A bear plays in a harp in the snow. Write the story.

What is my story?

What is my story?

From Neatorama, Let Me Play You The Song of My People:

I wish I knew the story behind this picture. It went viral in Russia a little over a year ago, but it may be much older than that.

Russia makes sense as a point of origin, though. When it’s that cold and snowy in Moscow, a harpist will both stay warm and draw attention by busking in a bear suit. And to own both a harp and a perfect bear suit, you have to get out and work every day. At least that’s the story from the shallow reaches of my imagination. Can you come up with a better one?

Go deeper. Go beyond the literal. Who is the bear? Why the harp? How did they get here? Who are they playing for? Is this a metaphor?

Write the story, go!

Add your response


Submitted by CogDog

There are 13 written responses to this assignment.

Warmth back to winter

Written by TaTyana Price on April 14, 2014 7:11 pm
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Every winter the snow falls to the ground. The birds fly towards the south. The animals began the hibernate, The lively neighborhood gets quite. For mr bear winter is his favorite season. He loves to play in the snow and play his harp. He loves to make snowman and snow angels but never has a friend to play with. He begins each day walking around hoping to make a new winter friend but theres never anyone outside. No one likes the cold he thoughts everyone this so badly about it. Then he thought of a great idea , lets bring the joy back to winter. So mr bear went back home grabbed his harp and sat in the middle of the town square. He played his favorite song for all to hear. At first no one came and he began to feel worried but remained positive , kept faith and kept playing and soon people came out their house and joined him in the square. They all held hands and sang joyful and the faith was brought back to winter. Now every year on this day the people of the town gather in the square sing song , hold hands , drink hot chocolate and enjoy the snow of winter. The faith of christmas is always kept alive.

Baby Bear

Written by mikeN on January 26, 2014 10:12 pm
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This is Baby Bear who’s family had gained fame from catching an intruder who had come in to their and ate porridge and slept in their beds. The family had fallen on some hard times due to the housing market crash in Russia. Baby bear was forced to join the traveling circus and was able to earn enough money keep up with the mortgage payments. Baby Bear had become a distinguish harp player and was asked to perform with such groups as the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Moscow Symphony, and the New York Philharmonic. Requested have also come from all around the world asking Baby Bear to perform with other Orchestra’s. This is a picture of Baby Bear jamming in the backyard of one of the many estates owned by the Bear family in Moscow city. Their original home in the forest is now a museum which is open to the public.

Anything for you dear!

Written by platoscave on January 23, 2014 2:16 am
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“No, I said I want an ice cold BEER, with a pleasant HOP!”

to hear is to really hear it

Written by @dogtrax on January 19, 2014 6:07 am
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We heard the notes before we saw the bear. Coming home from a long night of drinking and talking, the drinking had ended but we were still chattering away as snow fell from dark clouds. The argument was over whether the government was telling the truth. I, and others, argued that the government never told the truth, although we all kept a wary eye on our cell phones as we talked. The others, led by Marsha, said we had to have faith and to trust that our officials had good intentions. You can imagine the arguments over that one.
The bear was just sitting there, all alone, with the harp. The music stopped us dead in our track, and we all glanced around, wondering where its trainer was. There was none. It was just a bear, plucking out a delicate melody that most of us remembered from childhood. It was a song that most of our mothers sang to us as we went to sleep. A deep rich cultural song engrained in our hearts and minds over time.
The bear ignored us and played on.
We all looked at each other, as if to say “is this a joke” and not one of us dared to move until Marsha stepped forward, and whispered, “Bear?” as if she knew it. The bear stopped then, and looked up. Its fingers were frozen in mid-pluck, as if a note were being captured in its hands.
“Bear?” Marsha said again, but this time, with some sadness.
The bear nodded, and then in a movement quicker than one would imagine possible, it stood up, heaved the harp over its shoulder and ran off, leaving us like statues to watch. We all turned to Marsha. Tears were running down her cheeks now. Her eyes were closed in memory. Not one of us wanted to interrupt whatever had just happened, even though curiosity burned us deep.
Instead, we huddled around her, and lent her our warmth.

