Normally, the biggest crimes committed by bears are stealing picnic baskets, sucking at football, and being large, hairy, male homosexuals. Oh, occasionally one will maul a few buttinskies at a campsite, but these incidents are few and far between. Most bears just like sitting with a jar of honey, like Winnie the Pooh, or a nice marmalade sandwich, like Paddington Bear.
The character Bear in Frank Asch’s Moonbear series of books, while adorable as all freaking hell, proves himself to be perhaps a little more psychotic than the average parent might like. It’s in the tale Bear Shadow that Bear becomes something out of a Quentin Tarantino film. Not since Teddy Ruxpin has a bear been so capable of scaring the crap out of our children.
The story begins innocently enough. Bear is doing some fishing when his shadow scares a fish away. Bear then tries to run away from Shadow, something we’ve all done at one time or another. Some of us run from our shadows in fear. Others box our own shadows and try to bite its ear off. So there’s nothing strange going on just yet.
Bear hides from Shadow. He climbs up a cliff to escape, but Shadow keeps following him. Every child must wonder what Bear has to do to escape the pestering of Shadow.
It’s then that Bear goes off the rails. The next idea he has is to grab a hammer and some nails and nail his shadow to the ground. Now you have to wonder whom the true villain of the story is. One need only think of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the parrot from the Monty Python sketch, to know that being nailed to anything is not a good time.
Luckily for all right thinking people, Shadow is like Jason in Friday the 13th. You can’t get rid of him that easily. When Bear zigs, Shadow zags, avoiding every nail this grizzly little guy throws at him.
Next, Bear goes Edgar Allan Poe on Shadow’s ass and tries to bury him alive. He digs a hole, seemingly unaware that Shadow is watching his every move. The element of surprise is completely lost on Mr. Bear. And when Bear fills the hole back up, Shadow, with the trickery of Bugs Bunny himself, is free from the premature burial Bear had planned for him.
From there Bear tries every other method he can think of. He borrows a gun and shoots Shadow. He tries to drown him, and set him on fire, the latter causing Smokey the Bear to pay our anti-hero an angry visit. But you cannot kill Shadow.
Is this the same Bear who wished the moon a happy birthday in Happy Birthday, Moon? The same kind creature who bought the moon a top hat? Goodness, it can’t be. Why can’t he just tell jokes like Fozzie? Or pitch for a sugary cereal like Sugar Bear?
If you compare Bear Shadow to the book The Berenstain Bears Kill and Eat Sister Bear or the episode of the Care Bears, “Bedtime Bear Goes to Sleep…For Good!” it’s relatively mild. Nonetheless, while Bear Shadow is indeed a wonderful little story, you may want to hide your hammers, nails and shovels after reading it to your child.