The story of “The Beekeeper and the Rabbit” is a sweet, romatic folktale, that comes to us from Ireland and is retold by Theresa Bane and Cynthia Moore Brown in Folklore and Food.
The beekeeper is a happy, gentle man who keeps rows and rows of beehives behind his house. He sells the honey and wax at the market, but the bees are also his friends and family. He talks to them and they gather around him without stinging him. He seems to be content, to have a good life.
One day, when he comes back from market, he finds a rabbit with beautiful blue eyes sitting on his front porch. The rabbit does not hop away when the man comes closer and instead follows him into the house. The rabbit and the man become inseperable. He keeps the rabbit with him him when he goes about his chores and when he takes her with him to the market to sell honey, everyone admires her. The only thing marring his happiness is a creepy, scary old woman who keeps staring at his rabbit and following them. It is rumored that she can cast strange spells and he is advised to stay away from her.
Soon it’s almost All Hallow’s Eve. The bees are beginning to slow down, but the keeper, with his rabbit, still go out to talk to them. One day, a band of gypsies is driving their wagon down the beekeeper’s lane and they lose a big bale of hay without niticing. The beekeper, kind man that he is, takes the bale to where the gypsies are camped, bringing his rabbit with him as always. The gypsies are very thankful and invite him to stay for dinner, which he does. Enter old woman number 2, but this one is wise and helpful. She warns the beekeper that he has the enchanted one, pointing at the rabbit, and that there were those who want to take her from him. She tells him to be careful up through midnight on All Hallow’s Eve. Also, she advises him that on All Hallow’s Eve he should get on his horse and ride back and forth on his lane, holding tight to the rabbit, until the last stroke of midnight.
The beekeeper follows the old woman’s advice, and keeps riding that All Hallow’s Eve, even through a terrible, evil storm. Just after midnight, when all is quiet and calm again, the beekeeper finds in his arms not his rabbit, but a beautiful blue-eyed, blond-haired woman. The two are married the next Sunday and live happily every after. The scary old woman is never seen again, although a villager tells the beekeeper that he and several others saw her being chased on that All Hallow’s Eve down to the river by a swarm of bees, bees who shouldn’t have been up and about that time of year.
Isn’t that a lovely story? It’s a true love story. He had to care for the rabbit, protect it, even face evil. He didn’t even know it was to bread a speall, he just liked the rabbit’s company. And then the spell was broken and the rabbit became a beautiful woman, who I imagine was as kind and tender-hearted as he was. I love a good romance.
In Folklore and Food, it’s accompanied by recipes for Oven Baked Southern Fried Honey Chicken and Hoe Cakes. I made the chicken the other day, with corn muffins, and it was delicious. You soak the chicken in some milk, coat it with a flour, paprika, garlic power, salt and pepper mix and bake it in a pan with a half-stick of melted butter in it at 400° for 45 minutes. Happily, that was the same temperature my corn muffins baked at. Then, just when you take it out and it’s still warm, you drizzle honey all over the chicken and then sprinkle on a bunch of chopped pecans. Delicious!
Folklore and Food has a bunch of great stories and recipes, including some old favorites, like The Gingerbread Man with molasses cookies, Stone Soup, and the Magic Fish with a recipe for baked and stuffed flounder. It also has some tales that are new to me, like “Sody Sollyratus” about a brave squirrel who saves a family and “I’m Not Ready to Go,” about a man who avoids death with the help of a bird. It’a a good collection of stories and I enjoyed how the author connected each to a food, whether it be a main dish, desert, or biscuits.
Published October Septebmer 28, 2012 by Schiffer Publishing
Book source: For review
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.