Thursday, April 19, 2012

Heathen Fable #11 - The Foolish Mountain Hare

On a very tall snowy mountain lived a husk, or community, of mountain hares.  Hares are similar to rabbits in a number of ways, but it would be a mistake to call them a rabbit.  They can get rather disagreeable if you do.

The husk of hares loved their mountain home in both the summer and the winter.  In the summer they grew brown fur and munched on the moist green grass that grew between the rocks.  In the winter they grew thick white fur that kept them warm, and ate bark and twigs from the stunted trees that grew there.  They lived so high on the mountain that they have very little trouble from anyone.  The one exception was when the jackrabbits from the foothills below would wander occasionally up the mountain during the summer and try to eat their green grasses.  When this happened, one of the mountain hares would sound the alarm, and all the other hares would come and work together to chase the jackrabbits back down the mountain.

Among the husk of hares, there was one foolish young hare that always seemed to want attention.  He would talk in silly voices, make fun of himself, tell stupid jokes, and even pretend to trip and fall just to get all the other hares to laugh.  The foolish hare seemed willing to do almost anything to be the center of attention, and often it worked.  The other hares would laugh and point at the foolish hare's antics and silliness, and the foolish hare would feel very good about all the attention he was getting.

One day, an old hare took the foolish hare aside and said, "You do realize that people laughing at you is not the same as having real friends, don't you?"

The foolish hare scoffed at the old hare.  "Everyone loves me.  Look how they laugh when I tell a joke.  Look how much attention they pay to me."

The old hare shook his head.  "They laugh because you are acting like a clown.  They don't respect you.  And you haven't done the real work it takes to make and keep good friends."

The foolish hare became angry.  "You are just mad because you don't get the attention that I get.  You are jealous of how popular I am."

The old hare answered, "I would rather be respected than get the attention given to a fool."  And with that the old hare hopped away.

Months later, on a sunny summer day, the foolish hare was off by himself eating some delicious green grass on the side of the mountain.  While he was busy eating, a number of big jackrabbits from the foothills snuck carefully past him and headed high onto the mountain belonging to the husk of hares.  The jackrabbits ate up lots of the mountain hares' moist green grass before they were discovered and chased back down the mountain by a group of hares.  

This group of hares noticed the foolish hare munching away on grass, and approached him.  One of them said, "Why did you not raise the alarm when those jackrabbits invaded our mountain?"

The foolish hare answered, "I didn't see them.  They must have snuck around me."

One of the other hare's said, "We think you saw them, and were just too lazy to sound the alarm."

Another said, "Or perhaps you saw them, and were just too stupid to sound the alarm."

And another said, "Or you saw them, but made a deal with them to let them go by."

The group of hares brought the foolish hare back to the husk, and accused him of these things in front of all the other mountain hares.  Everyone was very angry at the foolish hare and there was talk of kicking him out of their community and making him leave the mountain.

The foolish hare pleaded with them.  "They snuck around me and I never saw them.  I'm not lazy, or stupid, and I would never betray you.  This could have happened to anyone."

All the other mountains hares just stared angrily at the foolish hare and were very quiet.  The foolish hare became nervous and asked, "Will none of my friends here speak up for me?  I don't understand why no one is defending me.  I didn't do anything wrong.  Why will none of you stand up for me?"

The old hare hopped forward from the crowd.  "As I warned you before, it is a fool that thinks everyone who laughs at him is his friend.  And now the fool has learned that he has no friends that will speak up for him.  Leave the husk, get off our mountain, and never come back."

(Hávamál Stanza 25)

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods