Once upon a time, in an enchanted forest there lived a small bear tribe. The bears lived in harmony with the other inhabitants of the forest and spent most of their days in the peaceful shade of their estate. There were many different bears of all shapes and sizes. Although some were bigger than others, they all seemed to fit in – except one.
For as long as he could remember, Bernard Bear was different from the rest of the bears. While bears aren’t known to have long tails, he was born with a long, bushy tail. For years Bernard was teased by all of the other bears, for he was not like them.
“How’s your tail today Bernard?” they sarcastically asked.
“Bernard has a big bushy tail!” others would chime in.
“You don’t belong with us, bears don’t have tails like THAT!” they teased.
The taunting continued for many of his years. Instead of weeping, Bernard allowed the others to tease him although he knew deep down he was the same as every other bear. Though Bernard Bear asked every Elder Bear of the tribe, none of them were able to find a reason as to why he had a long bushy tail. They would smile sadly and tap him on the head with their paw trying to comfort him. However, the Elder Bears had no helpful advice, they would simply tell him to continue playing in the stream with the other cubs.
One day, when the bears were out playing by the stream, young Bernard Bear decided that he had enough of the other bear’s taunting and teasing. All of their remarks over the years have accumulated and suddenly Bernard decided it was time for a change. It wasn’t long until Bernard came up with an idea to solve this ongoing issue, an idea along with ambition. With nothing but the fur on his skin to keep him warm and his two eyes to guide him along the way, young Bernard set off on an adventure to search for answers and he would not stop until they were found.
When the sun had finally fell below the horizon, young Bernard Bear snuck away and disappeared into the night. The nighttime was not a place for a young bear to be alone. Bernard Bear travelled across the enchanted forest to meet with The Wise Old Owl that was said to know the answer to any question. According to the elders, he resided at the heart of the forest. It was a long way to travel for Bernard Bear but he was determined to receive answers. The bear was yet again lonely, but this time he had courage by his side, something Bernard never felt before.
After three long days and nights of blustery winds, winding roads and freezing temperatures, young Bernard Bear finally reached a large clearing. He was exhausted from travel so he decided to take a little rest. Just as Bernard was about to stop he heard a rustling noise coming from the bushes. Though the treetops were deserted and the path was quiet, he couldn’t help but feel like someone was watching him. Slowly but surely fear was lingering within Bernard. What did anyone want with a young bear in these parts of the forest? Inching ever closer to the bush, he gnashed his teeth together and let out the most frightening growl he could make.
“Show yourself, or feel the wrath of Bernard Bear!” he roared. Although being scary was odd to Bernard Bear, it was his only choice at this moment.
After a few moments of silence, he pounced into the bush. Bernard’s initial fears soon turned into curiosity.
“Hey, watch it up there, lay off!” the muffled voice yelled. “Get off me you big dumbo! Oh not the hair, please not the hair ugh!”
When Bernard Bear saw the small creature beneath him, he fell back onto four legs. He couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief.
“So you’re the one that’s been following me? You’re just a little squirrel!”
“JUST a squirrel, JUST A SQUIRREL?” the voice wheezed.
Emerging from the bushes was the most peculiar squirrel Bernard had ever seen.
“I’ll have you know I am the most unique squirrel of the whole forest. Not to mention the most feared. I am sir Skippy the Nobel, protector of the Wise Old Owl who lives at the centre of the forest. Don’t underestimate me you silly bear!”
After a deep breath he looked sideways at the bear. “Wait, what is a bear like you doing in these parts of the forest anyway?”
Bernard Bear seemed to forget how tired he was as his eyes lit up and he jumped up in excitement. “You know the Wise Old Owl who lives at the center of the forest? I must see him immediately!”
“Oh no no no you can’t just demand orders just like that! I’m afraid I cannot let you pass,” Sir Hector chimed, puffing his chest out to show bravery. “The Wise old Owl does not take any visitors, perhaps try someone else?”
Bernard dipped his head in defeat. “But you don’t understand. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this good for nothing, pesky tail attached to me” Bernard pointed to the tail and sighed in embarrassment. “All of the other bears make fun of me for it so I came here to meet the Wise Old Owl hoping to get some answers. I’ve travelled for three nights and three days through this harsh weather with nothing to eat but rotten berries searching for this Wise Owl. I just want to know why I’m so different, why this has happened to me.”
With that, Bernard Bear turned away from the squirrel, slowly making his way back towards the trail, his long tail dragging on the ground.
Sir Skippy watched the bear go, deeply troubled and amazed by the perseverance of this traveller. He had never seen such courage in all his years in the forest, not even from himself.
Finally, his amazement turned to sadness. “Wait!” he cried.
Bernard Bear swiftly turned around. His eyes gleamed in hope of a different ending to the same old story.
“The Wise Old Owl may not take visitors, but I’m sure we can make an exception…for a friend. Some call me Sir Skippy the squirrel, but you Mr. Bernard Bear, you can call me Skip.”
For the first time in a while, a giant grin spread across the face of Bernard Bear. Approaching the creature again, he held out his paw as a sign of friendship.
