Well, finally finished the book, and it was well worth it. Some excellent chapters on the role of the hare in world myth, especially The Great Hare of the Algonquin people, a hare known as Glooskap, part of a rather lovely creation myth. One hare later mutates into the character known to many children as Brer Rabbit – but a creature who in his original African origins is far more malicious (and lethal) in his dealings with the other creatures than in the Uncle Remus stories.
Another chapter deals with the often interchangeability of the hare with the witch, and how even in relatively recent times country folk have seen the hare as an ill-omen, a signifiers that a hunt or errand will be fruitless or doomed.
In one chapter titled The Names of the Hare, the authors quote an ancient Middle English poem in its entirety, a poem comprising exclusively of various terms and phrases associated with the creature, among them
Old Turpin, fast traveller,
The one who doesn’t go straight home, the traitor,
The swift-as-wind, the skulked,
The shagger, the squatter in the hedge.
Clearly this elusive creature has long intrigued humans, being a thing of mystery, an enigmatic country-dweller about whom we know less than we would like. Although this book was first published in 1972 I suspect we don’t know a great deal more about hares than we did then. Never mind, this fine book does an excellent job of gathering together what we have always though, believed and suspected, and in presenting it in an easily digestible and entertaining form.
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