THE EASTER HARE by Margaret Arndt

small cute rabbit in a box with green grass and white easter eggs

It is curious how little children of one country know about the lives and interests of the children of another. Perhaps if English people would send their children over to Germany, instead of their journalists, singers, etc., the danger of an International war would be lessened. The children would be sure to fall in love with Germany; for it is the land above all others that appeals to children. Women are said to come first in America, children are certainly the first consideration in Germany. Froebel’s motto: “Come let us live with our children,” is nowhere better carried out.

A little English girl, named Patsie, came over to visit her German friends, Gretel and Barbara, shortly before Easter this year; and she was much surprised to find all the shop-windows filled with hares; hares made of chocolate, toy hares, hares with fine red coats on, hares trundling wheelbarrows or carrying baskets full of Easter eggs. Moreover there was no end to the picture post cards representing the hare in various costumes, and in some connection with Easter eggs. One of these post cards represented a hare crawling out of a large broken egg just like a chicken.

Patsie asked her little friends eagerly what this all meant.

“Who is the Hare?” she said. “I do so want to know all about him.”

“Why, of course, it is the Easter Hare,” they replied.

“Is it possible that you have not heard of him? O, you poor English children! Why, he brings us the eggs on Easter Sunday morning!” said Gretel.

“O don’t you know,” said Barbara, “he hides them in the garden, unless it rains or is very wet; then we have to stay in our bedrooms for fear of frightening him, and he lays them downstairs in the dining-room or drawing-room. However, this has only happened once since I was born, and I am nine years old; it must be always fine at Easter.”

“We have to let all the blinds down before he will come into our garden, he is so dreadfully nervous,” said Gretel. “Then he hides the eggs in the most unexpected places, we have to hunt and hunt a long time before we have found them all. Last year we discovered an egg some weeks afterwards; luckily it was a glass one filled with sweeties; for if it had been of chocolate, we could not have eaten it, after it had lain on the damp mould, where the snails and worms would have crawled over it. Some of the eggs are made of chocolate or marzipan or sugar, and some are real eggs coloured blue or red or brown, or even sometimes with pictures on them.”

“We had two dear little baskets with dollies in them, and a big Easter Hare made of gingerbread, as well as the eggs this year,” said Barbara. “We hunt and hunt in every corner of the garden, and then we divide our treasures afterwards on two plates, so that is quite fair.”

“You are lucky children, why does not the Hare come to England?” said Patsie. “I am sure little English children would appreciate him too!”

“Well,” said Gretel answering in verse:

My dear mother says to me,
That he will not cross the sea;
That he fears his eggs would break
And his precious goods might shake.

He’s a fairy you must know,
Little Barbara tells you so;
When he cocks his ears and blinks,
Then of Easter eggs he thinks.

“Yes,” interrupted Barbara, “we really and truly saw him one Easter Sunday morning when we came back from church, just at the end of our street, where the gardens join the fields. He had a friend with him, or perhaps it was Mrs Easter Hare. They both looked very alarmed when they saw us, and tore off as fast as they could scuttle, and hid in the corn-fields. I can’t remember if he had his red coat on, can you, Gretel?”

“No I don’t think he had, he was quietly dressed in his brown fur suit, with a white tail to the coat,” said Gretel.

Now mother had been puzzled for some time to think whatever connection there could be between Easter Day and the Hare, and she could not find out. But the other day a kind friend told her: she could never have been able to think of it herself, it is such a queer reason. The legend is that as the Hare always sleeps with its eyes open, it was the only living creature that witnessed the Resurrection of our Blessed Lord, and therefore for ever afterwards it has become associated with Easter.

The Easter egg is easier to account for; the idea there is, that as the little chicken breaks through the hard shell, and awakes to new life, so Christ broke the bars of death on the first glorious Easter morning. So the simple egg has become a symbol or sign of a great heavenly truth. Even little children can understand this if they think about it, and they will be able to find out other things too that are symbols in the same way.

“One year,” said Barbara to Patsie, “we spent Easter Sunday at a farm in the country. We made beautiful nests of moss all ready for the Easter Hare. And just when father had called to us to come out and look for the eggs, we saw to our disgust that the great pigs with their dirty old snouts were already hunting for them, so we rushed down and had to drive them away first. The geese too seemed to want to join in the game; it was fine fun, I can tell you. We filled our pinafores with the eggs.”

“When we got home again, we found the Easter Hare had been there too; so we were finely spoilt that year,” said Gretel.
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Several weeks before Easter this year, before Patsie came to stay with them, Gretel and Barbara went for an afternoon walk in the fields with their father and mother. It was getting late when they returned; white mists were rising over the River Nidda, until the trees in the distance looked like ghosts. There was a strange feeling in the air, as if something were going to happen; the children felt excited without knowing why. Then they suddenly saw a bright light not far off from them, along the path by the river. It seemed to revolve, then to change its position, then it went out altogether. They thought they saw the crouching form of a man beside the light; indeed father said that it was probably a labourer lighting his pipe; but, when they looked again, it was unmistakably a bush that had taken a human form in the twilight. The children instinctively fell back nearer the grown-ups. There was something creepy about that bush.

