Category Archives: Thursday’s Tales

Thursday’s Tale: The Moon Rabbit

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Rabbits by Mori Kansai, 1881

David, Amber and I were on our way to a baseball game Tuesday and just chatting. We were talking about the moon landing and Amber mentioned that the Japanese see a rabbit on the moon too. Amber and I had talked about the Mexican tale when I talked about it. She always has to hear about the interesting stories and books I read, but I listen to hers too so it’s fair.

I found a Japanese folk tale that talks about how the rabbit ended up on the moon.

One day, Fox, Monkey, and Rabbit met an old beggar who asked them for food. Monkey climbed a tree and brought him some fruit. Fox went to a stream, caught a fish, and brought it back to him. But Rabbit had nothing to offer him but some grass, and he knew people don’t eat grass. So he asked the beggar to build a fire. After the beggar started the fire, Rabbit jumped into it and offered himself as a meal for the beggar to eat.

Quickly the beggar revealed himself as Taishaku-ten (one of the gods) and pulled Rabbit from the fire. He said “You are most kind, Rabbit, but don’t do anything to harm yourself. Since you were the kindest of all to me, humans will always remember you.”

Then the god lifted up the rabbit and placed him on the moon. There he lives today, making mochi (rice cakes), a much nicer meal than grass!

I really have to try to see the rabbit in the moon one of these days.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

Thursday’s Tale: The Rabbit Herd

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Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Okay, today’s tale does not star a rabbit, but there is a herd of them that figure prominently and the story made me laugh. Variations of The Rabbit Herd are found throughout Europe and the Americas, although I have never heard it. This version is retold by D. L. Ashliman on his site, Folklore and Mythology.

Once upon a time there was a king who had a daughter that would not laugh. His jugglers, clowns, and jesters performed for her, but she could not, or would not, even break a smile. Finally the king proclaimed that whatever man — rich or poor, young or old, strong or frail — could break his daughter’s spell should take her as his wife, and receive half the kingdom as well. Men and boys came from every direction to try their luck but no one was successful.

Finally, the news reached a remote corner of the kingdom where a poor peasant lived with his three sons. The youngest — we’ll call him Hans (although some say that his name was Jack, or Ivan, or Juan) — decided that he too would try his luck at winning the hand of the princess. It’s always the youngest who gets to be the hero. He was a droll sort — some called him silly, others just plain stupid — whose capers often brought the villagers to laughter. Yes, he would give it a try. And he set forth, pursued by the jeers of his older and wiser brothers, on the path that led to the king’s palace.

At midday he was looking for a shady spot where he could rest and eat the crust of bread he had brought, when suddenly he came upon an old man by the side of the road.

“Would you share your bread with a weary traveler?” asked the stranger.

“Half a dry crust is quite as good as a whole one,” replied Hans, and broke off a piece for the old man. As we know, it’s always a good idea to help strangers, especially old ones.

“Bless you, my son,” responded the stranger. “I cannot reward you with gold, but this whistle will lead you to that, and more.” So saying, he offered Hans a tiny silver flute. I’m sure the flute will come in handy.

Hans put the flute to his lips, and it began to play, first a marching tune, then a cheerful air, and then a pensive hymn. Before he knew it, Hans had arrived at the palace, and the guards, charmed by his tuneful music, let him pass. His heart leapt for joy, and the flute broke into a lusty jig. The princess, hearing the tune, opened her window and looked out. She nodded her head to the beat, then gave a cautious grin, and then an open smile. She chuckled softly to herself, then broke into a happy laugh.

The king, hearing her joyful laughter, was beside himself with glee, until he saw the lad who was playing the flute. Hans, you see, did have the look of a peasant and of a simpleton, and the king, in spite of his promise, was hoping for a finer man.

“That is all well and good,” said the king to Hans, “but before you can receive the princess, there is yet another task that you must fulfill.” He then had one hundred wild rabbits set loose in a nearby forest. “Keep these animals together in a herd,” said the king, and in three days the princess and half the kingdom shall be yours. But if you lose a single rabbit, you shall forfeit everything.”

Even as he spoke the rabbits ran to the four winds, but Hans did not despair. He blew a few notes into the silver flute, and as if by magic, the hundred rabbits assembled at his feet. Reassured, he made himself comfortable in the shade of a large tree, and waited for the three days to pass.

The king, seeing how easily Hans kept the herd together was filled with worry and anger. No other solution presented itself, so finally he sent his daughter into the woods, telling her to do whatever was necessary to get a rabbit away from the peasant herdsman.

The princess presented herself to Hans, and asked him ever so politely if she might not purchase one of his rabbits. His answer made her blush. “You don’t mean that I would have to …,” she said, and didn’t know whether to pout or to smile.

No, he would accept no other offer, said Hans. “Take it, or leave it.”

And so she took it. Hmm – wonder what she did? In some versions, it’s exactly what you’re thinking, in other’s it’s kidding a donkeys rear or “cuddling and kissing” for a while.

The princess left the woods carrying a rabbit in her basket. But well before she arrived home, Hans put the magic flute to his lips, and in an instant the rabbit jumped from her basket and raced back to the herd.

