How Hare Outwitted Woman With a Pot of Boiled Crabs
In a certain village there lived a woman who had a daughter as ripe as a yellow mango and as fair as the forest flowers. This daughter was a good and gentle girl, and so desirable was she that men of every rank and trade from many chiefdoms came with gifts and promises and tried to marry her. But her mother loved her jealously, and to herself she vowed no man would ever take away her only daughter. Whenever a new suitor came, she said:
“To win my daughter you must pass a test: do you agree to this?”
Of course the suitor would agree; for the ways of women are devious, but a man must do his best. She would take him to a tall, thick tree, whose wood had the strength of iron, and she would say:
“O man, cut down this tree. From the wood of the tree you must build a house upon that stone you see.”
The man would attempt this impossible task, but no blade could even mark the tree. Many were the men who came in hope, and tried, and went away in black despair.
Brother Hare, whose long ears spring from a fertile brain, decided he would try. He made certain preparations, and went to the woman’s house.
“I wish to marry your daughter,” he boldly announced.
“Can you stand the test?” the woman asked.
“I can stand the test.”
She led him to the tall, thick tree.
“Cut down this tree,” she commanded him, “and from the wood of the tree build a house upon that stone.”
“I shall do that little thing,” Hare declared, and handed her a pot. “But since I do not eat anything but crabs, will you cook these crabs soft for me before I start?”
The woman agreed to do this, and when she went away Brother Hare sat down and began to sing a song.
“What man can cut an iron tree,
Or build a house upon a stone?
What woman can live honestly,
Or soften crabs with skins of bone?”
When the woman returned with his food he took one of the crabs and bit on it.
“O woman!” he cried. “You said you would cook these crabs soft for me. They are still as hard as bone!
The woman was puzzled.
“But Brother Hare,” she protested, “who can cook a crab so that all of it is soft?”
“Who indeed?” Hare echoed. “And who can cut an iron tree, or build a house upon a stone?”
The woman was outwitted; she could not keep her promise to cook the crabs soft, and was obliged to give her daughter to Brother Hare.