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n a cold winter’s night, deep in the Great Bear Rainforest, in a warm, earthy den beneath the roots of a fallen cedar tree, a baby bear cub named Annuk was born. He was tiny and pink, with no fur at all, and his eyes were squeezed shut, so he was completely blind! But he could hear his Mama’s cries in the darkness, and he could feel her warm fur against his skin. And right beside him, wriggling and squealing, were two more little cubs, his brother and sister! Annuk felt safe and secure tucked away in the den with his family pressed close up against him. Outside the wind howled and the rain beat down on the tree’s roots, but Annuk and his family were warm and dry inside their little den. The cubs wiggled in close to Mama bear to nurse as she yawned and curled up around her newborn babes, and they all settled in for a long winter’s sleep.

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When Spring came, Annuk had grown big and strong. He was covered in fur now, his eyes were wide open, and he was anxious to leave the den to explore the world outside. One day Mama awoke and said it was time to go out into the forest. Annuk was so excited, at last they would get to go and explore! Mama left the den first, and the cubs followed. Annuk looked around and saw giant trees, bright green ferns, berry bushes and mossy logs. He could hear the sounds of birds singing and insects buzzing everywhere, the forest was filled with life! Suddenly Annuk was knocked off of his feet–his brother had pushed him down! He quickly jumped up and pushed him back, and they began to wrestle on the forest floor. Their sister jumped in, and soon all three cubs were rolling about, merrily play-fighting together, tumbling over the mossy logs and stones. Mama watched them for awhile, and then began to walk away. The cubs stopped playing and followed behind her. Annuk suddenly realized he was very hungry, and he knew that Mama was going to show them what was good to eat in the forest!

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Mama took them to all of the best places for bears to eat–fields of succulent sedges, patches of tasty berries and swamps filled with delicious skunk cabbage! She taught them how to dig for grubs and insects, and how to find yummy larvae squirming inside rotting logs. The cubs loved exploring the forest and tasting all of the wonderful new foods! Then Mama took the cubs to a little brook for a drink of water. As Annuk leaned over the stream, he caught sight of his reflection. He saw that he was not black like the rest of his family–he was covered in pure white fur from head to toe! ‘Why do I look different, Mama?’ Annuk asked, worried that something must be wrong. His mother drew close to him and said, ‘You are very special, little one. You are a spirit bear. You will be a great salmon-catcher one day, my son.’ Annuk had never seen a salmon, but his mother’s words gave him comfort. If being different meant that he was special, then Annuk didn’t mind. He decided he liked being a spirit bear.

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Annuk learned all of the best places to find food in the forest that summer, and played with his brother and sister every day. When Autumn came, Mama took them to the river to fish. Annuk was excited, at last he would learn how to catch a salmon! The cubs watched as Mama waded into the swollen river and pulled out the large, pink and green chum with her teeth and claws. They loved eating the fresh salmon that she left behind for them, it became their favourite food. Mama had told Annuk that he would become a great salmon-catcher one day, and he was eager to try to catch one for himself. He waited until he saw a really big salmon, and then jumped and snapped his teeth around its slippery body. But as he caught hold of the fish, he slipped on the rocks and fell into the river. Before he knew it, he was being carried swiftly downstream, far away from his family. He tried to fight the current, but it was too strong for him, and he was swept away by the powerful rapids.

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At last the river began to widen and slow, and Annuk was able to scramble to shore. He was so exhausted, he lay right down on the water’s edge and fell asleep. He dreamed he was still in the river, fighting to stay alive and to hang on to his salmon. When he awoke, he felt very hungry and looked around for his catch, but it was nowhere to be found! Then he saw a little wolf cub way up the beach, dragging HIS salmon off into the forest! Annuk chased after her, shouting ‘Hey, that’s MINE!’ The wolf cub moved faster, but Annuk caught up with her and grabbed at the fish. She gave a ‘yip’ and quickly dropped it, running off into the woods. Annuk sat down and feasted on the fresh salmon he had caught, grumbling to himself about the thief who’d nearly taken it from him. The salmon was very big, and Annuk couldn’t finish it all. He looked up and noticed that the little wolf was still watching him from the forest, so he backed away from the fish to let her have the rest. The cub paused for a moment, and then ran up to the abandoned salmon and began to eat. Annuk watched as she dined on the fish, and then disappeared into the forest again. When she was gone, he saw that she had only eaten the salmon’s head, and left the rest of the fish behind. How very strange, thought Annuk to himself.