The next day the king, ever more desperate, sent his own wife into the woods with instructions to bring home a rabbit, whatever the cost. When Hans named his price, the queen, like the princess before her, first pouted, then smiled, and then gave in. But she too lost her rabbit when Hans called it back with his magic flute.

On the third day the king himself went into the woods to bargain for a rabbit. Hans, as before, was willing to trade, but this time the price — no, I cannot bring myself to say more than that it involved a mare that was grazing in a nearby clearing. 🙂 Red with shame, the king took his rabbit and started off for home, but again the flute called the rabbit back into the herd.

The three days had passed, and the rabbit herd was still intact, but now the king found yet another task that Hans would have to fulfill before he could claim the princess and half the kingdom. “A trifle,” explained the king. “Just sing three bags full.”

“I can manage that,” said Hans. “Bring me three empty bags, and I’ll sing them full to the top, but only in the presence of the finest lords and ladies of the kingdom.

The king, believing that at last he would be rid of the peasant lad, assembled the lords and ladies in a great hall, then brought in Hans and three empty bags. Hans picked up a bag and started to sing:
“Our princess went into the woods;
She thought she’d try her luck,”

“Stop!” called out the princess. That bag is full!” Hans obligingly stopped singing, tied a string around the mouth of the bag, picked up the next one, and started a new song:
“Our queen she went into the woods;
She thought she’d try her luck, ”

“Stop!” shouted the queen. That bag is full!” Hans stopped, tied this bag shut, picked up the last one, and commenced singing:
“Our king he went into the woods;
He thought he’d try his luck, ”

“Stop!” bellowed the king. The last bag is full!” With that, the king proclaimed that Hans had won the princess’s hand in marriage and half the kingdom.

The wedding was celebrated that same day. All the lords and ladies attended the great feast that followed.

Funny little story, don’t you agree? Not exactly child friendly though. I’m not sure how I would feel if I was the princess, and maybe I shouldn’t find it funny. Hans did intimidate the three of them into sexual acts, even if he didn’t use violence. But fairy tales are not supposed to be politically correct.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

Thursday’s Tale: A Rabbit Story

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Plateau pikas are underground-dwelling relatives of the rabbit that live at high altitudes in Tibet.Today’s Rabbit Story comes from Tibet. It’s actually a rather gruesome little tale with several deaths. The story was retold by A. L. Shelton in Tibetan Folk Tales, 1925, but  I found it at SacredTexts.com.

Once there were two neighbor families, one an old mother bear and her son and the other of an old mother rabbit and her son. On day, the children stayed at home while the two mothers went out to dig roots. The rabbit’s claws were sharp and quick and she got the most, which made the old bear mad so she killed the rabbit and took the dead body and roots home. The little rabbit waited and waited and could not understand why his mother didn’t come home. Finally he sneaked over to the bears’ house to see what he could discover. He peeped in and saw that the old bear was cooking his mother, and she and her son sat down and ate her all up. He felt dreadfully bad and began to think of revenge.

One day the old mother bear went out to carry water, and while she was gone the little rabbit heated an arrow until it was red-hot and shot the little bear in the ear and killed him. Then he took his mother’s sack which the old bear had stolen, which still had roots in it, and carried it away with him. As he went up the mountain he met a tiger and said to him, “There is a bear coming after me, Mr. Tiger, won’t you save me and find a place for me to hide?” The tiger told him to crawl into his ear and the bear would never find him.

The old mother bear returned and found her son dead. She knew that the young rabbit had done it and determined to follow him and kill him. Going after the rabbit, she came upon the tiger and asked, “Have you seen a fellow with gray fur and long ears any-where? If you don’t tell me the truth I will kill you.” The tiger answered, “Don’t talk to me that way, for I could kill you without very much trouble.” The old bear continued on.

The rabbit sat there in the tiger’s ear eating some of the roots he had in his sack and the tiger could hear him munching away, and asked what he was eating. “My own eye-ball,” he answered. I don’t understand why the rabbit said that and didn’t just admit to having some roots, but the tiger asked him to give him one, too. The rabbit handed him a root, the tiger ate and said, “That’s very good. Let’s take my eye-balls out and eat them, and if I am blind, since I saved you from this bear, you will take care of me and lead me around, will you not?” Also, doesn’t seem a very reasonable thing to say. The rabbit agreed and dug out the tiger’s two eye-balls and handed him some roots to eat in place of them. Then he went on leading the tiger, who now was blind, right up to the side of a big steep cliff, where he told him to lie down and go to sleep. Then he built a big fire on the other side of the tiger. The tiger got too hot, and when he moved away he fell over the cliff and killed himself.

The rabbit now went to a shepherd and told him, “There is a dead tiger up there, you can go and cut him up.” Then he went to the wolf and said, “The shepherd is gone and you can go kill some sheep.” Then he went to the raven and said, “You can go and pick the little wolves’ eyes out, as their mother is gone to kill a sheep.” Now the rabbit had done so much harm he thought he had better run away. He went into a far country and still lives there.

Apparently the rabbit went psychotic. Usually rabbits are not that blood thirsty in stories.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

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