The Hermit and The Bear

A Bear guarded a sleeping Hermit from flies except for one which landed on the Hermit’s nose. The Bear killed the fly but also bruised the Hermit’s face.

An imprudent friend often does as much mischief as the worst enemy.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Hermit and Bear

Ernest Griset (1874)

A certain Hermit having done a good office to a Bear, the grateful creature was so sensible of his obligation, that he begged to be admitted as the guardian and companion of his solitude. The Hermit willingly accepted his offer, and conducted him to his cell, where they passed their time together in an amicable manner. One very hot day the Hermit having laid himself down to sleep, the officious Bear employed himself in driving away the flies from his patron’s face. But, in spite of all his care, one of the flies returned perpetually to the attack, and at last settled upon the Hermit’s nose. “Now I shall have you, most certainly,” said the Bear, and, with the best intentions imaginable, gave him a violent blow on the face; which, indeed, very effectually demolished the fly, but at the same time most terribly bruised the face of his benefactor. An imprudent friend, forsooth, often does as much mischief by his too great zeal as the worst enemy could effect by his malice.

Taylor RhymesJefferys Taylor

ONCE a bear had a thorn in his foot (as they term it),
Which it seems was extracted from thence by a hermit:
So the beast felt so grateful, and pleased with the dervise,
That he offer’d to enter quite into his service.

Taylor - Hermit and Bear 0031So the hermit consented, at length, to the plan.
“Now then,” thought the bear, “I must do what I can
To make myself useful; and glad I shall be
If a service in turn shall be render’d by me.”

Not long after this, as the hermit was sleeping,
And the bear was the watch with great vigilance keeping;
On the nose of the former alighted a fly;
“O now,” thought the bear, “my best skill I must try.”

So he lifted his paw, and completed the process,
But crush’d with the fly his poor patron’s proboscis!
Up started the hermit—”Base villain,” said he,
“Is this the reward for my goodness to thee?”

The bear felt confounded, as any one would,
But explain’d the transaction as well as he could.
Said the hermit “Should flies settle on me again,
Be so kind, if you please, as to let them remain.
For I’d rather bave fifty of them on my nose,
Than one of your friendly but terrible blows.”


Let us always take heed, when we render a service,
That we serve not our friend as the bear did the dervise:
Some ills had much better, we know, be endured,
Than the pain, or the danger, of having them cured.