Rabbit Stories

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Told by don Pedro Miguel Say, Q'anjob'al Maya. Translated and edited by Fernando Peñalosa and Janet Sawyer


Once when the rabbit, that is, the mayor, still had his antlers, he met a deer.

The rabbit said to the deer: "Brother, look at the cap [antlers] Our Father gave me."

"Come here, brother," said the deer, "Lend it to me," said the deer to the rabbit. "You're too small, it doesn't fit you, but I'm big.Maybe your cap will fit me, I'm going to try it on my head."

The rabbit handed his cap to the deer and the deer put it on his head:. "Look brother, how nice it looks on me. I'm going to dance so you can see. Then I'm going for a walk and afterwards I'll come back here to you and I'll give you your cap back," said the deer to the rabbit.

The deer went off and didn't come back with the rabbit's cap.

The rabbit was waiting for him, just waiting and crying because he didn't have his cap any more. It occurred to him to get up from where he was crying and go notify his king. He came before the king: "Father!" said the rabbit to the king.

"What have you come to tell me, my son?" the king asked the rabbit.

"My brother went off with the cap you gave me, father. My brother, the deer told me he was just going to try it on, and I gave him the cap you had given me, father."

"'Why did our father give it to you?' the deer asked me. 'Our father should have given it to me, because I'm big. Your cap fits me well,' my brother said. I thought he was my brother. So I gave it to him, but he just went off with it any way. He left, and I just sat waiting for him to come back with my cap. He didn't come back and I got tired of waiting for him so long. That's why I have come to ask you, father, to give me another cap in place of the one my brother took, and also make me taller because my uncle deer said I was too little."

"'That cap doesn't fit you,' he told me, father. That's why I want to grow as big as my uncle deer."

"All right, I'll make your taller, my son. I'll make your body grow. If you do what I say, I'll give you what you ask for," said the king to the rabbit.

"What shall I do for you, father?" asked the rabbit.

"Now I'm telling you that if you want to be as big as your brother the deer, I'm going to grant your wish," said the king to the rabbit. "Now, go and bring me fifteen loads of skins. If you bring them to me I'll make your body grow and I'll give you your cap back."

"All right," said the rabbit, and went off to the fields, to the mountains and to the sea. The rabbit bought himself a guitar. When he came to a plain he sat down to rest. He had been playing music with his guitar for a while when an old snake came up to him.

"What are you doing, brother?" the snake asked brother rabbit.

"I've come to play music for you, uncle," said the rabbit to the snake.

"Oh, your song** is sad, uncle," said the snake to Uncle Rabbit.

"Yes," said the rabbit to the snake.

"May I dance a little?" the snake asked Uncle Rabbit.

The rabbit answered: "Of course you may dance. That's why I came to play a song for you. But I would just like to ask you, uncle, where is your weak spot? Because my marimba stick*** might reach your weak spot. Show it to me, so I can see where it is," said the rabbit to the snake.

"All right, brother," said the snake. "Here's my weak spot, right at the end of my tail."

"All right, brother, now that I've noticed where your weak spot is, you can dance without worrying," Uncle Rabbit told the snake. The rabbit needed to collect skins, but the snake didn't suspect what the rabbit was planning to do to him.

"Dance! Go ahead and dance. Enjoy your dance," said the rabbit to the snake, " because that's why I came to play near your house. Dance, enjoy, and don't be afraid. Here, come close to me."

When he saw him nearby, the rabbit thought: "He's mine now. I know where his weak spot is." The snake danced and came near the rabbit.

"Bring your tail near," said the rabbit to the snake. The snake raised his tail near the rabbit. The rabbit saw that the snake was near him and he killed him. Then he skinned him and went off with his skin.

The rabbit came to a mountain and began to play his guitar once more. Shortly after he had come to the mountain a big old lion approached Uncle Rabbit. He was playing his music when the lion arrived.

"Hey, uncle, why have you come here to play?" the lion asked the rabbit.

"I've just have come to play, brother," the rabbit said. "Do you like music?"

"Yes, I like music." said the lion.

"Do you like to dance?" the rabbit asked the lion.

"Yes, I like to," the lion answered. "If you'll play a song for me, I'll be wanting to dance," said the lion.

