Japanese tale #8 The Wolf and the Rabbits

wolf rabbit.jpgOnce upon a time, in a forgotten field stood a rabbit hole. In that pretty little house, lived a whole rabbit family, the father and mother and their three children.

One day, a hungry wolf came lurking by. Stepping closer and closer, he finally knocked to their door:

– I know you’re home! If you don’t open that door, I’ll kick it down!

The huge creature was drooling and growling low. The youngest child, eyes wide with fear, turned to his mother:

– What are we gonna do?

His brother and sister were hiding behind their father. The old rabbit stroked his long ears thoughtfully. He suddenly turned to his wife:

– Darling, take the kids out by the back door. I’ll hold him back as much as I can.

The rabbit family, sniffing, embraced one last time. Then the mother and the kids were gone.

Father rabbit took a deep breath and bravely opened the door:

– You can stop howling you beast! Look, I am here!

The wolf smirked showing large, sharp fangs:

– My, my. Isn’t it diner I see?

The rabbit tried to look tall and unwavering:

– I won’t go without a fight! Catch me if you can!

– Then run little thing!

And with a chilling roar, the wolf pounced.

The chase began. Father rabbit was dashing through the grass, diving beneath bushes, leaping over branches.

One of the rabbits children caught the scene:

– If this go on, Father is gonna end in that wolf’s belly! Mom, there must be something we can do!

Ears down, Mother rabbit’s eyes were darting all around. She suddenly turned to her children:

– You, go hide beneath that tree! You and you, to the bushes!

She then dashed to her husband.

Father rabbit was circling a huge tree, the wolf on his tail. Breathing heavily, the poor thing was losing ground.

As he was disappearing under thick grass, Mother rabbit sprang swiftly in front of the wolf:

– You’ll never catch me stupid wolf!

The wolf growled and, without a second thought, followed her.

The chase started up again, faster and faster until Mother rabbit was about to get caught.

She dived behind the tree and the first child went out yelling:

– Come here puppy!

The wolf was getting enraged. The beast gave everything he had, but little did he know that every time he was about to grasp a rabbit, it was another one who taunted him.

– I am here Wolf!

– Tired already?

– This way!

The rabbits kept shifting places and their race brought them to the old well. One of the children jumped on its edge:

– I thought you were supposed to catch me!

The wolf was exhausted yet he summoned his last strength and pounced.

But, tired as he was, his tangled limbs didn’t get him far, and the beast fell into the well. He let out a strangled cry:

– Help! Please help! I can’t swim!

Father rabbit leaned toward him, stroking his long ears:

– If we help you, do you promise to never chase a rabbit ever again?

The wolf whined:

– I swear it! On my cubs!

– Truly?

– Cross my heart! Never again!

Father rabbit looked at his wife pleading. She sighed and took the rope. Soon, the wolf was out of the well, soaked but alive.

And since that day, they say no wolf has attacked a rabbit ever again.


Notes:

Unlike European tales, you don’t often come across wolves in Japanese tales. Their roles are played by other animals, especially foxes (trickster side) or bears/tigers (scary beast).

Japan only had one wolf specie (if you don’t count the Hokkaido wolf). The “Honshu wolf” was smaller than their grey wolf cousins and attacks against humans were rare. Yet, they started being widely hunted after rabies spread in 18th century. They were official declared extinct in 1905.

In Japan folklore, wolves are considered protectors of travellers. Wolves kami guard forests and some families actually regard them as their ancestors (many children raised by wolves stories exist).

[pictures sources :   1 / 2 / 3]

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