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The Story of the Jaguar and Hare, a tale from South America

Once there was an old couple who lived in the rainforests of South America. They were very poor. Their home was nothing more than a ram shackled old hut with gaps in the walls and cracks in the ceiling, which was nice when the stars were out and a full moon was in the sky, but not so wonderful when it was raining. It rains a lot in a rainforest in South America! They were very poor. Their only real possessions were a knife and a couple of pets: a young jaguar and a hare.

One day the couple came to a point when there was no food in the house and there was no money with which to buy food. They decided to eat their pets, as there was nothing else to do.

Jaguar heard the old man and the old woman, and told Hare that the couple were going to eat them up. Hare said that the old couple had said they were going to heat them up some hot chocolate and give it to him first, but Jaguar would not believe Hare. “If you do not believe me, then get in my cage and you can have the hot chocolate.” So Jaguar reluctantly climbed into the wooden cage. Hare slowly dropped the catch on the cage and quietly left the hut.

It seemed that the moment Hare had left, in walked old man. Old man looked about for Hare and not seeing him shrugged his shoulders. He sharpened the knife and walked towards Jagaur, stuck in the cage.

Jaguar could see the only thing he was going to get was the sharp edge of a knife and that there was no hot chocolate! With his strong legs he broke free of the small wooden cage and ran out into the forest after Hare.

Jaguar made his way through the forest looking for Hare, sniffing here and sniffing there, trying to pick up Hare’s scent. Once Jaguar caught up with Hare, he was going to eat him. The moon was rising in the sky and its light shone down through the leaves on the trees onto Jaguar. He moved like a shadow through the forest. His nose picked up the scent and he followed Hare’s trail to a large cave. In the entrance was a fire burning brightly. Jaguar followed the scent of Hare into the cave. Moving slowly around the fire so as not to singe his fur, he failed to see Hare run to the back of the cave. Hare pressed against the wall at the back of the cave hoping that Jaguar would not see him in the shadows.

Jaguar came into the cave and it did not take long for him to find Hare with his back pressed against the rock wall.

Jaguar said hello, but Hare pretended not to know Jaguar. Jaguar threatened to eat Hare.

“Eat me?” cried Hare. “Well, I was about to have some supper myself. Why don’t you join me? I can share what little I have with you! We can dine together, like old friends. New old friends,” said Hare quickly.

Jaguar did not want to be tricked again, so Hare said: “The only problem is that this wall is about to fall down, which is why I am stood here holding it up. It’s a bit of luck you arriving when you did,” smiled Hare. “Look, there is a piece of wood I saw earlier today that I can find to prop the wall up. If you can take my spot for a while I can go and get it and we can eat together.”

In the end, Jaguar said, “Okay,” and slowly, he moved up to the wall that Hare was pressed against. He looked at Hare in the eyes, then raised his great paws on either side of Hare’s head and held up the wall. With that Hare ran out of the cave as fast as his legs could carry him.

Jaguar waited and waited but Hare did not return. He looked up at the wall he was holding up. There were no cracks that he could see. He strained his eyes in the dim light. There were no cracks there at all. “He tricked me, again!” roared Jaguar. Carefully and slowly, Jaguar lifted his paws from the wall. Nothing happened. The wall stayed where it was and the roof did not fall in.

Jaguar sprang from cave roaring and sniffing to pick up Hare’s scent once more. The forest was dark in the shadows, but the full moon had risen high into the sky, making everything appear silver. His nose found the trail of Hare and off he went, sniffing, running. Running and sniffing he ran. For hours he leapt through the undergrowth of the forest until he began to hear laughter. It was Hare’s laughter. Jaguar crept closer to the sound. There was Hare bouncing on a vine, an elasticized vine. Up and down Hare went, laughing loudly.

Jaguar popped his sharp claws out and took hold of the vine. He pulled it tighter and tighter.

Hare looked down and saw Jaguar at the bottom pulling and pulling on the vine. Jaguar pulled the vine as tight as it could go, then he released it.

Woosh! Hare flew through the trees, over their tops and into the night sky. Higher and higher he went until…

Poomph. He landed on the moon.

So, the next time you see a full moon, have a look up there. You will see on the moon’s surface the image of Hare looking down back to Earth, wondering how he is going to get home.

The End

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Comment by Tim E on March 4, 2008 at 1:20pm
Great story! I hadn't heard this one before (although the motifs are familiar).

I did a little Googling, which leads me to believe this is a Mayan story, from the Yucatan in Mexico. So, technically, that's North America ;-)

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