"I'm going to play some music for you, because the reason I came to your house was to play music. Dance, enjoy your dance. Don't be afraid, Good, dance, only tell me where your weak spot is. I'd just like to ask you where your weak spot is. Dance, enjoy your dance," said the rabbit to the lion.

"All right, brother, here's my weak spot, right here, on the back of my neck."

"All right brother," said the rabbit. "Dance uncle, dance, dance, dance. Don't be afraid, come closer, come here beside me. I know where your weak spot is, so I won't hit you there. I know where it is. Try to dance a little bent over."

The lion became careless while he was dancing, and the rabbit hit him on the head. The lion died, the rabbit skinned him and took away two more skins, two large skins.

The rabbit walked, and walked and walked. He took his skins to a place on the beach, and played there once more. An alligator heard the rabbit playing a song and came up to him: "Is that you playing, Uncle Rabbit?" the alligator asked.

"Yes, I'm the one who is playing for you," said the rabbit, "for I want you to dance. I thought maybe uncle would like a song. So I came to play a song for you."

"Oh, is it true what you say? I like songs and I would like you to play one for me," said the alligator.

"All right, I'll play you a song, but you have to dance."

"Yes, I'll dance, for I really like to," the alligator told Uncle Rabbit.

"I'd like to ask you where your weak spot is. Just tell me where your weak spot is. Don't worry, just show me where it is. If my marimba stick hits you, you could die," said Uncle Rabbit to the alligator.

"All right, brother, my weak spot is here, right at the end of my tail," said the alligator.

"All right, so dance. Dance with all your might and stretch out your tail." While he was dancing the alligator became careless and the rabbit hit his weak spot. The alligator died and the rabbit skinned him.

The rabbit left the beach and came near a plantation where there was sugar cane, where there were bananas, where there were oranges, where there were sapotes. Near the plantation there was a house with monkeys and coatis, as well as two other households. He came to one of the houses bringing bananas.

"Ah," the monkeys said to him "do you have bananas, uncle?"

"Here, have some." said the rabbit to one of the monkeys.

"All right," said the monkey. The monkey ate the bananas. Then the rabbit said: "Here you're just starving, but I have a plantation nearby where there are a lot of good things to eat. There are bananas, there is sugar cane, there are oranges, there are sapotes," said the rabbit to the monkeys.

"All right, uncle, give us some," said the monkeys to the rabbit.

"There's a lot of food, and it's just going to waste, because there's no one to eat it," said the rabbit to the monkeys. "Tomorrow we'll go to my plantation, all of you and your families, and if there are some others they can come with us too. Aren't there some other friends of ours here?" the rabbit asked the monkeys.

"Oh, if you please, there's another family of our friends that are hungry; they have no food," the monkeys told the rabbit.

"Tomorrow you're all going to go with me," the rabbit said to the monkeys.

The next day all the monkeys and all the coatis set off for the plantation and arrived there. "Eat, brothers, enjoy the food," said the rabbit to all of them.

"All right," they said and they were happy. That day passed.

"Are you all satisfied?" the rabbit asked them.

"Yes, we're fine, brother."

"So let's go. Each one of you can take something along," the rabbit said to them.

"All right, uncle," they said and set off. They came to a plain.

"We're going to rest," the rabbit said to them. They rested on the plain. The monkeys were playing with the coatis and didn't know that the rabbit was plotting against their lives.

The rabbit said to them: "Bring two nets, brothers."

"What are you saying uncle, are we going to play?"

"I want you to make me two nets," the rabbit said to them.

"Why?" they asked.

"I'm going to weigh you, so we can see who weighs the most," said the rabbit.

"All right," they said, and got into the nets. "All you monkeys, get in there, and all you coatis get in over there. Push your snouts out through the net so you'll be able to breathe and won't suffocate."

"All right," the fools said.

The rabbit closed up the nets and went to look for a club, saying: "When I come back you'll get out of the nets." But when the rabbit came back with the club he was ferocious, and struck them on the snout:

"Now uncles, you're going to pay for the bananas you ate." He killed the uncles in the two nets. All those that were in the two nets died, and he skinned them all. He used an armadillo as a pack animal, the armadillo carrying the skins for him. He had collected them as the king had ordered, so that he would increase his height and give him back his cap.

He returned and came before the king with fifteen loads of skins. The king didn't believe the rabbit was going to succeed, and so he didn't realize he was bringing all those skins. When he came before the king with the skins, the rabbit said: "See, father, I have brought the skins."

