Please bear this in mind: this is a feel-good story of hope, joy, the return of a loved one, and the power of imagination. With that out of the way, allow us to snidely retell it.
The Guardian reported that a three-year-old boy, Casey Hathaway, was rescued after having gone missing for two days in the woods close to his grandmother's home in North Carolina, a US state notable for, among other things, its population of black bears.
According to media reports, Casey, was found by a search-and-rescue team, after a two day search, and though crying, wet, hungry, and bruised, was unharmed and none the worse for the wear.
However, when questioned by authorities, Casey made a surprising statement; he said that he was safe because a "friendly bear" kept him company during his time in the woods. It is unclear at this time whether they strolled across fallen logs and sang upbeat songs, or whether the boy learned the ways of the jungle.
Casey's aunt, in a Facebook post celebrating the return of nephew, seemingly took the small boy's big claim at face value, and wrote that God (for reasons known only to that deity) had sent the ursine guardian to keep him safe.
This may seem a tail, er, tale straight out of the Jungle Book (a new rendition of which recently released on Netflix, which is surely only a coincedence; just like a bear hanging out with what would be a perfectly acceptable snack to it), and animal experts agreed, saying it was as realistic as the beloved children's tale, written by the far less lovable racist imperialist that was Rudyard Kipling.
“He said he hung out with a bear for two days. God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is a good God. Miracles do happen,” wrote Breanna Hathaway in the post, which she has since deleted, presumably after having checked her Netflix viewing history.
Speaking to The Guardian, Chris Servheen, a bear researcher at the University of Montana, said, "I’ve never known such a thing to happen, bears don’t do that. Wild bears aren’t friends with people. I don’t want to say he’s not telling the truth, he obviously thinks he’s seen things and maybe he’s got a teddy bear at home. But I’ve seen no evidence anything like that has ever happened.”
He added, “I don’t want to cast aspersions on the child but I think the little boy had a fantasy. The bear wouldn’t feel sorry for him, thinking he’s alone. That’s ascribing human characteristics on wild animals, which is anthropomorphism."
Kids' stories have a lot to answer for.