1. Why the bear has no tail
A Finnish folk tale retold by kidcyber
One cold winter’s day a bear was prowling through the forest when he came upon a fox enjoying a meal of fish that had been stolen from the farmer.
“Hello, brother’’, cried the bear. “Where did you get that fine fish?”
The fox wiped his mouth with his paw. “Where?”, he said, ‘Why I fished for the fish in the lake, of course.”
“Can I get some too?”, the bear asked.
“Surely,” said the fox. “Just go to the lake and hang your tail down through the ice. When the fish bite at your tail, all you need to do is jerk them out quickly from the water.”
The bear did as he was told. He dropped his long shaggy tail through a hole in the ice and sat there waiting. He sat for a very long time until night came, but he caught no fish. By and by, his tail froze fast in the ice.
At last the bear grew tired. He thought he would go home. When he tried to get up his tail was held fast. He pulled and he jerked and he jerked and he pulled, until at last his tail snapped off short.
And that is why the bear has no tail, to this very day.
2. The Bear Warrior
A kidcyber retelling of an American Indian myth
Long, long ago, a brave young warrior desperately wanted to find love. However, he did not want to be loved for his good looks, his family's wealth, or even his skills. He wanted to be loved for his heart. He prayed to the Great Spirit to help him find true love. The Great Spirit turned the brave into a bear.
‘I don't understand,’ cried the brave. ‘What did I do wrong? Am being punished because I prayed for true love?’ The Great Spirit sent a deer to explain to the warrior.
‘You said you didn't want to be loved for your good looks, your family's wealth, or your skills,’ said deer. ‘In this form you will not be.’
‘What maiden will want to marry a bear?’ asked the young man. ‘I can't even go home like this or I will be killed.’
‘You will not be killed.’ said deer. ‘Follow me.’
He took the young warrior far away from his home to a cave near a spring.
‘You will stay here,’ said deer. ‘The Great Spirit will tell your people that each week a young maiden of marrying age must be brought to you here. If she is unworthy, she will be sent home.’
‘I still don't understand,’ said the warrior. ‘What does this have to do with finding love?’
‘The maiden who sees you for yourself and not as a bear will prove herself worthy of your love.’ With that the deer disappeared.
The brave settled down in the cave to wait. As promised, each week, a tribal elder brought a young maiden to him. Each time he walked up to the girl who immediately screamed and tried to move away. The brave would shake his head, which was the sign for the elder to take the maiden away. This continued each week for over a year. But not one maiden saw through the bear exterior into the soul of the warrior.
Just as he was about to give up hope altogether, an amazing thing happened. As always, the tribal elder brought a young girl to the cave, and the bear walked forward as usual the maiden. This time the girl smiled at him and said, ‘Hello,’ as she looked straight into his eyes. ‘Are you the bear's keeper?’
‘What?’ exclaimed the brave. ‘Do you not see a bear before you?’
‘No,’ she replied. ‘I can only see you. Is the bear inside the cave?’
As she said that, the brave's outer appearance changed so that even the tribal elder could see nothing but the handsome young brave. ‘ I have found someone at last who might love me for myself.’
The warrior and the maiden returned to the village. She was impressed that he had wanted to find someone who could see him for who he was and not what he represented. They married and lived happily together.
Today the bear is known as a symbol of hope, faith and love.
3. Masha and the Bear
A kidcyber retelling of a Russian folk tale
There once lived an old man and woman who lived near a big forest. One day, their granddaughter Masha, asked if she could go into the forest with her friends to pick mushrooms. They gave permission for her to go on condition that she keep close to her friends and not lose sight of them in case she got lost. Masha promised, and she and her friends walked into the forest, looking for mushrooms and berries as they went.
Before too long, Masha realised she had wandered off the path and her friends were nowhere to be seen. She called out to them, but they couldn’t hear her. She walked on, getting more and more lost, until eventually she spotted a little hut. She knocked on the door but there was no answer. She gave the door a push and it swung open. She went inside and sat on a seat near the window, wondering who might live in the hut.
