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Literature / Bearhead

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Bearhead is a 1991 picture book illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak and written by Eric A. Kimmel. The author adapted the story from the Russian tale "Ivanko the Bear's Son."

A childless woman finds and adopts a baby with a bear's head, giving him a name to match, which turns out to be useful when a nearby witch tries to force Bearhead's adoptive father into service and Bearhead takes his place.

This book contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Beast Folk: Bearhead has a bear's head, a man's body, and greater-than-normal strength. He's actually one of a group of beings like him, though we don't see another till the last page.
  • But Now I Must Go: At the end of the story, Bearhead says he must go to find his own people, though he says he may come back someday. He does, but the author says it's Another Story for Another Time.
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  • Decomposite Character: In the fairy tale on which the book is based, the hero's foe is his stepfather. In the story, Bearhead's father is a good man, and the antagonist role is given to Canon Foreigner Madame Hexaba.
  • Happily Adopted: Bearhead's mother and father are not biologically related to him, but none of them mind.
  • Iconic Outfit: The goblin wears a tall green hat. After he declares Bearhead the winner of a throwing competition they have had, Bearhead asks for the hat as well as Madame Hexaba's rent. This convinces Madame Hexaba, who can only see the hat over the hill, that the goblin is coming to attack her.
  • I Kiss Your Foot: Madame Hexaba demands Bearhead kiss her feet to show his sincere remorse after his first mess-up. He does as he's told, but rather than kneeling to reach her feet, he pulls her feet up to his face.
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  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: One of the things that distinguishes the goblin's lake is the complete lack of birds singing, insects humming, or any noise except for the water lapping the shore.
  • Literal-Minded: Bearhead always follows orders exactly, which proves to be a big disadvantage to Madame Hexaba, who keeps giving ones he can misinterpret (e.g., to watch a lock rather than to watch the treasure house it's securing).
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The goblin is described as having scaly arms, a frog's head, and an eel's body.
  • Ordered Apology: After Bearhead messes up Madame Hexaba's order to clear away the table, she orders him to apologize, which he does. She isn't satisfied and demands he kiss her feet, which goes poorly.
  • The Strength of Ten Men: Bearhead has the strength of ten men.
  • Uriah Gambit: After Bearhead messes up several orders, creating increasing problems for her, Madame Hexaba sends him off to collect rent from a dreaded goblin. This also backfires on her.


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