A wandering musician

Written by Holden on January 19, 2014 5:49 am
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“I dare you to touch him,” Peter said to Dmitri while they passed by one afternoon. “No mittens.”

I’ve seen these boys every day. In the mornings, Peter running ahead because he has longer legs, Dmitri still zipping up his coats, backpack slung over one shoulder. In the afternoons, they are much more frivolous, with Peter staying behind to more easily ambush Dmitri with a snowball or a spray of accidentally kicked snow. They usually don’t take notice of me.

Dmitri approaches cautiously. He looks nervous. I continue playing but open by mouth to growl at him, and he pulls back.

“You don’t believe he’s real, do you?” Peter said.

“But his teeth!”

“Fake,” Peter pronounced. “Like Grandma’s. You scared?”

Dmitri grabs my left paw, the one holding the harp, and pulls at it, as if trying to pull off a mitten. His hand is bare.

I shift, and before you know it, there’s a long scratch along his palm. He collapses on his ground and screams. His hand closes around his mitten, staining red. I’m wiping off the blood on the claw on the snow. It turned out to be a terrible idea.

I stop playing. I want to help, but I can’t. I sit, as if pinned down by Dmitri’s stare.

“What did you do to my brother, you, you… bear!”

When the boys run for help, I give a sad strum on my harp. They will be back, with reinforcements. I decide it’s safer to leave on two feet.

When I come back to Olya, my keeper, before the sun has set, she knows, and packs up without a word. It’s time to find another town.

Picnic baskets and harps

Written by https://twitter.com/JoDreher1 on January 19, 2014 3:16 am
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During the summer it is so fun to steal people’s picnic baskets when they are having fun at the parks playing and leave their picnic baskets unattended. Usually there is lots of delicious food that I can enjoy before they return from their hikes. In the winter, well things are a bit different. Not too many people go on picnics in the winter so it makes it harder to find food to eat. Being a bear, in the winter I usually have to resort to looking for food that people have thrown out in trash cans. That is when I happened upon this cool harp that was left by the trashcan to be thrown out. I thought that I would try it out. This is awesome. Who knew harp playing could be so relaxing and fun. What I fabulous find.

Bears, Harps, and Harmonies

Written by Cris Crissman @Cris2B on January 19, 2014 12:16 am
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@MattTurner — Fantastic Fri & Sat @moseleyfolk. So many highlights – Bears, harps & harmonies. Kids comparing lists of “best bits”. pic.twitter.com/X7cuNxGyv

@Moseley Folk Festival We believe that Ursula will be attending the performance! So get ready for some bear spotting! ohhhh Larsen B! xx

I have it on good authority (Twitter) that the Bonfire Radicals play the Moseley Folk Festival every year and that several of the members are bears.

Hoarding Bear Mother

Written by AstroComfy on January 18, 2014 6:37 pm
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Mother had always been a hoarder of all kinds of things, whatever she found out and about, especially typewriters and musical instruments. Bear had always wanted to play the accordion, but mother only had a left handed accordion and Bear was right handed. Mother also had a harp she had found at an old estate sale, so Bear learned to play the harp. Bear always regretted never having learned to play the accordion.

Harp of Water

Written by Sandy Brown Jensen on January 18, 2014 5:41 pm
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Harp of Water

“My harp is a harp of water,
with silver-dripping strings…”
–Laurence Pratt, Oregon poet

There is a bear in Gorky Park, one of the wild bears who used to be white – at least they were the night everyone saw them fall all at once from the sky.

They were young spirit bears who hit the ground rolling and running, tumbling and fighting in the way brothers and sisters are said to do.

By dawn they were gone, out of the park, out of Moscow on their long migration cross-country to Siberia, where every year they were expected and greeted with a festival.

This particular year, Nikolo Rosso brought his family and traveling circus to Ludvo for the Spirit Bear Festival. They pitched their ragtag carnival outside town in the muddy tundra, creating a Spirit Bear Lane in such a way that the long line of homecoming bears would have to parade between sideshow tents, shooting booths, and open kitchen spaces.

