The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm
  • The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm
  • The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm

The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm

by Laura Amy Schlitz, Max Grafe
     
 

A dejected soldier makes a pact with the devil in this haunting, ultimately hopeful fairy tale, masterfully retold and vividly illustrated.

Man or bear? When a person gives up hope, is he still human? Such is the story of a soldier who has lost everything to war: his childhood home, his family and friends, his youth, and his innocence. Enter that sly

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Overview

A dejected soldier makes a pact with the devil in this haunting, ultimately hopeful fairy tale, masterfully retold and vividly illustrated.

Man or bear? When a person gives up hope, is he still human? Such is the story of a soldier who has lost everything to war: his childhood home, his family and friends, his youth, and his innocence. Enter that sly opportunist, the devil, who wraps the soldier in the armor of a dead bear’s skin, fills its pockets with gold, and makes a dangerous and horrible wager. An unforgettable retelling of a classic Grimm tale, THE BEARSKINNER is a story about the struggle between the two sides of our selves, and the heroic strength it takes to claim a victory.

Editorial Reviews

The Wall Street Journal
They say when a man gives up hope, the devil walks at his side. So begins this story: A soldier marched through a dark wood, and he did not walk alone." Laura Amy Schlitz is one of the finest storytellers being published today, and she does not disappoint with this magnificent retelling of an obscure tale from the Brothers Grimm. In the story, a soldier accepts a vile wager with the devil: For seven years, he'll receive a bottomless supply of infernal gold, but in return he must wear a bearskin, never wash, never explain his actions to anyone, and never, ever pray. Should he do any of these things, his soul will be forfeit. Well! The fellow mantles himself in the skin of a freshly killed bear and sets off to enjoy his fortune. Before long, however, the skin begins to stink. "By the third year, he no longer looked like a bear, but like a monster. The rotting bearskin felt as heavy as iron. Children pelted him with stones. Men and women fled from him. It was only when he brought out his money that they let him come near." The Bearskinner, as he is called, eventually sinks into a misery so deep that he is on the point of throwing off the bearskin and forsaking his soul when a chance encounter brings a gleam of hope. He realizes that he can use the devil's coin to feed the poor -- and the poor will pray for him. This enthralling and ultimately redemptive tale for children ages 5-12 is movingly reinforced by Max Grafe's grimy, sepia-toned, almost shaggy illustrations. In the end, I'm happy to say, the Bearskinner manages to thwart Satan, marries the pretty girl (there's always a pretty girl) and goes on to live a blameless life of charity. As well he should.
—Meghan Cox Gurdon
Carolyn Hax
Exquisitely adapted from a Grimm tale by Laura Amy Schlitz, and illustrated by Max Grafe, this puts every value you want your kids to have…into what would be a page-turner if you weren't so inclined to linger over the haunting images.
—The Washington Post
Children's Literature - Carolyn Mott Ford
The soldier was returning home from the war, but he did not have a home to return to nor did he have any gold in his pockets. He was cold and hungry as he made his way through the woods on a dark night. When the clouds parted, a sliver of moonlight shone, and the soldier realized he was being followed by a devil. The illustrations are dark and foreboding as the tale unwinds. At first, the soldier declines to make a pact with the devil, but then a bear appears. The soldier, after shooting the bear, is told that if he will skin the animal and wear the skin for seven years and never wash or cut his hair, he will have a pocket always filled with gold. He must, however, not tell anyone of the agreement. This is a well-told tale meant for older children and an excellent story to read with them and then discuss. Hunger and exhaustion led the soldier to make the pact with the devil but his later actions, and those of a beautiful young woman, lead to a happy and thoughtful ending. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9
A poignant prefatory remark sets the stage for this retelling of one of the Grimms' more pensive tales: "They say that when a man gives up hope, the devil walks at his side." A destitute soldier makes a bargain with the devil that guarantees him riches if he can abide by some strict conditions for seven years-he must wear a smelly bearskin and he may not wash himself, cut his hair or nails, or pray-and he forfeits his soul if he dies before fulfilling his obligation. The soldier becomes a pariah who "loathes" himself and others and dreams of drowning himself. One night more than three years into his ordeal he feels pity for a needy mother and her child. He gives her money and begs her to pray for him; this moment of redemption is visually portrayed in a spread of fluttering butterflies. The soldier rescues a destitute man who has gambled away his money, and in gratitude, the man promises that one of his beautiful daughters will marry him; it is the middle daughter who recognizes that the soldier has "a good heart" and promises to wait for him. The mixed-media illustrations in predominantly murky brown tones showcase the interplay of light and shadow that is very atmospheric, effectively reflecting the content of the story. This somber yet ultimately hopeful story should provide much food for thought for mature readers.
—Kirsten CutlerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
The devil makes a bad bargain in this rich retelling from the collections of the Grimms. A soldier on his way home from war makes a deal: For seven years he will wear a rotting bearskin and go without bathing or cutting his hair; in return, his pockets will always be full of gold. If he can make it through the seven years without telling anyone of the bargain, praying to God or killing himself, he can keep his soul. It's a predictably hard seven years, but he finds unexpected love and grace through good works and prevails in a deeply satisfying ending. Although this tale is not completely unknown, it's certainly less familiar than others of the Grimms-and what a contribution this is. Schlitz's masterful storytelling voice makes the lengthy text a joy to read aloud, while Grafe's dark, mixed-media illustrations emphasize the difficulty of the soldier's task, the nattily dressed devil contrasting with the skin-clad soldier. It's an unabashedly old-fashioned retelling, making few concessions to modern sensibilities; as such, it carries a power rarely found in fairy-tale retellings. (Picture book/fairy tale. 7-10)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763627300
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
10/09/2007
Pages:
40
Sales rank:
411,132
Product dimensions:
9.98(w) x 11.64(h) x 0.39(d)
Lexile:
580L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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