The Brown Fairy Book
The Cunning Hare
In a very cold country, far across the seas, where ice and snow cover the ground for many
months in the year, there lived a little hare, who, as his father and mother were both dead,
was brought up by his grandmother. As he was too young, and she was too old, to work,
they were very poor, and often did not have enough to eat.
One day, when the little fellow was hungrier than usual, he asked his grandmother if he
might go down to the river and catch a fish for their breakfast, as the thaw had come and
the water was flowing freely again. She laughed at him for thinking that any fish would
let itself be caught by a hare, especially such a young one; but as she had the rheumatism
very badly, and could get no food herself, she let him go. 'If he does not catch a fish he
may find something else,' she said to herself. So she told her grandson where to look for
the net, and how he was to set it across the river; but just as he was starting, feeling
himself quite a man, she called him back.
'After all, I don't know what is the use of your going, my boy! For even if you should
catch a fish, I have no fire to cook it with.'
'Let me catch my fish, and I will soon make you a fire,' he answered gaily, for he was
young, and knew nothing about the difficulties of fire-making.
It took him some time to haul the net through bushes and over fields, but at length he
reached a pool in the river which he had often heard was swarming with fish, and here he
set the net, as his grandmother had directed him.
He was so excited that he hardly slept all night, and at the very first streak of dawn he ran
as fast as ever he could down to the river. His heart beat as quickly as if he had had dogs
behind him, and he hardly dared to look, lest he should be disappointed. Would there be
even one fish? And at this thought the pangs of hunger made him feel quite sick with
fear. But he need not have been afraid; in every mesh of the net was a fine fat fish, and of
course the net itself was so heavy that he could only lift one corner. He threw some of the
fish back into the water, and buried some more in a hole under a stone, where he would
be sure to find them. Then he rolled up the net with the rest, put it on his back and carried
it home. The weight of the load caused his back to ache, and he was thankful to drop it
outside their hut, while he rushed in, full of joy, to tell his grandmother. 'Be quick and
clean them!' he said, 'and I will go to those people's tents on the other side of the water.'
The old woman stared at him in horror as she listened to his proposal. Other people had
tried to steal fire before, and few indeed had come back with their lives; but as, contrary
to all her expectations, he had managed to catch such a number of fish, she thought that
perhaps there was some magic about him which she did not know of, and did not try to