Saturday, January 21, 2023

Favorite Folktales for the Year of the Rabbit

Today marks the lunar new year, beginning the Year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese zodiac. As usual, I have collected a list of folktales and legends that feature rabbits and hares. It was a fairly easy task, since these animals often take on the role of the trickster in cultures around the world. There is an abundance of stories - I decided to cherry-pick my all-time favorites.

(Links in the titles, as usual.)

Happy New Year!

The Sisimiqui (Costa Rica)

One of my all-time favorite folktales, about a terrifying monster and a heroic little rabbit that defeats it. The rabbit in this story rides an armadillo, which makes it even better. He defeats the monster in a game of whack-a-mole (or whack-a-rabbit), popping out of tunnels that the armadillo dug, and killing the enemy with a thousand small cuts and bites. (This tale also has variants from Belize.)

Rabbit kills a dragon (St. Lucia)

Once again, a trickster character does something heroic: in this case, fights a seven-headed serpent with a knife, to rescue two girls. During the fight Rabbit occasionally loses a limb, or his head, but he always speaks magic words and sticks them back into place.

The shy quilt bird (Myanmar)

Another old time favorite of mine. In this one, the Golden Rabbit, trickster and advisor to King Lion, saves the animals from an evil serpent by teaching them how to work together as a team.

Br'er Rabbit's courtship (African-American)

I do have a soft spot for folktales where tricksters fall in love. In this case, Br'er Rabbit has a crush on the daughter of Miss Meadows. And the story has a happy ending.

Mr. Deer's Party (Cajun)

Mr. Deer announces that he'll marry his daughter to the suitor who can dance dust out of a rock. Compére Lapin, who is in love with the girl, finds a way to create an illusion and win her hand (or hoof).

The beekeeper and the bewitched hare (Scotland)

A kind-hearted young man saves a hare from a witch, with the help of his bees. In the end, it turns out the hare was not an animal at all, but an enchanted girl.

The hare and the tree spirit (Xhosa)

Trickster decides to help a young man who is in love with a mute girl. Hare manages to break the curse place on the girl by doing something so foolish and silly that she has to speak up.

Mr. Fox's funeral (USA)

In this story the rabbit-trickster is a girl: Molly Cottontail. Fox tries to outwit her by luring her to his own pretend funeral - but in the end, Molly gets the last laugh.

Hare rescues the sun (Yupik)

I did a deep dive into this story a while ago (see link). When evil beings kidnap the sun and the moon, Snowshoe Hare goes out, steals them back, and kicks them up into the sky.

How Hare got a wife for his son (Tanzania)

A fun tale about a wise hare father who helps his son win a bride. It is related to the Grimms' Queen Bee story, where the hero is kind to animals along the way and later they help him in return.

Trickster seeks endowments

This is not one tale, but rather a tale type that does not appear in the ATU catalog, and very often features Rabbit as a protagonist. It's a story type where Trickster asks God (or a supreme being) for more wits/wisdom/cleverness, and has to fulfill tasks to earn it. Usually, once the supreme being sees how cleverly Rabbit outwits anyone to reach his goal, they decide Rabbit already has more than enough wits to get by. (See a picture book version of one of these tales here.)

Honorable mention: The sea-hare (Grimm)

I am adding this as a bonus because it is alleged that "sea-hare" is a local dialect word for a rabbit, but this folktale has also been translated as "hamster" or "guinea pig". Since it features a creature that hides in a princess' hair, we can't quite be sure. But I do love this story, and it is one of the lesser known Grimms.

1 comment:

  1. The 2023 fonts are nice. Like how curvy they look.