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Or, How to Kill a Ferocious Bear Using Only a Lump of Blubber

  A short story by Jack London chronicling the exploits and rise to power of a young hunter living in the northernmost reaches of the arctic. Also known as The Story of Keesh, it was first published in January of 1904 in Holiday Magizine for Children. Its full text may be found at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/London/Writings/LoveLife/keesh.html.

  The following is a summary of the story (contains spoilers). It is not a cut-and-paste writeup, but rather my brief outline of another person's original creative work.

  Keesh was the son of a great huntsman, who was well known and respected in his tribe. Unfortunately, Keesh's father died when Keesh was very young. As is often the case, the legendary exploits of Keesh's father were forgotten with time. After many years, the child grows to be thirteen. Inspired by tales of his father's skills as a hunter, and emboldened by his self-confidence and the lackluster amount of food being gathered by the tribe, he addresses the village elders in the igloo of the tribe's chief. A child addressing the tribal elders was seen as precocious. Keesh declares that he will honor his father's memory and become a great hunter, and bring back a wealth of meat for his people. He is scorned, and they allow him to go off on his own. Many never expect to hear from him again.

  Four days later Keesh returns, with an enormous burden of freshly-killed meat over his shoulders. He explains that an entire polar bear's carcass lies a day's travel from the village. The villagers, stunned by this boy's having endured the elements and succeeded in his quest, become suspicious. After several more hunting excursions on Keesh's part, all alone and all resulting in enormous amounts of meat for the tribe, the villagers begin whispering that Keesh is undoubtedly practicing witchcraft. However, they have no choice but to be loyal to this manchild, as he has begun to provide them all with bounteous food.

  Keesh has the appreciative villagers construct for him an enormous igloo, rivaling that of the chief. After more speculation and inuendo as to the source of Keesh's hunting prowess, it is decided to send two scouts to follow him on a hunting exhibition. They return several days later, having been successful in trailing Keesh to his kill, an enormous (and dangerous) polar bear. They tell a tale that the tribal council simply cannot believe. Upon his return, the tribe gathers in Keesh's igloo to accuse him of witchcraft. He answers their charges well.

  Keesh explains the source of his hunting success. He explains why the two scouts sent to follow him observed him striding up to the bear, enraging it, and convincing it to follow him. He explains why the scouts witnessed his leaving small round balls of food on the ice for the bear, and why the bear soon became ill, and deranged. He explains how he was then able to spear the bear without endangering himself. This is his explanation.

  If you sharpen both ends of a long, thin strip of whalebone, and wind it into a tight coil, you can bury the coiled strip in a lump of whale blubber. If you leave that ball of whale blubber on the ice, it will freeze solid. A bear, finding a tasty ball of whale blubber, will consume it. When the blubber begins to melt in the bear's stomach, the sharpened coil of whalebone will spring out and puncture the bear's stomach. With several punctures causing internal bleeding, even the greatest of bears will eventually fall so ill that it will not even notice your slaying it with a spear. This, Keesh explained was headcraft, not witchcraft. He was, from then on, respected among his people as a great hunter, his father's son.


I don't particularly endorse the cruel and brutal slaughter of defenseless animals. A polar bear is, however, hardly defenseless. Regardless, we live and breathe and bitch at one another here today because our ancestors were able to live off of their respective lands, which often involved killing furry, brown, large-eyed mammals. So as much as I respect your right to support the ASPCA, I don't really care if you softlink this to 'Don't harm those poor bearsy wearsies..' or something.

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