Veikko Holmberg og Sissel Horndal (ill.)

Veikko Holmberg and Sissel Horndal (ill.): Durrebjørnen og skuterløypa. Novel, Davvi Girji, 2014.

This book is dedicated to everyone who must yield to the demands of wider society.

This is how the author opens the book and leads us into the story of the main characters, the female bear Durre and her cub Darre. The subject is international, but the action takes place in the Inari region of Northern Finland. As bears always do in the winter, Durre and Darre lie sleeping in their cave in the far north of the country. Then in the spring, they’re suddenly awoken by an awful roar. It turns out that a snowmobile trail passes close to the bears’ winter home.

A conflict ensues between the bears and those wanting to ride their snowmobiles. It turns into a tug of war in the local community, which reaches the point where permission is granted for the bears to be shot. The bear hunt is stopped just in time.

The thematics touch on the encounter between old and new, illustrating how the balance of nature can easily be damaged by the human need for recreational space. The story contains a message that reminds us of the Norwegian mountain code that there’s no shame in turning back in time. These could also be called rules for respecting nature.

In the Sami community, such rules for respecting nature and wildlife have been passed down orally from generation to generation. The main message is to raise awareness, guide, and protect. Now this is now often accomplished through literature, because we are seeking to pass on the legacy to future generations.

The language in the book reflects Sami oral traditions. The author’s use of nature terms without any syntax makes it difficult for children reading the book. The story’s plot is easy to follow right from the beginning. The reader empathises with the bears, which allows them to understand the pain they’re going through. As the reader, you can ask whether such a large area is necessary for human recreation.

The story is visualised in naturalistic colour illustrations that reinforce the subject matter. We follow the story from the mauve landscape of spring to the earthy colours of autumn. The bear standing frozen in the winter landscape draws us into the plot. This together with the bears being woken earlier than normal highlights the lack of balance. Bears have to sleep in the winter, of course.

The bear’s good nature is also clearly evident in the illustrations, which signal kindness, harmony, and closeness to humans. This contrasts with the aggression evident in the images of the bear’s opponents. The illustrations underpin the story and help to enhance the experience of a story in which wisdom ultimately triumphs.