A documentary on the life of Hercules the Bear, who went missing during a film shoot on Benbecula in 1980, is to be shown on Channel 5 on April 1st.
Hercules the Human Bear tells the amazing story of Andy and Maggie Robin and their relationship with a grizzly bear that became the most famous animal in the world. His disappearance in the islands was national and international news at the time and he was eventually located swimming off the coast following a search lasting over three weeks. He is still remembered with great affection and just last year a sculpture of the animal was unveiled in Langass community woodlands in North Uist commissioned by Urras an Craobh Uibhist a Tuath (North Uist Woodland Trust).
The forthcoming documentary will tell the story of a bear that was bought as a cub from a Scottish zoo for £50 in 1976 and lived in Andy and Maggie’s home for 25 years. Hercules grew to be a superstar on the celebrity circuit and through the love and devotion of Andy and Maggie, in their eyes, became human.
In 1976 Andy and Maggie bought a grizzly bear cub from a local zoo, initially to fulfil Andy’s need for a unique wrestling partner. Little did they know at the time that Hercules, the tiny bear cub, would become the worlds’ most famous bear and make them a fortune in the process.
Hercules the Human Bear focuses on the unique relationship that Andy, Maggie and Hercules forged during their 25 years together. With interviews from Andy and Maggie as well as all the key contributors to their story, the documentary reveals the unique story of how Andy and Maggie managed to live under the same roof as the world’s most dangerous land mammal.
Extraordinary archive film footage reveals Hercules adapting to his new surroundings at the Sheriffmuir Inn and learning to wrestle with Andy, without killing him in the process, to the heart stopping moment he went missing in the Outer Hebrides where the hunt for Hercules turned into National and International news. The programme shows how Hercules began his road to stardom in adverts for products such as Kleenex and Hofmeister Beer, to how his fame got greater and greater to star in films such as James Bond’s Octopussy, making the front cover of Time magazine and even how he caddied for Bob Hope at a golf tournament. The film also features footage of the unveiling of the North Uist statue.Maggie Robin said: “For 25 years I lived with a bear. That teddy bear we all had as a child became my everyday reality. As farmers daughter and show jumper I never imagined that I would one day marry a champion wrestler Andy Robin and be mother to my very own real live bear. His name was Hercules...he was handsome and gentle and made me laugh. He never let me down, not once. With him I shared a charmed life full of adventure love and laughter that to still to this day makes me smile.”
World Champion wrestler, Andy Robin, had performed a wrestling bout in Canada with a feared local wrestler – an 8ft black bear called Terrible Ted. The sheer power and strength of the animal shocked and amazed Andy and he began to admire Ted’s natural wrestling ability. The fight lasted only 20 minutes but Andy was hooked. He wanted a bear of his own no matter what the cost.
Combining the testimony of all the key participants, newly-discovered archival film and dramatic imagery, this is the picaresque story of one grizzly bear’s extraordinary journey through human life and the enduring impact he made on the characters he met along the way.
The anthropomorphism (attribution of human characteristics to anything other than a human being) of animals is centuries old and bears in particular have taken on a unique status in our hearts – from Winnie the Poo, Rupert, Yogi and Paddington Bear in children’s fiction to the use of real bears in television series such as Gentle Ben.
Hercules’ story was the ultimate nature versus nurture tale. With no formal animal training, Andy and Maggie Robin allowed a 9-foot 70-stone grizzly bear to share every inch of their lives, from the house they owned to the food they ate. If the experiment were successful they would go on the most amazing fairy tale of a journey, but if it went wrong, like so many times before and since, they would most probably end up dead, mauled to death by the most deadly land carnivore in the world.
The story of wild nature bending to human kindness and understanding, is a genre whose popularity reflects a yearning for an idealised relationship with nature – one that, even having outgrown the fantasies of childhood, we find it hard to shake off.
Hercules The Human Bear is the embodiment of this call of nature. It’s a unique success story where many have failed; it could well be the ultimate example of nurture overcoming nature.
David Sumnall, Director said: “This is a once in a lifetime story. Sharing your life with a Grizzly Bear like Andy and Maggie did will never be done again. They managed to form a completely unique bond with a very special bear. This was largely thanks to Hercules and Maggies’ incredible nature and the fact that Andy was as much a bear as Hercules was human! For anyone who loves their pets, and thinks they might have some ‘human’ in them – this is a must watch.”