As it happened, a great big bear lived in the hut, and had gone out for a walk in the forest. As evening approached, he came home and was very pleased to see Masha. ‘Aha’, he said, ‘ you will stay here in my house and be my servant. You will cook my breakfast, lunch and dinner and keep the house clean.’
Masha was sad, but knew she was lost in the big forest and so she stayed on and kept house for the bear. Every day he went out into the forest, and every day he told her to stay in the house. ‘You must never go out into the forest alone, ’ he said, ‘for if you do I will catch you and eat you up.’ So Masha stayed, and every day she sat and thought and thought about how to escape and get home safely.
One day when the bear got home, Masha said, ‘Bear, please let me go back to my village for just one day. I want to take something good to eat for my grandma and grandpa.’
‘Oh no, ‘ said the bear, ‘you’ll get more and more lost in this forest. Give me what you want to give your grandma and grandpa and I will take it to them.’
Masha agreed. She baked some pies and packed them into a very big basket. She said, ‘I’ve put the pies in the basket and you can take them to my grandma and grandpa. But you must not open the basket on the way, and you must not eat any of the pies. I will climb to the very top of that big oak tree so I can watch and see that you don’t.’
‘Alright, ‘ said the bear. As he got ready to leave, Masha crawled into the basket with the pies, and closed the lid. When the bear returned, there was the basket all ready for him to take. He picked it up and strapped it onto his back, and then set off through the forest.
He walked up a steep hill, and stopped to rest at the top. ‘I’m tired,’ he said, ‘I think I’ll sit on this log and eat a pie while I rest for a bit.’ From inside the basket, Masha called out, ‘I see you! Don’t sit there and don’t eat a pie!’
‘Goodness’, thought the bear, ‘what sharp eyes and ears Masha has! She could see and hear me all the way from that oak tree far away!’ And he got up and continued on his journey. He walked on, getting warmer and more tired as he went. After a long while he saw a rock and said, ‘I’m tired. I think I’ll sit here and eat a pie while I rest for a bit.’
Again Masha called out from inside the basket, ‘I see you! Don’t sit there and don’t eat a pie!’
The bear got to his feet and walked on, very impressed with how good Masha’s eyesight and hearing were. He reached the village and found the house where Masha’s grandparents lived. He knocked on the gate. ‘Open the gate,’ he called out, ‘I have brought something for you from Masha!’ The village dogs scented the bear and rushed out of their yards, barking loudly. The bear quickly put down the basket by the gate and ran back into the forest as fast as he could. The old man and the old woman came to the gate and opened it. They saw the basket. ‘Whatever is in the basket?’ asked the old woman. The old man lifted the lid and could not believe his eyes. There in the basket sat Masha alive and well. When Masha told her story of how she tricked the bear, her grandparents agreed that she was as clever as could be.
4. How the giant panda got its black markings
A Tibetan legend retold by kidcyber
A long time ago, when pandas lived in the mountains of Tibet, they were white as snow. Near one village there were four shepherdesses who watched flocks of sheep on the mountainside.
One day as the shepherdesses were playing with a panda cub, a leopard leapt out of the bush and tried to attack the cub. The young shepherdesses threw themselves in front of the cub to save it and were killed by the leopard. The pandas in the area were saddened by their deaths and gathered to honour them.
It was a local custom for people in mourning to put ashes on their arms, and so the pandas did that to remember the sacrifice the shepherdesses had made to save the life of the cub. As they wept for the shepherdesses, they wiped their eyes with their paws, they covered their ears to block out the sounds of crying and they hugged each other in grief. As they did so, they spread ash and blackened their own and each others’ fur in patches.
The pandas did not wash the black off their fur as a way to remember the girls, and so to this day, pandas have black markings in order to honour and remember the courage of those four shepherdesses.