The Bear and the Maiden Fair

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Art by jubah

"The Bear and the Maiden Fair" is a ribald traditional song sung throughout the Seven Kingdoms. It describes in a humorous tone the story of a hairy bear that, while going to a fair with a band of three boys and a goat, rescues a maiden who was hoping for a knight. It is very popular, being enjoyed both by nobles and smallfolk.

Contents

Lyrics

A bear there was
a bear, a bear
all black and brown
and covered with hair
Oh come they said
oh come to the fair
the fair? said he
but I'm a bear
all black and brown
and covered in hair!
And down the road
from here to there
from here, to there
three boys, a goat
and a dancing bear
they danced and spun
all the way to the fair!
Oh, sweet she was
and pure and fair
the maid with honey
in her hair, her hair
the maid with honey
in her hair
The bear smelled the scent
on the summer air
the bear, the bear
all black and brown
and covered with hair
he smelled the scent
on the summer air
he sniffed and roared
and smelled it there
honey on the summer air
Oh I'm a maid
and I'm pure and fair
I'll never dance
with a hairy bear
a bear, a bear
I'll never dance
with a hairy bear
The bear, the bear
lifted her high
into the air
the bear, the bear
I called for a knight
but you're a bear
a bear, a bear
all black and brown
and covered in hair
She kicked and wailed
the maid so fair
but he licked the honey
from her hair
her hair, her hair
he licked the honey
from her hair
Then she sighed and squealed
and kicked the air
she sang: my bear so fair
and off they went
the bear, the bear
and the maiden fair[1]

History

Dunk heard "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" performed at the Ashford Tourney in 209AC.[2] It was also sung by Lord Frey's nephew at the Whitewalls Tourney.[3]

Recent Events

A Clash of Kings

The song is sung at the harvest feast at Winterfell.[4]

A Storm of Swords

Tom of Sevenstreams sings it with Hot Pie on the ride to the Inn of the Kneeling Man. When Tom wants someone to sing with, Hot Pie tells him he knows the song about the bear. Tom starts to sing it and Hot Pie joins in lustily, even bouncing in his saddle a little on the rhymes. Arya Stark is astonished; Hot Pie has a good voice and sings well, she thought all he could do was bake. [5]

During the grim march back to Craster's Keep after the Fist Grenn tries to encourage Samwell Tarly to keep marching by telling him to sing a song in his head. Sam knows a hundred songs but is so terrified he cannot think of any. Grenn suggests "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" and starts to sing it - but Sam begs him not to as it makes him think of the hideous wight-bear that had come at them at the Fist. [6]

It is sung by Butterbumps at Sansa Stark's dinner with Margaery Tyrell and Olenna Redwyne to cover the conversation about Joffrey Baratheon.[1] Greatjon Umber sings it, drunkenly, at the Red Wedding.[7]

During the Battle of Yunkai Ser Barristan Selmy tells Daenerys Targaryen that Robert Baratheon liked songs that made him laugh. Barristan adds that Robert only sang when he was drunk, and then by that point one of the songs was likely to be the "The Bear and the Maiden Fair". [8]

Feast for Crows

It is sung by Dareon on the voyage to Braavos.[9]

A Dance With Dragons

The song is sung by Abel for Barbrey Dustin during a meal at Winterfell.[10]

In Meereen Tyrion Lannister realizes that Ser Jorah Mormont is doomed if purchased by Zahrina. Tyrion manages to get the slave overseer Nurse to convince Yezzan zo Qaggaz to purchase Jorah by lying and telling Nurse that Jorah is part of their show - the bear and the maiden fair. Jorah is the bear, Penny is the maiden, and Tyrion is the brave knight who rescues her. During their bondage Tyrion notes that Jorah has not adapted well. When called upon to play the bear and carry off the maiden fair, he has been sullen and uncooperative, shuffling lifelessly through his paces when he deigns to take part in their mummery at all. [11]

Symbolism

Jaime saves Brienne from the bear at Harrenhal. - by Marc Simonetti ©

The song is a motif that reflects the relationships between several characters, including Sandor Clegane and Sansa Stark, Jorah Mormont and Daenerys Targaryen, and Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister (where Sandor, Jorah, and Brienne symbolize "the Bear" who either literally or figuratively saves the "Maiden Fair").

The song's relevance to Jorah and Daenerys is emphasized by the fact that a bear is the sigil of House Mormont and that fair skin and hair are ubiquitous features among the bloodline of House Targaryen.

In A Game of Thrones, Sansa is infatuated by the idea of the chivalrous prince and the knight in shining armor, archetypes which she believes are embodied by Ser Loras Tyrell and, mistakenly, Prince Joffrey Baratheon. Accordingly, when Joffrey and his court abuse and beat her, it is not the stereotypical knight but the deformed Sandor Clegane who comes to her rescue. When asked if there any connection between Sansa's story and the song "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" George R. R. Martin replied: “Well, we´ll have to see.” [12]

After Jaime is tortured and later released from Harrenhal, the unattractive Brienne steers Jaime away from suicide and sets him on the path to redemption. Ironically, Jaime later saves Brienne from a grizzly bear in the bear pit at Harrenhal.

See also

References and Notes

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