Adapted from a West African folktale.
Note: The one-reader version uses masculine pronouns for Hyena and Hare and female pronouns for Butterfly. In the multiple-reader versions, all the characters are gender neutral.
This introduction can serve all three versions of the story:
In some countries in Africa, people like to tell stories about a tricky hare, which is like a rabbit, and a hyena. This story is about Hare and Hyena, but it’s about other animals that live in the grasslands of Africa, too. It takes place during a time when the animals all lived far away from each other. The name of this fable is “Hare’s Gifts." A fable is a story that has a message it wants you to remember. Many times, fables have animal characters that think, talk, and act like humans.
Hare’s Gifts – for one reader
A long time ago, before there were people on earth, there were many different animals that lived all over. Some of the animals lived in the grasslands, but they did not live too close to each other because they thought it was best that way. One such animal was Hyena. He decided that he needed a new home and so he found the perfect place. It was far away from all the other animals, near sweet water and protected by the shade of the baobob tree.
Hyena wanted the best home possible, so everyone who would see it would know how important he was in the grasslands. So he had the best builder in the land build it and decorate it for him. It took a whole moon’s time to build and when it was done Hyena threw a party to show it off. He hired the best chef in the land to cook the food and there was so much, that it took a week to cook it all.
Hyena invited everyone to his party and everyone came and greatly admired his fine new home and the delicious feast. Everyone, that is, except Hare. This made Hyena mad. The next morning, he decided to pay a visit to Hare. “Why did you not come to my party last night to see my fine, new home?” asked Hyena.
“Your fine, new home? I hear that it is nothing special – just another hole in the wall. And I’m sure your party was quite dull.”
“You are just jealous because you do not have such a grand home.” said Hyena.
“I could have one if I wanted one”, replied Hare.
“Oh, you think so! Let’s see then. I challenge you to build a home better than mine in half the time. In two weeks time, I will return to see your home and I expect to go to the best party even given. If you can’t provide these things you bragged about, I think I’ll be wearing a hare coat come winter!” And off he stormed.
Boy, I’ve really put my foot in my mouth this time, thought Hare. Then, because he was always a tricky fellow, he came up with an idea. He visited all his animal neighbors and asked them to help him build a new, fine home. If they did, he promised them two great gifts when they were done. All the animals wanted to see what the great gifts were, but some animals did not want to leave their families. So Hare told them to bring their families, too.
So all the animals built huts for their families and then went to work building a big home for Hare. Because so many animals worked on the home, it was easily built within two weeks. Which was a good thing because Hare was too lazy to help build his home. He picked up a log and a stick and spent his time lying around tapping out beats on the log.
When Hyena returned, he found a home that looked a lot like his own. He asked Hare what made his home better.
“Don’t you have eyes to see?” asked Hare. “I don’t just have a home. I have a village. Now all my animal friends live close by and it’s easier for us to visit and have fun together. This was Hare’s first gift: the village or community. Hyena had to admit that it was very nice to have a community of friends nearby.
Then Hare invited everyone to the party. Because there were so many in the village, no one person had to cook the whole feast. Everyone brought the dish they made best. The food was truly as delicious as what Hyena served, but Hyena wanted to know what made it better. Hare said, “Just wait.” And began to tap out upon the log the rhythm he had been working on while others built his home. The beat was very catchy and pretty soon, others started tapping it out. Then butterfly flew up and started moving her wings to the beat and before you know it, everyone was making music and dancing.
Hare said, “This is my second gift: the drum.” Hyena had to admit that Hare’s party was better because of the drum. With all the eating, music and dancing, though, Hyena wasn’t too disappointed.
Some people say Hare really presented the animals with three gifts: the village, the drum and music. Some say music and the drum were the same gift. Hare doesn’t give an opinion one way or another, but I bet he enjoys the argument.
