The Illustrious Royal Bear Hunting

Manasse Codex, ca. 1300 Prince Harwart kills a bear, the future heraldic animal of his dynasty

This popular joke says that sometimes back in the Communist times an important guest comes to Hungary for hunting, and he expresses his wish to shot a bear. In vain he is told that in Hungary there are no bears, this unimportant circumstance does not interest him. Finally they find a solution. They buy the old bear of the circus, and they let him go on the forest path in the direction of the high-stand. The bear is walking meekly towards his fate. However, Old John is coming on a bicycle from the opposite direction. As soon as he catches sight of the bear, he gets awfully terrified: he jumps from the bike and runs into the forest. The eyes of the bear twinkle: a bicycle! Finally something familiar in this strange place. He grasps the bike, sits on it just as he had done in all his life, and cycles towards the high-stand…

something like this… (from here)

or like this (from here)

or like this (from here)

or like this (from here)

or like this (from here)

or like this (from here)

or eventually like this (from here)

or something like this way (from here)

Don’t laugh. This has really happened. True, as the Erevan Radio says, with a minor difference. And not in Hungary, but in Russia. And the exalted guest was none else but Juan Carlos I, King of Spain.

The story was exposed in the 19 October 2006 edition of Kommersant. They wrote that Sergei Starostin, the supervisor of hunting in Vologda region who had been fired by his superior Andrei Filatov, sent a letter to the Governor of Vologda in which he described in detail the circumstances of the bear hunting of King Juan Carlos in August. He stated that the bear killed by the king was in the reality a meek animal called Mitrofan from the zoo of the nearby resource village Novlenskoe. Filatov had it brought to the place of hunting in a cage, and had it made stiff drunk with vodka mixed in honey before the hunting.

Within a couple of days the news went around the world. The Guardian has also recalled the cases of the bears stunned before hunting for Khrushchev and Brezhnev, and 24/7 even remembered the similar stories of Ceauşescu. The otherwise strongly right-wing El Mundo has made an exclusive interview with Starostin, also publishing the photo of Mitrofan. And the humor blog Harpo has even expounded that a detailed prophecy of the case had been written hieroglyphically long before in the papal coat of arms of Benedict XVI. The visual commentaries are not missing either, first of all in the Spanish press, of course. The most famous one is the title page of the weekly humor supplement of El Jueves which was sued ex officio by the state prosecutor for high treason, as according to its inscription the bear was made drunk so he would be “on equal conditions” with the king. However, the court has acquitted them by saying that the cartoon was “cruel” but “absolutely acceptable in a democratic society”. And the king, who has been collecting the cartoons of El Jueves made on him, explicitly liked it.

Title page and a cartoon of El Jueves’ humor supplement. The inscription of the vodka barrell is: “To feel yourself like a king!”

“Come on, bear, take a draught.” – The king as a honorary president of WWF has proposed a minor change in the emblem of the organization.

Forester: “Take this and then have a walk.” Bear: “Thank you, but I do not drink since my cousin drank and was shot in the forest.”

But as this story has happened in Russia, it almost begs for being immortalized in the form of a lubok as it used to be done with illustrious events, historical personalities and royal huntings in past centuries.

“The hunter wounds the bear and the dogs lacerate it”. Lubok, 18th century

Thus a detailed report was published in the February 2008 edition of the journal GQ by Kseniya Sokolova, which was illustrated with eight gorgeous luboks by Vladimir Kamaev in the manner of Andrei Kuznetsov.

“Ivan Karlos, King of Spain shoots at the extremely drunken bear Mitrofan.” The bear, however
strange it is, does not surrender itself, but is shouting “Hello!” On its typical gesture

and the greeting Превед! which does not figure in any dictionary
but has become a frequent linguistic meme of the
Russian net, we will write in a next post.

Putin (with the inscription “Czar”) “says goodbye to King Ivan Karlos leaving Sochi for
hunting”. According to the article, in the Vologda Government the king was
waited for with a double rainbow painted on the sky.

“So Mitrofan would not kill the king, Egor [Jäger, that is, the ranger] made him drunk with mead [according to the text of GQ, with vodka in honey].”

“While Karlos does away with Mitrofan, Princess Leticia loses her way in the forest.”

On hearing the news, writes the article, the perfidious Spanish press recalls everything:
that Juan Carlos had shot eight bears in Roumania, and that he was even
a fellow hunter to General Franco. The animal in the picture
is marked as a “Beast”.

“King Ivan Karlos in his court.”

