— written as a follow on to the the ancient Scottish story of ‘the Black Bull of Norroway”. I told ‘the Black Bull — ‘ in performance in 2012 at the International Storytelling Festival in Edinburgh. It’s a story full of repetition and haunting images, and I reworked it, but also tried to stay close to the original folktale. I don’t usually write stories down, but recreate them in my head, but now I’ve set myself the task to transfer the stories in my head onto the page. I’ve tried to keep the voice of the storyteller tho in the words as I write.
‘Bear ‘ just arrived all at once —–
Bear woke from a long sleep, some say a sleep of 700 years, and she was spirit bear.
She looked out of her cave deep under the ice glass mountain, and everything was changing.
She saw still the marks where the woman with iron boots had climbed up up and far.
Bear had watched the woman from her dreams deep in the ice, watched her thru the blue ice glass that moved and moved.
She was strong that woman – working beside the blacksmith for seven years.
The bear dreamed again for a moment.
What a story that would have been, the woman and the blacksmith, fire and iron, and their cubs, many cubs looking after the forest, guarding the mountain. ‘I don’t know where she went or what became of her, tho a whisper trapped in the ice said she found her own true love and lived happily ever after. I do not know. But the blacksmith grieved for her – oh how he grieved that blacksmith. His cries of despair woke me from my sleep.
The fire in the forge was cold now, and the blacksmith turned his back on the forest and the mountain and died. I gathered his bones and the iron. I kept them close whilst I slept.’
Bear shook away the memories and the dreams and opened her eyes.
Bear came out of the cave and looked up. The ice glass mountain was melting, the forest was dying.
Bear broke off a piece of the ice glass, inside it she could see other spirit creatures sleeping as she had done. She swallowed the ice and drank the melt water and the creatures. Now they were safe inside her.
She pulled up the forest and wrapped it round her like a cloak. She pulled down a piece of the sky and placed it on her head like a crown. She wore a belt of bones threaded on iron around her waist
Bear walked away from the dying forest, the melting ice glass mountain. She had to hurry now to find a new place where the creatures inside her could be free and where the forest could grow.
She passed the ruined castle where the woman and her black bull had lived out their lives. No dreams here. The land was green, there were walls and fences, no place for a bear and a forest, and on and on she walked.
High into the hills. Now here on the highest place where there were only hares and lapwings, the song of the curlew, the bear laid down to rest.
She opened her mouth, breathed out and the creatures inside her emerged. The forest cloak settled and grew, spreading quickly and the creatures found their homes.
The sky over them was filled with ancient stars.
The blacksmith and the bear woman built a cabin, and their cubs cared for the land and the forest.
The spirit bear smiled in her sleep, deep under the ground, dreaming again.
Jean Edmiston February 2016