Hare’s Gifts – for two readers
HYENA: Hello, I am Hyena! I am the best animal in the grasslands. Oh, I know some animals don’t think I am the best. Especially that trickster, Hare. So, I’m going to prove it. I have had the best builder in the land build a big, lovely new home just for me. I found a good site to build my new home. It is beside sweet water and in shade of the baobab tree. No one else knows about this place and my house is the only one there. I want everyone to see how wonderful I am, too. I have invited all you animals (gestures to children) to a feast in my new home.
Welcome, friends! Eat, drink and admire my new home. Surely this is the most magnificent house ever built. (Pause.) I see everyone here but Hare. Where is Hare? He/she is always irritating me. Tomorrow, I’m going to pay Hare a visit.
HARE: Good morning, Hyena.
HYENA: Good morning, indeed! Too bad you missed a good night. I am very angry with you! Why didn’t you come see my fine, new home last night? Why did you not join my feast? Everyone else was there.
HARE: Fine, new home? That old thing? I could build a better house in half the time. As for your feast, I could throw such a good party, that everyone will forget you even had a party!
HYENA: (smiling smugly) All right, Hare. I challenge you. It took a full moon to build and decorate my new home. You have a half moon. Then, I will come back and expect a great feast. Your feast and your house better be better than mine are or my winter robe will be made of hare skin! Goodbye!
HARE: (scratching head) Hey, I’ve really done it this time. When am I going to learn to keep my big mouth shut? (Pauses to think) Hey! I’ve got an idea! But I need all the other animals to help me put it in place.
HARE: (ask one of the children) Hello, Mr. Crocodile. I need help building a new home. If you help me, I promise you two great gifts better than any gifts you’ve ever had before. Will you help? (Ask all the children, using different animal names. It’s fine if some children say no.) It may take a while to make my new home. I want all the animals that are going to help me to be comfortable, so why don’t you all set up huts to live in, right here by the construction site. Bring your whole families!
Okay, go to work (you can let the children pretend to build)!
(aside) While all the other animals work, I’m going to fool around with this wooden block and stick because I don’t like to break a sweat. (Play around with a rhythm on the block with a stick for several seconds. Then say, to the children/animals) Wow! Great job. I love the house you built and you finished right on time. Here comes Hyena!
HYENA: Well, well, Hare. Your half moon is up. I see your new home. It is very nice indeed. In fact, it looks just like mine. What makes your home better?
HARE: Just look around you and see! My hut is better because now everyone lives near it and we can be neighbors and I can have my fun with them all the time!
HYENA: Well, you may be right about that. I guess it is sweet to live together: sharing, helping and having fun together.
HARE: That is my first gift to all the animals: a village.
HYENA: Hmmmmph! Well… you also promised a feast better than mine, remember?
HARE: Of course, I remember. (Claps hands) Bring the food for the feast! Since the work was divided amongst so many cooks, everyone had time to prepare the dishes they make best.
HYENA: I must admit: the food could not be better. However, the food at my feast was wonderful, too. What makes yours better?
HARE: My feast includes more than just food. Get ready for my second gift. Be quiet and listen. (Tap out a simple rhythm with the block and stick.)
HYENA: That is catchy! What do you call that?
HARE: I call it music. It’s nice to listen to and you can move or dance to it, too. These are my gifts, Hyena. The village and music. (Ask the children) Animals, do you like my gifts?
HYENA: Drat! Tricked by that trickster Hare again!
Hare’s Gifts – for five readers and one non-reading performer (Butterfly)
Narrator, Hyena, Hare, Crocodile, Ostrich, and Butterfly
NARRATOR: This is a story about life back in the old days. It’s mostly about Hare and Hyena, but it’s also about the other animals of the grasslands. Back in those days, animals just settled down and built a hut any ol’ place. It made it hard sometimes to go and visit your friends. But no one put much thought into where they built their houses. Until Hyena had an idea.
HYENA: I know some of these guys really look down on me. I bet they wouldn’t be that way if I had a grand, fine home. I’m going to build one! It will be the finest hut anywhere in the grasslands!
NARRATOR: And that’s just what Hyena did. Hyena found a good site beside sweet water and in the shade of the baobob tree and started building. When it was finished, Hyena threw a party to show it off and invited all the animals, even that trickster Hare.
