The Rabbit and the Tiger
translated and retold by Marisa Montes
Copyright © 2001 by Marisa Montes. All rights reserved.
Many years ago, all the animals were friends except for Tiger, who had sworn to eat all small animals that crossed his path. Especially Rabbit. Rabbit was agile and witty and very, very clever, while Tiger was clumsy and dull and quite stupid. And Tiger couldn't stand for anyone to be more clever than he. So Tiger made it his goal in life to rid himself of the pesky little rabbit. Rabbit knew this and was always on the lookout for Tiger. But Rabbit could not always avoid Tiger because they both enjoyed a good stroll in the forest.
One day, after a generous lunch, Rabbit lay in the shade of a huge boulder, ready to begin an afternoon siesta. As he was about to doze off, he heard a twig crack somewhere behind him. Always ready for a possible attack from Tiger, Rabbit jumped up and pushed his back against the boulder, as though he were holding it up.
Sure enough, an orange face with black stripes emerged from behind the boulder. The face alone was larger than Rabbit's entire body.
"Aha, amigo Conejo, I have caught you. Any last wishes?"
Tiger's voice was so deep and loud that it vibrated through Rabbit's bones, making him shake even harder than he was already shaking. But frightened as he was, Rabbit was determined to go through with his plan and save his life.
"Only, friend Tiger, that you help me save the world. I care not for myself. After we have saved the world, you can do with me what you will."
"What is this?" said Tiger, looking around in terror. "The world is in danger?"
Rabbit knew he had the foolish tiger hooked. "This boulder is slipping. If it rolls down the side of the hill, the world will collapse. I am trying to hold it up, but I am small and weak . . ."
"Of course, I will help! I do not wish the world to end!" Tiger pushed his back against the boulder and held it up with all his strength.
"I will go get help," said Rabbit, starting to hop away.
"Good idea," said Tiger. "What a smart rabbit you are!"
"I'll hurry. Don't move until I return with all our friends."
Rabbit bounced off, chuckling to himself and leaving the stupid tiger huddled against the rock. Hours later, Tiger finally collapsed next to the boulder, exhausted from pushing. Trembling and crying, he resigned himself to his fate and waited for the boulder to roll over him and for the world to end.
To his amazement, the boulder did not budge and the world did not come crashing down around him. He stood and touched the boulder. It was solid. In the treetops, monkeys giggled and birds chirped in amusement. It was then that Tiger realized he'd been tricked.
"Rabbit!" Tiger roared and shook his fist in the air. "Wait till I get my claws on you!"
Tiger hunted Rabbit for weeks, but Rabbit knew how furious Tiger was and kept out of his way. A few months later, it had been so long since he'd seen Tiger that Rabbit grew a bit careless. He was chatting with a monkey friend at the foot of an ancient tamarind tree, when a wide shadow slid over the two friends.
"Aha, amigo Conejo! I have you now. This time I will eat you in one bite!"
The booming voice vibrated Rabbit's bones. The monkey shrieked and scrambled up the tree. Rabbit knew he could not outrun Tiger. However, he might outwit him once more.
Rabbit turned to face his enemy. Tiger had a coil of rope around his shoulder, and he was grinning so hard, all his terrible teeth gleamed in the sunlight.
"Oh, friend Tiger, please do eat me! Hurry!" cried Rabbit. "It would be kinder than allowing me to suffer a more horrible death."
Tiger narrowed his glistening eyes. "What is this?"
"Friend monkey was doing his best to keep my mind off our dreadful fate, but--"
"What dreadful fate? Tell me Rabbit!"
"Haven't you heard? The hurricane that's approaching. It'll be here within the hour. The worst one in years."
"Hurricane!" Tiger began to tremble. He was terrified of hurricanes--the crashing trees, the howling wind, the pouring rain! "Help me Rabbit, please! You are small and can hide anywhere. But I am so large. And the hurricane will be here before I can return to my cave. What shall I do?"
"There is only one thing you can do, amigo," said Rabbit, eyeing the coil of rope. "You must tie yourself up to this tree. It is very strong and has withstood many hurricanes."
"Sí, friend Rabbit, that is a splendid idea. But I cannot tie myself . . . will you do it for me?"
"Well . . . I should be looking for a hiding place. It will take time to tie you--"
Tiger threw himself on his knees. "Please, friend Rabbit, have pity!"
Rabbit tried not to smile. "Sí, sí, I will tie you. But please stop blubbering."
Rabbit took the coil of rope and wrapped it round and round and round the tamarind tree, firmly tying Tiger to the trunk.
"Good luck, amigo Tigre. I must find a place to hide." Rabbit hopped from branch to branch till he was high in the tamarind tree. He settled back to watch Tiger.
A few minutes later, a herd of young goats passed by the tree. When they saw Tiger tied firmly to the tree, they laughed and jumped for joy.