Suddenly a weird cry, shrill and piercing, broke the silence. It seemed to come from just in front of them, and sounded awful; as if a baby were being murdered. The children clutched hold of father’s hand. “It was all right as long as father and mother were there,” they thought with the touching confidence of children.

No one could imagine what it was. The stretching, ploughed fields on one side could hide nothing, the little path along the river-bank was clearly visible. As they approached the spot whence the crying had seemed to proceed, all was silent again. Gretel had heard of the magic flower Moly which screamed when it was pulled up by the roots; could there be screaming bushes as well? But the cries had seemed to come from the ploughed field, not from the river.

The sun had gone down, the air became darker and chillier. Suddenly the cry began again; this time it seemed to proceed directly from an empty tin lying near them on the ploughed field, broken and upside down. The children stared with wide-open eyes at this mysterious old tin: they could not make head or tail of it, of the tin I mean.

Then mother stooped and picked up a piece of egg-shell coloured a beautiful red, that lay on the path, and held it up triumphantly. “What do you say to that?” she asked the children.

“Why, it is a piece of a broken Easter egg, how queer,” said the children, “such a long time before Easter too.”

“Do you know what I think?” said mother, almost in a whisper. “I think the Easter Hare has been along here, perhaps he lives here, and that tin hides the entrance to his house.”

“Let’s go and see,” said the children. But at this moment the cries broke out again, coming just from their very feet it seemed. They sounded so uncanny that the children did not dare to move, or to investigate the tin.

“If you disturb him now, you certainly will not get any Easter eggs this year,” said mother. “He’s sure to be very busy painting them just now, I dare say he cries like that to frighten you away from his home.”

“I don’t think so,” said father, “he can hide and hold his tongue if he wants to; it is the little baby hares who make that noise; but just as we pass by, the mother hare manages to keep them quiet for a few minutes by giving them something to put in their little mouths, I expect.”

“I would like to see them,” said Barbara.

“No, come along, Barbara,” said Gretel, “leave them alone, it would be horrid to get no Easter eggs wouldn’t it?”
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For many nights Barbara dreamt of the Easter Hare, and at last she made up the following story about him, which she wrote out beautifully in flowing German handwriting in an exercise-book. I thought little English girls and boys would like to hear a story written by a little German girl of nine years. So I have translated it for them here. It will give them a good idea too of how the Easter Hare is regarded by German children.

MR. FOX CUTS THE COTTONTAILS by Abbie Phillips Walker

rabbits running in field

Mr. Fox decided that the only way to get all the wood animals to have a good opinion of him was to give a big dinner, for he had somehow got rather a bad name among the animals for being so tricky. So all day long he went about telling all the animals that when it was dark – quite dark – they were to come to his house and dine.

There were the Squirrels and the Coons, the Possums and the Bear family and all the Rabbit family, including Susie Cottontail and her brother Jimmie and many others.

You may be sure that no one ate any dinner that day. They all saved their appetites for Mr. Fox’s night-time feast, for, as Mr. Coon expressed it, “we should be very ungrateful to Mr. Fox if we did not take to his dinner our very best appetites; therefore our stomachs should be empty.”

As soon as it was dark, so that Mr. Dog could not see them, all the animals began to slowly creep toward Mr. Fox’s home.

Mr. Fox let them in one by one and was careful to draw all the shades and stuff the keyhole so the light would not show outside if anything happened that Mr. Dog should be roaming through the woods.

At last all the animals but Jimmie and Susie Cottontail were there, and everyone began to wonder where they could be and what kept them so late.

It happened that Jimmie and Susie Cottontail were not at all sure they would enjoy Mr. Fox’s dinner, and they had run over to the farm on the hill to have a dinner of some garden stuff of which they were fond.

They had stayed longer than they had intended, and when they started for Mr. Fox’s house were not as cautious as they usually were about throwing Mr. Dog off their track.

Just as they were entering the wood who should come bounding after them but Mr. Dog, who had followed them from the farm, and off ran Jimmie and Susie Cottontail looking for a hole in which to hide.

Mr. Fox’s house was the first refuge they came to, and in the door they burst, with Mr. Dog at their heels.

Of course there was no dinner and the party was spoiled, for everybody ran, and Mr. Dog, not knowing which one to chase when he saw so many, went home without having caught anyone.

The next day Mr. Fox was talking with his friend, Mr. Coon. “No one of the animals would have gotten us into such a fix but those Cottontails,” he said.