The king was astonished. "Did you really go and get them?" he asked. "I don't believe you."

"No father, they're here."

"Let's see them," the king said.

"Here they are, father." He took them out of his net one at a time and the king saw him take out the alligator's skin, the lion's skin, the big snake's skin, the monkeys' skins and the coatis' skins.

"Oh," said the king," getting angry, "What do you want in exchange for these skins?"

"I want you to make me taller and give me my cap back."

"Oh," said the king, "what a shameless rabbit you are. In spite of everything you want to be big. You actually killed your own brothers. You actually killed them. You're so small. If you were larger, if I made you bigger, you'd kill all your brothers. Look here, you killed the lion, the alligator, and the snake, even though you're real little.

"Well, now, you're going to have to forgive me, my son, but this is the punishment I've decreed: Bring me your ears so I can stretch them. You shameless thing, you already killed your brothers who are bigger than you. Now never come back here again. You're going once and for all, I'm just going to make your ears grow."


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The rabbit was in the cave that was the abode of all the animals: the snake, the turkey vulture, the buzzard, the deer, the lion, the skunk and the coyote. They began to get together there to discuss how they could kill the rabbit mayor. But the rabbit mayor was very clever and was looking for a way to escape.

They began to keep watch on him in that house because they intended to kill him, but they were not able to kill him as they had planned. They had wanted to smash him to pieces.

The others were shouting: "Make him come out so that he will die right now. Don't let him escape; that good-for-nothing mayor has deceived us too many times. Well, now he's surely going to be finished, we're going to finish him off. Be on your guard and don't let him get away. When he comes out of the cave we're going to smash him to pieces, for there's a lot of us. Pity him. Compared to all of us, he's nothing. We are many against one. I hope now he's going to pay for all the crimes he has committed against us. That's why he must to die now. You, turkey vulture, go and watch for him to come out, and you deer, go right after him. Since you can run as fast as the mayor, you'll be able to catch up with him. Be on guard, all of you."

"All right," they said.

"Snake, you look to see when he comes out, and we'll all pile on top of him. You snake, call him."

"Come on out, hurry," said the townspeople.

"Wait," said the rabbit, "I'm taking off my sandal."

"But hurry," said the snake.

"Wait, I'm coming out. Wait for me there, I'm coming out."

"Well, hurry," said the townspeople.

"Come on out," the snake said to the rabbit.

"All right," said the rabbit. "I'm coming out now. Please catch my sandal, I beg you."

The townspeople answered: "Catch his sandal, throw it over there. It's not as if it were your father's sandal, that you're obliged to carry it."

"All right, mayor. Throw out your sandal."

The turkey vulture caught the sandal. He gave it to the deer and the deer threw it away, as they thought that it was the rabbit's sandal. They were all shouting in the cave. They didn't know it was the mayor they had thrown away.

"Come on out," shouted the snake into the cave, "come out right away." When they realized that he wasn't answering them they were sad. They sent the snake into the cave and the snake shouted: "He's not here, he's not here."

"Throw it far away."

"He's not here, he's not here. He came out," said the snake. "He's not here. Maybe it was him we threw."

"Did you notice if it was his sandal that you threw away?" the lion asked the deer. "Come on out, snake."

"All right." The snake came out.

Afterwards they began to kill each other on account of the mayor rabbit. He managed to go free, and when he was far away he laughed at them:

"Some day you'll pay for the crimes you committed against me, the mayor. You wanted to kill me, but you weren't able to. Just wait and see what's going to happen to you later on."


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This is a story of Uncle Rabbit and the coyote. The rabbit came to a big rock, and there he deceived the coyote. He was leaning on the rock when the coyote came by.

"What are you doing, brother?" the coyote asked the rabbit.

"Come here quickly, brother, the sky is falling down on top of us. Lean against the rock and hold it up while I go for a stick. We'll prop it up with that," said the rabbit to the coyote.

"All right,"said the coyote and began holding it up with all his might. Since the coyote was so stupid, he did exactly what the rabbit told him to. The rabbit had said that he was going to get a stick, but he went and left the coyote holding up the rock. When the rabbit didn't return the coyote shouted: "Come back, brother! The weight of the rock has made me tired."

The rabbit still didn't come back. "No matter, I'm going to leave even though the sky may fall down on top of us," said the coyote. But when he ran away he fell into a ravine.