"Laugh now, but you won't be laughing for long," said Tiger.
"Why not?" asked one of the goats.
"Haven't you heard? A horrible hurricane is coming. There isn't much time."
"A hurricane!" The goats laughed and laughed.
A frisky young goat leapt forward. "We have been traveling up and down the hills for hours, and we've neither seen any signs of a hurricane nor heard anyone speak of one."
"There is no hurricane!" cried another goat and rolled on the grass, giddy with laughter.
As Tiger watched the plump goats cavort about, he began to grow hungry. Soon his hunger overpowered his fear. His mouth drooled as he imagined how tasty a tender little goat would be.
"Say, little goat, won't you please untie me?"
But the goats saw the gleam in Tiger's eye, and they bounded away, down the mountain trail. As they ran, they told all they passed that everyone could celebrate because Tiger was firmly tied to the tamarind tree.
In the meantime, Tiger pulled and tugged and tried to wiggle free. But nothing he did would loosen the rope. Just then, the little monkey who'd been playing with Rabbit grew restless and began to swing above Tiger's head.
"Little monkey," said Tiger. "Won't you please untie me?"
"Not I," said the monkey. "If I do, you will eat me."
"No, no! I promise not to eat you if you'll just untie me. I will even repay you with a bunch of ripe bananas."
Now, the young monkey had a serious weakness for bananas. And it had been weeks since he'd taken a bite of the sweet fruit. He couldn't resist Tiger's offer.
The monkey swung to the next tree. "If my friends will help, I'll untie you."
He scampered up the tree and returned with a dozen monkeys. They each gnawed and pulled at the rope till it broke loose.
Meanwhile, Tiger's hunger had been growing and growing. The moment the rope fell to the ground he pounced on the monkeys. He clawed and gnashed his teeth, but the slippery little monkeys were too fast for him.
They all escaped, but one--Rabbit's friend.
Just as Tiger was about to pop the monkey in his mouth, Rabbit called down:
"Tiger, shame on you! That's no way to eat a monkey."
"Oh?" said Tiger, swinging the terrified monkey in front of his nose. "So how would you do it?"
"It's much more appetizing to throw the monkey into the air and catch him in your open mouth."
"I can do that."
So Tiger tossed the little monkey high in the air and waited for the tender delicacy to drop into his open mouth. As he floated up into the branches, the agile monkey hooked his tail on a branch to break his fall and scampered higher into the tree.
Rabbit shook a branch full of tamarinds, dropping several large, tart pods into Tiger's open mouth. Tiger choked and coughed and spit up the sour fruit. He tore off into the forest, his mouth puckering as though he had eaten a dozen limes. As he ran, he swore he would devour Rabbit the very next time he saw him.
For many months, Rabbit managed to avoid Tiger. One day, as he was hopping down a steep mountain trail, he passed a farmer and his donkey who were going to market. The donkey carried heavy covered baskets on his sides. The baskets were full to the brim with large rounds of cheese.
As Rabbit passed under the donkey, he noticed something. "Señor," he said. "You are in danger of losing one of your banastillas."
The farmer stopped the donkey and examined the baskets. Sure enough, the basket nearest the edge of the cliff was coming loose. If he didn't fix it soon, the entire basket--cheese and all--would topple down the steep incline.
"Gracias, little rabbit," said the farmer after he had secured the basket. "You saved my cheese and a great deal of income for my family. You deserve a reward. Do you like cheese?"
"Oh, sí Señor," replied Rabbit. "I love a good queso."
"Well, this is a very good cheese." And the farmer handed Rabbit two large rounds for his good deed.
Pleased with his reward, Rabbit tucked a cheese under each arm and bounced away to a nearby lagoon. In the shade of several palms, Rabbit lay back and enjoyed a lunch of fresh cheese and fruit.
Before long, his peace and solitude was shaken by a booming voice that rattled his bones. "Aha, this time you will not escape! I will finally eat you."
"Right you are, amigo Tigre, you have me at last," replied Rabbit. "But why don't you eat a bit of queso as an appetizer first?"
Tiger took the cheese Rabbit offered. "Mmm-mm, I do enjoy a good cheese. And so fresh. Wherever did you find it?"
"Why, right down there at the bottom of the lagoon. See,"--Rabbit held up the remaining round of cheese--"I have another right here."
The cheese was so delicious, Tiger forgot his promise to eat Rabbit. "How did you gather them?"
"Quite simple, really. I just tied heavy stones to my legs and jumped in. There are dozens of rounds of cheese floating near the bottom."
Tiger nodded. "I must do the same!"
"I won't keep you then. I'll just take my queso and be on my way."
Before Tiger could remember his threat, Rabbit disappeared into the forest. Tiger tied one large rock to each of his four legs and jumped into the lagoon.
