I am trying to find a story/book I read as a kid (mid-90's). The story was sci-fi/fantasy, and had a section where the hero(es) interacted with a group of talking bears. The bears were intellectuals and could not stand the smell of humans. The bears even burned incense to ward off the smell! I think the story also featured a knight in ivory armor (although this is less definitive than the bears).

I thought the book was written by Michael Moorcock, but I haven't been able to find it in his catalogue.

  • 1
    Just posting a comment to rule out panserbjørne from His Dark Materials for future readers – they are definitely intelligent, talking bears from a fantasy series, and wear armor, but they don't seem to have any issue with human smell?
    – kojiro
    Apr 12 '20 at 14:28

Could this be The Dragon in the Sword (1986) by Michael Moorcock? There are talking bears who use incense to cover the stench of humans.

I was surprised, even while I was grateful to her. It seemed completely wrong to my expectations that such a wonderfully decorative city should not indulge the most elaborate of ceremonies. And I had thought we were to be inspected by a whole host of noble bears. Now I could only presume that these were the only ones. Certainly the only ones we should meet.

The large room was heavily perfumed. From the fireplace in the centre of the left-hand wall great gusts of incense billowed. I realised that our odour must be inconceivably disgusting to them for them to go to such pains.

Several characters wear ivory armour:

The women in white are said to be cannibals. They are not like other human beings. They give birth only to girls, which means they must buy or steal men from other realms, for obvious reasons. We call them the Ghost Women. They are clad entirely in ivory armour, from crown to instep, and one rarely sees their faces. We are taught to be afraid of them and to stay clear of their ships. Sometimes they make forays into other realms for males.


Perhaps it's Bears Discover Fire, by Terry Bisson:

"Bears Discover Fire" is a science fiction short story by American science fiction author Terry Bisson. It concerns aging and evolution in the US South, the dream of wilderness, and community. The premise is that bears have discovered fire, and are having campfires on highway medians.

It was originally published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in August 1990. "Bears Discover Fire" won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. It was the inspiration for Michael Bishop's 2005 story "Bears Discover Smut".

The story is included in the same-titled collection of short stories:

book cover. A standing bear with a lit torch, and another bear on all fours with a cub on his back, the cub also holding a lit torch. Forest background

  • Does this involve them not liking the smell of humans?
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 30 '20 at 17:31
  • Other than having bears in it, there is not much overlap to the points in the question. May 31 '20 at 11:26

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