Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear
When I first started reading the Spud series, I was enthralled by the magic of Spud an read Spud, Spud – The Madness Continues and Spud – Learning to Fly with absolute relish. And when I had reached the end of the third book, I had one of those moments that I think only a true lover of books can comprehend. That moment when you’re dying to read the next installment but can’t get hold of a copy. That moment when you go into book withdrawals because you need to get your next fix. I’ve just realised, I’m a book addict. I’m a bookaholic. I knew that a fourth enstallment called Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear had come out. But, when you’re a student, money is something which really should be used for something else. South Africa’s economy is not that great so every cent should be kept in case you need it for some emergency. I usually buy my books second hand (of course, if you happen to live in the US or the UK, buying books like Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear will hardly cost you a thing). And I simply couldn’t get my hands on a second-hand copy. It was pure torture. But, I’m happy to tell you that I eventually got hold of a copy (wiping my forehead) and I got to enjoy the pleasure that is Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear.
It’s Spud’s final year of school (or is it?) and this year Spud’s got the power as a prefect. But, all is not perfect in the life of Spud Milton. With extra prefects’ duties to accomplish, a successful house play to direct, cricketing glory to achieve, a series of girls to deal with, a cretinous Malawian on his case, a maths monster looming and his whole future to consider, Spud has a lot on his plate. Will the final year of school prove too overwhelming for Spud? Will he be able to decide on his future? Will he accomplish everything he’s set out to do before his school career ends? Is it even about to end?
It may or may not surprise you to know that this final Spud narrative does not have a film-counterpart. That’s right there is no film version of Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear. And that’s kind of given me mixed emotions. On the one hand I feel like the films are incomplete. Spud has just been given the duty of being a prefect. What’s he going to do about it? Is he going to go crazy? Is he going to become a model pupil? The final events of Spud’s school days are missing. And part of me wants that timeline to be completed. Part of me wants to see what will happen next.
On the other hand, given that the film versions of Spud, Spud – The Madness Continues and Spud – Learning to Fly and didn’t really stick to the original narratives, I’m not sure if it’s worth hoping for an ending to the film story. As I’ve been trying to say all along, while the books all held a rich variation in events in Spud’s life, the films only really focused on one main event (sometimes not even the same event as in the book). So, what would the producers have done with Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear? Would they have again focused on one event? And which event would it have been? His relationship with The Guv? His role as a prefect? His schooling difficulties? His relationship issues (including the infamous Matric dance)? His next trip beyond the borders of South Africa? What one event could define Spud’s final year to such an extent that the whole film could centre around it? I don’t really know myself. (Do you?) I can’t decide on Spud’s one defining moment because all the moments define him.
I also don’t think that bringing the actors back for one final film would do any justice to the Spud story. While perhaps John Cleese (who plays The Guv in the films) may not have changed so drastically, Troye Sivan (who plays Spud) is aleady 21 years old – a little too old to be playing a school boy (even one in Matric). In addition, some of the Crazy 8 are even older – Sven Ruygrok (who plays Rambo) is 25 – so I think that bringing them all back for one final film just won’t work. They’re no longer school boys and to act like they are will make the movie a little contrived.
I guess we’ll just have to read the book and imagine how Troye Sivan’s character plays out his final days at school and whether he decides to stick around for post-matric too…
In My Humble Opinion:
The one idea that kept plaguing me as I read Spud’s final adventure was not what Spud was going to do in his final year (or is it?) of school or whether he was going to get into something majorly funny and beyond his powers to stop. I knew that would come. What bothered me most was actually the title of the book: Exit, Pursued by a Bear. What did it mean? Did it mean anything at all? After all, in the previous three books: Spud, Spud – The Madness Continues and Spud – Learning to Fly, the title hadn’t really hinted to much about the actual story line. But, in this particular book this little phrase, “exit, pursued by a bear” isn’t only in the title, it’s in the whole book – scattered in various scenes throughout Spud’s school year. It had to have some significance for the story.
My first inclination was to think that it came from someone – a book, a film or an advert perhaps – but a nagging doubt crept in. What if it was just a funny quip John van de Ruit made up? If that was the case, maybe “exit, pursued by a bear” just meant that with the madness of Spud’s school life, he was quite ready to run away screaming, just as he might have done if he was being chased by a bear. But, that still didn’t make sense to me. Why were those specific word used: “exit, pursued by a bear”? Why not “…chased by a bear”? And why “…a bear”? South Africa isn’t exactly known for its bear population. In fact, the only bears one is likely to see in South Africa are the types found in zoos? If it was just a funny quip John van de Ruit made up, why not say “Exit, pursued by a lion”? That would gear it more towards a South African context.
