• List Price: $29.95
  • Save: $2.51 (8%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 6 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
The Bear: History of a Fa... has been added to your Cart
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly.
Sell yours for a Gift Card
We'll buy it for $7.47
Learn More
Trade in now
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images

The Bear: History of a Fallen King Hardcover – November 16, 2011

6 customer reviews

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
$23.20 $19.62

Best Books of the Year So Far
Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
$27.44 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 6 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

The Bear: History of a Fallen King + Black: The History of a Color + Green: The History of a Color
Price for all three: $74.67

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews


Pastoureau brings erudition and expertise to his subject as he traces how the bear was a venerated figure in pagan Europe, but dethroned as king of beasts by Christianity. He makes an important contribution by providing a long history of the bear, an animal whose symbolic importance is unknown by many. Readers will be treated to an elegant review of medieval history and theology, as well as informed discussions about the art on cave walls, the boundary between humans and animals in Greek myth, the philosophical foundations of natural history from Aristotle to Buffon, and a wealth of information about popular culture during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (Matthew Senior, Oberlin College)

The scholarship displayed in this groundbreaking study is the best kind: deep, broad, imaginative. Medievalist Pastoureau takes on the history of the bear, that exceptional animal once said to most resemble man. Once king of the beasts in the West, at times even god, the bear was hunted down in Europe from the time of Charlemagne (d. 814) and its image systematically degraded. By the end of the 12th century, the bear's place as king of the beasts had been usurped by the lion. Henceforth the bear was largely a figure of ridicule. How did this happen? What purposes did the change serve? Pastoureau uses evidence from history, textual analysis, heraldry, anthropology, and iconography to produce an eclectic study that not only reads like a dream but opens avenues for future research. (David Keymer Library Journal 2011-09-01)

William Kotzwinkle (The Bear Went Over the Mountain) and Bella Pollen (The Summer of the Bear) have already demonstrated the appeal of ursine protagonists. But their treatment of our bruinish cousins is nowhere near as encyclopedic as that of Michel Pastoureau, who starts his survey in prehistory and rambles down to the present, tracing the biology, allure, and legends of bears right up to the cuddly teddy bear that represents a hearthside version of the former king of beasts. (Barnes & Noble Review 2011-11-04)

The animal that dominated the forests of prehistoric and early medieval Europe--and the collective unconscious of Europeans--was, naturally, the largest and strongest creature there, the brown bear...Uncannily human-like in its diet, supposed sexual tastes and ability to stand upright, the bear was seen as an intermediary creature dwelling between the human and animal worlds. It appears in countless myths: Paris, who stole away Helen and sparked the Trojan War, was raised by a she-bear whose milk gave him a taste for abduction. And it has always provided personal names in various European languages, from the epic hero Beowulf (meaning bee-wolf, meaning honey-loving bear) to tennis ace Bjorn (Bear) Borg. What drove Europe's king of beasts from his throne and demoted him to the pitiful dancing entertainer of the late Middle Ages is the core of Pastoureau's engrossing book. And the short answer is Christianity. (Brian Bethune Maclean's 2011-11-07)

The chief subject of Pastoureau's fascinating book...is not the prominent place bears once held in the human imagination but the manner in which they fell from that place. (Christopher R. Beha New York Times Book Review 2011-12-25)

About the Author

Michel Pastoureau is a historian and Director of Studies at l'École pratique des hautes études (Sorbonne) and at l'École pratique des hautes études en sciences sociales.

Looking for the Audiobook Edition?
Tell us that you'd like this title to be produced as an audiobook, and we'll alert our colleagues at Audible.com. If you are the author or rights holder, let Audible help you produce the audiobook: Learn more at ACX.com.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Tra edition (October 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674047826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674047822
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Beverly Seaton on May 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michel Pastoureau, my teddy bear Brownie (b. 1941) and I salute you! This book is both scholarly and readable, with great illustrations and a clear narrative. Pastoureau has clearly shown the role of the church in the demotion of the bear from hero to degraded entertainer, as it swept away the old religions of Europe with a skillful use of transformation, from picturing the bear as a servant to saints in many stories to flipping pagan bear-related holidays to Christian celebrations.

Throughout the account runs the continuing use of the same names related to bears, even in Christian times. I found this aspect of the book especially enlightening as I never knew all the bear's names throughout European history. King Arthur?? Of course!

The Bear is a model of popular culture scholarship; I look forward to reading Pastoureau's books on the history of colors and stripes.
And I loved the happy ending--the revenge of the bear, i.e. the rise of the teddy bear in the twentieth century.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Martin Davies on October 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is beyond extraordinary. Pastoureau has taken a subject of vast significance - about which hardly a word has been written - and illuminated with erudition and style not just the animal's sorry history, but also Christianity, scholasticism, zoology, heraldry, hagiography and onomastics, with brilliant insights on the side into dietetics, toponomy, and a host of other disciplines. His mind is as wide-ranging as the magnificent Ursidae of the past, so terribly persecuted by the medieval church. A shocking indictment of ecclesiasticism, evangelization and anthropolatry.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Karen M. Carlson on April 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a highly readable history of the bear in European culture. The author puts forth an interesting thesis about the prominence of the bear in prehistoric and early historic/pre-Christian times, when the bear was an object of respect, of realistic fear, and sometimes of veneration. He proceeds to show how attitudes towards the bear changed, with the implication that this was -- consciously or unconsciously -- orchestrated by the Christian church, for whom the bear's pagan associations were threatening.

Most of this material was new to me, and I did not delve into the sources listed. Thus for the most part I do not know how accurate it is. A couple of statements, however, I am pretty sure are incorrect. In discussing the Norse gods, the book says "the war god Thor was early on given as surname the common name for bear in Old Norse: bjorn (Thorbjorn)...." Nowhere in my fairly extensive reading of Norse mythology and Scandinavian sagas have I seen the god Thor called Thorbjorn; Thorbjorn is man's name that incorporates the god's name. In discussing Beowulf, the hero of the Old English poem of that name, the book rightly points out that the name Beowulf (bee wolf) suggests a bear. However, when it states that "Beowulf is a bear, or rather the son of a bear and a woman" it goes beyond the text or any scholarship that I am aware of. These dubious statements are used to support the arguments of the book, which leads me to wonder if many more points might be misstated or exaggerated.

The book is interesting, and -- taken with a grain of salt as to details and bias -- the main premise is believable. it is for the most part anecdotal, and includes a number of engaging stories from history and folklore.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
The Bear: History of a Fallen King
This item: The Bear: History of a Fallen King
Price: $27.44
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com

Want to discover more products? Check out this page to see more: cheap teddy bears bulk