Jean de l'Ours
Jean de l'Ours (Jean of the Bear) or John Bear is an old French legend that originated from a village located in the Pyrenees Mountains. The story was traditionally told by word of mouth and passed down from generation to generation. It is a story of a man born to a woman and a bear who ventures out of his cave and journeys across vast area of land, meets new friends, finds a beautiful castle, encounters and defeats the devil, experiences betrayal, and lives the rest of his life in endless happiness.
Characters included in this story are as follows:
- A Woman (Une Femme)
- A Bear (Un Ours)
- Jean de l'Ours
- A Blacksmith (Un Forgeron)
- Roue de Moulin
- Coupe Chêne
- Porte Montagne
- The Devil (Le Diable)
- The Devil's Wife (La Vieille)
- The Princesses (Les Princesses)
- An Eagle (Une Aigle)
Once upon a time, a woman meets a large bear in a forest. The bear takes the woman into a cavern and prevents her from getting out by putting a large boulder in front of the entrance.
The woman and the bear have a child named Jean de l'Ours, and he becomes very strong. One day, Jean pushes the boulder away from the entrance, and he and his mother leave the bear's cavern.
Then, Jean begins to work for a blacksmith, but the blacksmith doesn't pay him well. So, with some pieces of iron, Jean makes himself a cane and leaves on a journey.
Jean eventually meets three strong men: Roue de Moulin, Coupe Chêne, and Porte Montagne. The four men travel together, and find a castle in the middle of a forest. They enter the castle, and on the next day, they decide that three of them will go out and hunt for food for the upcoming days while one will stay home and prepare dinner. Once dinner is ready, the person will ring a bell to tell the three out hunting to come back and eat. They will alternate who will stay home at the castle every night.
Roue de Moulin is the first one to stay at the castle, and he is preparing soup for dinner. All of a sudden, he hears a noise coming from the chimney. Then, a hand, an arm, an ear, and a head fall down the chimney like hail, and they form together to become a man. This man is the devil, and he asks Roue de Moulin to light his pipe. However, Roue de Moulin doesn't light his pipe, so the devil beats him up and prevents Roue de Moulin from finishing the dinner or ringing the bell. The others come back to the castle without hearing the bell, but Roue de Moulin fabricates an excuse and doesn't reveal what really happened. In the coming days, Coupe Chêne and Porte Montagne have the same experience as Roue de Moulin.
A few days later, Roue de Moulin, Coupe Chêne, and Porte Montagne are out hunting, and Jean is left at the castle to prepare dinner. When the devil comes down the chimney and asks Jean to light his pipe, Jean hits him and puts a large boulder on top of him. Jean is able to prepare dinner, and he rings the bell to call everyone else back to the castle. However, before the others get back, the devil escapes from under the boulder and goes down a water well next to the stove.
Jean de l'Ours tells his friends the story about the devil and that he has escaped, and the four men look around the castle, eventually spotting the water well next to the stove and the rope that the devil used to descend down the well. With the rope and the bell, Roue de Moulin, Coupe Chêne, and Porte Montagne descend down the well, but they get scared and ascend back up the well.
Then, Jean descends down the well himself, and when he gets to the bottom, he finds a castle there. In the castle is an old woman, and she says that she is the devil's wife. Jean then talks to the devil, and the devil gives Jean three treasure chests and three princesses. Jean rings the bell, and he and his friends use the cord to lift the chests and princesses to the surface. When they get the chests and princesses to the top, Jean's friends run off with them and leave Jean at the bottom of the well.
Jean talks with the devil again, and the devil gives him a white eagle that he has locked up in a cage. The devil tells Jean that if he gives the eagle raw meat, it will begin to ascend. So, Jean gets on the eagle's back, gives it some raw meat, and begins to ascend. However, Jean runs out of meat before the eagle brings him all the way up, so he cuts off a piece of his thigh, gives it to the eagle, and begins to ascend again. Jean finally gets out of the well.
Then, Jean goes to the city with his cane in search of his former friends. When Roue de Moulin, Coupe Chêne, and Porte Montagne see Jean, they jump out of the window, run away, and never encounter Jean again.
Jean de l'Ours marries the youngest princess out of the three given to him, and he uses some of the money from the chests to buy his mother a beautiful horse-drawn carriage. Finally, Jean, his wife, and his mother live happily ever after in the castle in the forest and are never disturbed again.
John Bear in the Pyrenees and the Occitan
In the Pyrenean mythology , "John Bear" is one of the most famous tales. As he gradually disappeared from European forests, the bear remained very active in the Pyrenees as tawny feared trapped, hunted, both predator and prey. Paradoxically, it is the finding of his demise that returned the general opinion in his favor. All over this mountain range as in other countries and in several languages, Juan Artz or Xan Bear Basques to Joan of Catalan Ós , we find the story of a child hairy born from the mating of a bear and a woman. This story reflects the mythological role of the bear that is linked to fertility, Europe and elsewhere. The Basque mythology sometimes equates Basajaun or Baxajaun (wild lord of the forest, plural: Basajaunak) mythical strong, hairy and wild, living in the Pyrenees , mostly in the Irati Forest .
