Rabbit and Fox
A Tales of Time adaptation of the Native American lore
One winter morning, Rabbit was going about his usual day, hopping here and there. When suddenly, he saw Fox. He stopped dead in his tracks and his large eyes widened.
Fox was going about his usual day. His nose was wiggling and his tail was waggling this way and that. When, suddenly, he smelled Rabbit. His tail straightened and his head turned.
Rabbit’s heart leapt. It was too late to hide. Fox had caught his scent!
“I am Ongwe Ias, the one who eats you!” barked Fox. “You cannot escape me!”
Rabbit began to run for his life. He ran as fast as he could, around trees and between rocks, making lots of circles in the hope that he would lose Fox.
But fox was too fast and was catching up.
“I am Ongwe Ias,” Fox barked again. “You cannot escape me.”
Rabbit knew that he had to use his magic powers. He took off his little shoes and said to them, “Run on ahead of me, Moccasins, run!”
The little shoes began to run, all by themselves, leaving footprints in the snow behind them.
Then, using more of his magic power, Rabbit made himself look like a dead, half-rotten rabbit and lay down by a rock.
When Fox came past he saw the dead rabbit and didn’t even stop to sniff at it. He didn’t want old meat, he wanted new meat. So, he carried on following the footsteps in the snow.
After a long chase, he finally caught up with two little shoes, which were making the footprints all by themselves. Rabbit was nowhere to be seen.
“Hah!” Fox snarled, “You have fooled me this time, Rabbit. But next time I will eat the meat no matter how rotten it looks.”
And he began to backtrack.
Just as he expected when he came to the place where the dead rabbit had been, it was gone. But there were new tracks leading away through the bushes, and Fox began to follow them.
He hadn’t gone far when he came upon an old woman sitting by the trail. She was wrapped in warm blankets and had long, tall feathers in her hair. In front of her was a small fire heating a large pot of stew.
“Sit,” she said. “Have some of this good stew.”
Fox had been running all morning and decided to stay for a bit. “Have you seen a rabbit go by?”
“Yes,” said the old woman, handing him a beautifully carved wooden bowl filled with hot stew. “I saw a very skinny rabbit go by. There was no flesh on his bones, and he looked old and tough.”
“I am going to eat that rabbit,” said Fox.
“Indeed?” said the old woman. “Well I have no doubt you shall, as the rabbit looked tired and frightened. He must have known you were close behind him. Now, eat the good stew I have given you.”
Fox began to eat and, as he did so, he looked up at the old woman. “Why do you wear those two tall feathers on your head?” he asked.
“These feathers?” said the old woman. “I wear them to remind me of my son who is a hunter. Look behind you–here he comes now.”
Fox turned to look and, as he did so, the woman threw off her blankets and jumped up in the air. She leapt right over Fox’s head, and as she did she hit him on the head with a big stick.
The strike was so hard that it left Fox unconscious and when he woke up his head was very sore.
The woman had gone. Instead of a pot, there was a hollow stump. Instead of a bowl with soup, there was a piece of bark with muddy water in it. And all over the snow and mud, there were little rabbit tracks.
“So, you have fooled me again,” Fox said. “It will be the last time.”
He jumped up and began to follow the tracks once more.
Before he had gone far, he came to a man sitting by the trail. The man held a turtle-shell rattle in his hand. He was a medicine man.
“Have you seen a rabbit go by?” asked Fox.
“Indeed,” said the medicine man, “he looked sick and weak.”
“I am going to eat that rabbit,” Fox said.
“Ah,” said the medicine man, “that is why he looked so afraid. When a great warrior like you decides to catch someone, surely he cannot escape.”
Fox was very pleased. “Yes,” he said, “I am Ongwe Ias. No rabbit can ever escape me.”
“But, Fox…” said the medicine man, shaking his turtle-shell rattle, “what is that great big bump on your head?”
“It is nothing,” said the Fox. “A branch fell and hit me.”
“Fox,” said the medicine man, “you must let me treat that wound, so that it heals quickly. Come here and sit down.”
Fox sat down and the medicine man walked up to him. He opened up his pouch and began to sprinkle something into the wound.
Fox looked closely at the medicine man. “Why are you wearing those two feathers?” he asked.
“These two feathers? I wear these to show that I have great power. And if I shake them, an eagle will fly down to me. Watch.” And the man started to shake his feathers. “Look, over there! An eagle is flying down now.”
Fox looked and, as he did so, the medicine man leapt high in the air and right over Fox’s head. There was a great clattering as the man struck Fox with his turtle-shell rattle and Fox fell to the floor.
When Fox woke up, he had and even bigger headache. The man was gone and his wound was covered in dry leaves. But all around him were rabbit tracks.
“I will not be fooled again!” Fox snarled. He gave a loud and terrible war cry. “I am Ongwe Ias,” he shouted. “I am Fox!”
Ahead of him on the trail, hopping as fast as he could, Rabbit heard Fox’s war cry. He was close, and Rabbit was getting too tired to run, he would have to try another trick. So, he turned himself into an old tree.
Fox was determined not to miss anything and when he came to the tree he stopped.
“This tree must be Rabbit,” he said, as he struck at one of the small branches. It broke off and fell to the ground. “No,” said Fox, “I am wrong; this is just a tree.”
He ran on again, his nose close to the ground, sniffing. He followed the footprints this way and that and finally realised that these were old tracks and he was going in circles. “Ah! That tree!” he said.
He hurried back to the place where the tree had been. But, of course, it was gone. There were, however small drops of blood on the ground where the branch had been broken.
Though Fox didn’t know it, the branch he had struck had been the end of Rabbit’s nose, and ever since then, rabbits’ noses have been quite short.
Leading away into the bushes were fresh rabbit tracks. “Now I will catch you!” Fox shouted.
Poor Rabbit was exhausted. He had used all his tricks, and still Fox was after him. He came to a dead tree by the side of the trail. He ran around it four times and then, with one last great leap, hopped into the middle of a large blackberry bush close by. Then, holding his breath, he waited.
Fox came to the dead tree and looked at the rabbit tracks all around it. “Hah!” Fox laughed, “I shan’t be so easily fooled.”
So, he opened his jaw wide and bit at the dead tree. A great clump of rotten wood came away in his mouth. “Hah!” Fox said, “you’ve even made yourself taste like a dead tree. But I am Ongwe Ias, I am Fox, the one who eats you!
Then, coughing and spluttering, Fox ate the whole tree, splinters and all.
From his hiding place in the blackberry bush, Rabbit watched and tried not to laugh.
When Fox had finished his meal, he went away, still coughing and spluttering. He really didn’t feel at all well.
Rabbit slowly came out of his hiding place, heaved a deep sigh, and went on his way, going about his usual day.