A fishy story

That’s me, destroying childhood memories one sarcastic remark at a time.

For example, the Adventures of Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik. I don’t believe Little Bear’s little fantasy for even one second. In the first book, there’s no mention of Father Bear at all. Then in the first story of the second book, we get this:

“Hello, Owl,” said Little Bear. “Father Bear is not home. He is fishing on the ocean.”

Sounds plausible, right? Well, in the next story, we get the following exchange:

“Father Bear is coming home today.”

“Is he?” said Hen. “Where was he?”

“Fishing,” said Little Bear, “out on the ocean. Far out on the ocean.”

Hmm, we wonder. And then we look at the rest of the facts, and it just doesn’t add up. So the next time my Patient Husband reads the story to the kids, he reads Hen’s line, “Where was he?” and I reply, “In the slammer.”

Think about it: He’s been gone for what, months? Father Bear is shown wearing a three-piece suit, not jeans, not a pea-jacket. Fishermen should come home with, I dunno, maybe fish? Except he doesn’t. They don’t even seemto eat fish. Moreover: he never goes fishing again. He just hangs around, reading the newspaper and dispensing wisdom to Little Bear.

And when he comes home, he gives Little Bear and his friends, as presents, sea shells. Because when you’re deep-sea fishing, you find sea shells…? Or when your trawler is docked…?

Something’s fishy here, and it’s not Father Bear’s boat.

So I assert Father Bear was away from home doing time for white-collar crime, and no one wanted to break Little Bear’s heart by telling him the horrid truth. One night, Little Bear must have overheard someone saying his pop was up the river, and he assumed that meant his father was fishing.

Pay attention the next time you read it to your kids. I bet you’ll agree.


  1. Lena


  2. capt_cardor

    I agree that Father Bear was behind bars, but not the way you think. I think Mama Bear was embarrassed to tell Little Bear that Father Bear raided a hiker’s camp and was nabbed by animal control officers. They probably took him to the Bronx Zoo where he remained behind bars until one day PETA raided the place and set all the animals free.

    Mama was probably so annoyed with Father Bear that she won’t let him stray from the house for fear he will go after the hikers again. So he just sits around dispensing wisdom and the bear truth.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    1. philangelus

      Yeah, but that three-piece suit… I’d have expected Papa Berenstein to go postal on the hikers, not Father Bear. Father Bear looks more like the embezzling type.

      Although now that you mention it, he was able to scare the hiccups right out of Little Bear with only a single threat.

  3. capt_cardor

    Oh, I forgot to tell about the three piece suit. When the PETA folks set him free they put him in the three pice suit so that he would look like a businessman going to work on the subway. In New York no one would make eye contact and notice what sharp teeth he had.

    1. philangelus

      There was that time the guy smiled at my mother through the subway car window and revealed a gleaming set of vampire teeth. So that doesn’t always work. But most of the time it would.

  4. Teresa

    Don’t they give you a new suit when you’re released from prison?

    My gosh, I laughed so hard at this!

    1. philangelus

      ROTFLOL! And a taxi-ride home, right?

  5. Danielle

    Oh that’s great!

  6. Jason Black

    Well. Not to poke holes in all this good fun-poking, but I happen to have READ “Father Bear Comes Home” just the other day, as my kids coincidentally brought it home from the library.

    While I definitely rate it as among the weaker narrative installments of the Little Bear saga (and I think there’s probably a “jumping the shark” joke in here too, somewhere, but I don’t particularly care to go fishing for it just now), there are some obvious facts in evidence that you have clearly and with obvious anti-bear malice, neglected to mention.

    But then, I suppose the introduction of exculpatory evidence is the Defense’s job, isn’t it?

    First, Father Bear’s protracted absence. There is nothing either mysterious or particularly sinister here. Deep sea fishermen routinely conduct weeks- or months-long voyages. It takes time to motor (or sail) out to the fishing grounds. It takes time to net the fish. In the pre-mechanical refrigeration era (which we can clearly infer from other technology-related and cultural clues in the sum-total of the Little Bear ouevre), it takes time to process and preserve the fish (likely by salting them). And it takes time to sail home.