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Annuk suddenly wished the wolf would come back and keep him company. He had no idea where he was, and he was all alone. He looked at the water stretching out before him, the biggest water he had ever seen in his life. Suddenly he saw a gigantic creature leap up in the air and then crash back down in a huge spray of foam. He had never seen such a thing before. Then another one did the same... then two...three...four... Annuk counted FIVE of these giant creatures jumping and diving in the water. A family. Somehow this made Annuk feel better, and he knew he had to find his way home. He looked around and realized he was on the wrong side of the river, and there was no way to get across. He would have to walk back up the way he had come, and try to find a way to cross the river and reunite with his family. Annuk began to walk back up the riverside, determined to make his way home, whatever it might take. He was afraid, but he decided he must be courageous and strong if was going make it back home again. But what Annuk didn’t realize was that someone was following behind him.

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He didn’t notice anything at first. But after he’d been walking for a little while, Annuk began to feel strange, like he was being watched. Then he thought he heard something rustling in the bushes just behind him. Annuk whirled around and said ‘Who’s there? Come out, whoever you are!’ as loud as he could. After a few moments, from behind a patch of ferns, emerged the little salmon thief! ‘Why are you following me?’ Annuk demanded. ‘I’m sorry,’ the wolf cub said, ‘I didn’t mean to scare you. I saw that you were all alone, and I thought you might need some help.’ ‘Why would you want to help me?’ asked Annuk suspiciously. The wolf smiled and said ‘Because you helped me. You let me share your salmon.’ Perhaps she really did want to help him, Annuk thought, and he could use the company. ‘I fell in the river, and got swept away from my family,’ Annuk explained. ‘I’m on the wrong side of the river, and I need to get back home.’ ‘I know this forest well,’ said the wolf. ‘I can help you out. I know a place where you can cross the river, I can take you that far. Why don’t you let me walk with you awhile?’ ‘Alright.’ Annuk said. ‘I suppose I could use the help. My name is Annuk.’ ‘I’m Kaya,’ said the wolf cub. ‘Nice to meet you!

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Kaya joined Annuk, and began chattering merrily. ‘I’m a sea wolf. There’s a lot of tension in our pack right now, so I like to go out and explore on my own sometimes, just to get away.’ she explained. ‘Why did you only eat the salmon’s head? Annuk asked curiously. ‘You left the rest behind.’ ‘Because that’s the best part!’ Kaya exclaimed. ‘All sea wolves eat the heads, that’s the bit we like!’ ‘Why did you try to steal it from me?’ Annuk asked. ‘I thought you had drowned,’ Kaya explained with a smile, ‘or I never would have tried it.’ Suddenly Kaya stopped, and Annuk could see that she was shaking. ‘Quick, in here!’ she hissed, and darted into the mouth of a hollow log. Annuk followed her into the cramped space inside. He could hear the sound of heavy footsteps coming their way. The sounds grew louder still, until they were right on top of the log they were hiding in! Through the crack, Annuk could see a great curved claw pressing down on the hollow log from above. They held their breath, but after a few minutes the huge animal moved on, and the sounds began to fade. ‘What was that?’ Annuk asked in a small voice. ‘A grizzly bear’ said Kaya. ‘A big one.’ ‘What would he have done if he’d caught us?’ Annuk asked. He was still shaking from their close call. ‘He would have had us for a snack,’ Kaya said with a crooked smile. ‘Come on, let’s get out of here!’

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‘The forest is really filled with danger, isn’t it?’ Annuk said as they carried on up the river. ‘Yes,’ Kaya agreed, ‘but you will learn what to look out for. You just need to listen carefully for predators.’ ‘I’ve always been close to my mother,’ Annuk said. ‘I’ve never been on my own before.’ ‘I know,’ Kaya said, ‘that’s why I knew you needed my help. A bear cub on his own is a sitting duck out here in the forest.’ ‘A sitting duck, eh?’ Annuk said and snapped playfully at Kaya’s tail. ‘I’ll show you a sitting duck!’ Kaya smiled and took off at a run as Annuk chased her up the river. After a while they stopped, panting and smiling, and sat down by the river’s edge for a drink of water. Suddenly Kaya stiffened, and sniffed at the air. Annuk could hear a menacing growl coming from above. ‘Cougar.’ Kaya whispered, and looked out across the river to the far side. There on the high, rocky ledge staring down at them was a full-grown female cougar. She gave a low growl and paced back and forth, watching the cubs with hungry eyes. ‘She’s angry because she can’t reach us,’ Kaya said quietly. ‘Luckily for us, cougars hate water, and the river is high. But they can swim if they really want to, and she‘d love to have us for her lunch. We’d better keep moving.’ Annuk took one last look at the angry, pacing cougar that wanted to eat him, and hastily followed Kaya into the woods. 18


