In his palace of ice and snow Bear King Knut prowls,
his piercing, beady black eyes scanning the midnight sky,
silent and watchful, alone in the blackness of night he hides,
his heart frozen, his castle enchanted by an evil spell.
Impatient, his large, furry paws pound the snow below him,
their short, sharp claws drawing jagged lines in the ice,
his ears taut, he listens intently into the distance,
for approaching sounds, his sharp teeth menacing,
His voice echoes against the North Mountain,
in a ferocious growl, it shakes the ground
beneath a vast, starless sky.
Under his fur lies a heart of gold,
yet enchanted by an evil spell his heart remains cold
as the ice that surrounds his castle.
He rules with fear, his voice thundering
like his massive paws against the snow.
He can smell the foreign scent of intruders in his Kingdom,
He feels the strange pull of new magic in the sky,
a change in the North Wind,
and knows they are coming.
He places guards at all points of the castle,
and time seems to stop,
an eery stillness coming over the castle like death,
As the polar Bear King waits in watchful silence,
by the light of the icy Winter moon.
from Bear Kingdom & The Golden Sword, Volume 2 of The Dream Chronicles
Copyright Stacie Eirich November 6, 2017
Before I wrote the first draft of Bear Kingdom & The Golden Sword, I wanted to understand the world that my characters would be in. Though my story is a fantasy, its setting is an arctic land. I learned about the landscape as well the animals that inhabit the area called the Arctic Circle, the most northern circle of latitude on earth. The Arctic Circle covers an area about as large as North America, and is known as “The Land of the Midnight Sun.” For two months in the summer, the sun doesn’t set – and for two months in the winter, it doesn’t shine at all. In the fall and spring, the northern lights, called the Aurora Borealis, can be seen.
The region just north of the circle is the Arctic, and it includes the Arctic Ocean and parts of Alaska, Canada, Finland, Greenland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Those who live in Arctic regions must learn how to survive in extreme cold and prolonged darkness, ice and heavy snow. Despite the frigid conditions, there are many animals that thrive in Arctic environments, with one predominant predator among them: polar bears.
According to the World Wildlife Federation, “polar bears are clearly at the top of the food chain, and they’ve been known to kill and eat seals, walrus and even beluga whales. Standing on its hind legs, a male polar bear can look an elephant straight in the eye. The polar bear (Ursus Maritimus) is the largest terrestrial carnivore. Adult males can measure more than nine feet in length and weigh between 770 to 1, 430 pounds.” You can read more about polar bears on the WWF’s Polar Bear page.
My King polar bear character gets his name, Knut, from a real polar bear who lived in captivity at Berlin Zoological Garden from 2006-2011. Read more about Knut here: Wiki Polar Bear page
While my bear King’s name comes from history, his story is inspired by a Norwegian folktale, White Bear King Valemon. In literature, a bear (of any kind) can represent different things: bravery, strength, an evil influence, an obstacle, violence, clumsiness and solitary life. The great white bear bear is often portrayed as a polar bear in illustrations though he is not described as such beyond his white fur. With winter approaching in this tale, it’s important to note that polar bears do not hibernate. A magical tale of both darkness and light, the story is of a young, fair princess who wishes for a golden wreath. The wreath belongs to the white bear, and in return for it, she must give him herself. At night, the bear turns into a man, but the princess has never seen him. When she lights a candle to look at him, he tells her she must go into the forest and marry the Troll-hag who has bewitched him. To read this dazzling story, follow this link: Fairytalez: White Bear King Valemon.
You can also find the tale of White Bear King Valemon in this book: Norwegian Folktales, Selected from the Collection of Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe (Pantheon Fairytale & Folktale Library, 1960).
Unfortunately, the polar bears and other life in the Arctic are now in danger from the threat of global warming. The loss of sea ice (called ice floes) makes it difficult for the bears to hunt for food – which results in long periods of famine (that can last up to five months) and in many cases death. Polar bears were listed as an Endangered Species in 2008, and their protection and preservation remains an important undertaking for organizations like the World Wildlife Federation and Polar Bears International.
Other Arctic Resources I used & recommend:
Wildest Arctic (TV series, Netflix, 2012).
Polar Bears by Joylon Goddard (Scholastic 2008).
Polar Bears and the Arctic: A Magic Tree House Research Guide by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce (Random House NY 2007).
In my next post, I’ll tell you a bit more about other animals in the Arctic, and how they influenced my choices for some new magical animal characters in Bear Kingdom & The Golden Sword.
Thank you for visiting Space to Dream. Have a marvelous day! -Stacie