For half a century, the eagle and the bear contended for supremacy, holding all the world’s creatures in a state of terror. One day, the bear starting thinking and realized he was running in circles and getting tired, so he growled to the eagle, “There are enough fish in the sea for us both; go in peace, eagle.”
Stunned, the eagle murmured assent, but events did not turn out as the bear had hoped. The eagle twisted its sharp beak into a smile but seemed unable to curb its appetite, snatching fish right out of the bear’s teeth. Both bear and eagle faced new tests: the bear had to learn to handle humiliation; perhaps more difficult, the eagle had to learn to handle hubris.
The bear retired to lick its wounds, pulled in its claws, and went into hibernation, dreaming of past glories and assessing future prospects. Overjoyed, the eagle flew erratically in every direction but soon came to find life oddly dissatisfying with no bear to challenge; worse, all manner of little forest creature started running loose in the new era of freedom. An intensely irritating group of mice hiding where the eagle could not reach them started making fun of the eagle, enraging it. The eagle struck, over and over; it caught a few, which only stimulated its appetite. In no time, mice seemed to be everywhere laughing and sneering, just out of reach. The eagle attacked the mice, then turned to fly majestically over the bear’s cave, then turned elsewhere, its attention constantly distracted by its own new freedom to soar without interference wherever it chose.
Hibernation does not last forever; spring arrives. So eventually, the chastened and very hungry bear poked its head out of its cave, only to see the eagle sitting on its now tattered nest nursing a broken wing…but absurdly still screeching and demanding obedience. Albeit less imposing, the eagle’s demands seemed somehow more irritating. After trying to eat everything in sight, the eagle had a stomach ache, was tired and confused, and had been unable even to catch the irritating little mice that had originally so whetted its appetite.
The eagle had lacked the wisdom to handle hubris; the bear grinned through its teeth and sniffed the breeze.