Rabbit and the Winter Feast
She was woken by the silence. All evening the wind had chased around the house, making the trees in the forest creak. But now, in the dead of night, all was suddenly silent.
She got out of bed and walked to the window. The snow glistened in the moonlight and the trees stood sharply drawn against the bright starry sky.
Rabbit was sitting on the windowsill, where he always sat while she slept. But that night he suddenly stood up, walked to the door and beckoned her. 'Don't be surprised, we have something important to do. Come, I'll explain later,' he said.
She quickly got dressed and walked outside with him. By the time they'd reached the snow-covered fields she took Rabbit's hand and he said, 'This is a special night, the longest of the year. The wind still blows and it's cold, but soon the days will lengthen, and that is reason for a great feast in the woods'.
They walked deep into the forest till they came to a clearing where many animals had come together.
Near them a hedgehog was sitting on a rock, a doe turned towards them, and a wood mouse was seated on a pile of snow eating seeds.
Farther on stood a wild boar, and two rabbits sat looking at them.
A fox with a beautiful tail was running through the woods.
Between the branches of a high tree sat a squirrel, and on a pine branch a vole was sitting next to a fairy who played the loveliest music to which the other fairies, who all wore horns, danced in the snow.
The doe walked towards them and let her, with Rabbit firmly clasped in her arms, climb on her back. She rode them past the other animals so she could look at them well and be introduced to all of them.
The rabbits kindly greeted Rabbit and her, and walked with them to the other animals. The fox slowed its pace just long enough to greet them, and then hurried on, because he had just woken up and was feeling very cheerful.
The boar was sniffing out food which lay buried under the snow and gave them some acorns. They thanked him kindly and rode over to the squirrel who took the acorns from them because, as he said, 'humans and rabbits have little use for raw acorns'.
The hedgehog and the wood mouse had been curious and approached them, agreeing with the vole when he said that the fairies would have something better digestible for them to eat.
When they climbed down from the doe's back, the fairies, who had earlier been dancing so beautifully, gave them a cup of acorn coffee and biscuits.
After Rabbit and she had drank and eaten, she looked around and saw that farther along, near a juniper bush, many glistening stones were lying, which looked as if they were made of ice. She asked Rabbit what they were, and Rabbit answered in a whisper, 'Those are the lights, made out of ice that has been frozen for such a long time, that it turned into stone and will never melt again'.
And at that moment the animals approached. Each took up a light and walked to the juniper bush. Then the wind suddenly rose, blowing so hard that the two largest branches of the lovely bush parted. Then they could see that at the heart of it a small blue flame was burning, which flamed upwards because of the wind.
When the storm had calmed down somewhat, the animals lit their lamps, one by one. The stones began to glow with all colours of the rainbow. Rabbit and she also took up a lamp and lit it.
Then they all started searching for hollows between the roots and branches of the trees, and for small cracks in the bark, and there they planted their lamps. In that manner, everyone was reminded of the fact that the sun would soon return and the forest would be green and full of light again.
She walked back to the juniper bush for a moment and Rabbit joined her. There she saw a small lamp, which no one had lit. The flute-playing fairy told her that she could take it home with her, since she lived in a house and wouldn't be able to see the lamps in the woods at night. He tied a ribbon to the lamp for her and hung it round her neck. So they said goodbye and walked back home.
When she woke up in her own bed the next morning, the lamp was still hanging round her neck, softly glowing in the weak morning light.
© Eva Weggelaar