The Three Hares Looking for a Story
This child-friendly Turkish story is similar to the story of the Three Little Pigs, in that three brothers are sent out into the big wide world to make houses for themselves, and the youngest lands up looking after his older siblings when they are pursued by the archetypal enemy, the fox. It is a story about making our way in the world, wisdom and foolishness, and generosity.
Three is a number that crops up all the time in fairy tales, in all of life in fact. The list goes on for miles, but just think… yesterday today tomorrow, me you us, red yellow blue, width height depth, and the triangle and all that it symbolises. Fascinating stuff if you want to delve deeper.
Rabbits and hares symbolise many different things in different cultures, often connected to fertility, the moon and good luck.
Re-told with permission from Mike Pristow.
What parts of the story struck a chord with you? Here are my ramblings.
Hares: “In many mythic traditions, these animals were archetypal symbols of femininity, associated with the lunar cycle, fertility, longevity, and rebirth. But if we dig a little deeper into their stories we find that they are also contradictory, paradoxical creatures: symbols of both cleverness and foolishness, of femininity and androgyny, of cowardice and courage, of rampant sexuality and virginal purity. In some lands, Hare is the messenger of the Great Goddess, moving by moonlight between the human world and the realm of the gods; in other lands he is a god himself, wily deceiver and sacred world creator rolled into one.” Terri Windling ‘The Symbolism of Rabbits and Hares’
3 Brothers: Fairy tales abound with the ‘rule of three’. “The symbol of the triad or trinity has existed over immeasurable time and throughout the world. It can be understood as a key to the integrity and interdependence of all existence.” (Terri Windling) For instance, the symbol of three balls, one atop two forming a triangular shape, appears as the chintamani ‘auspicious jewels’ that are prevalent in Hindu and Buddhist traditions and in Ottoman art since the 9th Century. Then there’s the trefoil which is ubiquitous in Christian and Celtic art.
“Time you went out in the world”: An example of the universal motif of leaving home. I’m reminded of a childhood book about Pookie, a little white rabbit who, banished because he had wings, went “out to seek his fortune”.
“Time for you to build homes of your own”: Home is where the heart is. A person can make a home anywhere if he or she is ‘at home’ with herself. A house or a home that appears in a dream is said to be a symbol of the Self. “In your dreams the place you live in describes the psychological space you are currently dwelling in. This inner home shows you the situation in your present inner life, which in turn profoundly affects the circumstances of your outer life” (Sallie Gillespie)
“Do not travel far my sons”: This reminds me of the saying, “the apple does not fall far from the tree”, meaning that children take after the parents, (though often times after trials and tribulations of their own!).
The crafty fox: Full of deception and guile, the fox is the archetypal trickster or negative hero figure, in many stories closely related to the wolf, as in Little Red Riding Hood. Carl Gustav Jung calls the trickster “a collective shadow figure, a summation of all the inferior traits of character in individuals” (The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious).
Third Brother: Usually the youngest, he often turns out the winner in the end, like Puss in Boots, or succeeds in tasks where his older brothers have failed, as in the story of The White Cat in Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book.
“Welcome my brothers!”: Charity begins at home. The third brother is not only wiser but also generous and magnanimous when he could have turned his brothers away. A lesson here for countries who do not make refugees welcome when they flee from crafty foxes of one sort or another!
Sallie Gillespie, Living The Dream, 1996.
C. G. Jung, The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious, 1959.
Terri Windling ‘The Symbolism of Rabbits and Hares’
These questions are for your own personal reflections on the story. Perhaps you don’t relate to the whole story, but parts of it do resonate with aspects of your experience. Those are the parts you can work with. And if you find a question disturbing, do seek out a wise and trusted friend or therapist to talk it over with.
I would encourage you as you reflect on these questions to have your favourite creativity materials or a visual journal nearby. Be open to any images that may come to you and concretize your reflections in some sort of art-making.
- How would you describe the characters of each brother?
- Do you know people like these? Who are they and how do you interact with them?
- Can you see yourself in any of the characters in the story? What does this mean for you now?
- You might reflect on how it was for you to leave home, or how it was for you when your children left home, and how it is for you now. There may be things you are grateful for or sad about, or are still unfinished.
- What do you do when you become aware of times when that crafty old fox, your trickster shadow is active in your life?
- How do hospitality, sharing and generosity feature in your life?