The news trigger an inspection in Russia. Did the king really kill a drunken bear?
Version “A”: No. The “boyars” swear before the Governor (whose head
is covered from mortal eyes by the shining disk of the sun) that
“Mitrofanushka” was not killed by Karlos but by them.

Version “B”: No. World-weary Mitrofan himself blow his brains out. Fortunately
he has also left a letter: “Please do not accuse anyone for my death.
Your Mitrofan.” According to GQ, this is in fact the most
probable and most satisfying version. And the letter
of Mitrofan is written on nothing else
but a birch bark – a lubok.

However, we are even better informed than the shrewd reporter of GQ. We also have first-hand knowledge on what the king ate during the hunt. But this information deserves a separate post.

Update of April 15, 2012: In connection with this post we must recall the new hunting feat of Don Juan Carlos, reported yesterday in the Spanish press. This time he attempted to shoot down an elephant in the Botswana jungle, but the adventure costed him a painful hip fracture. We hope he will recover quickly, but above all we hope that the inventive African art will be able to tell the story with so much delicacy as the above Russian luboks did.

8 comentarios:

Julia dijo...

El rey Juan Carlos tendría que haber recordado a su antecesor visigodo, el rey Favila, que reinó entre el 737 y el 739. De breve reinado, no? Porque murió antes de tiempo en las garras de un oso al que pretendía cazar. La historia, como bien saben, se hizo proverbial.
Así, por ejemplo, Sancho Panza la recuerda con malicia cuando los duques lo quieren llevar de cacería:

"Yo no sé qué gusto se recibe de esperar a un animal que, si os alcanza con un colmillo, os puede quitar la vida. Yo me acuerdo haber oído cantar un romance antiguo que dice:

'De los osos seas comido,
como Favila el nombrado.'

-Ése fue un rey godo -dijo don Quijote-, que, yendo a caza de montería, le comió un oso.
-Eso es lo que yo digo -respondió Sancho-: que no querría yo que los príncipes y los reyes se pusiesen en semejantes peligros, a trueco de un gusto que parece que no le había de ser, pues consiste en matar a un animal que no ha cometido delito alguno." (Parte II, cap. 34)

Emborrachando al pobre Mitrofan se cuidaron en esta oportunidad de que no ocurriera lo mismo... Aunque las burlas y el ridículo terminan siendo en nuestra época mediática algo muy parecido a la muerte violenta.
En tal sentido, no tiene desperdicio cómo continua Sancho defendiendo su argumento más adelante:

"... el buen gobernador, la pierna quebrada y en casa. ¡Bueno sería que viniesen los negociantes a buscarle fatigados y él estuviese en el monte holgándose! ¡Así enhoramala andaría el gobierno! Mía fe, señor, la caza y los pasa-tiempos más han de ser para los holgazanes que para los gobernadores."

(¡Me encantaron todos los osos ciclistas!)

Megkoronáz A.J.P. dijo...

I'm with Julia.

This is a wonderfully illustrated story.

Studiolum dijo...

Un comentario perfecto para esta historia y digno a la sabiduría de Sancho Panza. Estoy cavilando sobre cómo formarlo en un post final a esta serie de posts sobre el Royal Bear Hunting. ¿No tienes alguna imagen congruente?

MOCKBA dijo...

With the utmost respect to rio Wang ... "So Mitrofan would not kill the king, Egor made him drunk with vodka in honey" - That's not Egor but Jager (Ranger) and not vodka-honey but mead? Keep up the good work!

Studiolum dijo...

Thanks a lot! As to Ягер for Егор, I would have not guessed it. And as to мед, it was suspicious, but the accompanying text of GQ explicitly spoke about vodka in honey… Now I will change it in the caption. Come back soon, and all future revisions are welcome!

MOCKBA dijo...

I think the giveaway is the last мягкий знак in "егерь" (derived from Jager, with the principal mening being "a professional hunting guide" ... as in this Galich's verse,
I love your blogs, they are like an amazing country full of things to explore ... but it is also a problem. For this country is so big, to big to see in a day or in a week ... and so it's always tempting to postpone a visit LOL.
So I mostly visit just for letras de tango translator's inspiration. E.g. here:
(since it is a Kiev-based site, I sheepishly dropped every other letter of my too-un-Kievan nick :) )

MOCKBA dijo...

PS: "game warden"

Studiolum dijo...

Well, come back from time to time, even if just for a short time, for a post, a picture, a tango text. You’re doing a great job in the tango forum. If I can be of any help in the translation, I do it willingly, just let me know.