Native American Legends
Rabbit Calls A Truce
An Abenaki Legend
In the long ago when Glooscap ruled over the Wabanaki, there lived
two lively animals, Keoonik the Otter, and Ableegumooch the Rabbit,
who were forever playing tricks on each other.
One day, when Keoonik was in swimming, Ableegumooch ran off with
a string of eels he had left on the shore. Keoonik rushed out of
the water and went in angry pursuit. He had no difficulty in tracking
the rabbit, for the mark of the fish, touching the ground between
jumps, clearly showed the way. He was astonished, however, when
the trail ended at a clearing in the woods where a withered old
woman sat by a small fire.
"Kwah-ee, Noogumee," said Keoonik, using the formal address
for an elderly female. "Did you see a rabbit hopping this way,
dragging a string of eels?"
"Rabbit? Rabbit?" muttered the old woman. "What
kind of animal is that?"
The otter explained that it was a small brown jumping creature
with long ears and a short tail.
"I saw no such animal," the old squaw grumbled, "but
I'm glad you came along, for I'm cold and sick. Do please gather
a little wood for my fire."
Obligingly, Keoonik went off to do so. Returning with the wood,
he stared around in surprise. The old woman was gone. On the spot
where she had sat, he saw the mark of a rabbit's haunches, and familiar
paw-prints leading away in to the woods. Then he remembered that
Ableegumooch was very clever at changing his appearance and fooling
"Oh, that miserable rabbit!" cried Keoonik and set off
again on the trail. This time the tracks led straight to a village
of the Penobscot Indians, where Keoonik could see the rabbit in
conversation with a thin sad man wearing the feather of a Chief
in his hair string. The wily otter cut himself a stout stick and
waited behind a tree. Presently, Ableegumooch came strolling down
the path, his face creased in an absent-minded frown.
Keoonik was ready for him. He brought the stick down on the rabbit's
head with a thud, and Ableegumooch collapsed on the grass.
"That should teach him," thought Keoonik, with satisfaction,
and he sat down to wait for the rabbit to recover.
Presently Ableegumooch came to his senses and staggered to his
feet with a dazed expression.
"What did you do with my eels?" demanded Keoonik.
"I gave them to the Indians," muttered the rabbit, exploring
the bump on his head with a groan. "What did you do that for,
you silly creature?"
"Those Penobscots are starving, Keoonik," said the rabbit.
"For many moons someone has been stealing their food."
"Just the same," grumbled Keoonik, "those were my
The rabbit thumped his hind legs on the ground with an air of great
"Keoonik, we must find the robbers and punish them!"
"We?" asked Keoonik in astonishment.
"Yes, you and I," said his companion firmly. "Let
there be a truce between us until we discover the thieves."
Keoonik thought to himself that Ableegumooch was a fine one to
complain of people stealing other people's food! However, he too
felt sorry for the Penobscots.
"All right," he agreed. "We'll have a truce,"
and they shook hands solemnly. Then they started back to the village
to ask the Chief what they might do to help, but when they were
still some way off they saw two other animals talking to him. These
were Uskoos the Weasel and Abukcheech the Mouse, two animals so
troublesome even their own families would have nothing to do with
"Let's listen," whispered Ableegumooch, drawing Keoonik
behind a tree.
"We will find those robbers for you, Chief," they heard
Uskoos say. "Don't you worry about a thing."
"You can depend on us," chimed in Abukcheech.
Ableegumooch nudged the otter.
"Did you hear that?"
"I heard," said Keoonik. "So the Indians don't need
our help after all."
"I wonder," said the rabbit thoughtfully.
"What do you wonder? And why are we whispering?"
"Shhh! Let's think about it a little, Keoonik. Have you any
idea how those two get their living? They sleep all day and go hunting
only after dark."
"Some of us like to hunt after dark," Keoonik said fairly.
"Well, but listen," said the rabbit. "All the fur
robes in the camp have been chewed and scratched and spoiled. What
animals chew and scratch wherever they go?"
"Weasels and mice," answered Keoonik promptly. "Very
well. Let's follow them and see what happens."
So Keoonik and Ableegumooch, keeping out of sight themselves, followed
the weasel and the mouse a very long way, to a large burrow in the
side of a hill where a number of other weasels and mice of bad reputation
were gathered. All greeted Uskoos and Abukcheech and listened to
what they had to say, while the rabbit and otter, hidden behind
a blueberry bush, listened too.
"We were very sympathetic," smirked Uskoos, "and
said we would help them."