“In the first place, their ears are so short they never heard quickly like some others of that family, and then those tails—why they can be seen for yards and yards. I should have known better than to ask them.

“And everyone knows they have no sense. The Cottontails run into the first opening they see and never keep on running as their cousins do. I have had my lesson. I shall cut them off my visiting list from now on.”

And that is the reason the Cottontail family are never invited to any dinners that the wood folk give—their trails can be too easily followed by Mr. Dog.

MR. FOX’S HOUSEWARMING by Abbie Phillips Walker

a fox and a house

Mr. Fox had been so much disturbed by Mr. Dog and his master that he decided to try living somewhere besides on the ground floor of the woods.

One night he took a look around in the moonlight, and to his delight he discovered the very place for him to live.

It was a house built in the branches of a big tree that some boys very likely had made the year before. “Now with a very little repairing this will be the finest house in the woods,” said Mr. Fox.

So over the hill he ran to Mr. Man’s and brought away all that was needed to make his house comfortable.

He even found an old piece of stovepipe to make his stove draw well, and in a few days Mr. Fox told all his friends of his new home and invited them to a housewarming.

Mr. Coon and Mr. Possum and Mr. Squirrel were not at all upset by finding out that Mr. Fox’s new home was in the big tree, but Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Badger looked very sad and said it was out of the question for them to accept Mr. Fox’s kind invitation, much as they would like to come.

Mr. Fox had borrowed a ladder from Mr. Man, and when Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Badger said they could not come Mr. Fox remembered that he was not much of a climber himself and that if he did not keep that ladder he might have a hard time getting into his home when he was in a hurry.

So he decided that Mr. Man would not need it as much as he would and that it would also make a nice addition to his home.

When he told Mr. Badger and Mr. Rabbit about the ladder they decided to come, and one night when the moon was shining the animals were all to go to Mr. Fox’s house to dinner.

Mr. Fox thought it would be the cheapest way to fill his guests with soup, so he took all the bones that he had collected and put them in a pot on the stove to boil.

Up curled the smoke from his chimney and out through the windows went the nice-smelling odor of soup, and Mr. Dog, who happened to be running through the woods, saw and smelled as well.

He wagged his tail and looked up at the house in the tree; then he whined and scratched the tree, and as he danced about it, with his eyes fixed upon the house all the time, he bumped into the ladder.

“Ah, how fortunate!” he said, and up he went and into Mr. Fox’s house he went, too, and took the cover off the pot.

It did not take him a second to remove the pot from the stove and pour out the soup in the sink and cool those bones, and then such a feast as he had.

He ate until he became sleepy; then he lay down on the floor and went to sleep.

Mr. Dog did not dream that Mr. Fox lived in that house; not that he was afraid of him, but he would have slept with one eye open so that he could catch him if he had known.

Mr. Fox was out roaming over the hill, looking about for a stray turkey or hen, and he did not come home until it was nearly dark.

He ran up the ladder, and without striking a light he went toward the stove to see how his soup was getting on, and stumbled over Mr. Dog. Up jumped Mr. Dog with a gruff bark, and Mr. Fox, not stopping for the ladder, jumped out of the window and almost broke his neck, while Mr. Dog looked after him, barking and yelping in a terrible manner.

Mr. Fox did not stop. He kept on running, and Mr. Dog, thinking of the bones he did not finish, turned away from the window and began to eat. While he was eating the guests for the housewarming began to arrive. Mr. Coon did not need the ladder to help him, or Mr. Possum, either, nor did Mr. Squirrel, but as it was there they felt it would not be polite to enter any other way.

Mr. Possum started up first, and behind him Mr. Coon. Then came Mr. Badger, and Mr. Rabbit behind him, while Mr. Squirrel ran up the side of the ladder.

When they were about halfway up, Mr. Dog, hearing a noise outside, went to the door, and of all the surprised creatures you ever saw, the guests were the most surprised, unless it was Mr. Dog. He forgot to bark for a second, he was so taken back.

Then he recovered and out of the door he went; but he was not used to going down a ladder, and on the first round he slipped and down he went.

The guests started to jump just as Mr. Dog barked, but they were not out of the way when Mr. Dog fell, and down they all tumbled, Mr. Dog, Mr. Possum, Mr. Coon and Mr. Badger.

Mr. Squirrel jumped, too, but he jumped for a limb of the tree and was not in the mix-up. He said it was the funniest sight he ever saw, and he had a fine view from where he sat.

But Mr. Rabbit said he was sure his view of the affair was the best, for, being nearest the bottom of the ladder when the tumble began, he was up and out of the way when they all came down on the ground.

“You could not tell who was who or which from the other,” said Mr. Rabbit, later talking it over with Mr. Squirrel.

