The woodcutter, the bear, and the king
I’m often asked: “what’s the meaning of that crest on the cover of your books?” Well, it’s my family crest, and it has quite a history. Let me tell you about it.
The exact year has been lost, but it was around the 1460s. Hungary was a wild and dangerous place in the 15th century. Matthias Corvinus – Hungary’s young king – was in a lot of trouble; his kingdom was under attack. The Turks were expanding their empire by pushing relentlessly westward into Europe.
During one of his campaigns against marauding Turks, the king became separated from his retainers in the heat of battle. Thirsty and exhausted, he stopped by a stream in a dense forest to rest. He dismounted, took off his armour and knelt down to drink. That’s when a bear attacked him from behind. Taken by surprise, the king was unable to reach for his sword. Vulnerable and defenceless, he was certain he was about to be torn apart by the ferocious beast. Fate, however, had something else in mind…
A woodcutter working nearby heard the commotion and ran towards the stream. He found a man pinned to the ground by a bear towering above him. Before the bear could deliver the fatal blow, the woodcutter picked up the king’s sword and killed the beast.
As a reward for saving the king’s life, he was granted land and was eventually elevated into the nobility. The crest commemorates this: it shows the woodcutter – my ancestor – sword drawn, standing on a dead bear. This wonderful story has been handed down in our family from generation to generation together with a signet-ring, which I wear.
Traditionally, the seal was attached to documents – especially title deeds and correspondence – by way of authentication, just like a signature. It’s now part of my books and was the inspiration for the name of my publishing company – BEAR & KING PUBLISHING.
We all yearn to know who we are and where we come from. Exploring our past helps us answer these questions.