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The Hare and the Badger

A Story from the Japanese

by William Elliot Griffis

A good while ago there lived near the Clack-clack Mountains an old man and his wife, who, having no child, made a great deal of a pet hare. Every day the old man cut up food and set it out on a plate for his pet.

One day a badger came out of the forest, and in a trice drove away the hare, and eating up his dinner, licked the plate clean. Then, standing on his hind-legs, the badger blew out his belly until it was as round as a bladder and tight as a drum, and beating on it with his paws to show his victory, scampered off to the woods. But the old man, who was very angry, caught the badger, and tying him by the legs, hung him up head downward under the edges of the thatch in the shed where his old woman pounded millet. He then strapped a wooden frame to hold fagots on his back, and went out to the mountains to cut wood.

The badger, finding his legs pain him, began to cry, and begged the old woman to untie him, promising to help her pound the millet. The tired old dame, believing the sly beast, like a good-hearted soul laid down her pestle and loosened the cords round the beast's legs. The badger was so cramped at first that he could not stand; but when well able to move, he seized a knife to kill the old woman. The hare, seeing this, ran away to find the old man, if possible, and tell him. The badger, after stabbing the old woman, crushed her to death by upsetting the bureau upon her, and then threw her body into the mortar, and pounded her into a jelly. Setting the pot on to boil, he made the woman's flesh into a mess of soup, and ate all he could of it. Then the badger, by turning three double somersaults, turned himself into an old woman, looking exactly like the one he had just eaten. All being ready, he waited till the husband came home tired and hungry.

Soon the old man came back, thinking of nothing more than the hot supper he was soon to enjoy. Throwing down his fagots, he came into the house, and while he warmed his hands at the hearth, his wife (as he supposed) set the mess of soup and millet, with a slice of radish, before him on a tray. He fell to, and ate heartily, his wife (as he supposed) waiting dutifully near by till her lord was served. When the meal was finished he pulled out a sheet of soft mulberry paper from his bosom and wiped his old chops, smacking them well, as he thought what a good supper he had so much enjoyed. Just then the badger took on his real shape, and yelled out: "Old fool, you've eaten your own wife. Look in the drain, and you'll find her bones." And he puffed out his body, beat it like a drum, whisked his tail scornfully, and ran off.

Almost dead with grief and horror, the old man gathered up the bones of his wife, and decently buried them. Then he made a vow to take revenge on the badger. Just then the hare came back from the mountains, and after condoling with the old man, said he would also take revenge on the badger.

So the hare buckled on his belt, in which he kept his flint and steel, and made ready a plaster of red peppers.

Going into the forest, he saw Mr. Badger walking home with a load of fagots and brush on his back. Creeping up softly behind him, the hare set the bundle on fire. The badger kept on, until he heard the crackling of the burning twigs. Then he jumped wildly, and cried out, "Oh, I wonder what that noise is!"

"Oh, this is the Clack-clack Mountain; it always is crackling here," said the hare, looking down from the top of the hill.

The fire grew more lively, and the badger became scared. He fell down, and threw out his fore-paws wildly.

"Katchi-katchi" (clack-clack), went the dry fagots, as the red-hot coals flew about.

"What can it be?" said Mr. Badger.

"This mountain is called Katchi-katchi (Clack-clack); don't you know that?" said the hare, coolly standing on the bridge, and leaning on his axe.

"Oh! oh! oh! help me!" howled the badger, as the blazing twigs began to burn the hair off his back. And running through the woods to a stream near by, he plunged in, and the fire was put out. But his running had only increased the fire and burning, and his back was all raw. When the hare found the badger at home in his house, he was howling in misery, and expecting to die from his burn.

"Let me take a look at your burn, Mr. Badger," said the hare; "I have some famous salve to cure it"—as he pretended to be very pitiful, and held up a bowl of what seemed to be fine salve in one paw, while in the other was a soft brush of fine hair. Then the hare clapped on the red-pepper plaster, and ran away, while the badger rolled in pain.

By-and-by, when the badger got well, he went to see the hare, to have it out with him. He found the hare building a boat. "Where are you going in that boat?" said the badger.

"I'm going to the moon," said the hare. "Come along with me. There's another boat."

So the badger, thinking to catch some fish by going on the water, got into the boat, and both launched away.

Now the boat in which Mr. Badger rowed was made of clay, which soon began to melt away in the water. Seeing this, the hare lifted his paddle, and with one blow sunk the boat, and the badger was drowned.

The hare went back and told the old man, who was glad that his wife had been revenged, and more than ever petted the hare to the end of his life.