Crocodile, Ostrich, and Butterfly met on their way to Hyena’s party.
CROCODILE: Are you on your way to Hyena’s party?
OSTRICH: I can’t wait to see it! I hear that it has enormously tall, white walls covered in gaily painted designs: spirals and circles and zigzags!
CROCODILE: I hear that after we tour the home, Hyena is having a great feast. All the guests are invited to eat all they want!
HYENA: Welcome, friends! Eat, drink and admire my new home. Surely this is the most magnificent hut ever to be built! (pause) I see everyone here but Hare. Has anyone seen Hare?
NARRATOR: Not one animal had seen Hare, who didn’t come to Hyena’s party at all. The next morning, a very insulted Hyena paid a visit to Hare’s hut.
HARE: Good morning, Hyena.
HYENA: Good morning indeed, Hare. Too bad you missed a good night! Where were you last night? Why did you not come see my fine new hut? Why did you not join the feast?
HARE: That old thing? I could build a better one in half the time. As for your feast, why should I come and be bored? I could give a feast that would make every animal in the land forget all about yours.
HYENA (SMILING SMUGLY): All right, Hare. It took me a full moon to build and decorate my hut. You have half a moon. And your feast had better be a good one or my winter robe will be made of hare skin. Goodbye!
HARE (SCRATCHING HIS HEAD): You’ve really done it this time, Hare! When will you learn to keep your big mouth shut? (thinking pause) Hey, I’ve got an idea. I hope I can get the animals to help me put it in place.
NARRATOR: Hare jumped up and started running to all the other huts scattered across the land to ask all the animals to come and help. To get them to come, Hare promised to reward all the animals with two marvelous, unheard-of gifts and a wonderful feast when all the work was done. The animals were just as excited about Hare’s party as they had been about Hyena’s
CROCODILE: Hello, Hare. Here we are. What should we do first?
HARE: Hello, Crocodile. Yours is the last family to arrive. Now we go to work.
NARRATOR: And work they did. Hare got the best woodworkers to set the poles to make the new hut, and then to set the poles to make new huts for all the other huts for all the other animals that had come. Hare got the best painters to paint the walls, the best artists to decorate them; and all the others to prepare food for a feast. After giving every single guest a job to do, Hare went for a walk, found a hollow log and a couple of sticks, and spent the entire half moon fiddling around with them.
HYENA: Well, well, Hare. Your half moon is up. I see your new hut. It is very nice indeed. As nice as mine. In fact, it looks exactly like mine. Can you prove that yours is better?
HARE: Are you blind as well as stupid. Just look around you and you’ll see. My hut is better than yours because it was built by all the animals. And, now they all live near my hut, where I can have my fun with them.
OSTRICH: You know, Hare is right! It’s sweet to live together: sharing and helping each other.
CROCODILE: And knowing each other.
HARE: That is my first gift: a village.
HYENA: A village? HMMMMMPH! Well…. You also promised a feast better than mine, remember?
HARE: Of course, I remember. (claps hands) Bring the food for the feast.
NARRATOR: The dishes for the feast were laid out for all to share. Since the work was divided amongst so many cooks, every animal had a chance to prepare their own, very best dish. So the food was as good as it gets. That left all the guests happy, which, of course, made the storytellers relax and tell better stories.
HARE: Now you are ready for my second gift. Be quiet and listen.
NARRATOR: With that, Hare began to tap out a simple beat on the hollow log with the sticks. As Hare warmed up, the rhythms became more complex. Soon the animals begin to twitch and sway and move. Suddenly, Butterfly jumped up, flapping beautiful wings in time to the drum beats. Butterfly began to move in a circle around the fire. Before long, all the guests, even Hyena, joined the dance to the beat of the drum, Hare’s second gift.
Now some people say Hare really presented three gifts: the village, the drum, and the music; while some say the drum and music are really one. You know what I think? I think it hardly matters, but I’m sure that Hare enjoys the argument.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Friday, May 17, 2013.