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What the Bear Said by W.D. Valgardson

What the Bear Said

For a thousand years, its inhabitants passed down oral histories that included fantastical fables as a way to understand their strange land. For settlers escaping starvation in the wake of volcanic eruptions and economic hardship, Manitoba's Interlake area held further mystery

Winner of the 2012 INL Reads!

A land of volcanoes, geothermal pools, and barren wilderness, Iceland is full of mists and mystery. 

Bears, wolves, fish, forests, swamps, harsh winters, insect-infested summers, the unpredictable waters of Lake Winnipeg, people disappearing because of forces of nature or forces of the human heart, all provide a wealth of material from which Turnstone Press's first published author draws his inspiration.

A bear whose thoughts fill a fisherman's mind like ink in water, an ancient sturgeon who rescues a fair maid from drowning, and mischievous Christmas sprites who protect a poor girl from a nightmarish marriage: these and more tales combine a canon of Icelandic folklore with the landscape and wildlife of Canada for a truly absorbing reading experience.

In this collection of stories, W.D. Valgardson creates new legends, capturing the settlers' experience in New Iceland: how they tried to explain the unexplainable, and preserve the memories of loved ones for future generations. Blurring lines between reality and fantasy, Valgardson continues to be one of Canada's foremost storytellers

Advanced Praise

A magical, thoughtful meditation on the bones of storytelling, What the Bear said showcases Valgardson's uncanny ability to meld deceptively simple prose, folktales and psychological suspense. From the inky darkness of a bear's thoughts to the trek through troll-infested mountains, his stories quietly bring the reader back to a place we only remember in dreams.” –

Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach

What the Bear Said is a marvellous collection of fables. The stories are immediate, the characters, both human and supernatural, crackle with life, as myth, harsh reality and superstition touch the lives of Icelandic immigrants, often in thrilling and heartbreaking ways

W.P. Kinsella, author of Dance Me Outside


What the Bear Said is a masterful array of tales by a skilled artist and storyteller. Accessible and engaging, it artfully combines elements of the tale or fable with the modern short story to re-interpret the lives of the early Icelandic Canadian settlers of Manitoba. A multicultural cross-genre work, it heralds a new hybrid form of Canadian literature, well worth reading and emulating.

Sally Ito, Prairie Fire Review of Books

Valgardson's prose is as spare and sparse and sparkling as the Icelandic sagas that clearly inspire it.

Tom Oleson, Winnipeg Free Press

Winner of the 2012 INL Reads!

Short-listed for the 2012 Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher

Turnstone Press

206-100 Arthur Street
Winnipeg, MB   R3B 1H3
Ph: 204-947-1555; Toll Free: 888-363-7718

Turnstone Press acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council, the Government of Canada, and the Province of Manitoba through Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage.

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