Thursday, January 8, 2015

#77 The Hairless Hares

There was once a tribe of hares that lived high in the snow-covered mountains to the north. They had the most wonderful coats of warm, soft fur to protect them from the chill, and so they lived quite happily in a place that most creatures would find too cold. Year by year the tribe prospered and grew, until men discovered that the warm, soft coats of the hares made excellent coats, hats, and mittens. Trappers and hunters began coming up into the mountains, catching and killing the hares for their fur.

When the hares saw that their numbers were dwindling, they chose the swiftest and bravest hare among them and sent him down into the valleys below to ask the help of the fairy queen. The fairy queen heard the hare’s petition and granted his request. “Return to your home,” she said. “Your tribe will no longer be hunted.”

Joyfully, the hare bounded all the way back up to the mountain and burst into the snug warren where all his kinfolk lived. To his surprise, instead of the beautiful white, furry faces he knew so well, he saw a horde of ugly, pink, scrawny creatures huddled in the corners. “Who are you!” he demanded. “What have you done with my family?”

One of the strange creatures came shivering up to him. “I’m not surprised you do not recognize us. I am your brother, we are all here, but we’ve changed. So have you, if you haven’t noticed.”

The hare gasped when he looked down at his paws. Bare and pink they were, the fur he had been so proud of had vanished.

“It’s the fairy queen’s magic,” one of the elder hares said. “She has protected us by taking away the thing that the hunters prized, but without our fur we shall surely freeze in the cold. Hurry back down, and ask her to give us our fur back again.”

And so the hare bounded out of the warren again, shuddering in the cold, and went as swiftly as he could back to the court of the fairy queen.

“We thank you for your assistance, your highness,” the hare said, “but we humbly ask if you could please restore our pelts, for without them we will freeze.”

The fairy queen laughed. “Your fur is still there, if you will bother to close your eyes and feel it. I have only made it invisible.”

The hare closed his eyes and nibbled at his paw. Sure enough, he felt the long strands of silky fur still there. With a joyful leap, he thanked the fairy queen again and returned to his home. Once there, he explained what had happened. All his kinfolk came creeping out of the corners of the warren, laughing at themselves, for now they realized that they had only imagined that they felt so cold.

The hares were no longer hunted for their fur, and every year when they shed their winter coats they collected the cast-off hairs and sent them to the fairy queen in tribute, as thanks for her help. The fairies used them to make wonderful invisible things, like ropes and stockings and felt hats. I have one of those hats myself, and as you can see, I’m wearing it right now. The tale ends well, that’s all there is to tell.

No comments:

Post a Comment