The Bear with Pale Fur

Bear 1

 “you came and I was crazy for you and you cooled my mind that burned with longing”

In the forest on the west side of the island there was a deep woodland grove filled with life and excitement. There were animals and creatures, who had made the woods their home and they lived in peace among the trees and plants. In the fresh, moist soils the chokecherry trees grew, dark and slender under the oppressive skies. There were currant bushes with red, black and white berries, which became rich purple as they ripened under the warm sun, and cottonwood trees plentiful with white fluffy catkins, standing a hundred years old near the banks of the rivers. The woodland was made deep blue with fine spruces littering the forest floor and tall with golden aspens creating a vibrant canopy, home to birds and mammals of all kinds. Woodpeckers induced a cacophony of music in the trees, tapping on the bark to release the sap and feasting on beetles and larvae. At night, red foxes roamed the woods, listening for prey, hunting for frogs, insects and fallen apples, and by day garter snakes crawled through the earth, searching for worms and leeches, and hiding from predators. The forest housed thousands of honeybees, who produced the sweet golden ingredient that fed so many inhabitants of the land. They clustered around their hives, drones and workers all fast and busy, working for their queen.

In the forest life abounded and there were creatures of all sizes living side by side. There was a girl who lived alongside the flora and fauna. Her name was Agnótita and she was wild and beautiful, the most beautiful of the daughters of the forest. She was strong and smart and had dark eyes and long chestnut hair. Her skin was white and pure and from it drew deep red blood when she cut herself on thorns and branches.

With her home the forest, Agnótita made use of her skills in finding food and shelter. She lived inside a tree, which sheltered her from the storms that from time to time hit the island, but she was missing one thing that she longed for. She yearned for a companion. One day in the early morning Agnótita saw through a crack in the trees a tall upright shape, a figure. She was intrigued and came closer to see more clearly the person she had glanced. Immediately, on seeing clearly the figure standing before her, Agnótita fell in love. She longed to hold the bear with pale fur.

He was tall, present, and covered with a golden fur, which glinted under the early morning sunshine. He moved slowly and his pale fur was almost luminous as he did so. Agnótita found the bear and he too fell in love with her. But circumstances dictated that they could not be together. He was an animal, fierce and wild, and she was a mere mortal woman. Nevertheless, the pair decided they could not be apart. They hid in secret inside the tree that was home to Agnótita, the bear cradled his love, squashed and cramped against the branches and leaves.

For Agnótita knew that the bear was indeed a man trapped inside the body of bear. She knew that tragedy had befallen him and he was doomed to live out the rest of his days as the bear with pale fur. She did not care what he had done to incur the wrath of the gods which turned him into a bear, she cared only for he man she loved and decided to stay with him, hiding out of sight. The pair lived together for years until Agnótita grew old and frail, and eventually died. She was turned into a sycamore tree on the edge of the forest. This broke the bear’s heart once again and he roamed the forest day and night trying to glimpse the woman he had loved, but finding only a tree where she used to be.

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The Hamadryads

Hamadryads 1

“Among these graceless and brutal divinities the nymphs were conspicuous for the charm of their youth and beauty.”

Near the forest of Mount Oita in Malis, the daughters of Oxylus and Hamadryas were eight beautiful and gracious beings the name of which was the Hamadryads. They lived among the trees and in fact were the trees, arboreal nymphs whose body was entwined with the forest. Daily they served the woodland that surrounded them, growing more beautiful and stronger as the day turned to night. They fed and nurtured the forest creatures and as the seasons passed they changed and transformed, their foliage disappearing and reappearing in line with the phases of the year. Leaves sprouted from their newly born skin and from their pores grew twigs and branches about which clustered green life. The Hamadryad of the hazel tree was Karya, from whose hand sprang forth fruits that fed the fauna around her. She was strong and hardy; the seeds she produced were smooth and dark, nourishing to the birds and animals that lived beneath her branches. Of the oak tree, the Hamadryad keeper was Balanos, tall and silken with green curling leaves and acorns in cupules falling from her fingers. Kraneia was Hamadryad of the dogwood tree, her dark bark skin bearing curving leaves and ripe cherries, white blossoms in the Spring time. Syke was of the fig tree giving forth-large purple fruits and thick green leaves, Aigeiros of the black poplar tree, Ptelea of the elm tree, Morea of the mulberry tree, and Ampelos of the grapevine.

United with the trees, the Hamadryads’ youth and loveliness abounded, with mortal men falling under the spell of their beauty. They became attached to a young mortal woman named Dryope, the daughter of Dryops the King of Oita, and made her their companion. They danced and sang together under the forest sunlight, and the Hamadryads taught Dryope hymns to please the gods. One day Apollo came to look upon Dryope as she danced with the nymphs and tended the flocks of her father on Mount Oita. The beauty of the girl as she played with the nymphs prompted Apollo to chase the group until he was able to seduce Dryope. He transformed himself into a tortoise in order to win the girl, and this pleased the Hamadryads who played with the animal alongside Dryope. But when she held the small creature on her lap, Apollo quickly turned himself into a snake and coiled his lithe, twisting body tightly around Dryope’s legs. She tried to flee along with the nymphs, but the snake was too strong and he violently raped Dryope causing her to become pregnant with Amphissus. Later on, Apollo returned again as a snake but this time, when he wound his way around the girl’s body, she was turned into a poplar tree and joined her nymph sisters to inhabit the woodland of Oita. She was made into a tree to be saved from the advances of the Gods and together with the Hamadryads; Dryope took her place in the forest warding off people who came to harm the nymphs of the woodland. As a mortal she was pursued for her sex by Apollo, and in becoming a nymph she cemented her place as a sexual being, a creature who lived under the male gaze.