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The Woman & the
Bear Medicinewalker, LoreKeeper
Long ago in the far north, there
lived a village of people known as the Inuit. They lived on
the shores of the icy Arctic, and they depended upon the bounty
of the salmon and seal and the creatures of the snow to feed
themselves. All the young men of the village were hunters and
fishermen. One old woman lived alone She had no husband and
no sons to hunt or fish for her, and though her neighbors shared
their food with her, as was their custom, she was lonely. She
longed for a family of her own. She often walked along the shore,
looking far out to sea, praying that the gods might send her
One cold winter day, the woman was
walking by the sea when she spotted a tiny white polar bear
sitting all alone on the thick ice. At once she felt a kinship
toward him, for he looked as lonely as she. His mother was nowhere
in sight. "Someone must have killed her," she said
softly, and she walked onto the ice, picked up the cub and looked
into his eyes. "You will be my son," she said. She
called him Kunik.
The old woman took her cub back to
her home. From that day on, she shared all of her food with
Kunik, and a strong bond grew between the two.
The village children loved Kunik,
too. Now the woman was never lonely, for her son, the bear,
and all the village children kept her company all day. She would
stand by her igloo and smile as Kunikand the children rolled
in the snow and slid on the ice. Kunik was gentle with the children
as if they were his brothers and sisters.
Kunik grew taller and smarter. The
children taught him to fish. By springtime he was fishing on
his own, and every afternoon he came home carrying fresh salmon
for his mother, The old woman was now the happiest of all the
villagers. She had plenty of food and a son she loved with all
her heart. She was so proud of her little bear that whenever
he returned home, she would say proudly to anyone nearby,"
He's the finest fisherman in all the village!"
Before long the men began to whisper
among themselves. They knew the bear was the most skillful fisherman
of the village. They began to feel envious. "What will
we do?" they asked each other."That bear brings home
the fattest seals and the biggest salmon." "He must
be stopped," one of the men said. "He puts us to shame."
They all turned and looked at him. They nodded slowly for although
they were envious , they knew how much the old woman loved the
bear. "We'll have to kill him. He has grown far too big,"
one man said. One by one the others agreed, for their envy made
them stupid and mean. "Yes" the others said. "He
is a danger to our families."
A little boy overheard the men talking.
He ran to the old woman's home to tell her of the terrible plan.
When the old woman heard the news, she threw her arms around
her bear and wept. "No," she said, "they must
not kill my child." At once she set off to visit every
house in the village. She begged each man not to kill her beautiful
bear. "Kill me instead," she wept. "He is my
child. I love him dearly."
"He is fat," some of the
village men said. "He will make a great feast for the whole
village." "He is a danger to our children," the
others said. "We cannot let him live."
The old woman saw that the men was
determined to kill her son. She rushed home and sat down beside
him. "Your life is in danger, Kunik. You must run away.
Run away and do not return, my child." she wept as she
spoke and held him close. "Run away. but do not go so far
that I cannot find you," she whispered. And though her
heart was breaking, she sent Kunik away. He had tears in his
eyes, but he obeyed his mother's wishes. For many days the old
woman and the children grieved their loss. Then one day the
old woman rose at dawn and was determined to find Kunik. She
walked and walked , calling out his name. After many hours,
just as the old woman feared she would never find him, she saw
her bear running toward her. He was fat and strong, and his
coat was shimmering white. They embraced, and the old woman
whispered, "I love you."
But Kunik could see that his mother
was hungry, and so he ran to get her fresh meat and fish. With
tears in her eyes, the old woman cut up the seal and gave her
son the choicest slices of blubber. Promising to return the
next day, she set off for home, carrying her meat, her heart
filled with joy. The next day, as she had promised, she went
to visit her son. And every day after that, the old woman and
her son met, and the bear brought his mother fresh meat and
After a while the villagers grew
to understand the love between the woman and the bear was strong
and true. And from that point on, they told with pride and respect
the tale of the unbroken love between the old woman and her
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