This story tells what it takes to make a girl brave. This is easy as you’d think. ‘Twould seem she inherited her father’s manliness & spent her childhood ignoring her mother’s conventions. Then it probably tells what it means for a girl to be brave. This may surprise you. It means that she tries to kill her mother.
The young girl is to be married; her would-be husbands, come to win her hand – not woo her – in manly contest are accompanied only by their fathers. Apparently, marriage does not concern women. The girl’s mother insists on the conventions of clan marriage. That is a political requirement. Its purpose is to keep the peace. Apparently, peace depends on the peace, therefore on women, who bear children. Apparently, the survival of the species & love are different things.
The Scottish clans are our image of courage. The men fight bears. Each son resembles his father, because they are all made in the same mold. The resemblance suggests that necessity makes change impossible. But the daughters are not supposed to be like their fathers. The king’s son are as savage as he is, as are all the other clansmen, but so is his daughter. By the end, she will fight the best of them.
The girl has her mother transformed into a bear. The woman is shocked at the indecency of being a bear, ashamed to feel violent. This is meant to teach her that nature is more important than convention. But it also teaches us that the human being has an animal part: Courage, manliness, bravery. The woman learns that a woman’s courage means sacrificing her life to save her children. The girl learns about her father that a man’s courage means sacrificing his life to protect everyone who belongs to him.
Aggression is essentially defensive; the animal part in man fights to save man from nature, which tries to kill man. It is not necessarily reasonable. The bow, not the sword, is the image of reason, of matching means to ends, of seeing things & aiming at them. The girl is the best archer in the kingdom. But she underestimates the irrationality of courage, her own included.
This story suggests that bravery goes beyond the law. We learn that there is another bear, one that the king once fought, & now his daughter must fight. He was also a proud prince, but because he would not accept the convention of sharing with his brothers, he killed them. He turned into a beast because he broke the laws. The princess also breaks the law in her pride. She also wants independence, to live alone. This is why she abandoned her mother.
Not for young boys, but young girls might love it