WHY THE BEAR HAS A STUMPY TAIL

A puppet play for winter Adapted from a Norwegian folktale by Betsy Bybell

Characters: Bear (with long furry tail attached with velcro) Fox Rabbit Raccoon Beaver Moose Props: String of fish Silver or gray material for river Long furry black tail for bear —————————————————————-

Introduction: Once upon a cold, frosty day in winter in the deep, deep woods there lived a black bear. Now at this time, all bears had long, luxuriant tails.

Bear: (yawning) I’m so very very hungry. I just woke up early from my long winter’s nap because my stomach is growling. I knew I should have eaten more of those huckleberries before I went to sleep for the winter. Now I’m paying the price and I’m starved. (looks around) But the ground is all covered with snow. Where is a hungry bear going to find food?

Fox: (entering with several fish in mouth) Yum, yum. I love eating fish, especially fat and juicy fish.

Bear: Fox, fox, what a fine catch of fish you have. Would you give 1 to me?

Fox: No, I caught them all and I’m not going to share.

Bear: (sniffing) Well, then where did you catch them? They look so good. Fox: I’ve been out fishing and caught them all in the river.

Bear: But the river is all frozen over. How did you catch your fish?

Fox: (slyly) Oh, it was easy. First I made a small hole in the ice, then I stuck my tail down into the water. When I felt a pinch, I knew it was a fish biting, so I pulled out my tail and there was my fish.

Bear: What a good idea. Could I do that too?

Fox: I don’t see why not. Waddle onto the ice here by the river and cut a hole right through it. Sit down and stick your long bushy tail through the hole. You MUST hold it there as long as you can. Don’t mind if your tail hurts a little–that’s when the fish bite. Bear: Ooooh, my tail will hurt? Are you sure I have to do that to catch fish?

Fox: Absolutely, positively. No pain, no gain. Don’t be such a baby, sit down on the ice…

Bear: But it’s co-co-cold.

Fox: Don’t you have lots of fur on your bottom? Let me check. Sure you do. Now sit down on the ice and put your tail in the hole in the river.

Bear: (hesitantly) Okay, I am hungry and I do want some fish.

Fox: Now sit very still and don’t worry about your tail hurting. If it stings a lot, why that means you’re catching lots of big fish. And you do want lots of big fish, don’t you?

Bear: The bigger the better. I am sooooo hunnnngggrrrry.

Fox: The longer you hold it there, the more fish you will catch. Once you think you have enough, then all at once, you pull your tail out, with a strong jerk sideways. And you will find you have a fine catch of fish for dinner.

Bear: Thank you. I had no idea it was so easy to catch fish. Maybe I’ll stay awake all winter long. (Be sure to pull tail off quietly!)

Fox: (laughing a little) You’ll soon see how easy it is. But I have to go back home to my den now. I think I saw some rabbit tracks around. (leaves)

Bear: (sighing) I wonder how long it’s going to take. I’m bored. I should have brought something to read. And I’m lonely. I wish Fox wouldn’t have left me alone. And my stomach is growling. (sighing again)

Rabbit: (enters) Have you seen Fox around?

Bear: You just missed Fox. She left just a minute ago.

Rabbit: Oh good, I certainly don’t want to meet up with that fox today. I might get eaten. What are you doing out of your den,Bear? Shouldn’t you be sleeping this time of winter?

Bear: My stomach was growling so much I woke up hungry. But Fox very kindly showed me how to catch my dinner by sitting here on the ice and fishing with my tail.

Rabbit: I don’t think I could do that. My tail is too small.

Bear: Ouch. My tail stings. There must be a fish biting it.

Rabbit: Good luck with your fishing. I better hop on, just in case Fox decides to come back. (exits)

Bear: Goodbye. Now I’m alone again. I know, I’ll decide how I’m going to cook this fish–that’ll help pass the time. Fried fish is yummy. Or fish with lemon and butter. Or barbecued fish too. Or smoked fish. Ooh, I can’t decide. I’ll just have to sit here and catch more fish.

Raccoon: (enters) Hello, Bear. What are you doing sitting on the ice in the middle of winter? Shouldn’t you be sleeping now?

Bear: My stomach was growling so much I woke up hungry. But Fox very kindly showed me how to catch my dinner by sitting here on the ice and fishing with my tail. Ouch! I just caught another fish.

Raccoon: (swishing tail) You are putting your tail in the water for the fish to bite!!! I wouldn’t do that to my beautiful tail. It would get ragged and chewed on. Fox told you to do this? Are you sure you heard her correctly?

Bear: Sure, I’m supposed to sit here and wait. Every sting I feel means there’s a fish biting on my tail. And I’ve already caught 2 fish.

