Angry, delinquent teen Cole Matthews is the main character in Ben Mikaelsen's novel Touching Spirit Bear. When Cole first arrives at the island he is supposed to spend a year on as a part of his contract with Circle Justice, Edwin tries to have a conversation with him about surviving on the island by himself. Cole brushes off the wisdom and advice he is given, telling Edwin that he's "not afraid of dying." When Edwin tells him about a "special black bear called the Spirit Bear," which is "pure white, and has dignity, pride, and honor," the following exchange happens:
"If I saw a Spirit Bear, I’d kill it," Cole said.
Edwin tightened his grip as if in warning. "Whatever you do to the animals, you do to yourself. Remember that."
The first time Cole sees the Spirit Bear, standing on the shoreline, he gets angry at the fact that the animal is staring at him "without any sign of fear." Once the bear disappears, he says, "I ever see you again, you're dead. I'll teach you to be afraid of me." Upon the bear's second appearance, Cole actually makes a spear to attack it with, but the creature disappears once again before he can make any sort of move towards it.
The third time the Spirit Bear appears, Cole goes to try and kill it. It's clear to the reader that this animal is not afraid of Cole, but Cole believes that because the bear is not moving or trying to attack him, it must be afraid. As soon as Cole makes a move to throw his spear, the bear viciously attacks him, clawing, biting, and breaking many bones with its strength. The Spirit Bear stands over Cole for what seems like "an eternity" and eventually walks away, leaving Cole alive but severely wounded.
As Cole lays on the ground, essentially unable to move, with seagulls picking at his torn flesh, he refers to the Spirit Bear as a "stupid bear that didn't have brains enough to run away." Because Cole is used to bullying and terrorizing people and having everyone be afraid of him, he cannot understand why the bear wasn't afraid of him. Cole thinks that the Spirit Bear attacked him because the creature was too dumb to understand that Cole should be feared.