The rabbit never came back to the rock and the coyote was lost.

Later the rabbit came to a pond and saw the reflection of the moon in there. As the rabbit was very tricky, he was always deceiving the coyote. The dumb coyote always followed him and didn't know that the rabbit was deceiving him. The coyote came to the pond where the rabbit was. When he saw the coyote coming he began to drink the water from the pond.

"What are you doing, brother? The coyote asked the rabbit:

"Look, brother, there's a lot of food down there," answered the rabbit.

"What kind of food?"

"Look," the rabbit told the coyote.

The coyote looked in the water and said: "I see it. What is it?"

"There's a cheese in the water," the rabbit said to the coyote. "If we drink all the water we can get the cheese. Drink it, you're big and you can finish all the water."

"All right, brother," he said, and began to drink the water.

"I'm going for a walk," said the rabbit, and left.

The coyote continued to drink the water, but the rabbit was gone. The coyote's stomach began to hurt him, and he got the runs. He wasn't able to finish the water, so the coyote abandoned the effort and left.

PG NOTE: It's interesting to compare this tale with that of the Aesop's Fable of the Fox who outsmarts himself plunging into a well after the moon. Probably Aesop's antique moral fables were taught by priests and nuns in Mayan village schools, and adapted by Mayan storytellers to serve their own purposes -- see DISCUSSION IDEAS at the end of this page.


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Once there was a rabbit who went looking for work. He found a man and asked him for a job. "Sir, by any chance would you have any work for me? I'm poor and I'm looking for work. I can't find anybody who will give me a job," said the rabbit.

"I'm sorry friend, but there isn't any work right now. Lots of friends have been by looking for work, but there just isn't any," said the man.

"I'm not particular about the type of work. I just want to work. That's why I've come here to ask you," said the rabbit.

"All right, if you want to you, can take care of some of my animals," said the man, and they agreed. "All right, come back tomorrow and we'll leave it that way," said the man.

The next day the rabbit came to work. A few days went by. He did something once when he was taking care of the man's cattle, and some cattle merchants came by. "Hey, friend, why don't you sell us your cows? We'll pay you whatever you ask," they said.

"It can't be done, my friends, I can't sell them as you might think, for I'm just a hired hand. If they were mine, there would be no problem doing what you ask me, because you are in the business of buying cattle."

They kept insisting, and the rabbit thought about what he ought to do. After a while he answered: "All right, if you want to buy them, but don't go over there where the boss is. If you do, he'll find out I sold them to you."

"All right," the men said, "don't worry." They bought the cows and herded them off. After the rabbit sold the cows he began to place some empty gourds in the tops of some large trees. And when he had finished placing them, he went to notify the owner of the livestock.

"Sir, I've come to tell you that some thieves came and stole all the cows," he said. "Who knows where they took the animals. When they stole them, they threatened me. If I had gone after them, they would have beaten me up," said the rabbit.

"Let's go and look for them now," said the man, and saddled up his horse. They went to where the rabbit had sold the cows. When they got there they heard the cows mooing. But it was only the wind passing through the gourds. The rabbit knew that it was the gourds that were making the sound. As the gourds were mooing, he asked the man: "Sir, don't you hear them mooing?"

The man heard the mooing and answered: "You're right, friend, the animals are far away from us." And they started to look for the cows and as they were looking for them they heard them mooing across the way.

"Listen, they're mooing over there," said the rabbit. "Let's do this: we'll separate, you go this way and I'll go that way."

"All right," said the man, and they separated to go look for the cows, because the owner imagined they were far away. But when they were far apart, the rabbit took the opportunity to escape once more. This is what the rabbit did the time he sold the cows.


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Once the rabbit went out looking for work and he went very far. When he came up to a man he asked him: "Sir, by any chance would you have some work you could give me? For I haven't been able to find anything," he said.

"Sorry, friend, there won't be any work for a few months, although come to think of it, there might be some now," said the man. "If you agree, you can take care of some of my pigs."

"Just give me some work, sir, because that's what I'm looking for," said the rabbit.

"All right, we're in agreement, then. Tomorrow you'll come and work for me," said the man.

At dawn of the next day the rabbit went to watch the pigs. As he was watching the pigs, some hog merchants came by. "Why don't you sell us your pigs, friend?" the hog merchants asked him.

