Asian Black Bear - Relationships With Humans - in Folklore and Literature

In Folklore and Literature

In Japanese culture, the black bear is traditionally associated with the mountain spirit (yama no kami) and is characterised variously as "mountain man" (yamaotoko), "mountain uncle" (yama no ossan), "mountain father" (yama no oyaji), a loving mother and a child. Being a largely solitary creature, the bear is also viewed as "lonely person" (sabishigariya). Black bears feature very little in lowland Japanese folklore, but are prominent in upland Japan, a fact thought to reflect the bear's greater economic value in upland areas. According to the local folklore in Kituarahara-gun in Niigata, the black bear received its white mark after being given a silk-wrapped amulet by yama no kami, which left the mark after being removed. In Hindu mythology, the black bear Jambavantha (also known as Jambavan or Jamvanta) is believed to have lived from Treta Yuga to Dvapara Yuga. In the epic Ramayana, Jambavantha assists Rama in finding his wife Sita and battle her abductor, Ravana.

Asian black bears are briefly mentioned in Yann Martel's novel The Life of Pi, in which they are described by the protagonist's father as being among the most dangerous animals in his zoo.

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