We meet the stuffed bear in Blue Thread when Miriam is looking for the “garment of fringes” that is destined to be hers.
I trudged down the hall and forced myself to open Danny’s door.
The air was musty and cold…. Danny’s bed, books, and toys were gone…. I opened the dresser drawers. Each was empty, except for the bottom one, which had something bundled in tissue and half hidden in the back corner. I put the bundle on my lap and carefully unwrapped it. Danny’s bear peeked out with his brass button eyes. One ear was discolored where I used to suck on it—because Baloo had been mine, too, when I was little.”
Baloo, as Miriam later explains, is the name of the bear in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book series. Kipling (1865-1936) was born to British parents in India during the time that Great Britain ruled that country. He spent much of his life in places other than India, and he wrote the Jungle Book series while living with his wife and children in Dummerston, Vermont. Kipling likely named his bear Baloo from the Hindi word, bhalu, which refers to several kinds of bears native to India, including sloth bears.
The Jungle Book series has spawned films, comic books, and toys. Here’s what Walt Disney cartoonists turned Baloo into for their 1967 movie.
Stuffed bears were popular in the early 1900s, particularly after President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot an American black bear that had been caught for him on a hunting trip in 1902. The political cartoon that appeared after that incident showed “Teddy’s bear” (also called “Roosevelt’s bear”), which was the basis for children’s toy several years later. Had Miriam and Danny played with Baloo only a few years after they did, they might have called it a “teddy bear.”