    The question of Father Bear’s attire upon returning home, his immaculate 3-piece suit, is nothing more than an attempt by the Prosecution to turn the requirements of a single-POV-narrative story into something unduly sinister. Surely the Prosecution is not so thick as to have noticed, requiring no particular skill at interpretation or reading between the lines, that Little Bear was _not home_ at the time of Father Bear’s arrival. Little Bear was out with his friend Owl. This chain of events is not in dispute, and it is beyond me why the Prosecution would attempt to make something of it. Can we have failed to note the equally immaculate state in which Mother Bear keeps her home? Can we not, then, immediately see that the second he arrived in his stinky, disguisting fishing clothes, she’d have said “you go take a bath right this second, Father Bear!” Of course she would. So by the time Little Bear got home, his father was washed, dried, and dressed in the manner befitting a respectable bear home from providing for his family.

    As to the matter of the shells. Consider again Father Bear’s entirely well explained lengthy absence from home. Consider that commercial fishing was, at the time in which these events transpired, an exclusively male endeavor. With this pair of facts in mind, it takes no great imagination to put ourselves in Father Bear’s shall-we-say desperate frame of mind upon the return of his ship. Returning home for some “Bear Hugs” would surely have been his highest priority. Yet, Father Bear was also laboring under the social expectation that when fathers travel on business, they bring home gifts for their children upon their return. Father Bear, quite naturally and with the proper bounds of matrimony, would have wanted nothing more than to lay his hands on whatever he could that would pass for a gift as fast as he could. It hardly beggars the imagination to suggest that stopping momentarily at a tourist seashell vendor fits the bill nicely: it’s right there at the docks, it’s on his way home.

    Indeed, ladies and gentlebears, one need look no further than this to see that Father Bear is not some miscreant, some insidious criminal offender whose allegedly nefarious deeds have been whitewashed under a veneer of respectability. No, not at all. Father Bear is nothing more than he appears to be: a kindly family bear, a good provider, a loving husband and as good a father as any Little Bear could want.

    I rest my case.

    1. philangelus

      Your honor, I would like to redirect.

      Deep-sea fishing is conducted with a net. In the first story of Father Bear Comes Home, LittleBear is fishing with Owl just like his father. He is using a fishing pole, a line and a hook. This proves Father Bear knows nothing about deep-sea fishing. If he had, Little Bear would have been catching fish with a net.

      Secondly, Father Bear might well have changed out of dirty clothes into clean ones, but no one in his right mind relaxes at home wearing a three-piece suit. That is clothing for conducting business. I would like to remind the jury that when Little Bear is relaxing at home, he wears nothing but his God-given fur. Attempts to do otherwise in the first Little Bear book ended in failure.

      Thirdly, commercial docks do not have tourists passing through,and therefore would not have vendors catering to tourism.

      1. Lane in PA

        May I propose that Father Bear is actually a covert agent for the CIA? What color was the alert level when this story was written? If it was Salmon, then he was really out fishing.

        1. philangelus

          Ooh, good one!

  7. Lane in PA

    Thank goodness, we finally have more cowbell. And sarcasm.

  8. capt_cardor

    This was great fun!

    Can we do David Letterman’s “Fishy Story” next?

    Can we? Can we?

    1. philangelus

      Sorry, but I only do fantasy stories that are obviously fantasy. 🙂

  9. K.M. Weiland

    LOL Thanks – this totally cracked me up. Just goes to show that even kiddy stories need research! :p

  10. Marie

    After several weeks of hearing the Veggie Tales Cheeseburger Song every day, I discovered major theological problems with the song. The gourd professes undying love for his cheeseburger. It is his one and only. But when the cheeseburger shop was closed for a few hours he went to a nearby Denny’s type restaurant. Should Christians really model their romantic or spiritual relationships on this sort of behavior?

    1. philangelus

      We won’t even get into the theological nightmare that is the Hairbrush song.:-(

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