THE RABBIT GOD
(December 7, 1994)
At the beginning of the world the animal gods gathered to fill the land and sea and sky with creatures like themselves. The great, strong creatures were made by great, strong gods. The quiet, gentle creatures were made by gentle, peaceful gods.
The Whale God launched his huge splashing creations into the deep ocean. The Elephant God trumpeted his likeness among the forests and plains. Fish swam from the Fish God and birds flew from the Bird God.
The Rabbit God was not a big, strong god. He was a small god, and his creatures were small creatures. He was a quiet, loving god, and his creatures were quiet and full of love.
The Rabbit God took earth and water and patted his creations into shape and breathed life into them.
With each breath, he told them:
I give you swift feet, so that you can run.
I give you smallness and stillness, so that you can hide.
I give you long ears, sharp enough to hear even the grass grow.
I give you keen noses and wide eyes, so that your enemies will not surprise you.
I give you warm, soft fur, so that you may nestle safe in your burrows all winter.
I give you food from the plants, so you will never go hungry.
Last, I give you love for each other, so that even when others hunt you, you will multiply and flourish. These are the gifts I give you.
The Rabbit God watched his children scamper off, their white tails disappearing into the fields and forests.
Their work finished, the gods departed. The Whale God returned to the deep blackness of night, the Elephant God to his pillars of clouds. The Fish God swam back to her starry seas, the Bird God flew off singing into the sunlit sky.
The Rabbit God went home to the moon.
The wheels of the new world began to turn. Rain fell and streams and rivers wandered down to the ocean. Trees flowered. Tender plants pushed out of the rich ground. And the animals scattered to the four corners of the earth, looking for food and homes.
The rabbits obeyed their god. They dug holes and ate plants and loved one another. Soon, there were many little rabbits.
Holly was the first rabbit child to be born. She lived with her mother and father in a warren in the woods, at the edge of a clearing.
Holly spent long, silent hours watching the trees wave in the wind and listening to the long grasses stir around her. She smelled the delicious clover, fruit and flowers. If she heard an unfamiliar sound, she darted into her family's hole and waited until quiet returned.
When she grew big enough, Holly helped her mother and father dig a larger burrow. She scooped out dirt with her paws, and then scattered it away from the entrance so there would be no clue that rabbits lived there. She pulled up grass with her teeth and carried it down to keep their home sweet-smelling and warm.
Soon, the work on their new burrow was done. Holly's parents tugged tufts of fur from beneath their chins and made a soft cushion for her.
"You are our little rabbit, and we love you," they whispered. Her parents pressed their noses together and hugged her tight.
Holly snuggled between her parents, deep in the dark, comfortable silence. She breathed in the gentle rabbit breath all around her. Big rabbit eyes gave heavy blinks as they drifted off to sleep on the fragrant grass.
Holly was startled awake by the roars and howls of huge animals overhead. Her parents comforted her, but they were frightened, too.
"We have found homes," said Holly's father. "But still we are not safe."
"When we go out to find food we are in great danger," said Holly's mother.
"Everything chases us, and tries to catch us and eat us," said Holly's father.
"Something must be done," said Holly's mother. "Let us speak with the other rabbits about this."
Holly and her parents crept out of their home and looked carefully around, then thumped their hind legs on the ground to summon the other rabbits.
"Fellow rabbits," her parents said, "we cannot live like this. What should we do?"
The rabbits talked among themselves and decided to ask their god for help.
As the moon rose above the trees, the rabbits formed a circle and began to dance. They spun faster and faster until the whirling rabbits blended into the moonlight.
At last, the rabbits fell to the earth, crying: "Oh, Lord Rabbit, hear our prayer. Other animals are strong and fierce, and we are afraid."
"Give us teeth and claws to defend ourselves from the dogs and foxes, the wolves and weasels. Give us great voices to frighten them away. Make us big and strong or we will perish!"
And the Rabbit God came down among them and answered:
Though I may seem great among the creatures of the earth, among the gods themselves, I am only a rabbit. I gave you no weapons because I have no weapons to give. I gave you survival in the face of destruction, and with that you must be content.
The rabbits bowed their heads in sorrow. Although they tried their best to feel thankful, in their hearts they were bitterly disappointed. The rabbits murmured among themselves: "We have too little. We will not live."