Beyond the Pyrenean area, Jean Bear reveals a strong presence in the Occitan area. Philippe Gardy wrote: "It seems nevertheless to have been considered for more than a century as a characteristic story of this language and this culture to the point that the character of John Bear may have appeared to some as an even "the" hero par excellence of the Pays d'Oc " . This study is based on multiple versions collected Pays d'Oc and literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Valere Bernard and his Legenda Esclarmonda of including the reissue in 1974 titled The Legend of John Bear.
The themes of John Bear and bear lovers a woman were outlined by folklorist Roger Maudhuy in Myths and Legends of the Bear (Pimientos Editions, 2012). This book contains many other legends "ursines."
The general structure of the tale consists schematically several episodes whose content may vary, but where there are constant elements. Paul Delarue (the French Folktale), as Aarne-Thompson wrote it off as typical tale (301 B) in the category "Princesses issued the underworld", in which the origin of the ursine hero, although the majority , is not determinative (there are many versions where the character is a soldier).
A girl or young woman is kidnapped by a bear of enormous size. He locks her in a cave by rolling a huge boulder at the entrance, he brings her food, drink, clothing. After several months, the young woman gave birth to a baby son Bear, hairy and strong like his father, John Bear. Children grow very quickly and when he became strong enough, he pushes the rock and fled with his mother. In some embodiments the origins of John Bear are less clearly defined (already pregnant woman gives birth to the child after just saw the bear). He starts a new life among men, with varying success (thanks to his strength, he makes many services, but it kills her classmates unwittingly, etc.). Apprenticed to a blacksmith (he breaks an anvil at one blow), it quickly exceeds his master and manufactures an iron rod of considerable weight of five hundred pounds to several quintals. Like most stories, numbers and units are more symbolic than real value. The character is sometimes called Jean Stick Iron. Sometimes the cane is not iron, but an oak trunk equally imposing. John Bear hand to run the world. Along the way, he meets two or three companions phenomenal strength, each in his specialty, who will accompany him. Managed in a mysterious castle, they settle and make the meeting a character variable appearance, always evil, often identifiable devil that defies and defeats one after another, but it is defeated by John Bear and reveals the secret: one (or more) princesses are trapped in an underground palace. John Bear down to the bottom of a steep wells, faces new trials, confront monsters, and finally free the princess. His companions had abandoned John Bear and his princess can not return to the surface and riding on the back of a giant bird (usually an eagle, sometimes a bird Roc). It must feed the bird meat for the long climb. In the end, John Bear is carving itself a piece of his thigh to reach the end of the climb. He married the princess of course, while the ungrateful fellow disappeared, are punished or forgiven depending on version.
Legends and realities
John Bear is recognized by most of the narrators as a fairy tale, that is to say, featuring characters and events accepted as entirely fictitious. But given its proximity to more ambiguous ones, as Basajaun, whose real existence could be a popular belief (if not a certainty), it has sometimes been classified as "wild men" typically mountaineers as Yeti of the Himalayas, the Almasty Caucasian, Bigfoot or Sasquatch of the Americans wildness, and many others. Modern scholars have sought and proposed theories attempt to justify the existence of such creatures, including the survival of the Neanderthal, or disease or pathological abnormalities.
It has sometimes felt that this was due to a belief anthropomorphism of the bear, because of its close to man attitude when it recovers on its hind legs. In some legends, the Pic du Midi d'Ossau is the head of John the Bear. From the point of view gazetteer in the Pyrenees, Jean is sometimes regarded as an Anglicized corruption of "people" or "giants", an assumption which obviously does work only in French but not in the various Occitan dialects or Hispanic.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote about these wild men in 1754 in his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality between men. As Carl von Linne, it classified these wild beings in the Homo ferus. It describes human crawling, unable to speak and hairy like bears. In 1776, it is the engineer Leroy, responsible for the Royal Navy and the exploitation of forests Aspe, who expressed in his memoirs of wild human beings in the forest Irati and Issaux. He even described a hairy man of about thirty years. It is possible that he was suffering from hypertrichosis (Ambras syndrome). The likely reality of the situation described by the engineer Paul-Marie Leroy therefore joined in part the legend, without justifying completely since the legend is much older. According to some legends Basajaunak draw their origin from the meeting of proto-Basques arrived there about 40,000 years, with the last Neanderthals. Hypothesis difficult to reconcile with the Basque tradition that sees the Basajaunak the "inventors" of agriculture (appeared in the Neolithic). Without going to such extreme cases, the story of the wild woman Vicdessos whose epilogue happens in 1808, seems to demonstrate that coexistence between human and bear is a possibility.
The bear- Jean Pezon (1831-1874) was nicknamed "John the Bear".
John Bear in literature
The abduction of women by a bear remains a universal theme. It is not surprising to find in the literature, is derived from a version of the tale, is purely literary variation. In 1868, Prosper Mérimée published Lokis, a new telling of a mysterious marriage count, which appears to be born from the rape of his mother, and probably by a bear, these elements are gradually revealed, until the epilogue where the animal instincts of the character come to the fore. This news is written following a trip Merimee in Lithuania and the Baltic countries where the story (or legend) was underway.
In 1990, Alina Reyes evokes the myth in his second novel, Lucy in the long term.
In 2011, the novel by Philippe Jaenada Woman and Bear explicitly refers to the tale.
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- Lafond-Paquin, Janel. "Jean de l'Ours." © 2003.
- Lafond-Paquin, Janel. "Jean de l'Ours." © 2003.