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Main > South African folktales > Fairy tale "Why the Hare's Nose is Slit"

Why the Hare's Nose is Slit

The curtains had not yet been drawn nor the shutters closed, and little Jan looked with wide serious eyes at the full moon sailing serenely in the cold sky. Then he sighed as though thoughts too big for expression stirred within him, and turned absently towards the purring fire.

“And why does the big man make such a sighing?” asked Outa Karel. “It is like the wind in the mealie land at sun-under.”

Little Jan’s eyes slowly withdrew their gaze from some inward vision and became conscious of the old native. “Outa,” he said, “why is the moon so far away, and so beautiful, and so golden?”

“Ach! to hear him now! How can Outa tell? It is maar so. Just like grass is green and fire is hot, so the Moon is far away and beautiful and golden. But she is a cruel lady sometimes, too, and it is through her that the poor Little Hare runs about with a slit in his nose to-day.”

“Tell us, Outa.” Little Jan dropped on to the rug beside the basket of mealie-cobs, and the others edged nearer.

“And why do you call the Moon a lady?” asked Pietie of the inquiring mind.

“But doesn’t baasje know that the Moon is a lady? O yes, and for all her beauty she can be cross and cruel sometimes like other ladies, as you will hear.”

“Long, long ago, when the world was quite young, the Lady Moon wanted someone to take a message to Men. She tried first one creature and then another, but no! they were all too busy, they couldn’t go. At last she called the Crocodile. He is very slow and not much good, but the Lady Moon thought she would pinch his tail and make him go quickly. So she said to him: ‘Go down to Men at once and give them this message: “As I die and, dying, live, so also shall you die, and, dying, live.”’

“Baasjes know how the Moon is sometimes big and round——so”—and Outa’s diminutive hands described a wide circle and remained suspended in the air—“like she is now in the sky. Then every night she gets smaller and smaller, so—so—so—so—so——till——clap!”—the crooked fingers come together with a bang—“there’s no more Moon: she is dead.

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