"So now they won't suspect us," said Abukcheech, and
all the mice and weasels chortled gleefully.
"It is time now," said Uskoos, "to call all the
animals together and plan the conquest of the Penobscots. For we
are smarter than the Indians and deserve to have all the food for
"Very true!" all shouted.
"How will we get the rest to join us?" asked Abukcheech.
"The smaller ones will be afraid to say no to us," declared
Uskoos. "We will use trickery on the others. We will tell them
the Penobscots plan to destroy all the animals in the land, and
we must unite in order to defend ourselves."
"Then, with Wolf and Bear and Moose to help us," cried
Abukcheech, "we'll soon have all the Indians at our mercy!"
The otter and the rabbit could hardly believe their ears. Someone
must warn the Indians.
"Come on," whispered Keoonik, but the rabbit only crouched
where he was, tense and unmoving. The fact is, he wanted to sneeze!
Ableegumooch wanted to sneeze more than he ever wanted to sneeze
in his life before, but he mustn't sneeze--the sound would give
them away. So he tried and he tried to hold that sneeze back. He
pressed his upper lip, he grew red in the face, and his eyes watered--
but nothing was any good.
Instantly, the weasels and mice pounced on Keoonik and Ableegumooch
and dragged them out of hiding.
"Spies!" growled Uskoos.
"Kill them, kill them!" screamed Abukcheech.
"I have a better plan," said Uskoos. "These two
will be our first recruits." Then he told the prisoners they
must become members of his band, or be killed.
Poor Ableegumooch. Poor Keoonik. They did not wish to die, yet
they could never do as the thieves wished, for the Penobscots were
their friends. Ableegumooch opened his mouth, meaning to defy the
villains no matter what the consequences, and then his mouth snapped
shut. He had heard a strange sound, the sound of a flute piping
far away, and he knew what it was. It was the magic flute of Glooscap,
and the Great Chief was sending him a message.
Into the rabbit's head popped the memory of something Glooscap
had said to him once long ago, half in fun, half in earnest. "Ableegumooch,"
he seemed to hear the words again, "the best way to catch a
snake is to think like a snake!" At once the rabbit understood.
He set himself to think like the mice and the weasels, feeling the
greed and selfishness that was in them. Then he had a plan.
"Very well," he said, "we will join you. Those Indians
are certainly very cruel and dishonest. They deserve the worst that
can happen to them. Why, only yesterday"--and here he gave
Keoonik a secret nudge--"my friend and I saw them hide away
a great store of food in a secret place. Didn't we, Keoonik?"
"Oh, yes, certainly," stammered Keoonik, wondering what
trick the rabbit was up to now.
The weasels and mice jumped about in mad excitement. "Where?
Where? Where is this place?"
"Take us there at once!" cried Uskoos, licking his lips.
"Certainly," said Ableegumooch, starting old towards
the woods. "Just follow us."
Abukcheech the Mouse was right at their heels, but Uskoos soon
shouldered him aside. Then each animal fought to be in front, and
in this way all rushed through the forest, across the meadows, down
into the valleys and over the hills, until at last--pushing and
panting and grunting--they all reached the bottom of a grassy hill.
Ableegumooch pointed to a pile of rocks at the top.
"You will find the wealth you seek up there," he cried.
"Hurry, hurry! The best will go to those who get there first."
Away they all went, each struggling to be first. The rabit and
the otter stood aside and watched as the wild mob scrambled up the
hill--up and up until suddenly, too late to stop, they found themselves
teetering on the edge of a cliff, with nothing in front of them
but space, and the sea far below. Those who were first tried to
stop but were pushed over by those crowding behind-- and so, screaming
with terror, down they all went, headlong into the sea.
"Well," said Keoonik, peering over the edge of the cliff
with a shiver, "their tribes are well rid of them."
"So are the Penobscots," said the rabbit. "And now
that together we have saved our friends from the mice and the weasels,
Keoonik, let us go home together in peace as good neighbors should."
"I'm willing," said the otter, but he had no sooner taken
a step than he sprawled on the ground. Ableegumooch had tripped
"That's for the knock on the head!" the rabbit laughed,
and made for the woods. Picking himself up furiously, Keoonik was
after him, shouting, "Just wait till I catch you, I'll teach
you to play tricks!" Their truce was over.
And Glooscap, looking down from Blomidon, laughed at their antics,
for he knew that with all their mischief there was no greed or spite
in the hearts of Keoonik and Ableegumooch, against the Indians or
against each other.
Once more, kespeadooksit, the story ends.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends