First People :: American Indian Legends : M-O
Cookies | Privacy Policy

Rabbit and Fox

An Ojibwa Legend

One winter Rabbit was going along through the snow when he saw Fox. It was too late to hide, for Fox had caught Rabbit's scent.

"I am Ongwe Ias, the one who eats you!" barked Fox. "Yon cannot escape me!"

Rabbit began to run for his life. He ran as fast as he could around trees and between rocks, making a great circle in the hope that he would lose Fox. But when he looked back he saw that Fox was gaining on him. "I am Ongwe Ias," Fox barked again. "You cannot escape."

Rabbit knew that he had to use his wits. He slipped off his moccasins and said, "Run on ahead of me." The moccasins began to run, leaving tracks in the snow. Then, using his magic power, Rabbit made himself look like a dead, half-rotten rabbit and lay down by the trail.

When Fox came to the dead rabbit, he did not even stop to sniff at it. "This meat has gone bad," he said. Then, seeing the tracks that led on through the snow he took up the chase again and finally caught up with Rabbit's old moccasins.

"Hah," Fox snarled, "this time he has fooled me. Next time I will eat the meat no matter how rotten it looks." He began to backtrack. Just as he expected when he came to the place where the dead rabbit had been, it was gone. There were tracks leading away through the bushes, and Fox began to follow them.

He hadn't gone far when he came upon an old woman sitting by the trail. In front of her was a pot, and she was making a stew.

"Sit down, grandson," she said. "Have some of this good stew."

Fox sat down. "Have you seen a rabbit go by?"

"Yes," said the old woman, handing him a beautifully carved wooden bowl filled with hot stew. "I saw a very skinny rabbit go by. There was no flesh on his bones, and he looked old and tough."

"I am going to eat that rabbit," said Fox.

"Indeed?" said the old woman. "You will surely do so, for the rabbit looked tired and frightened. He must have known you were close behind him. Now eat the good stew I have given you."

Fox began to eat and, as he did so, he looked at the old woman. "Why do you wear those two tall feathers on your head, old woman?" he asked.

"These feathers?" said the old woman. "I wear them to remind me of my son who is a hunter. Look behind you--here he comes now."

Fox turned to look and, as he did so, the old woman threw off her blankets and leaped high in the air. She went right over Fox's head and hit him hard with a big stick that had been hidden under the blankets.

When Fox woke up his head was sore. He looked for the stew pot, but all he could see was a hollow stump. He looked for the wooden soup bowl, but all he could find was a folded piece of bark with mud and dirty water in it. All around him were rabbit tracks. "So, he has fooled me again," Fox said. "It will be the last time." He jumped up and began to follow the tracks once more.

Before he had gone far he came to a man sitting by the trail. The man held a turtle-shell rattle in his hand and was dressed as a medicine man.

"Have you seen a rabbit go by?" asked Fox.

"Indeed," said the medicine man, "and he looked sick and weak."

"I am going to eat that rabbit," Fox said.

"Ah," said the medicine man, "that is why he looked so afraid. When a great warrior like you decides to catch someone, surely he cannot escape."

Fox was very pleased. "Yes," he said, "I am Ongwe Ias. No rabbit alive can escape me."

"But, Grandson," said the medicine man, shaking his turtle-shell rattle, "what has happened to your head? You are hurt."

"It is nothing," said the Fox. "A branch fell and struck me."

"Grandson," said the medicine man, "you must let me treat that wound, so that it heals quickly. Rabbit cannot go far. Come here and sit down."

Fox sat down, and the medicine man came close to him. He opened up his pouch and began to sprinkle something into the wound.

Fox looked closely at the medicine man. "Why are you wearing two feathers?" he asked.

"These two feathers," the medicine man answered, "show that I have great power. I just have to shake them like this, and an eagle will fly down. Look, over there! An eagle is flying down now."

Fox looked and, as he did so, the medicine man leaped high in the air over Fox's head and struck him hard with his turtle-shell rattle.

When Fox woke up, he was alone in a small clearing. The wound on his head was full of burrs and thorns, the medicine man was gone, and all around him were rabbit tracks.

"I will not be fooled again!" Fox snarled. He gave a loud and terrible war cry. "I am Ongwe Ias," he shouted. "I am Fox!"

Ahead of him on the trail, Rabbit heard Fox's war cry. He was still too tired to run and so he turned himself into an old dead tree.

When Fox came to the tree he stopped. "This tree must be Rabbit," he said, and he struck at one of the small dead limbs. It broke off and fell to the ground. "No," said Fox, "I am wrong.

This is indeed a tree." He ran on again, until he realized the tracks he was following were old ones. He had been going in a circle. "That tree!" he said.

He hurried back to the place where the tree had been. It was gone, but there were a few drops of blood on the ground where the small limb had fallen. Though Fox didn't know it, the branch he had struck had been the end of Rabbit's nose, and ever since then rabbits' noses have been quite short.

Leading away into the bushes were fresh rabbit tracks. "Now I shall catch you!" Fox shouted.

Rabbit was worn out. He had used all his tricks, and still Fox was after him. He came to a dead tree by the side of the trail. He ran around it four times and then, with one last great leap, lumped into the middle of some blackberry bushes close by. Then, holding his breath, he waited.

Fox came to the dead tree and looked at the rabbit tracks all around it. "Hah," Fox laughed, "you are trying to trick me again." He bit at the dead tree, and a piece of rotten wood came away in his mouth. "Hah," Fox said, "you have even made yourself taste like a dead tree. But I am Ongwe Ias, I am Fox. You cannot fool me again."

Then, coughing and choking, Fox ate the whole tree. From his hiding place in the blackberry bushes, Rabbit watched and tried not to laugh. When Fox had finished his meal he went away, still coughing and choking and not feeling well at all.

After a time, Rabbit came out of his hiding place and went on his way.

Return to Ojibwa Legends
top of page.