The Story Finder

Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

Story finder - Curly

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Maiden Betrothed to Bearskin

My old father came home beaming with happiness. He had paid the landlord. How? A man had helped him, and now, he said, we can help the man.

My two sisters and I waited for my father to lead the man into the house, and when we saw him (and smelled him) we recoiled! He was wrapped in the fur of a bear. His fingers had claws, and his face was so covered with hair and dirt that if cress were sown on it, it would have grown and flourished!

My sisters ran away, crying, “It would be better for us to marry a shaven bear than this monster!”

I looked into his eyes, and I saw that he was gentle, and all too human. “Dear father,” I said, “this must be a good man to have helped you out of your trouble. So, if you have promised him one of your daughters, then I will accept him.”

He took a ring from his dirty finger, and he broke it in two. He gave me half and kept the other for himself. Then, taking a very fine instrument, he wrote his name on my half, and my name on his half. Before he left the house, he fixed those gentle eyes on me and he said, “I must continue to wander for three years. If I do not return, you are free, for I will be dead. But pray God will preserve my life.”

I nodded. Tears welled in my eyes. I dressed myself entirely in black because I could not imagine how such a good man could possibly survive three more years of wandering in that hideous form.

Maiden Betrothed to Bearskin in Bearskin, Grimms