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Watch: Bear Grylls Reads ‘The Bear Scouts’ at the White House Easter Egg Roll

As UK’s Chief Scout, and Chief Ambassador of World Scouting, it makes sense that one of  Bear Grylls’s favorite books is the classic children’s tale The Bear Scouts, by Stan and Jan Berenstain. 

The story is a children’s book that Bear’s father used to read to him when he was small, and which Bear read to his boys as they were growing up.

The story starts in the forest, with four young Bear Scouts heading off camping – they’re leaving their treehouse home, armed with their rucksacks and a big book. Mama Bear asks them if they are taking Papa Bear with them. The Bear Scouts say they don’t need Papa as they’ve got the Bear Scout Guidebook, which will tell them “all they need to know about camping and where to go”.

Image by Anthony Devlin/Stringer

Smart Bears

Papa Bear decides that he knows more than the guidebook and that he should join them on the trip. “A smart Bear opens his eyes wide and never needs a Bear Scout Guide,” he says.

This is where things start to go wrong. The guidebook says that when you encounter a bridge that’s out, to tie your rope with a Bear Scout knot to get safely across the river. Papa of course has his own way of doing things, and declares that a ‘smart Bear’ ties his own knot to the tree to safely cross. 

“Watch me!” he says. Of course, his knot is a disaster and he ends up dangling off the river bank, and the young Bears have to rescue him.

After this, he thinks he’s clever enough to know the short way to the campground and he ignores the map in the book, which says to go the ‘long way’. “A smart Bear takes the short way,” he says. Of course, he meets a crocodile on the way, and has to be rescued again by the young Bear Scouts.

Learning From Each Other

When they get to a river, the scouts want to build a canoe from the book, but Papa decides that would be too slow, and that he knows a faster way to get down the river. He decides to show off, and sets off in his ‘fast canoe’, which is really just a giant log from a tree. Of course, he falls off the log and gets stuck in the river, and he has to be rescued again by the scouts, who throw him a rope.

When they get to the campground, Papa Bear declares that he’s the ‘camp set-up champ’. He says he’s really good at starting a fire – but the Bear Scouts say that his way will take all night. Papa’s fire doesn’t light, but the scouts follow the advice in the book and get theirs going.

Papa then decides to cook the Bears dinner, putting some eggs, some fresh green weeds, toad stools, roots and leaves into a pot to make his favorite stew. The scouts say the stew has a funny smell – their book suggests they take their rods and catch some fish. Of course Papa’s stew makes him sick and he tucks in to what the young Bears have cooked.

Page 88 of their guidebook says to put up their tents before it’s too late, but Papa thinks tents are ‘for sissies’ and decides to sleep in a cave. During the night, he encounters many bats in the dark, damp cave, and in his hurry to escape, he ends up falling out of the cave and injuring himself.

He asks the Bears to rescue him – and to bring their guidebook. They end up bandaging his nose and head and putting him on a rescue sled to take him home. Even at the end, he thinks that having a guide like him meant that they couldn’t go wrong.

At the end, the Bear Scouts agree that they did learn a lot about what is smart or what is not.

The White House

In 2016, Bear Grylls was invited to read from this favorite storybook at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. 

“Look after each other, your brothers and sisters, stay smart, learn your adventure skills and always look after your Papa Bear,” said Bear at the end of the story.

He also told the children there what it has been like to have so many adventures. “I feel so lucky, it’s the only job I’ve ever been any good at,” said Bear. “I love climbing trees, I love climbing mountains. Once I stood on the summit of Mount Everest. Right at the top it was tiny. I could see the sun coming up over Tibet. 29,000 feet and it was beautiful.”

He also advised his young audience to always have a back-up plan when climbing stuff – as branches of trees can break. “You only get it wrong once in the wild,” he said. He tells them about breaking his back in a parachute accident, breaking his shoulder in Antarctica, and other breaks and injuries he has had. 

His last, and most important piece of advice to the crowd? “Never give up”.

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