Little Rabbit of the White-tail Clan
In a valley in the hills lies a vegetable farm. In the east it is bordered by dense forests and in the west by rolling grasslands, where young and old forest dwellers lead a quiet life. An industrial vegetable farm like this one is quite unexpected here.
It’s harvest time. The carrots are ripe and will be harvested in less than a day. This year, management has taken precautions. No rabbit will enter! The precious crops must be protected at all costs. A second round of looting would be the deathblow to this fledgling company. That is why the area looks more like a heavily guarded prison. Guards patrol in every direction. Searchlights scan the site day and night.
The fact that there is a lot of activity to protect the crops has not escaped the White-tail clan. During the previous loot, several brothers died because of the 'lightning' in the wires surrounding the terrain. Fortunately, rabbits are fast learners, so they still managed to gather a large haul.
Deep below the ground, the clan heads meet to discuss the upcoming raid. The clan father has convened his trusted envoys to go over the strategy one last time.
There’s a schematic representation of the vegetable nursery in the middle of the meeting room. Pebbles, twigs and hard droppings represent tactical positions and the course of each of the ranks. The eldest sons and daughters will lead the different groups along the supply routes and past the obstacles. Scouts, infantry, Blitz-rabbits and messengers: all roles are reviewed. Each route and each position is carefully discussed. It will be a daring feat this year, so nothing should be left to chance.
'With good organisation and a strong dose of nimbleness, they should make it. No rabbit is left behind!’ concludes the clan father at the end of the intense meeting. ‘It’s looking good’, he adds in a matter-of-fact tone to his eldest sons and daughters. He never gives free rein to his emotions, even though he has not produced any offspring for some time now. As a clan father, everyone counts on you and you risk your own children as well. Loss isn't unknown to him.
‘Let’s go home, we need to get enough sleep, because tomorrow will be a busy day,' says the clan father. His children follow him. On his way out, the other members present form a double row, as a sign of respect for the knowledge and skills of their clan father and the severe but wise way in which he has led the clan all these years. Never before has a small clan been able to grow into one of the most prosperous south of the Great Waters. With a kind smile and a small nod, the clan father takes his leave.
‘Daddy, Daddy!’ Little Rabbit shouts when he hears his father come home. ‘How was the meeting? Oh, this so exciting! It’s happening tomorrow night! Can I come, surely I’m old enough now?’
Little Rabbit’s eldest brothers and sisters, who are standing in the doorway, look at each other and roll their eyes.
‘He’ll never learn’, whispers one of them to another.
With eyes full of expectation, Little Rabbit looks at his father.
‘You know you don’t belong on the battlefield, sweetheart’, says his mother with her gentle voice before father can say anything. ‘You don’t have a tail! You need one to warn the others, you know that.’
Little Rabbit looks glumly at his mother, then his father, who has a stern look in his eyes. ‘Yes, I know. Without a tail, you’re a danger to the whole clan’, he sighs. He lets his long ears droop until they hang limply on the floor. He may not have a tail, but his ears are twice as long as those any other known rabbit.
The awkward silence in the entrance hall is abruptly broken by the happy shouts of about a dozen small rabbits running towards father. Little Rabbit is sad and retreats to his sleeping burrow. He nestles underneath his blanket and sobs himself to sleep.
In the middle of the night, Little Rabbit wakes up. He hears mother and father talking to each other. They’re saying goodbye, because it’s time to initiate the attack. The sleeping burrows of his eldest brothers and sisters are empty. He wants to see this from up close. He presses one of his long ears against the bedroom door and listens carefully until it is quiet again on the other side. Then he returns to his sleeping burrow, takes the food he had hidden in a cloth earlier that day and sneaks quietly through the sleeping area to the rear windows.
Suddenly he hears someone coughing right behind him.
Startled, Little Rabbit turns around and sees Smallest One.
‘What are you doing?’ Smallest One stares at Little Rabbit with eyes like saucers and a wiggling nose.
‘Shhh! They’ll hear you!’
‘No one can hear me, I’m whispering’, Smallest One protests with raised eyebrows.
‘Whispering means talking quietly! You’re not quiet.’
‘You want to go outside, don’t you?’
‘Shhh! It’s none of your business, and yes, I’m on a mission!’
Smallest One's eyes grow even bigger and reflect his mounting curiosity.
In a flash, Little Rabbit puts one of his long ears over Smallest One's mouth. He would have woken up the whole nest and all nests in the vicinity with his enthusiastic cries.
‘It’s a secret mission’, adds Little Rabbit. ‘Can you keep a secret?’
Smallest One nods vigorously, his mouth still covered by his brother’s ear.
‘Listen! I’m going to get myself a tail!’
author of the original Dutch text Grietje François
translation into English by Nathalie Tabury - nathalietabury.com
edited by Christopher Dunckley - chrisdunkley.biz