Short Reviews – Balu the Bear, by Blanche E. Ward

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Balu the Bear by Blanche E. Ward appeared in the June 1944 issue of The Wide World.

Sometimes you need a good diversion; a short, droll piece to fill a page.

Balu the Bear is just such a piece.

A dancing bear is sold to a rich guy who keeps it around because when you are rich, it’s nice to have things like dancing bears, especially since fancy ladies loves such conversation pieces.

A thief hopes that he can steal a bunch of sweet stuff (jams, honeys, bags of sugar) and pin it on the bear. Tear open some sacks, break a few jam jars, lead the bear to be left licking up sweets and make off with a bunch of stuff to fence later.

While the thief is staging his crime scene, a traveling troupe is just happening to be passing through the streets. The bear seizes the thief and begins dancing; the thief’s screams wake everyone up, and he confesses because any punishment seems less horrifying than dancing with Balu.

There’s really not a lot to say about this story, and I might have skipped talking about it, but I had to scan the illustration, cuz that bear looks crazy. This sucker’s gonna find its way into some memes.

Next week, I’ll be featuring the cover story; while I’ve still got about 1/3 of the issue left, I think I’ll be wrapping up on the issue so far as Short Reviews are concerned. While every story has been well-written and uniformly entertaining, there’s not been anything particularly thought provoking to write home about, which I suppose is why I’ve had a difficult time doing so myself.

This isn’t a strike against The Wide World or its stories at all; these are the stories you hear from older men in their parlors and in taverns–light, airy and thoroughly enjoyable to listen to over and over again, even if there’s no great profundity to be found beyond the pathos and human kinship we feel with the teller in the telling.

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