Raccoon: Best of luck. I always fish with my hands and save my tail for showing off. Bye Bear. (exits)

Bear: No wait, I’m lonely. Oh there he goes. And I forgot to ask him to bring me a book to read. This fishing is getting to be boring. I need to think on something else. I know, I’ll count trees–one, two, three…

Beaver: (enters) Ho, ho Bear. What are you doing sitting in the middle of the frozen river?

Bear: I’m fishing, can’t you tell? Beaver: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody fish like that before? How are you fishing?

Bear: I stuck my tail down this hole in the ice. Ouch, I just got another bite. That makes three!

Beaver: You got a bite on your tail? And that means you’ve caught a fish?

Bear: Yes, Fox showed me how to fish this way. It’s working so well I’ve decided to stay awake all winter long so I can play with you in the snow.

Beaver: I guess it takes all kinds. But I wouldn’t use my tail to fish with. I slap the water and warn others that there is danger around with my tail. I wouldn’t want it to be nibbled on. It wouldn’t slap as well, if it was chewed on.

Bear: That’s okay, I can share my fish with you. Although my bottom is getting a little chilly.

Beaver: Thank you, but I don’t like fish very much. I’d rather eat tender trees and leaves. It is getting cold out here. I think I’ll head for my warm home behind the dam and have a cup of hot cocoa. Too bad you can’t come along and warm up. (exits)

Bear: That’s okay. I’ll keep on fishing. Although hot cocoa does sound tasty. I always like mine with lots of little marshmallows and cinnamon. And so much chocolate it’s as though you’re drinking candy bars. And there’s hot tea with lemon and so much honey the bees try to steal it back.

Moose: (enters) Now there’s a sight you don’t see very often. A bear in the middle of winter sitting on a river. Bear, bear, bear, bear, bear, bear, what are you doing? Shouldn’t you be sleeping? (Snores)

Bear: My stomach was growling so much I woke up hungry. But Fox very kindly showed me how to catch my dinner by sitting here on the ice and fishing with my tail. Ouch! I just caught another fish. That makes 4 fish for my dinner tonight.

Moose: Fishing with your tail? Are you sure?

Bear: Yes, yes, I’m sure. Only thing is, my bottom is getting very cold and I’m not sure I can sit here much longer.

Moose: I’m glad I don’t have to worry about fishing with my tail. When I’m hungry, I trample the snow down and strip bark from the trees. Maybe you should try it.

Bear: Bark doesn’t sound very tasty to me. But a fine, fat fish fried up with butter and lemon–oh I can’t wait. Now, let me pull my tail out. (grunts) Hmmm, maybe a little harder pull. (grunts harder) Oh, why is this so hard? Moose, I can’t seem to get up. Do you have any ideas?

Moose: Ah, well yes, ah, hem, you could pull harder.

Bear: I tried that already. Help me, please.

Moose: Why look. The hole in the ice has frozen over and your tail is stuck fast in the ice. Hang onto my antlers. (bear grabs nose) No, not my nose, grab my antlers and we’ll pull together. Okay, on the count of three. 1…2…3…pull.

Bear: Ouch, ouch, ouch, my tail hurts so much. Fox tricked me. There’re no fish on my tail, it was the ice hurting it. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Moose: One more sharp yank this way… Bear: Ready, set, pu-u-u-ulll! Moose: Pu-u-u-ulll!

Bear: (free of hole but leaves tail behind) Oohh, I’m out of that frozen ice hole.

Moose: But Bear, where’s your tail?

Bear: Oh no, my tail is so short I can’t see it anymore. I don’t have my long, luxuriant tail anymore. All I have is a short stumpy tail. No fish and no tail. I’ll never trust Fox again. Guess I better go back to sleep with my hungry stomach. I’ll wake up early next spring.

Moose: Poor Bear, his tail never grew back. And that’s why to this day, Bear has such a short stumpy tail.

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About wvstoryteller

Storyteller and retired librarian with over 10 years experience in children's programming and 15 years experience as professional storyteller. Created a successful puppetry troupe for teens that continues today, and wrote many scripts for the group.
This entry was posted in Animals, Folktale, Seasons, Winter Holidays and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to WHY THE BEAR HAS A STUMPY TAIL

  1. Georgina P. Baldado says:

    Hello there! I am mom of a grade 3 pupil. She will be using your story for their performance task in science – The Shadow Puppet Show. In line with this, may I ask your help what music/background are we going to use as sound effects? Any recommended music of yours? I browsed YouTube but I had hard time in choosing it’s so vague. Please be of help. Thank you very much!

  2. Hi Georgina, I am so glad she will be using this story. It’s a fun one! We never used music with our puppet shows back when I was doing them, so I’m no help. What comes to mind right off is Peter and the Wolf but not sure that’s the best choice. Another idea is the fiddle tune Growling Old Man Cackling Old Woman but it may be too fast. Here’s one version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5qWhwmBbZM

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