"No, friends, they aren't mine, I'm just a hired hand and I can't decide all by myself," the rabbit said. They kept on pressuring the rabbit, saying: "Sell us the animals," they said.

"All right, but if it's O. K. with you, I'm going to cut off their tails," said the rabbit.

"All right, then, cut them off," they said, and they were very pleased. The merchants took the pigs and went off with them. The rabbit buried the tails in the ground. When he had them all buried he went to talk to the pigs' owner.

"Boss, all the pigs have sunk into the swamp," he said. After he told him, the boss went with all his digging tools to where the rabbit deceived him. This is what the rabbit did; he abandoned his boss.


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There was once a ram who liked to roam in a bean patch. He was very mischievous, and when they weren't paying attention, he would abandon his companions and end up eating in the bean patch. One day he stayed there enjoying eating the bean plants when the sun set. His stomach was full but he kept on eating. When it got dark he wanted to go back but his horns had become tangled up in the bean tendrils. He kept trying to free himself, but the tendrils wouldn't release him. He was beginning to move from one side to the other among the bean plants when the rabbit arrived.

"What's the matter, friend?" the rabbit asked the ram.

"Just look at what happened to me, just because I was looking for food. I'm in a real predicament," said the ram.

"Don't worry, my friend, I'm going to untangle you right now. There's no problem. After all, aren't we friends?" asked the rabbit.

"Thanks, friend, if you hadn't come, who knows what would have happened to me," said the ram.

The rabbit finished setting him free and then told him this: "Let's go and eat far from here at a place I know where there's food." The rabbit took the ram to that place. After they were through eating, they looked for a place to spend the night.

"Listen, my friend, we're going to look for a good place to sleep, so we won't have any problems and nothing will happen to us tonight, for there are some people who hate us. Not everyone is kind," said the rabbit. They were near a big rock. "It's a good idea to get on top of that rock," they said.

They got on top of the rock to sleep. At midnight some big animals began to approach the foot of the rock that they had climbed onto: the lion, the jaguar and the coyote.

"My friend, what's going to happen to us? Maybe they'll finish us off."

"Don't move, because if you move they'll know someone is up here," said the rabbit.

The ram felt the need to pass water. "I feel like passing water, friend, I'm going down to pass water, so as not to wet myself up here," said the ram.

"Something could happen to us, friend. Maybe you ought to leave well enough alone. If they hear you climbing down, that'll be the end of us. Lie on your back and relieve yourself that way. Look how thick your wool is: the wetness will disappear into your wool. If I were like you, I wouldn't have to worry about that," said the rabbit.

"I'm going to try now," said the ram. The ram tried to lie on his back, but he didn't have any hands to hold on with and he fell down among those who were at the foot of the rock. They were all asleep when the ram fell among them and they all fled out of fear. The rabbit and the ram spent the night in the other animals' house.

When dawn came those who had been sleeping at the foot of the rock came back. From afar they were looking to see if the rabbit and the ram were still there. They saw that the rabbit was moving his paws from side to side, and beginning to lick them.

So they said to each other: "The little one is the most rascally one, and the big one keeps saying 'yes, sir; yes, sir.' When they look at us, it is as if they're telling us that they're going to knock us down. They're gesturing with their hands," they said.

They were all very frightened. But the rabbit was just shooing away flies. That's why he was moving his hands to and fro, and the ram was just complaining. Later they went to eat some more where they had eaten the previous afternoon. The other animals had fled out of fear that night and they never saw them again.

After they had gone out to eat again, the ram's master arrived. When the ram realized that he was out looking for him, he said to the rabbit:

"Now, my friend, we're going to part company, they're coming for me, take care. We'll meet another time," said the ram.

"All right, my friend, you take care of yourself too." And so they parted. This is what happened to these two animals, the ram and the rabbit.


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Once upon a time the rabbit teamed up with the crab to grow some carrots. They worked for several days together in harmony. First they chose the seed and then they planted it. Then they took care of the young plants, the two of them always in agreement. They harvested the crop and separated the tops from the carrots.

But the arguments began when the time came to divide the crop. The rabbit wanted to deceive the crab with sweet talk: "See? We have two piles there, a big one and a little one. You can have the big one and I'll take the small one."

