Wednesday, June 15, 2011

White Bear King – Valemon

There once was a king. He had two daughters, who were mean and ugly, but the third was as fair and sweet as the bright day. The king and everyone in the kingdom were fond of her. One night this princess dreamed about a golden wreath, which was so lovely that she couldn't live unless she had this for her very own. As she couldn't get it, she began to pine and could not speak for sorrow. And when the king found out it was the wreath she was grieving for, he fashioned a likeness and sent it out to goldsmiths in every land asking them to make one like it.

They worked both day and night, but some of the wreaths she threw away, and others she wouldn't even look at. Then one day, when she was in the forest, she caught sight of a white bear, which had the wreath she had dreamed of between its paws and was playing with it. The princess asked the white bear if she could buy it. The bear then answered, “No! You may not have this wreath for money, but only in return for yourself.” The princess then replied, “Well life isn’t worth living without it, so I care not where I go or who I go with if only I could have the wreath.” So they agreed that he was to fetch her in three days’ time.

When she came home with the wreath, everyone was glad because she was happy again, and the king felt sure that it would be a simple matter to keep a white beat at bay. On the third day, the whole army was posted round the castle with him. Then when the white bear came, there was no one who could hold him, for no weapon had any effect on him. He knocked them down right and left until they were lying in heaps. This, thought the king, was proving downright disastrous; so he sent out his eldest daughter and the white bear took her on his back and rushed off with her.

When they had traveled far, and farther than far, the white bear asked, "Have you ever sat softer, have you ever seen clearer?" "Yes, on my mother's lap I sat softer, in my father's court I saw clearer," she said. "Well, you're not the right one then," said the white bear, and chased her home again. The next Thursday he came again, and did just as he had done before. The army was out with orders to deal with the white bear. But neither iron nor steel bit on him, so he mowed them down like grass until the king had to ask him to stop. And then he sent out his next eldest daughter, and the white bear took her up on his back and rushed off with her.

When they had traveled far, and farther than far, the white bear asked, "Have you ever sat softer, have you ever seen clearer?" "Yes, on my mother's lap I sat softer, in my father's court I saw clearer," she said. "Well, you're not the right one then," said the white bear, and chased her home again. On the third Thursday he came again. This time he fought even harder than before, until the king thought he couldn't let him knock down the whole army, and so he gave him his third daughter. Then he took her on his back and traveled away far, and farther than far, and when they had reached the forest, he asked her, as he had asked the others, if she had ever sat softer and seen clearer. "No never,” she said. "Well, you're the right one," he replied.

So they came to a castle which was so fine that the castle her father lived in was like a small meager cottage in comparison. There she was to stay and live well, and she was to have nothing else to do but see to it that the fire never went out. The bear was away during the day, but at night he was with her, and then he was a man. For three years all went as well as could be. But each year she had a child, which he took and rushed away with as soon as it had come into the world. She became more and more downcast, and asked if she couldn't be allowed to go home and see her parents. Yes, there was no objection to that; but first she must promise that she would listen to what her father said, but not to what her mother wanted her to do. So she went home, and when they were alone with her, and she had told them how she was getting on, her mother wanted to give her a candle to take with her so she could see what the bear was like when he turned into a man at night. But her father said no, she shouldn't do that. "It will only do more harm than good".

But no matter how it was or was not, she took the candle stub with her when she left. The first thing she did, when he had fallen asleep, was to light it and shine it on him. He was so handsome that she thought she could never gaze her fill at him, as she shone the light, a drop of hot tallow dripped onto his forehead, and so he awoke. "What have you done? He said. "Now you have brought misfortune on us both. There was no more than a month left; if you had only held out I would have been freed, for a Troll-hag bewitched me, so that I'm a white bear during the day. But now it's over with us. Now I have to go there and stay with her."

She cried and carried on, but he had to go and go he would. So she asked if she could go with him. That was out of the question, he said, but when he rushed off in his bearskin, she seized hold of the fur and flung herself up onto his back and held on fast. Then they were off over mountain and hill, through groove and thicket, until her clothes were torn off, and she was so dead tired that she let go her hold, and knew no more. When she awoke, she was in a great forest, and so she set out on her way again, but she didn't know where her path led. At last she came to a cottage where there were two womenfolk, an old crone and a pretty little girl.

The king's daughter asked if they had seen anything of White-Bear-King Valemon. "Yes, he rushed by here early today, but he was going so fast that you won't catch up with him again," they said. The little girl scampered about, and clipped and played with a pair of golden scissors, which were such that pieces of silk and strips of velvet flew about her if she but clipped in the air. Wherever the scissors were, clothes were never lacking.

"But this poor woman, who has to journey so far and on such rough roads, she'll have to toil hard," said the little girl. "She has more need of these scissors than I so to cut clothes for herself," she said, and then she asked if she could give her the scissors. It was agreed that she should have the scissors. 

Part 2 Go here


Talli Roland said...

That's a beautiful photo and a wonderful tale. I can't wait for part 2!

N. R. Williams said...

I agree with Talli. It's interesting that people have been inventing stories where humans transform into animals for a long time.
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

Bossy Betty said...

Great tale. Am waiting for part two!

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

I LOVE the idea of the white bear--so magical.

Anonymous said...

Kool story :-)

Michael Di Gesu said...

This is a wonderful story. It has so many interesting facets to it.

I am certainly looking forward to the next segment tomorrow!

Ellie Garratt said...

Lovely tale - I'm looking forward to part two!

Ellie Garratt

Susan Kane said...

What a tale! The test of true love--man, she really had to prove herself in both part I and II. I love reading these!