Week 2

The young he-bear half snarled and turned his head. “As you say,” he growled. This was young Orso, unhappy that Ursa would favor another.

“Let us take him inside,” said Medved, stepping forward to lift the creature carefully in his mighty jaws.

The great Bear King struggled to raise the small, hairless stranger. He opened his mouth and stepped backward in surprise.

“No wonder it took so many of you to bring him here!” This creature was heavier than any other, as heavy as the densest meteorite.

But Medved was a great king, with the strength of eight bears. With a mighty effort he lifted the stranger and carried him into the Den.

Many months passed; Ursa cared for the outsider as tenderly as if he were her cub, but he did not awaken.

The massive blast had destroyed the bushes where berries grew; the mud had choked the river and there were no fish.

The bears went hungry, yet Ursa brought small delicacies and laid them beside the unconscious one.

Winter came, and the bears slept. Spring came again, and the land began to recover from the terrible explosion.

Dim light, snuffling snores, the smell of damp fur: He gradually became aware of his surroundings.

The stranger opened his eyes.

He looked directly into the face of a giant Siberian bear, and yet he was not afraid.

“Who are you?” he whispered, and Ursa’s heart leapt with joy. He spoke the language of the Bears—he was indeed one of them!

“I am Ursa, daughter of Medved, King of Bears,” she snuffled softly. “And who are you?”

“I?” He thought, and the word “put” came to him. “Put.” It meant path. Was he not on a path? Was he not a wanderer? “I am Putin,” he said.

“Put-in?” Ursa said quizzically. “Putin? It does not sound like a Bear.” But the stranger had closed his eyes again and did not reply.

That spring, life slowly returned to the forest. Putin became a useful member of the Bear Clan, due to his unusually dexterous paws.

He did not look or smell like the others, but he lived as they lived, and gradually the bears accepted him.

Still Ursa was concerned because his fur did not grow back. Putin wore breeches and boots made of otter pelts, yet refused to wear a shirt.

Though he was small and hairless, Putin was as strong as any bear.