"Glug-glug-glug!" As he sank deeper and deeper, Tiger swallowed large gulps of water. He glanced around him, but he could not see the promised cheeses. Soon he realized Rabbit had fooled him again.
Sure he would drown, Tiger began to struggle against the ropes. But he had tied them so well, he could not free himself. Fortunately a strong current carried him to shallow water. He dragged himself to the edge, gasping for air. When he could breathe normally again, Tiger untied the ropes.
This was it! Never again would that nasty little Rabbit fool him. Next time, Tiger would have Rabbit pie for lunch!
Tiger looked for Rabbit everywhere, but was unable to find him. After many months, he lost interest.
During that time Rabbit had been cleverly hiding from Tiger. One day, while Rabbit was visiting his friend Fox, the topic of Tiger came up.
"He is such a clever, intelligent fellow," said Fox, who was a great admirer of Tiger. "No one can outsmart Tiger!"
Hearing this, Rabbit began to howl with laughter. The laughter turned to silly giggles that made him wiggle and squirm until he fell off his chair and rolled around on the ground.
"What is so funny?" Fox said, rather annoyed.
"It's--it's just that Tiger is fool! There is no bigger bobo. Why, he will even let himself be used as a horse by his friends."
"Not amigo Tigre! I cannot believe it!"
"Someday, I will prove it to you," said Rabbit. "I will ride by on my Tiger-horse, and I'll even make him rear up while I wave to you."
"Humph!" With a flick of his bushy tail, Fox dismissed Rabbit's talk of nonsense.
Soon, Fox forgot their conversation. A few weeks later, Fox decided to have a ball at his home. He would serve a lavish feast and hire an orchestra. With Tiger's help, Fox lined up the best musicians in the land. The best, that is, except for a guitarist.
"How can I have a fabulous ball without a guitarist?" whined Fox.
Tiger hated to see his friend so distraught. He wanted Fox's ball to be a success, and he agreed that it would fall far short of that without a guitarist. He was determined to help Fox find a guitarist.
Tiger asked around and discovered that the best guitarist in the forest was Rabbit. Tiger set out to find him. He had often gone to Rabbit's home looking for him, but Rabbit was far too clever to let Tiger know he was home.
This time when Tiger knocked at the door, Rabbit was waiting for him. Rabbit had heard about the ball and knew why Tiger was looking for him.
"Go away," Rabbit called from his bedroom. "I'm sick, and I don't want visitors."
"Rabbit, it's Tiger." His booming voice rattled the door and shook the windows. "I've come on Fox's behalf. He needs you to play your guitar at his ball tonight."
"Too sick. Can't go."
Tiger knocked again. "Open up, Rabbit. You must come. The ball will be a disaster without you."
Rabbit chuckled to himself. Tiger was begging for him to play at the ball. Rabbit's plan was beginning to work. He wrapped a handkerchief around his head and grabbed a cane. He hobbled to the door and opened it.
Leaning on the cane, Rabbit said, "As you can see, I cannot walk."
Tiger was anxious to get Rabbit to the ball. "No problem, amigo, I will carry you."
Rabbit tried to climb on Tiger's back, but he kept slipping off. "Ay, ay, ay! I cannot get onto your back without a saddle. But I do have one in the back . . . "
Annoyed, Tiger twitched his long tail. But he couldn't disappoint Fox. "Fine, get the saddle."
When Rabbit had saddled Tiger, he tired again to get on, but slid right off. "I'm afraid I'll need a bridle and some spurs . . . "
"Fine, fine, fine! Just hurry up!"
Saddled and harnessed, Tiger trotted down the forest path to Fox's house. On Tiger's back sat Rabbit, wearing spurs and carrying a riding crop. As Tiger trotted, he moaned and groaned as though he were in horrible pain.
"It would be best to pick up the pace," said Rabbit. "The sooner we arrive, the sooner I'll be out of pain."
Tiger began to run at a quick clip. When Rabbit saw Fox's house, he tossed off his kerchief, snapped the whip, and dug the spurs into Tiger's sides. Tiger reared up and began to race toward the house.
"Amigo Fox, come out, come out!" cried Rabbit. "It's your friend Rabbit riding his Tiger-horse!"
Fox dashed out to the porch. When he saw his friend Tiger saddled and harnessed and ridden like a horse, he put his paws on his head. "Rabbit was right. Tiger is truly a fool. A very great bobo!"
Rabbit gave Tiger one more kick with the spurs and made him rear up in front of Fox's house. Rabbit waved and whooped. With another snap of his whip, he sent Tiger racing through the forest.
In a dense area of the forest, Rabbit hopped off Tiger's back and hid in the bushes until Tiger was far away. Then he went home, packed up, and found a new home, where Tiger wouldn't find him.
To this day, Tiger still looks for Rabbit, swearing to gobble him up before he can utter a word.
Copyright © 2011 by Marisa Montes. All rights reserved.