Once upon a time, all the animals lived peacefully among the hills, where the grass grew high and the rivers flowed. Life was good until a powerful lion came to live among them. He was forever hungry, and to satisfy that hunger, he chased after all the creatures, sometimes eating two or more in one day.
The animals grew terrified, and life changed. They no longer roamed freely. Sometimes they stayed home for days. They whispered among themselves about the awful things that would happen if they dared step outside. Fear created more fear, and that created still more fear.
At last the hare decided he had had enough, and he called a meeting of all the animals. "We must confront him," the hare said. Some of the others agreed. "What shall we say?" the timid sloth whispered.
"Let's tell him not to eat us," all the gorillas suggested, and the chimpanzees chattered their agreement.
"We'll form a committee," said the hare, "and we will talk to him."
And so the hare led the deer, the porcupine, the orangutan, the macaque and the leopard to speak to the lion.
The leopard spoke first. "Lion," he said, "it is not good for you to run through the hills all day, every day, chasing us. If you wait at home in your den, we'll send you one animal each evening for supper."
The lion's whiskers bristled as he thought about this plan. It was true the trek sometimes exhausted him, but he worried that he would go hungry. "I must have my supper every day. If you let me down, I'll go after you all!"
"We won't let you down," the hare said, and then the group decided that they must ask the animals to draw straws each night to determine who would die.
That night the antelope chose the short straw. Everyone wept as he departed for the lion's den.
Every evening after that the animals drew straws, and one was always sentenced to die to satisfy the lion.
As time passed, the animals began to grumble and worry. They stopped sleeping. "What if tomorrow is my day?" they wept and worried.
"What if my child is chosen?" the langur murmured.
"We cannot go on like this," the vulture said.
"I agree," the red panda added.
But that night the hare had an idea, and so he made certain it was he who drew the short straw that night.
"It's time for me to be the lion's supper, but never fear! I will be back among you tomorrow, this I swear!"
The animals shook their heads, certain that the hare had gone crazy. How could he imagine the lion would not eat him? After all, he always ate whoever came his way.
The hare ran off, but instead of running directly to the lion's den, he ran to the river. He jumped into the water, and then he rolled around in the mud on the riverbank. When he was thoroughly filthy, he raced to the lion's den.
"What's this?" the lion roared. "I won't eat a dirty animal! Hare, you have ruined the deal for all the animals! Now I will begin hunting again."
"Sir, please!" the hare said forcefully. "I am not your supper tonight. I was on my way here with a big and very clean hare, but as we were running, we met another lion. He stole the big hare for himself."
"What? Another lion? There are no other lions here!" the lion growled.
"Oh, but this one is much bigger than you, sir," the hare explained. "And stronger. And he is much more fierce."
"What are you talking about?" the lion raged. "There cannot be another as strong and as fierce and as important as I! If this is true, show him to me!"
"Very well, if you insist," the hare said. "If you follow me, I will take you to his house and you shall see for yourself."
The hare began to run, and the lion followed him up to the top of a very steep hill. There, the hare ran to the well, and he leaned over and looked down into its depths.
"There he is," the hare said to the lion. "He's down there eating your big hare!"
The lion growled. "Show me," he said, and he raced to the side of the well, leaned over and looked inside. Sure enough, down below he saw a lion and a hare in the water. Of course, this was only the reflection of the lion himself and the hare beside him. But the lion had never seen a well, and shaking with fury, he leaped into the well. Naturally, he never returned.
That is how the hare outsmarted the lion, and so it has been ever since. Or so many of the animals say.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.