Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Telling the Story: Rabbit Boy

The story I am retelling below is inspired by "Rabbit Boy," a story of the White River Sioux found in American Indian Myths and Legends, selected and edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz (1984: 5-8).

~ ~ ~

This was a long time ago. The world was just beginning, new things were happening, nothing was finished yet.

In those days there was a rabbit, a happy and playful rabbit. He hopped here and there, and one day, while he was hopping, he saw a red ball, very round and very bright. It was a ball that was made of blood, a clot of blood that was perfectly round and smooth and shiny. He wanted to play with that red ball, so he kicked it, and the ball moved. He kicked it again, and the ball moved, and the rabbit saw that the ball was growing: he kicked it, and the ball grew arms and legs; then he kicked it again, and the ball grew hands and feet, and then a head and a face, and soon there was a boy there, a beautiful little boy.

The rabbit took the boy home to his wife, and they loved him like their own. The boy grew up in the rabbit village, thinking all the while that he, too, was a rabbit. Finally, though, the rabbits told the boy that he was not a rabbit at all. He was a human being, and he needed to go the village of the human beings. So they dressed him in handsome clothes made of buckskin and decorated with red paint and with porcupine quills, and off he went to live among the humans.

In the village of the humans, there was a beautiful girl. She fell in love with Rabbit Boy, and the people of the village rejoiced. Well, most of the people. But the Spider Man, Iktome, was jealous, and so were some of the other boys. "Why should this stranger come among us?" they murmured. They fought with Rabbit Boy, and he pretended to let them win. They tied Rabbit Boy to a tree, and he pretended that he could not break free.

Finally the Spider Man said, "We should cut the Rabbit Boy into pieces and make him into soup!"

Rabbit Boy said, "I will sing my death song then," and he sang a song:

I am the one
who fought the sun.
Listen, my friends!
I battled the sun,
and that fight I won.

This was because Rabbit Boy had seen this in a dream vision: again and again in his vision he fought the sun, and he won every time.

So Rabbit Boy sang his death song, and then Iktome and the people cut him up into pieces, putting the pieces into a soup pot. But suddenly the sky went dark as a great storm cloud blew overhead and blocked out the sun. Then, when the cloud was gone and the sun was shining again, they saw that the pot of soup was empty. Where had the pieces of meat gone? Someone said, "I saw the pieces of meat riding on a sunbeam, going up into the sky." Now the people were afraid. "He will come back," they said, "and he will have all the power of the sun next time."

"No," said Iktome, "he is gone for good. Forget about Rabbit Boy! I am the one; you must cut me up and put me into the soup pot." Iktome thought that he could do what Rabbit Boy did, but he was wrong. "I will sing my death song first," he cried. But Iktome did not remember the words. He sang:

I am the one
who fought the moon.
Listen, my friends!
I battled the moon,
and that fight I won.

After Iktome sang his song, they cut him up and put him into the soup pot, and there he stayed. Iktome knew did not have the power of Rabbit Boy; he could only pretend.

~ ~ ~

American Indian Myths and Legends,
selected and edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz


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