Ever read a Brothers Grimm version of a story you thought you knew then think to yourself, “the stories are so different, one has more death and rape and the other has a prince who slays a dragon.” No? Well the point is that the story told to you years ago was altered from an original version to the point where the story you knew and the original are essentially two different stories. Now imagine that scenario except the story now has about six other retellings and the plot only loosely reminds you that they are all the same story, thus is the case with Bearskin.
The story of Bearskin varies from a man in need of money striking a deal with the devil by accident to a man who served as a gatekeeper to hell for seven years because he was too dirty depending on where the story was told, and the stories go from pages to a few paragraphs in length which keeps each story feeling as though it is a whole new story as opposed to a singular cut and dry version which dominates worldwide. Does this make it confusing to tell which story is the correct version? No, on the contrary the fact that practically every country has its own version makes Bearskin very enjoyable to read. It’s actually fairly intriguing to see what details one country left out and what details another country embellished because it shows what the writer wanted to tell the audience of their time down to how both of the meaner sisters died and lost their souls to either the devil or a devil based on the story. Each of the characters even has a different personality based on which story you read, sort of like a politician when they go to other states looking for voters except you can care about what the characters say in the original Bearskin got to the point where “No one recognized him,” but even at that point he was generous and kind to the poor.
The story Bearskin is not made great by what it tells, even though the story itself is pretty interesting, it is made great by being so diverse and captivating to the reader. Bearskin could’ve been one simple story about a man who makes a deal with the devil and wins, but it elaborated on itself, it evolved. Bearskin grew over time and across nations into a fantastic tale made up of many different versions that could each stand alone as though it were the original, yet when read together it brings more enjoyment in seeing what each country had to say about making a deal with the devil.