Tuesday, April 10, 2007

PETA Would Burn This Book

If you've read my previous posts, you know that I like old-fashioned children's stories, not modern versions that have been sweetened up and had all the scary, non-PC parts taken out. "Pierre Bear" is a tale so non-PC that it has been removed from the modern reprints of Richard Scarry books. Luckily my mother-in-law kept the copy she used to read to my husband, because "Pierre Bear" was his favorite story. Over 30 years later, she can still recite the first few pages, starting with, "In a windswept cabin, away up North, lived brave Pierre Bear."

Pierre Bear is a trapper in the north woods, who lives alone. One day he brings his skins into the trading post, and tells the lady bear he meets at the store that he is lonely. The next day she marries him. Pierre is happy because she cooks for him, and when he played his guitar she "giggled and clapped." Then they have a baby bear. Pierre and his little boy go seal hunting together, then Mrs. Pierre sews warm coats out of the seal furs for the whole Bear family. They live happily ever after, clubbing dozens of baby seals every spring...

Okay, I made up that last part. Pierre and little Pierre actually shoot the biggest seal they can find with their adorable matching father/son shotguns. But really, the only way to make this story more offensive to feminists and animal rights activists would be to club some baby seals. Interestingly, this story was written by Patricia Scarry, not Richard, which makes the line about Mrs. Pierre giggling and clapping even funnier to me. I love this story mostly because it is such a story of its own era, that would not be written today.

"Pierre Bear" can be found in "Richard Scarry's Best Story Book Ever" -- the third printing, copyright 1968. The newer versions leave out Pierre Bear, but do include other classic tales such as, "Is this the House of Mistress Mouse" and "A Castle in Denmark" which helps children learn important household rules such as, "Don't let down the drawbridge to strangers."


Anonymous said...

Have you gotten cancer yet? Please get cancer.

Anonymous said...

An alternate view would be that "Pierre Bear" actually reflects much that is culturally and historically accurate for the 50s in the northern lands. True, the "lady bear" is treated a bit like the new pots and pans he bought from the store, but it is also true they build a life together and raise a family in partnership and happiness. As far as the animals go, the illustrations are so charming with the little bear catching the big fish and the papa catching the tiny one, that children today are still intrigued by the story. At the very least, this story provides an entry for discussion of roles and the way we treat animals. In a world where it is hard to find children's stories that support subsistence,it is refreshing to see one that shows full use of the animals when they are killed with discretion. This is not random slaughter, but a targeted harvest of resources for specific use. An Alaskan educator