The Bear That Wasn't

The Bear That Wasn't

The Bear That Wasn't is a 1946 children's book by film director and Looney Tunes alumnus Frank Tashlin.


A bear settles down for his hibernation, and while he sleeps the progress of man continues. He wakes up to find himself in the middle of an industrial complex. He then gets mistaken by the foreman for a worker and is told to get to work. To this he responds, "But I'm not a man, I'm a bear". He is then taken to each of his successive bosses (general manager and a trio of vice-presidents), all of whom tell him their own version of him being a "silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat", reaching all the way up to an elderly president (who in the animated version is depicted as a dwarf whose face is never seen) of the factory who concludes he cannot be a bear because "bears are only in a zoo or a circus; they're never inside a factory". The bear is, by the president and his employees, taken to the zoo and hopes to gain support from his own species, but even the zoo bears claim that he is not a bear, because if he were "he would be inside the cage here with us" (in the animated version, a bear cub also repeats exactly the same claim of the bear being a "silly man"). Eventually he concludes that he must indeed be a "silly man", and buckles down to work hard at the factory – much to the satisfaction of the foreman and the other bosses, all of whom shake hands as the bear works. Months later, the factory closes for the winter and the bear finds himself turned out of doors in the cold snow, wishing that he were a bear. Finally he realises that he is indeed a bear and, discarding the trappings of his human existence seeks out a cave in which to hibernate, which he enters, feeling comfortable and bear-like once more. As the bear is sleeping, the narrator reflects on the events of the year and concludes that even though neither the human bosses nor the zoo bears would believe that he was a bear, "that didn't make it so; no indeed, he wasn't a silly man...and he wasn't a silly bear, either".