The White Hare - a fairy tale
It was just before dawn. A cold wind swept the bare branches of the trees and the first snowdrops held their leaves close to their stalks in an attempt to keep warm.
David stood looking out of his bedroom window. In the grey light he saw a white hare race across the field. He saw it run outside his farm, where he bred dogs, every day. Though he tried to forget the old legend that told of women who changed into hares to haunt the men who’d left them, he couldn’t resist looking out at dawn and dusk to see the creature.
He’d met the girl almost nine years ago, when he was spending time in the city. When it had become time for him to leave the city and go back home, he had said he wouldn’t forget her and left.
He had kept his promise, but he didn’t contact her again after his brief stay in the city, feeling convinced that he wasn’t capable of being happy. At times, he felt wonderful and then it seemed to him as if his dogs spoke to him, and he could hear the wind sing forgotten old songs. There was an ancient burial mound at some distance from the farm, and the songs always seemed to come from that direction.
Other times, he felt as if he was covered by a glass dome, a mere spectator looking outside, observing a world he could no longer understand. Then, in anger, he longed to break the glass, wanted to make something, anything, happen that would have the strength to reach him. He could never understand why autobiographies were classed as non-fiction. How on earth could anyone tell the difference between the seeming and the being? Surely, the only satisfaction that could be had lay hidden in the part you played? Nothing was real; the naked truth of your life was a bad play and you the bored audience. Your own fancies were always much more real than what was acted out in front of you, only they could dull the ennui. But no one seemed to understand this, and nothing others saw as real had the strength he wanted.
And so, he’d settled for living alone, breeding the dogs he was so fond of, and occasionally fleeing to the city, any city that did not know him.
He watched the hare disappear into the forest and, shaking off his memories, went back to bed. He dreamt that he woke up, in his own bedroom, to see her sitting on the edge of the bed.
‘This is the only way I can come to you and explain what happened to me,’ she said. ‘A year ago, I suddenly found myself sitting outside this farm, no longer a woman. I’d changed into a white hare. Then I saw your face appear at the window and understood where I was. But of course there was no way for me to tell you.
I knew you watched me, and I waited for an opportunity to make my identity known to you, hoping something would happen that would change me back into my human form. Now, exactly a year later, I find I’m able to talk to you like this, at least. Please, hunt me today, and catch me. If you don’t, I know I shall never see another spring.’
When David woke up, pale sunlight filled the room and there was no trace of her.
After having finished dressing, he went downstairs. In the library, where he spent most of his time when he was at home, he sat down near the fire. Mary, his housekeeper, brought him breakfast. In silence he fed most of his meal to Jasper and Scott, the two dogs he kept as pets.
As always, they joined him when he went to the stables to work with the other dogs. He thought about his dream all morning. After lunch, he decided to take Jasper and Scott for a walk, hoping that perhaps he’d see the white hare.
Snowdrops covered the ground, but their flowers were still tightly closed. The buds on the branches of the trees looked as if they would never open, and the crows cawing overhead only increased the sense that winter would never end.
His dogs ran playfully out ahead of him. After they’d walked for about an hour, he saw them suddenly freeze. He caught sight of the white hare just before it ran away, the dogs following after it. David started to run, feeling as if he’d changed into a dog himself. He heard the soft whispers of the forest that normally escaped him; he could scent the hare and the desire to catch it filled his mind. After a few minutes, or perhaps it had been hours, he saw the hare disappear into a cave, the dogs chasing after it. David bent his head and entered the mouth of the cave. He followed a seemingly endless tunnel, soon leaving the light from outside far behind, so that he had to go by touch. The damp walls of the cave were cold enough to numb his fingers, but he could still hear the dogs panting ahead of him and kept walking.
Suddenly, he saw a golden light in the distance and soon he reached a hall that was bathed in light, though he couldn’t discover where it came from. In a corner sat the hare, with the dogs crouching motionless in front of it. Before David could make a move, Jasper pounced on the hare, grabbed it by the neck and shook it. David yelled an order at the dog, but it was too late. The hare lay at his feet with a broken neck.
Kneeling down, David stroked its soft white fur and closed his eyes, praying that his dream had been no more than that.
He opened his eyes when he heard the dogs barking the way they did when he came home after a long absence. Looking down, he saw her lying on the ground. She sat up with some difficulty as Jasper pressed his front paws against her shoulders and started licking her face. David gently pushed the dog away and looked at her. He took her in his arms and told her how glad he was to see her, unhurt. ‘So it was true, my dream, the sense you were haunting me in the shape of a white hare,’ he said, and asked her if she thought she could walk. She said she could, and he helped her up.
Walking slowly, they made their way out of the cave and into the last daylight. As they walked, the dogs kept jumping at their legs. The snowdrops which had been closed earlier were now in full bloom. The sun had more strength than before, and green leaves had appeared on the trees. Winter had ended abruptly.
Suddenly, David’s senses seemed to sharpen again and he heard the wind sing, ‘The running hound, the hare, hand in glove. Call it love, to chase, to flee with so much care.’
They stayed at the farm, and perhaps the dogs could still sense the hare she had once been, because they followed her around wherever she went.
And once a year, in spring, beautiful hare could be seen running across the fields, turning the grey early morning light into silver.