How Hare Made a Fool of Leopard
Leopard and Hare each fell in love with lady-Deer, and sought her hand in marriage. Hare was walking with lady-Deer in the forest when Leopard came along; and lady-Deer, who thought Hare was a rather small and unimportant animal, said:
“Oh, I see my lover coming.”
“Then what of me?” cried Hare. “Do you not love me?”
“No,” said lady-Deer, “I do not. Leopard is a gallant and daring animal, you are not.”
“Leopard is a horse! Would you marry a beast of burden, a slave-animal?”
“How is he a horse?”
“He is my horse. He carries me about. He is my slave.”
Lady-Deer did not believe him. Hare went away and bent his head with Leopard in a secret conversation. “I have been talking with lady-Deer,” he said, “and she admits she loves you, but says she could not marry such a fierce, proud animal. She fears you. I told her you had a gentle and tender heart, and that I would prove it.”
“I see,” said Leopard. “Then we must prove that I am not what I am. Go on.”
“My plan is this: you must be my horse and carry me through the town. Lady-Deer will see us, and she will think ‘Oh, what a kind and gentle animal Leopard is.’ Then she will agree to marry you.
Leopard thought about this, and then decided:
“Hare, what you say is true. It is a good idea. For one day I shall be your horse.”
“First you must give me a hamper of cassavas,” Hare said. Leopard gave him a hamper of cassavas, and then carried him around the town. Hare pretended to whip him, and pulled a rope tied around his nose. Next day Leopard went to lady-Deer, but she said:
“O Leopard, go from me. Foolish animal! Hare told me you were his horse, his slave-animal, but I refused to believe him until I saw him riding you through the town upon your back, and whipping you. Shame upon you, Leopard! I shall never speak to you again.”
Leopard was very vexed. He rushed away to find Hare. Hare ran and ran, but still Leopard followed him, and after two days he grew tired of being chased. He entered a cave he knew, and stood there with his hands pressed against the rock which formed the ceiling. He waited until Leopard entered, then cried out:
“Take care, Leopard! The ceiling is falling down. Hold up this rock a minute while I go for help, or we shall die.”
Foolish Leopard pressed his paws against the ceiling with all his strength and Hare ran away. Two raccoons came along and was Leopard there.
“Brother Leopard, why are you holding up a rock which was placed by God? Leave it be and come with us.”
Leopard saw that he had been tricked again, and went with the two raccoons. A week later Hare and his brother, Opossum (Giant Rat), captured the two raccoons. They took off their skins and tied the two naked animals to a tree, and in disguise Hare and Opossum went to Leopard’s house. Here they were received as guests, and after they had feasted Leopard gave them a sleeping room.
A rat had her babies in this room and she asked the guests to bring her some of Leopard’s food; Hare was willing to do this, but Opossum protested against such foolishness. Lady-Rat went hungry, and that night she ate the two raccoon skins while the guests were sleeping.
In the morning Leopard knocked on the door of the guest room. No one opened the door, but he heard sounds of excitement inside. He peered through a crack in the door, and he saw a strange and unexpected sight.
There was Hare dashing frantically about the room looking inside pots, tipping baskets upside down and searching everywhere for something which he could not find. And there was Opossum too, halfway down a hole which he was scrabbling in the floor. The two raccoons had disappeared. Leopard drew back from the door and held a conversation with himself.
“I put two raccoons in that room last night,” he muttered. Two raccoons. And during the night they have become something else. They have turned into Hare and Opossum. A strange thing.”
He remembered that he did not like Opossum very much, and that he did not like Hare at all. He growled a fearful “Wraagh!” and began attacking the door.
By the time he broke through the door Hare had already escaped, by pulling Opossum out of the hole by his tail and going first, under the wall and out into the forest. Leopard just managed to grasp Opossum’s tail as Opossum was about to leave, and the tail lost half it’s skin as the owner struggled free. That is why Opossum has a two-colored tail today.
When lady-Deer heard of Hare’s adventures she laughed too much, and since he was such a clever and amusing animal she agreed to marry him. Since that time Deer, Hare and Opossum have been Leopard’s enemies.