So, it had to be something that had already been said and Spud was just quoting it whenever he said this phrase. With that in mind, I decided to find out where this phrase came from and maybe derive a meaning from that. I knew that it had to have come from a book. (I know what some of you might be thinking. If it was out of a book, surely you, as a literature student, should know which book. But, the thing so many people don’t seem to understand is that with the wealth of books out there, no one can possibly have read them all and I certainly haven’t been able to read them all in my relatively short life.) I knew this because it was a joke that Spud and The Guv shared and if it was something out of a film, an advert or something else, surely this joke wouldn’t only have been shared only between Spud and The Guv. Spud and the Crazy 8 would have all joked about it. I also figured that it had to have come from a play because “Exit, pursued by a bear” sounds very much like stage direction. So when a search led me to Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, I knew I had found the source of this quote. Spud and The Guv are actually joking about the quote which is a stage direction in The Winter’s Tale.
With the source of the quote found, I then wanted to know why this inside joke between Spud and The Guv. What significance did this joke have for them above all the other possible stage directions in Shakespeare’s plays. So, I read a bit of the particular scene where this stage direction, “Exit, pursued by a bear” is given in the play. It happens while a character called Antagonus (Antagonist?) is on an island. He’s carrying a baby in his arms and after everyone else is out of ear-shot he explains to the baby about the baby’s deceased mother appearing to him and instructing him to abandon the baby in Bohemia. Antagonus does as the spirit instructs and then is chased and so he “Exit[s], pursued by a bear”. Confused? I was too. What on earth does this have to do with Spud? I then found out that the phrase “Exit, pursued by a bear” as become a phrase in popular culture to describe when a character, an antagonist, is punished for his crimes, usually by being chased by a wild animal intent on eating him.
Both the section in The Winter’s Tale and the fact that the phrase was intended for when antagonists are punished made me more confused than ever. Spud is a protagonist not an antagonist so why should he have to “Exit, pursued by a bear”? It took me a few days after finishing the book to work that one out. But, I think I may understand. In the particular scene of The Winter’s Tale Antogonus describes how is fated to do what the spirit of the baby’s deceased mother tells him to do. Although his action, leaving a helpless baby in a place far away with wild animals living nearby, might be morally questionable, Antogonus is fated to do what the spirit says so he must do it. His being chased by a bear is not because he did something morally suspect but so that he cannot feel immediate remorse and pick the baby up, going against what fate intended for him. He must “Exit, Pursued by a bear” because fate, in Shakespeare’s story line, intends for the baby to be left there.
But, how does this relate to Spud and The Guv? Both Spud and The Guv have done morally questionable things during their journey. Spud has smoked, he drinks alcohol, he’s dreamed of sex, nearly got himself expelled from school and that’s not even counting all the morally questionable acts he’s committed in this book (let’s just say there’s lying, stalking and bribery involved not to mention more of the acts I mentioned were in the previous books). But, although Spud has done some morally questionable (alright, let’s just admit it: utterly wrong) things in his school career, his declaration of “Exit, pursued by a bear” means to him that there’s no turning back. Spud and The Guv are not going to go back and undo the things they did wrong. They don’t want to. They simply want to “Exit, pursued by a bear” leaving what they’ve done as acts of fate that cannot be undone. In today’s latest terms they might be saying “You only live once” so do what you do and to heck with the consequences.
And yes, I suppose there is still the implication of escaping from, as Troye Sivan put it at the beginning of Spud – The Madness Continues, a school “that’s run like a dictatorship, with some of the meanest bullies and some of the dumbest rules” by running away screaming like a bear is chasing after you.
So, that’s it! The finale of Spud’s journey through the precarious world of adolescence. Spud’s story may be over (unless you haven’t read Spud – Exit Pursued by a Bear yet;
in which case, hit the title and it will take you directly to Amazon to by the book) but the memories of Spud’s adventures will live on, just as our own high school experiences will live on in our memories. But, if you get too sad to leave Spud’s world, you could always pick up the books again and journey through Spud, Spud – The Madness Continues, Spud – Learning to Fly and Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear all over again. And remember, once you have read the book, head on over to my Challenge page and update your score. (Remember, you can begin the challenge whenever you want. Let me know how many novels you’ve read.)