Bears are a multifaceted symbol in Beartown. On the one hand, they represent the small, hardscrabble town’s resilience and determination despite a declining economy. Because hockey is the town’s pride and joy, young players who show promise are said to “have the bear in them”—a fierce work ethic and a refusal to accept anything less than victory. On the other hand, there’s also a darker side to the “bear” ferocity. This is seen most glaringly when hockey star Kevin Erdahl refuses to hear “no” from Maya Andersson and sexually assaults her; then, when Maya reveals what Kevin did, most of the town turns against her. It’s also apparent in the violence of The Pack, a group of angry young fans who physically intimidate other teams and anyone else who threatens the Bears’ dominance. Overall, bears represent the idea of immense strength that, if unchecked, can turn toxic and dangerous.
Bears Quotes in Beartown
One of the plainest truths about both towns and individuals is that they usually don’t turn into what we tell them to be, but what they are told they are. The teacher has always been told she’s too young for this. Too attractive. That they won’t respect her. Those boys have been told that they’re bears, winners, immortal.
Hockey wants them that way. Needs them that way. Their coach teaches them to go hard into close combat on the ice. No one stops to think about how to switch that attitude off when they leave the locker room. It’s easier to pin the blame on her: She’s too young. Too attractive. Too easily offended. Too difficult to respect.
Amat bounces around between the hugs and pats on the back, and hears himself join in a shouted rendition of “WE ARE THE BEARS FROM BEARTOWN!” so loudly that his chest stings, and he hears the others singing louder because he does, because they want to feel that they’re participating in what he represents now.
The rush lifts him up, his endorphins are bubbling, and afterward he will remember thinking: “How can anyone possibly experience this without thinking he’s a god?”
None of them sees the first skate of the child who’s the last one out. She’s four years old, a scrawny little kid in gloves that are too big for her, with bruises everyone sees but nobody asks about. Her helmet slips down across her eyes, but the look in them is clear enough.
Adri and Sune come after her, ready to hold the girl up, until they realize that there’s no need. The four boys at the center circle will build a new A-team next season, but that doesn’t matter, because in ten years’ time it won’t be their names that make the people of this town stand taller.
And they’ll all lie and say they were here and saw it happen. The first skate of the girl who will become the most talented player this club has ever seen. They’ll all say they knew it even then.