East of the Sun, West of the Moon
A peasant agrees to give his youngest daughter to a polar bear in exchange for wealth. All goes smoothly until the girl discovers her keeper is actually a prince cursed by his stepmother to spend a year’s worth of daytimes in the form of a bear. Because of this discovery, the prince must venture to a castle east of the sun and west of the moon to marry a troll princess. The girl accompanies him as they plot to outsmart their hosts with a scheme involving tallow and washing a shirt after three nights. Because nothing says escape like enchanted laundry.
Sarah Beth Durst’s young-adult novel Ice retells the story in a modern setting, its main character Cassie kidnapped by the Polar Bear King on her eighteenth birthday.
A German film summarily released under the Norwegian title Kvitebjørn Kong Valemon, Der Eisbärkönig adheres to East of the Sun, West of the Moon’s storyline with one minor twist involving its Polar Bear King, Valemon, portrayed by Tobias Hoesl—maybe you caught his 1985 turn in Czechoslovakia’s The Feather Fairy. Valemon is given seven years to find a wife, in this case a princess played by Maria Bonnevie—maybe you caught her as Rebecka in the movie Let’s Play House, a comedy inspired by Sweden’s “daddy leave” policies.
The princess is not allowed to look upon Valemon in his human form, though she does, meaning he must stay with the evil witch who cursed him. The good news: Der Eisbärkönig is available on DVD. Even better news: where else will you hear the lines:
Princess: “I must go with the bear.”
King of the Winterland: “Damn that bear.”
Not One For the Zoo
2007’s The Golden Compass, adapted from Phillip Pullman’s novel, also features a polar bear king, Ragnar Sturlusson (voiced by Deadwood’s Ian McShane), who is later dethroned and slain by another bear, Iorek Byrnison (Ian McKellen, when he’s not playing Gandalf, Magneto or Tsar Nicholas II). A close bond forms between Iorek and a young girl named Lyra Belacqua after she helps him retrieve his stolen armor, facemask and all.
From compasses to Coca-Cola, it’s good to be a polar bear when your likeness is rendered by CGI.
This fairy-tale file brought to you by editorial assistant Kristin Prinz and poetry editor Jon Riccio.