In the morning, Holly woke up to sunlight, chirping birds and chattering squirrels. Her parents nuzzled her good-bye as they scurried out to forage for breakfast. Holly hopped back and forth, waiting for them to come back. The more she waited, the more she worried. She missed the warmth of their fur next to hers. When she could wait no longer, she poked her head out of the burrow.
"Mother! Father! Where are you?" Holly called.
There was no answer. She scampered to the cover of dense brush, weaving her way through the brambles. She saw an eagle swooping down from above, but it couldn't get through the blackberry bush where she hid. Near the meadow, the scent of a wolf cautioned her to wait silently.
Finally it seemed safe. Holly crept out of her hiding place and started across the meadow.
Suddenly, the wolf sprang toward her. Holly ran faster than she'd ever run before, dodging and turning as she felt the wolf's hot breath behind her. Just as she got back to the safety of the brambles, the wolf snapped at her tail, nipping off a pinch of fur. Holly kept running as fast as her legs could carry her, back to the safety of her home.
Inside, her parents were wringing their paws with worry when Holly tumbled breathlessly down between them. They hugged her tight and gave her the best of the food they had gathered. But they could not forget the dangers outside.
"Oh, what shall we do?" Holly's parents wept, and big tears splashed onto her ears.
That night Holly lay awake thinking as her parents slept.
"Something must be done, and I will do it. I will speak to Lord Rabbit and he will hear me. We cannot always be afraid."
Holly crept out all alone into the forest clearing, and began to dance in the silver moonlight. No other rabbits were there to watch for danger, and she was so frightened that at first her dancing was not much more than little trembling hops. But as she danced, her timid heart filled with fiery courage. She danced and leaped until the clearing was a blur and she lost all sense of where or what she was. Her feet pattered on the cold dewy grass, making a sound like soft rain. Her ears whirled around her head and the clearing started to spin. Her soul lifted and she felt that she was no longer alone. There, glowing with moonlight, was the Rabbit God.
She fell down panting, paws outstretched, and murmured, "Oh, Lord Rabbit. Please listen to me. We are so small and the others are so big. I was chased by a wolf when all I wanted to do was find my mother and father. Can you not help us? We are always afraid. We have no peace."
And the Rabbit God heard her prayer, and spoke to her:
Little one, if you were not a rabbit, you would not have survived your ordeal to tell me about it. I made you as you are, in my own image, for I could do nothing else. If I were the Fox God, you would live on flesh. If I were the Eagle God, you would dive through the air. But I am the Rabbit God, and you are a rabbit.
I cannot change you.
But, the Rabbit God went on, you have changed yourself. I did not give you the courage to come into the clearing alone to dance and pray for your people. That change came from within you, and because of your bravery, I am a stronger god. I can now grant you one more blessing.
The Rabbit God paused, and when he spoke again, it was in a larger voice.
This I say to all of you.
Holly looked up, and saw that the forest clearing was filled with rabbits. Not only her loved ones and friends, but countless others. All the rabbits in the world stood and listened to their god in silent awe.
Every month when the moon is full, I will be at my greatest strength. I will then stand between you and the fierce ones, and keep you safe in my arms all night long.
The Rabbit God stopped speaking and faded into the moonlight. All the rabbits lifted their eyes to the big, round moon and thanked their god for the hope of peace.
Holly's parents came to her and snuggled their noses against her, and all three together hopped back to their warm hole at the edge of the clearing.
"Holly, you are brave and good," they said. "Your children and your children's children will remember you and thank you."
And Holly fell asleep with a deep quiet in her heart.
Holly lived to a ripe old age, surrounded by her children and her children's children. Every full moon they gathered around her and she told them the story of the dance in the clearing, and the promise of the Rabbit God.
The rabbits accepted their place as the meek and timid of the earth. They eat green growing things, and are content. They love one another, and flourish. Generation after generation, they tell the story of their great hero, Holly, and remember the promise that the Rabbit God made to all rabbits, forever.
On the night of the full moon, when the Rabbit God is stronger than any of the fierce animals, all the rabbits of the world come out of their hiding places to worship. As they turn their eyes to heaven, nothing startles them, nothing chases them, nothing harms them, and they have no fear. And the Rabbit God looks down on them in benevolence and peace.
In memory of
Potato the Rabbit
March 13, 1986 - December 7, 1989
December 31, 2004
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