The flame-haired Rosso women cooked seal meat and frog spawn under the sharp eye of Old Lady Oleska Rosso on smoky little coal braziers. These delicacies they threw to the hungry young bears as they paraded by on the last mile of their journey to the Blackwater Sea.

They were young bears and curious bears in those spring weeks of their migration, watched over by the great father and mother constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

One young bear did something the Spirit Bears really weren’t supposed to do, or at least never had done–he slowed down on the triumphant sweep through Nikolo Rosso’s little impromptu village to look around.

He stopped at Old Lady Oleska’s kitchen, and rather than snatching seal meat tossed to him on the run, he surprised her by sitting back on his haunches. He looked at her quietly.

She was a canny old traveler. She knew what to do because the legends and songs she had memorized when she was young told her this could happen and she must feed this suddenly special bear from her own plate.

As she readied the plate of meat, Oleska hummed. She heard a musical rumble and looked up in some surprise – the bear was humming tentatively with her. She furtively signed to Nikolo, who was doing a brisk business with the locals selling the dark hooch that gave the Blackwater Sea its name.

Out of the corner of his eye, Nikolo had been watching this bear sort himself out of the herd, and so he came cautiously over at Oleska’s motion.

“Musical bear,” Oleska whispered, and you can say she betrayed the bear who became known as Orpheus, or you can say she was just an agent of change, but a collar, some firm management, and Orpheus began a new migration with the Rosso family.

Oleska undertook his musical training. He learned to hum beautifully. In their own way, Oleska and Orpheus became friends, or perhaps she was more of a mother to him. He always had enough to eat. He was kept well-groomed as his white hair slowly changed to brown.

By day, he hummed to the villagers who came to see the traveling show, and by night his silver eyes glittered as he listened to the wild fiddlers play and watched the flame-haired girls whirl around the fire. He saw coins spin and saw the girls led one by one away into the dark of the canvas tents, but he was a bear, and none of this meant anything to him.

On one swing far to the south by the Georgian Sea, two new things entered the life of Orpheus: somewhere Oleska obtained an Irish harp, and it was she who taught him to play it.

The other wonderful thing that entered the life of the little traveling family was a new cart that Nikolo added to their caravan. This was a cart built all of glass with painted wooden shutters, so that it could be all closed up on the road.

Orpheus watched the construction of this cart with great interest. Everyone was excited, but he couldn’t figure out why. When the resident of this new cart was brought home, he was chained at the other end of the compound.

That night, Orpheus quietly slipped his collar, and in the warm moonlight of the South, he was like a large shadow moving down the backside of the row of tents, stepping carefully over the guy wires, looking for the new cart.

Because it was warm, the painted shutters had been left down, and the great glass aquarium was open to the moon and stars.

Orpheus, no longer the white Spirit Bear of his youth, but now an adult male in his rich, dark prime, stood on his hind legs to look into this marvelous thing, a tank of water. He could hear the faint motor of an aerator.

Orpheus felt his heart slow for moment when he saw the woman floating in the tank. He was afraid she was dead, the way her luminous green hair floated in the slight current. Then he saw the gills behind her ears fluttering rhythmically, and he understood she was just sleeping.

As he looked in, she came awake and looked at him with no alarm. He saw her tail then, its long, muscular length, green and silver in the moonlight.

Perhaps she looked sad; perhaps he felt happy, but Orpheus began to hum. The mermaid swam close and put both hands up to the glass to meet his enormous paws.

Thus began a great friendship. Nikolo and Oleska and all the Rosso family realized this unusual love had thrown an aura of grace over their traveling show.

For years they prospered as the word ran out ahead of them of the musical bear and the mermaid. Orpheus played the harp, and the mermaid they called Rusalka swam and told stories with her hands and hips and eyes and graceful tail, stories of her own people, of the volcano goddess and the adventures of her younger sister and the handsome king they both loved.

No one understood her, but she danced her stories from the heart, and Orpheus loved her and told her so with his humming and his harp. Often when the moon was full, they would touch paws and hands together through the aquarium glass. He would hum, and she would sway gently to the night and the music of the bear.

