Hares and Men

A Santhal Pargana Tale

translated by Cecil Henry Bompas

In former days hares used to eat men and a man presented himself before Thakur and said “O Father, these hares do us much damage; they are little animals and hide under leaves and then spring out and eat us; big animals we can see coming and can save ourselves. Have pity on us and deliver us from these little animals,” So Thakur summoned the chief of the hares and fixed a day for hearing the case; and when the man and the hare appeared he asked the hare whether they ate men and the hare denied it and asserted on the contrary that men ate hares; but the man when questioned denied that men killed hares. Then Thakur said “O hare and man, I have questioned you both and you give contradictory answers; and neither admits the charge; the matter shall be decided in this way; you, hare, shall watch a Kita tree and if within a year you see a leaf fall from the tree you shall be allowed to eat men; and you, man, shall watch a Korkot tree and if you see a leaf fall, then men shall be allowed to eat hares. Begin your watch to-day and this day next year bring me your leaves.” So the man and the hare departed and each sat under a tree to see a leaf fall but they watched and watched in vain until on the last day of the year a korkot leaf fell and the man joyfully picked it up and took it to Thakur; and the hare failing to see a leaf fall bit off a leaf with its teeth and took it to Thakur. Then Thakur examined the two leaves and said to the hare, “This leaf did not fall of itself; see, the tip of the stalk is quite different from the stalk of the leaf this man has brought; you bit it off.” And the hare was silent Then Thakur rubbed the legs of the hare with a ball of cleaned cotton and passed this sentence on him, that thenceforward he should skip about like a leaf blown by the wind and that men should hunt hares wherever they found them and kill and eat them, entrails and all.

And this is the reason why Santals do not clean the hares they kill, but eat them entrails and all.