Brothers and Beasts

The talented Kate Bernheimer has edited an anthology of essays by men about fairy tales, just now released. I’m a contributor, along with: Steve Almond, Brian Baldi, Christopher Barzak, Joshua Beckman, Greg Bills, Jirí Cêch, Alexander Chee, Robert Coover, Neil Gaiman, Johannes Göransson, Ilya Kaminsky, Eric Kraft, Norman Lock, Gregory Maguire, Michael Martone, Michael Mejia, Timothy Schaffert, David J. Schwartz, Vijay Seshadri, Richard Siken, Kieran Suckling, Maria Tatar, Willy Vlautin, Jack Zipes.

An excerpt from my essay, “The Third Bear,” below. It’s been a long time since the piece was accepted, and in between I’ve written the short story “The Third Bear,” the seeds for that story found within the essay.

The third bear is problematic. It doesn’t think of itself as a bear. It doesn’t want to be in this essay. The third bear is always waiting to be written. He lives in the deepest of deep forest. He has no patience with human folktales. He lives rough and is all animal. No taint of human in this bear. He has no name, not even “Bear.” He does sometimes exist at the edges of other folktales that are not about him at all–spore-dropping in the dark part of the woods; the sense of menace that forms the backdrop to some more brightly lit tale. You can just see him in the dark recesses of the foliage in the paintings of Rousseau. This is the bear Masha’s parents warned her about. This is the bear that existed in the crunch of bone and spurt of blood when the second bear was slaughtering trolls…