“You don’t have any food by any chance, do you? I feel like I haven’t ate in weeks!”
“The Wise old Owl may just have something.” Sir Skippy said with an alluring smile. “This way Bernard!”
With that, the two set off; the most unlikely companions in the entire forest.
After what seemed like hours, Bernard and Skip reached a great wooden door with a large brass knocker at its center, bigger than Sir Skippy.
“Welcome to the lair of the Great Wise Owl, the knower of all answers, the king of the deep green forest” Sir Skippy explained proudly. “This way Bernard.”
With that, the door slowly opened and revealed a long winding staircase. Wasting no time, Sir Skippy rushed into the hall with Bernard Bear clambering noisily behind. After a few minutes of walking and discussing matters related to Bernard’s issue, the pair finally reached a latch. Beyond the latch was the biggest nest Bernard Bear has ever seen.
“Welcome to the nest of the Wise Old Owl, the king of the deep green forest, the –“
“I understand Sir Skippy, that will do.”
Peering over them sat a great white owl. His feathers were whiter than snow and his eyes as blue as the summer sky. “ Young Bernard Bear, I’ve been expecting you!” and the Wise Owl finally spoke.
With that, Skippy gave Bernard a friendly tap on the shoulder and hurried back through the latch and down the staircase.
The young bear gave a smile to the Owl. After Bernard recognized they were alone he presented the owl with his lowest bow.
“So this is the Old Wise Owl of legend. I thought I’d never see the day. This place is like a kingdom! Is it true that you’re the knower of all questions and the keeper of all secrets?
With a faint chuckle the Wise Owl replied, “It seems my reputation precedes me. Do not waste the energy that you do not have young bear, or should I say Bernard? First, we must fix you up a meal, then when you are all full we can talk.”
Moments later, after the most delicious meal Bernard Bear had ever eaten including pure and sweet honey, fresh salmon and walnuts straight from the forest, Bernard was alone once again with the Wise Old Owl.
The owl leaned in close to Bernard Bear and finally spoke about the young bear’s problem. “I understand your situation and I know why you’re upset. You believe that you are different from everyone else but the truth is, you are unique. Everyone was made to be different, wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same? In fact, I sense that one day you will be the ruler of the bear pack and I know that you will do a great job. Do not listen to what your siblings and the other bears say for one day you will rule them. I advise you to not let your anger and sadness get in the way of your duty. You are a bear, a strong and wise bear and you must act like one.”
Young Bernard Bear was relieved and began to believe what the Wise Old Owl was saying. He was unique and would never let anyone tell him differently. Maybe it was the journey that made him believe, or maybe he just needed to hear the words, but he promised himself that he would never let the other bears tease him again. After all, he is a strong and wise bear.
“Thank you so much, Wise Old Owl,” Bernard managed to say. “I will never let anyone treat me badly ever again. I understand why they call you the keeper of all secrets, the knower of all questions and the ruler of the entire enchanted forest!”
“I think that is enough praising for one day, its not me who made you feel different, you’ve become happier because you started to believe.” The owl said with a smile. “Now you should get to bed, you have yet another journey in the morning.”
After following Sir Skippy to his lavish bedchambers, thanking the squirrel for his help, and settling in his bed, he quickly fell asleep for the first time in days.
The one part of the journey Bernard Bear would never forget was being flown back home by the Wise Old Owl’s assistant woodland creatures including Sir Skippy. No blustery winds, no winding roads, no freezing temperatures, Just a magnificent view of the entire forest, and a trip that took much less than three days.
When the group finally touched the property of the bear tribe, the other bears came running to where he landed, both worried and excited.
“Bernard Bear, where have you been?!” his brother asked.
“Looks like he met the Wise Old Owl! That’s so cool!” another bear added in.
“Tell us about your adventure!”
Before the Wise Old Owl and his troupe left, Bernard Bear explained the story again and again to the angry elder bears who wanted to know every detail about their journey. They were worried sick about the disappearance of one of the members of their bear tribe. Eventually, the Wise Old Owl gave Bernard Bear a small wink, spread his wings and took flight. Every bear of the bear tribe watched the Old Wise Owl’s company leave, amazed at the sight of the beautiful, magical birds.
Young Bernard Bear felt more confident than ever being around the tribe. He was never made fun of for his tail again. In fact, his tail was starting to have importance among the tribe. Bernard used his tail to save countless bears from the rushing waters of the stream – they would hold onto his tail and use it for support when the waters got rough. He told the story of his adventure to the centre of the forest for years and years, and the small bears would gather around and listen, their ears perked in interest.
They heard of small but strong squirrels, owls as big as the sun, and mice that could make the best food in all of the enchanted forest. Needless to say, it was a frequently told story.
Many years later, after Bernard Bear’s voyage to see the Wise Old Owl was nothing but a memory, the young bear, who wasn’t so young anymore, became the sole ruler of the bear tribe. Though he ruled with kindness and respect, he always remembered what the owl told him.
The Wise Old Owl’s words would repeat in his mind day by day. Everyone was unique, no matter how they looked, and everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. Those words were the one thing that Bernard Bear could never forget, even if he tried.