The Bear and the People

Overview

"Well, there was a man once, and he had a bear . . ." begins this story about a life long friendship between man and beast. The Bearman and the bear understand each other. Together they travel all over the country, "a part of the highway like the knotty old apple trees and whitehorn bushes," as they go from village to village, where they play music and juggle and dance and the children are always happy to see them. At night they sleep in the open, and before they do the Bearman tells a story and plays a beautiful melody on his horn for the bear

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Overview

"Well, there was a man once, and he had a bear . . ." begins this story about a life long friendship between man and beast. The Bearman and the bear understand each other. Together they travel all over the country, "a part of the highway like the knotty old apple trees and whitehorn bushes," as they go from village to village, where they play music and juggle and dance and the children are always happy to see them. At night they sleep in the open, and before they do the Bearman tells a story and plays a beautiful melody on his horn for the bear and for God, a melody so beautiful that all the animals in the forest raise their heads and the leaves themselves stop rustling and listen.

And yet the Bearman and the bear have enemies: the jealous members of the Duda family, who are thieves and tricksters; and even more than that, the dogs. And when the Bearman dies, the bear must retreat into the wilderness for safety—until, after many adventures, he meets a new friend: a boy.

The Bear and the People is a lovely parable of friendship and courage and reverence for the natural world. It is a tale that is as exciting as it is touching and profound, and it will delight children and parents alike.

The bear and his master stay together through every difficulty until they are parted by death.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A beautiful, unusual deceptively simple tale of two friends: a talking, dancing bear, Brown One; and the Bearman…Pen-and-ink illustrations are in harmony with the text and children of almost any age should be caught up in this deeply moving story."
Library Journal, Starred Review

"A folktale, humble and profound, about a love which exists of and for itself, as a gentle counterpart to indifferent nature and endless time. This is a such a lovely book."
— Natalie Babbitt, The New York Times Book Review

"The power of good over evil is interpreted with touching simplicity and good humor."
Booklist

"[A] beautiful and haunting account of a dancing bear traveling through a pre-modern European countryside with a loving companion known only as the Bearman...The sly reference to the rarity of true kindness is an early hint of the surprising and sometimes dark places this powerful parable will take us."

The San Francisco Chronicle

Children's Literature
Part fable, part allegory, part fairy tale, this German import addresses weighty themes with strong religious overtones. In the simple storyline, there is a man (Bearman) and he has a bear (Brown One). The man has only two friends--the bear and Dear God. He owns only an iron frying pan, a horn, and seven balls for juggling. Together, man and bear travel the countryside entertaining the people with the man's juggling and the bear's dancing. There is a rhythm to their journey, as they walk slowly, taking three steps to each breath. When faced with difficulties, including a villainous gypsy and a mob of vicious dogs, the man calls on Dear God to help him and blows his horn, which produces such a pure and beautiful sound that all who hear it are mesmerized. The clear melody of the horn is eternal and rises above the cruelty of man, the changing seasons, and the cycles of life. Eventually the man dies, but the bear, after many trials, finds another master in the person of a young boy who can also play the horn to evoke the same eternal power. The simple, expressive, delicately sketched pen and ink illustrations have a poignant childlike charm. This story of friendship has a uniquely timeless appeal. 2005, New York Review of Books, Ages 8 to 10.
—Quinby Frank
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Reiner Zimnik was born in Poland and began drawing—horses and knights, mostly—at the age of five. At the end of the Second World War, he and his family left for the West, settling in Germany. After apprenticing as a cabinet-maker, Zimnik studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, and has since written and illustrated many books for children, including The Bear on the Motorcycle and The Crane. About himself he says, “I love nature, the simple life, and ordinary people. I like eating and drinking, and have a tendency toward idleness and daydreaming.”

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