Day 115: White Bear Whittington

Image above is by artist Theodor Severin Kittelsen and is an interpretation of the Norwegian folk tale “White Bear King Valemon”.


“White Bear Whittington”, told by Mrs. Rose Spaulding, Eureka Springs, AR, October, 1950. Collected by Vance Randolph and included in his book “Who Burned Down the Church House”.

One time there were three sisters, all very beautiful and kind-hearted. A crippled old man come down the road, and he asked for something to eat. The oldest girl brought him a nice chair to sit in. The second girl gave him some clean clothes. The youngest girl cooked him a good dinner. Next day the old man come back, carrying a funny looking chair. He says it’s a wishing chair, and each girl can set in it and make a wish. The oldest girl wished that the handsomest man in the world would come along and marry her. The second girl wished for the next handsomest man. So of course the youngest girl had to take third place.

The wishes all come true, just like the old man said. The youngest girl’s husband was very good looking, but he always wore a long white coat made of bearskin, so the folks called him White Bear Whittington. Him and his wife got along fine for several years, and they had three children. But then a young witch come down the road, she sung a wicked song and cast a strong spell on White Bear. So pretty soon he run off to follow the witch. His wife and children felt very bad, but there was nothing they could do about it.

One day a man come to the house, and it was the same old man that brought the wishing chair. He give the girl a folk ring, a gold bracelet, and a gold comb. “Go to the shore of a red sea,” he says. “Don’t be afraid, but get in the boat and go right across. Then you’ll come to a cliff on fire, but don’t be afraid, as there are steps so you can climb up all right. Then just follow the path till you come to the witch’s castle.” And after that he told her how to break the spell so she could get her husband back.

The girl did just like the old man said, and when she got to the castle the witch wanter her fine gold ring. The girl says if they will give her five minutes alone with White Bear Whittington, the witch can have the ring. When she got into the room, there was her husband in a deep sleep, but she says:

Three children born to you,
The red sea crossed for you,
The fire cliff climbed for you,
Old White Bear, look at me!

White Bear Whittington didn’t wake up, because he was asleep from a magic drug, but that night he dreamed about his wife and children.

The next day the girl gave the witch her gold bracelet for five minutes alone with White Bear Whittington, and she talked to him again. White Bear didn’t wake up, but that night he had a vision of his wife and children.

The third day she gave the witch her gold comb, and this time when she says, “Old White Bear, look at me!” he woke up and looked right at her. The third time is a charm, and so the spell was broke for good. White Bear and his wife went out of the castle, and along the path, and down the fire cliff, and across the red sea, till finally they got back home.

From that time on White Bear Whittington stayed right there with his wife and children. He didn’t pay no attention to women that come along the road, and witches could sing till they was black in the face for all he cared. And so they lived happily ever after.

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