fore paws, which she aimed direct at the hunter's
head, she killed him on the spot.
Not hesitating a moment, she did the same with two other hunters,
always aiming her blows at the head. And here she proved the truth of
an old Scandinavian proverb, which says that, "a bear has the strength
of ten men and the sense of twelve." Brunie knew perfectly well that
the quickest way to kill a man was to aim all the blows at his head,
and this she did with fearful effect.
But when she was finishing the fourth, another hunter ran up and
struck her a fearful blow with his hatchet, which cut deeply into her
hind leg, severing some of the tendons, and causing the blood to gush
forth and dye the spot a deep, dark red.
At the same moment that he dealt Brunie the blow, the hunter, with a
deft movement, captured one of her cubs, and while Brunie's attention
was taken up with the two remaining hunters her little one was carried
[Illustration: "FURIOUS WITH RAGE, BRUNIE ROSE UP AND WENT TO MEET
But the pain of her wound and the loss of her cub made Brunie so
wildly fierce and savage that the two hunters, remembering the fate of
their comrades, came to the conclusion that "discretion was the better
part of valor," and with much difficulty managed to get away.
Poor Brunie was, by this time, weak from loss of blood, and sat down,
doing her best to lick her wound and comfort her remaining cubs. The
little ones in their turn did their best for her, helping her to lick
the sore place, and every now and then sucking it with their little
This adventure upset poor Brunie for several days, and the loss of
blood made her more weak, irritable and savage than ever.
But she had not forgotten the hunter that struck her with his hatchet,
or the loss of her little one, and so, one warm moonlight night, when
she was feeling better, and her three remaining cubs were in a sound
sleep, she betook herself quietly through the forest, and at last came
near the very place where that particular hunter lived.
There was but one field that separated her from the hunter's house,
and that was occupied by big, horned cattle, and these cattle, not
liking the look of Brunie in the moonlight, and not having sense
enough to keep quiet and not molest her, commenced at once to bellow
and charge at her as soon as she entered the field.
Brunie had never, like some bears, gone in for cattle killing, but had
always kept to a vegetable diet; and she was not at all anxious—
particularly at this moment—to have anything to do with cattle. So,
with a few growls and a hoarse kind of a grumbling sound, she took no
notice of them, but swung herself heavily along towards the farmyard.
The cattle, unfortunately, had not sense enough to let well enough
alone and allow her to go quietly on her way, but kept on bellowing,
prancing about and charging until Brunie lost her temper.
What! She could not even cross a field without these stupid cattle
bothering and worrying her to death, when her little one was a few
yards off, and already calling for her! It was too much. So, with a
growl of rage, which was more like a hoarse bellow, Brunie made for
them, and very soon killed two or three. So excited did she become at
last, that for the moment she even forgot her beloved little one, and
set herself to work all the destruction she possibly could, out of
But the bellowing and lowing of the cattle, and the growling and
grumbling of the bear, had awakened the hunter, and, while Brunie was
killing off his cattle, he called up his farm hands, and was already
on the spot with guns, and quite close to her before she had any idea
Hiding themselves under the shade of some bushes, the hunter and his
men waited until a fine young heifer galloped madly by them followed
by Brunie, and then fired. No less than five of the shots took effect,
and poor Brunie's life-blood began to gush out.
But, recalled to herself and her mission by her danger, she bethought
herself of her little one, and, never stopping to even look at her
enemies, made straight for the farmyard, where her beloved one was
calling her, leaving a trail of blood as she went.
Had her cub not been there, she would have faced the hunter and his
men, and probably have dispatched them in a few minutes; as it was,
having forgotten the cattle, her mother-love returned, and she
determined to get her cub if she died for it.
But, curiously enough, the little bear seemed to be fully aware of his
mother's presence, and, as she came closer, his excitement grew
intense, and, calling forth all his strength, by one desperate push he
broke open the door of his shed and trotted forth to meet his dying
Poor Brunie sank down just as he came up to her, and licked and
caressed him in a most touching fashion, while the little cub,
overwhelmed with joy—and yet uneasy and worried at his mother's
condition—gave alternate little sounds of pleasure and fright and
Brunie's joy was complete at having her cub restored to her, but her
head was swimming and her eyes growing dim, and she groped in vain
through the gathering darkness to catch a glimpse of her little one.
She was lying at full length, with one huge paw stretched out towards
the cub in a peculiarly pathetic manner, and panting her life out when
the hunter and his men came up.
A few more pants, a struggle, and, with a deep gasp, Brunie lay quite,
quite still, while the little cub jumped about, restless and ill at
ease, and giving little, beseeching cries of distress.
First making sure, as he thought, that the bear was dead, the hunter
attempted, with the help of his men, to once more capture the cub. But
Brunie had—as all bears have—extreme tenacity of life, and she
seemed to have compressed all her energy into her last moment of
existence; for she was not yet dead, as the hunter supposed, and, just
as he laid hands on the cub, with a great effort she raised herself
up, struck him a terrible blow on his head, which killed him
instantly, and then sank back and died.
And this was the end of Brunie. Had she lived she would probably, as
all mother-bears do, have taken great care of her children all the
summer, but in the winter she would have left them, for she would
probably have had another family, which would have taken up all her
time and attention.
As it was, the little cubs had to do the best they could, and soon
learned to shift for themselves.
The little captured one—after he had got over the death of his
mother—grew quite tame, and was taught many tricks. He was always
well treated and well fed, and he grew extremely fond of his master;
and there he may be seen to this day, walking and running about that
Scandinavian farm, scaring the other animals, thinking a great deal of
himself, but always looking just what he is—a brown bear.