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Children! Folktales! and Bears! Oh my!

by Beth Farwell, Associate Director for Central Libraries

Holidays conjure up childhood memories, time with family, reading books to children, and bears.

Bears?

How about bears in rare children’s books? Or better yet, a bear reading about bears in a rare children’s book!

Meet Bruiser.

Bruiser reads Three Bears
Bruiser reads Three Bears
Bruiser is Baylor’s mascot who lifts up school spirit with Baylor’s Spirit Squad. The Bear mascot tradition began when Baylor chose the Bear instead of the ever popular Bookworm to represent the school as its official mascot in 1914. The start of Baylor's 1981-1982 basketball season showcased the bear costume that we have come to know and love today as Bruiser the Bear.

For the holidays, Bruiser is helping us turn the spotlight on one of the library’s rare children books. The Three Bears by Robert Southey, edited by Jean Hersholt.
Robert Southey (1774 – 1843) was an English poet and writer of prose appointed in 1813 as poet laureate. Southey presented this story in one of his anonymously published volumes of The Doctor (1834-47). The original version was written with an old woman as the character who intruded into the bears’ home. This 1949 version of the poem introduces the intruder as a pretty little girl, called “Goldilocks.” Bruiser did agree with this version of a very naughty girl and 3 good bears.

This well-known children’s folk tale has since been reworked with numerous changes in the intruder, order of events, type of house, and punishment for the "vagrant." Core to all the versions are the three bears, although early stories do not describe a family order (papa, momma and baby). Most refer to bears by size: Little, Small, Wee Bear, Middle-sized Bear and Great, Huge Bear.

Folklorists are interested in this particular tale as one of the few folktales traced closely to a specific author. Many agree that Southey probably patterned his story after an earlier tale called “Scrapefoot” with a little fox who stole into three bears’ castle.

An earlier story with three bears was published by Eleanor Mure in 1831 before Southey’s The Doctor publication.

page from version by Eleanor Mure, 1831
page from version by Eleanor Mure, 1831
However, researchers have uncovered family letters that prove Southey’s uncle often told this story at family gatherings prior to Mure’s 1831 version.

Perhaps you would like to continue the research and investigation?
If you are interested in more about this tale’s history please contact us to view the Southey edition: Polk PR5464 .T47x 1949 or you can find other versions located in our general stacks in a book titled The Story of the Three Bears GR 141 .S86.

For more information, please visit our webpage:
https://www.baylor.edu/lib/centralspecialcollections/

We look forward to working with you and hope you enjoyed our holiday spotlight. Best Bear wishes for a wonderful Christmas!

Bruiser and The Three Bears
Bruiser and The Three Bears

Many thanks to Bruiser and Ben Johansen for a festive photo session!

1 thought on “Children! Folktales! and Bears! Oh my!

  1. Karl Nicholas

    More research of this nature is required--and less of derivatives and credit default swaps. Keep at it.

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