The Words of the Perrin Family

The Hare and the Hungry Man

June Darby [Perrin]
November 1988

Indian children say they can see a hare on the face of the moon, and this is the story of how they imagine the hare got to be there. This story is hundreds of years old.

In India long ago, animals were as wise as men. They could speak, and what is more, they could think deeply.

There were four creatures in particular who were very pious: a jackal, an otter, a monkey, and a hare. They lived in a wood near the city called Benares. They never thought of being selfish. They gave alms and kept the fast days just like the good Brahmins, the religious men of India.

One evening a poor beggar man came through the wood and found the jackal sitting on a log, deep in meditation.

"Good beast!" begged the man, "Be kind and give me a little food!"

"With joy!" cried the jackal, jumping up. "How fortunate it is that I was lucky in my hunting today. I will bring you the meat from my cave."

"But I do not eat meat," said the man, and he walked on. Soon the man saw the otter sitting on a stone in the middle of a stream, deep in meditation. He begged the creature for something to eat, and the otter gladly offered him some fish, but this, too, the man said he could not eat, and he went on his way.

By and by the man met the monkey swinging slowly from a tree branch by one hind leg, deep in meditation.

He had hardly begun to ask him for something to eat when the monkey offered him some mangoes, but the man would not eat fruit either.

Lastly the man found the hare lying in the dewy grass with the moon light shining through his pink ears, deep in meditation.

"Please, good hare," whimpered the man, "I am starving!"

All that the hare had to give him was the grass he was lying on, but of what use would that be to a hungry man? The hare thought, "I will give him myself."

The kind animal said, "Make a fire, sir, and you shall soon have a good meal." The man made a fire of twigs on some large stones. When they were red-hot the hare threw himself upon them.

But instead of being burned, the hare felt as if he were lying on a bed of cool water lilies. He lifted his head and asked the beggar, "What is this? Why am I not burning?"

Suddenly the beggar grew to a gigantic size, much higher than the tree tops and splendid in appearance.

"Oh, noble little beast," he said. "I only wanted to find out the depths of your kindness. It is truly boundless and unconditional. I will place your image in the skies so that people will forever remember your example."

So he picked up a mountain and squeezed it until its juice ran out. Then, using the mountaintop as a pen, he dipped it in the juice for ink and drew a picture of the hare on the full moon.

To this day Indian children point out the hare in the moon to each other.  

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