Jun 14, 2014

Monarch, the Big Bear of Tallac

by Ernest Thompson Seton

A hunter kills a sow grizzly bear and captures her two cubs. Passing fellow buys them and takes them to a ranch where they live in dull captivity, tormented from time to time by dogs urged to fight. For a show when the bear is larger he is put to fight against a bull but breaks loose and runs off. Learns to survive in the wild by preying upon sheep. One shepherd sees the bear's shadow thrown large in the firelight and is convinced it is a monstrous beast, a giant of all bears. His tall tales and the bear's predation on flocks bring various men to track him down, those efforts are all related. Finally the bear is hunted down by the very man who once kept him as a cub. The man doesn't recognize the bear, but something vaguely familiar in the man's scent causes the bear to turn away from the moment of conflict and do no harm. By now stories of the bear have spread far and wind, inciting interest and furor; through it all the bear just wants to be left alone. Men come out hunting him again and finally after many attempts they trap him. Caged in heavy iron, the book closes on a dull, hopeless scene of his misery. Better he had never encountered men at all, was my final impression.

It seems this bear actually existed (although Seton probably made up the events of his early life) and lived his final days caged in Golden Gate Park; this blog post has some drawings by Seton and a photo of the bear. I found more photos and information about the bear on this site as well. I read this book on my kindle.

Rating: 3/5      214 pages, 1904

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