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‘Let’s walk through the forest, there are better hiding places here.’ Kaya said, ‘And I know them all!’ Annuk smiled, but he was still shaken after coming so close to such dangerous predators. Kaya tried to cheer him up with jokes and stories, but Annuk felt a growing sense of dread in the pit of his stomach. He was sure that a far greater challenge was waiting for him just around the corner, and that he would have to face it on his own. ‘You can cross the river here,’ Kaya said, suddenly serious. As they emerged from the forest at the river’s edge, Annuk saw a long, slippery, moss-covered log jutting out across the river to the opposite bank. He realized that he was going to have to cross it alone. ‘So this is it,’ he said. Kaya smiled sadly. ‘I’m afraid so. My pack will be looking for me now, and I need to get back before sundown. I know you’ll find them again. You‘ll be okay,’ she said brightly, but her yellow eyes were filled with worry. ‘Thank-you,’ Annuk said, ‘You know I never would have made it this far without you.’ Kaya smiled and licked his cheek. ‘Goodbye, Kaya.’ Annuk said, turning toward the log. ‘Goodbye Annuk, my friend!’ Kaya called after him as he slowly crept across the wild, raging river. She stood and watched as he made the precarious journey to the other side, and smiled as he turned back to look at her one last time. Then she disappeared into the forest, and was gone. 20


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Annuk was alone in the forest now. As night began to fall, he felt a chill go down his spine. He was sure that he was being followed again, but this time, he knew this wasn’t a friend, but a predator that was stalking him. Desperate to find safety, he quickly scrambled up an old snag that was standing nearby. Behind him he heard a growl and the sound of snapping jaws, and felt something sharp graze his foot. He looked back down to see a great black wolf circling the trunk of his tree, growling and baring his teeth. He had escaped up the tree just in time! ‘All alone, little bear?’ hissed the wolf, as he slunk around the base of the snag. ‘I can wait all night for you, and have you for my breakfast in the morning.’ he said with a hungry smile. Annuk shivered in the dark and clung to the bare branches of the dead tree. He knew there was nowhere for him to run, he was stuck here in the tree until the wolf went away, and he seemed to have no intention of leaving!

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As the night passed, Annuk held on, and the wolf continued to circle below him. When morning broke, Annuk felt he could not hold on much longer. He was tired and weak, but the wolf refused to leave. Just when Annuk thought he could take it no longer, a great white spirit bear emerged from the trees. He lumbered slowly over and sat down at the base of the snag, and began eating salal berries. The wolf scurried off to the edge of the clearing. He was alone, and no match for a full-grown male spirit bear. The black wolf slunk about in the trees for a little while, but when he saw that the spirit bear meant to stay where he was, he finally went on his way. After the wolf had been gone for some time, the spirit bear got up and lumbered off. Annuk climbed down from his lonely perch and ran into the forest as fast as his poor, tired legs would carry him. 24


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Exhausted and hungry, Annuk carried on until he reached the place where he had fallen into the river. He looked up and down the bank, but there was no sign of his family. He felt tired and sad, so he sat down by the river’s edge to rest. But once again, he got the feeling that someone was watching him. At first he thought the black wolf might have found him, or maybe the cougar had followed him here! Then he looked across the river and saw two strange animals he’d never seen before. They stood on their hind legs, and had long, dark hair, but only on their heads. Their faces were smooth and brown, and they had strange coverings on their bodies. The larger one was pointing at him and saying ‘Moksgm’ol, Moksgm’ol.’ Something told Annuk that these creatures didn’t mean him any harm, they only wanted to look at him, so he sat and let them watch him for a while. He felt a sense of peace and tranquility in the presence of these gentle creatures, and it gave him the strength to carry on. After a little while he got up and entered the forest once again. 26


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Annuk began walking toward the den where he was born, hoping that he would find his family nearby. On the way, he had to cross the field where Mama used to bring them to eat sedges. As he came out of the forest, he looked out across the clearing and saw three dark figures on the far side, standing in the grass. He froze in his tracks. It was his family, just a few paces away, quietly grazing on sedges. At first they didn’t notice him, but then his mother slowly looked up, and saw him standing on the opposite side of the field. Then his brother saw him, and his sister too. They began to move toward one another other, slowly at first, then gaining speed. After all of his adventures in the Great Bear Rainforest, Annuk was home at last.

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The End 30


Spirit Bear