It was a long time before Mr. Fox could make the guests believe he had not planned to have Mr. Dog at his house-warming, but when Mr. Squirrel told them that he had seen the bones on the floor and the kettle in the sink they finally forgave Mr. Fox.

He decided the ground floor was the safest for him, after all, and when he was once again settled he gave a feast, and this time Mr. Dog was not there.

Why the White Hares have Black Ears, by Florence Holbrook

In the forest there is a beautiful spirit. All the beasts and all the birds are dear to him, and he likes to have them gentle and good. One morning he saw some of his little white hares fighting one another, and each trying to seize the best of the food.

“Oh, my selfish little hares,” he said sadly, “why do you fight and try to seize the best of everything for yourselves? Why do you not live in love together?”

“Tell us a story and we will be good,” cried the hares.

Then the spirit of the forest was glad. “I will tell you a story of how you first came to live on the green earth with the other animals,” he said, “and why it is that you are white, and the other hares are not.”

Then the little hares came close about the spirit of the forest, and sat very still to hear the story.

“Away up above the stars,” the gentle spirit began, “the sky children were all together one snowy day. They threw snowflakes at one another, and some of the snowflakes fell from the sky. They came down swiftly between the stars and among the branches of the trees. At last they lay on the green earth. They were the first that had ever come to the earth, and no one knew what they were. The swallow asked, ‘What are they?’ and the butterfly answered, ‘I do not know.’ The spirit of the sky was listening, and he said, ‘We call them snowflakes.’

“‘I never heard of snowflakes. Are they birds or beasts?’ asked the butterfly.

“‘They are snowflakes,’ answered the spirit of the sky, ‘but they are magic snowflakes. Watch them closely.’

“The swallow and the butterfly watched. Every snowflake showed two bright eyes, then two long ears, then some soft feet, and there were the whitest, softest little hares that were ever seen.”

“Were we the little white hares?” asked the listeners.

“You were the little white hares,” answered the spirit, “and if you are gentle and good, you will always be white.”

The hares were not gentle and good; they were fretful, and before long they were scolding and fighting again. The gentle spirit was angry. “I must get a firebrand and beat them with it,” he said, “for they must learn to be good.”

So the hares were beaten with the firebrand till their ears were black as night. Their bodies were still white, but if the spirit hears them scolding and fighting again, it may be that we shall see their bodies as black as their ears.

The Rabbit’s Bride, by Grimm Brothers

There was once a woman who lived with her daughter in a beautiful cabbage-garden; and there came a rabbit and ate up all the cabbages. At last said the woman to her daughter,

“Go into the garden, and drive out the rabbit.”

“Shoo! shoo!” said the maiden; “don’t eat up all our cabbages, little rabbit!”

“Come, maiden,” said the rabbit, “sit on my tail and go with me to my rabbit-hutch.” But the maiden would not.

Another day, back came the rabbit, and ate away at the cabbages, until the woman said to her daughter,

“Go into the garden, and drive away the rabbit.”

“Shoo! shoo!” said the maiden; “don’t eat up all our cabbages, little rabbit!”

“Come, maiden,” said the rabbit, “sit on my tail and go with me to my rabbit-hutch.” But the maiden would not.

Again, a third time back came the rabbit, and ate away at the cabbages, until the woman said to her daughter,

“Go into the garden, and drive away the rabbit.”

“Shoo! shoo!” said the maiden; “don’t eat up all our cabbages, little rabbit!”

“Come, maiden,” said the rabbit, “sit on my tail and go with me to my rabbit-hutch.”

And then the girl seated herself on the rabbit’s tail, and the rabbit took her to his hutch.

“Now,” said he, “set to work and cook some bran and cabbage; I am going to bid the wedding guests.” And soon they were all collected. Would you like to know who they were? Well, I can only tell you what was told to me; all the hares came, and the crow who was to be the parson to marry them, and the fox for the clerk, and the altar was under the rainbow. But the maiden was sad, because she was so lonely.

“Get up! get up!” said the rabbit, “the wedding folk are all merry.”

But the bride wept and said nothing, and the rabbit went away, but very soon came back again.

“Get up! get up!” said he, “the wedding folk are waiting.” But the bride said nothing, and the rabbit went away. Then she made a figure of straw, and dressed it in her own clothes, and gave it a red mouth, and set it to watch the kettle of bran, and then she went home to her mother. Back again came the rabbit, saying, “Get up! get up!” and he went up and hit the straw figure on the head, so that it tumbled down.

And the rabbit thought that he had killed his bride, and he went away and was very sad.

Rabbit

rabbit holding a carrot illustrationAre the favourite pets of boys. They are merry little creatures, and it is an amusing sight to watch them running over the green turf about their warren, when they are free. They have many enemies, however, such as dogs, foxes, and weasels. But, in spite of their enemies, rabbits live a merry life together. Continue reading