Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 3, 1892.djvu/469

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461
The Easter Hare.

The impression he has left upon the popular mind, as expressed in legend and household tale, appears to be generally that of an exceptionally wise and crafty spirit, the guide of men, and the protector of other animals. A number of stories in which the hero or heroine is led by a guardian hare occur to the mind, e.g., the North German tale of "The Blue Riband". Sometimes, however, the hare leads the hero astray, as in the King of Erin's Tale, and Fionn's Enchantment,[1] still, however, retaining a supernatural power. In the Kaffir Story of "The Great Chief of the Animals"[2] he acts as the guardian of children—a function he performs but indifferently. In the tales of many countries, from the kraals of the Kaffir to the plantations of Virginia, he is represented as the crafty guardian and shifty schemer among animals. In India, he outwits the elephant, and traps the lion in a well.[3] In Greek and Latin proverbs, he draws the lion into a golden net,[4] and insults him when dead.[5] In China, the hare appears, as in Kaffirland, as the guardian of the wild beasts, and defends the lamb from the wolf.[6] In Slavonic tales the hare decoys the bear into a jungle,[7] and the princess who solves the riddles does so by the help of a hare.[8] In Russia, as in China, the hare is associated with the Water of Life, which he goes to fetch from its spring in the company of a fox.[9]

  1. Folk- and Hero-Tales from Argyllshire, F.-L. S., 1889, pp. 87-9, 454, note.
  2. Theal's Kaffir Folk-lore, London, 1886, p. 176. Perhaps the hare is chosen as a leader for the same reason as that which causes him to be so often chosen as a messenger, viz., his swiftness and alertness. In the Kalevala he conveys the news of Aino's death, as he does that of the princess in the Zulu folk-tale.
  3. De Gubernatis, op. cit., ii, 76-7.
  4. ἔλκει λαγὼς λέοντα χρυσίνῳ βρὀχῳ.
  5. Mortuo leoni lepores insultant.
  6. De Gubernatis, op. cit., ii, 79.
  7. Ibid., p. 81.
  8. Ibid., p. 82.
  9. Ralston, Russian Folk-tales, London, 1873, P. 236.