These things happened long ago. Golden days go because golden days must; evil creeps out of the hills her, . There are always betrayals, and beautiful things, if not violated, are taken away by night and released to a cold and foreign sea.

Orpheus never knew if Rusalka survived her return to the sea, but in his bear’s imagination, and in the power of his traveling heart, he held her and traced her difficult journey south ever south to warmer latitudes.

In his heart and mind, he felt when sharks would circle her, and he held them back. He brought food to her by the power of care, and so she was sustained and nurtured until, in his mind’s eye, she was approached by others of her own kind and taken in, and she began a new life.

The carnival was in smoking ruins when he and Oleska escaped, chased by the high-pitched screams of the bandits wheeling their horses through tattered tents with their long streamers of fire.

The two old friends wandered across the vast depths of Russia for a few more years. Orpheus would hum songs he learned from Rusalka, and the very very old woman would play the harp for seal meat and bits of bread.

One very cold night, the two slept curled up together. But in the morning, Oleska did not awake. Villagers took her away and shooed Orpheus along. He began his long mindless rambling across the landscape.

One night, when he saw the lights of Moscow in the distance, he rested. By pale dawn light, he saw a long line of young white bears coming toward him. He watched as they passed by, then he followed their trail in the snow back to Gorky Park.

As always, the people fed him there, and he hummed to the people and played his harp until they turned away with a sudden urgent anxiety for their loved ones. Mothers looked for their children and estranged lovers sought each other among the dark confusion of the leafless trees.

Orpheus played his harp in Gorky Park until his parents in the wheeling constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor came around again. They looked down and heard him play until their hearts broke with pity, and then it was they brought him home to take his rightful place along the stars.

Bearing witness

Written by danabrolley on January 18, 2014 5:26 pm
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Blanketed in silence, the roar of agony thumbed through her fingertips. Echoes from the past wept for peace, for sleep. Grumbling moans filled the nothingness with heart break. Sorrow masked, she pursued courage to lumber on alone.


Written by dkernohan on January 18, 2014 5:03 pm
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“Grizzly” Gerschovich (newly moved to the area, formerly a successful solo artiste in Russia), seeks experienced rhythm section for gigs in and around the city. Must have own transport and not eat people. Not looking for stardom, just some fun playing music and maybe enough money to cover the bear necessities.

King’s Cross Station for Bears

Written by Bill Smith @byzantiumbooks on January 18, 2014 2:57 pm
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What? Where am I? I was just wandering around the forest near my den, now what’s this place?

Hmmm, all white, misty. A harp? What is this, the afterlife? Am I dead?

I see trees off in the distance, and there’s those apartments from the human settlement. But I’m fenced in.

I don’t feel cold or anything at all. It’s so quiet, maybe I’ll try this harp.

I’ve never played a harp before. What does a bear know about music, anyway? But it seems so natural, and sounds pretty good after all! What am I now, a bear angel?

I wonder if this all real, or just happening inside my head?

A voice comes from nowhere: ”Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Feeling Free To Go

Written by Stefanie on January 18, 2014 12:33 pm
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It is still dark in the room. I have had a restless night because I have to sort out the decision of my life. Where to settle down. I feel it’s time to find my place in life as well as a decent place calling home.
I’ve had wild dreams of animals and playing instruments and whenever I was awake I tried to make it a clearer picture, without being very successful, all remained blurry.
Before I went to bed I listened to the news where they reported from a polar bear has tried breaking out. The news have finished with telling about the Schleswig-Holstein-Festival, where they this year will play much music from early times, like a harpsichord.
I’ve woken up late this morning which gives me the pleasure to already have it bright behind the curtain. I am slowly getting up and without hurrying I now open the curtain. My eyes start their movement in the sky and taking my time proceeding into the direction of the yard, and there … you may not believe me, … a brown bear sitting in the snow on a delicate chair, almost the height for a child and brightly painted, again a brown bear in the yard deep in snow on a chair and playing the harp, so unbelievably beautiful, … and the music is talking to me: Stefanie, like I am just taking a chair and my harp you can take a chair and an instrument that fits to you and go wherever you want. It is not about settling down, but about going on an on and on … about feeling free to go.