Wren and Bear
One summer day Bear and Wolf were walking in the forest and heard a bird singing sweetly.
‘Brother Wolf,’ said Bear, ‘what kind of bird is that which sings so delightfully?’
‘Why, ‘tis the king of the birds, before whom all must do reverence,’ said Wolf.
‘If that be so,’ said Bear, ‘then I should like to see his royal palace, come you must lead me to it.’
So Wolf led Bear to Wren’s nest which contained six young birds.
‘This miserable place is no Royal Palace,’ said Bear on seeing the nest, ‘and you are not king’s children but wretched young vagabonds.’
‘No, no, that we are not,’ said the young wrens and set up such a cacophony of noise that Bear and Wolf ran from the nest holding their paws over their ears.
When Wren returned to the nest with food for the chicks they complained bitterly to him about the insult they had been subjected to by Bear and refused to eat anything until their slight had been re-addressed.
Wren flew straight to Bear’s cave and called to him from the entrance, ‘Old Grumbler why have you insulted my children?’
‘No insult to call a nest which is not a royal palace a filthy nest and its occupants vagabonds,’ called back Bear.
‘That, Old Grumbler shall cost you dear for we will decide this matter by pitch battle,’ said Wren and flew off.
War having been declared against Bear all the four-footed beasts were summoned: Ox, Ass, Goat, Stag, and every animal on the face of the earth.
Wren, on the other hand, summoned every flying thing: not only the birds, great and small, but also Gnat, Hornet, Bee and Fly.
On the eve of the battle Wren sent out spies to see who had been appointed commander in chief of the enemy. Gnat was the most cunning of all the winged folk and he therefore, buzzed away into the forest to where the enemy was camped.
There stood Bear and called Fox to him, ‘you are the craftiest of the animals, so you must be general and lead us on.’
‘That’s good,’ said Fox but, ‘What sign shall we appoint?’
None of the animals answered.
Then Fox said, ‘I have a fine, long bushy tail, which looks like a red feather at a distance; if I hold this tail straight up, all is going well and you must march after me; but if I suffer it to hang down, you must run away as fast as you can.’
As soon as Gnat heard all this she flew home and told Wren everything to a hair.
The day of the battle arrived and Bear with all the four-footed beasts came running along to the field, shaking the very earth with their roaring and bellowing.
Wren also came with his army, whirring and buzzing and humming a sound which was enough to terrify anyone out of their senses.
Then Wren sent Hornet forward to settle on Fox’s tail and sting it three times.
Fox felt the first sting and drew up his hind leg in pain but still managed to carry his tail high in the air as before.
With the second sting though Fox’s tail drooped a little and with the third he could no longer bear the pain and was forced to drop his tail between his legs.
When the other beasts saw this they thought all was lost and began to run, each one to his own hole, den, burrow or cave and so the winged creatures won the battle without any difficulty at all and Old Grumbler Bear was forced to humbly beg pardon from Wren’s children for the insult he had offered them.
Weekend of 22-24 April, 2016.
Great Hucklow, Derbyshire Dales. England.
and a special appearance by Mister Fox.