After seeing that the big pile was of tops and the small onewas of carrots, the crab answered: "Thank you very much, my dear friend, but I like to be fair. Let's divide the two piles in half, I'll divide and you choose, or you divide and I'll choose, as you prefer. What do you say?"

"No, no! I can't agree," said the rabbit. Let's walk some thirty paces from here and we'll come back running. The first one to get there gets the carrots and the other one gets the tops. What do you say?"

"Well, all right,it seems fair to me," answered the crab.

"Finally we're in agreement!" said the rabbit. He was very happy, because he was sure he was going to win: "I'm so pleased about this, that if you win, I'm prepared to give you all the carrots and all the tops. Do you agree?"

"I agree!" repeated the crab.

"There's one other thing," said the rabbit, "since I know you're slower than me, I'm going to give you a ten-pace handicap."

"No, that's too much! I can't accept that," said the crab, pretending that he didn't want to take advantage of him. "You're the one that ought to have a ten-pace handicap. I won't take no for an answer."

"I accept, I accept," the rabbit hastened to answer, not wanting to contradict him, and glad to do what he asked. That way the other fellow wouldn't get angry, and he threw himself in behind the crab.

With this agreement they went together in a friendly fashion to the place where the race was going to start. The rabbit went ahead to take the ten-pace handicap. But, as soon as he turned his back, the crab, who was neither slow nor lazy, seized the rabbit's tail with his claws, without him realizing it.

When they came to where the carrots were, the rabbit turned around thinking that he had left the crab far behind. But then the crab opened his claws and fell real quietly on top of the carrots.

"Where are you, friend?" the rabbit asked happily when he didn't see him anywhere.

"Here I am!" answered the crab behind him.

The rabbit jumped with surprise and then stood frozen in his tracks, not believing what he saw. There was the crab, climbing over the piles of carrots: "Here I am! And I got here before you did!"

That day was the first time ever that the rabbit lost. He was very sad because he could not understand how the crab got ahead of him. That's how the crab got to keep the carrots. This was the story of the rabbit and the crab.


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These can be seen as just funny little tales for children. To me, they appear to be disguised post-Conquest fables and cautions about dealing with the Spanish rulers. The rabbit is called "mayor" because the alcade or mayor of a pueblo (the Spanish market town to which many villages bring produce and shop) was a very powerful figure, who represented the Spanish government as set up over the Maya villages of a region.

Rabbit is a Maya, but he is a smart, tricky assimilated fellow, who pleased the Spnanish viceroy (the "king") and was given power, symbolized by a cap of antlers.

Another Maya or faction gets the power away from him, it's too big (he's selfish, power-hungry, corrupt, not a traditionally good governing elder). Rabbit goes running to the Spanish ruler for help. The ruler tells him to betray (kill) a lot of other Mayas, to in effect subdue any Mayan groups that are opposing the conquistadores' rule, perhaps because (like the monkeys) they are hungry and poor. Rabbit does what the invaders want -- he betrays his own and brings their skins to the king. But the king doesn't want to set up this now-powerful fellow and chases him away -- a disguised warning to clever, Spanish-assimilated Maya that they really cannot win anything by betraying their own to the rulers.

In the next story, the people are furious at the Rabbit-mayor who has betrayed so many. They are many, rabbit is just one, and they have him cornered. The magic sandal trick seems to me to represent a bribe Rabbit pays some of his captors that gets him away.

Rabbit tricks a predator -- Coyote -- who may represent local bandits, or another power faction -- by using Coyote's fear and greed. After that, Rabbit reforms a bit -- he helps one of his own (Ram) to escape enemies by the trick of appearing to be signaling for help (presumably from the Spanish rulers), so the others -- a different faction, or bandits who appear in the story as predatory animals -- run away, and Rabbit and Ram survive.

Now Rabbit puts his educated, assimilated Mayan cleverness to work tricking the rulers (the cow and pig ranchers), stealing from them, and making his escape, while they are trying to deal with his lies.

Clever as he is, though, this educated, assimilated fellow is finally defeated by his own greed and conceit. He refuses Crab's suggestion of a fair division of their labors on the carrots, and proposes a contest he's sure he can win instead. Crab tricks him by offering him a further advantage, which Rabbit can't resist. But this advantage allows Crab to hitch a ride on Rabbit's tail, and win all the carrots. The peasants, still close to their old ways, can "hitch a ride" to success, carried along by educated, assimilated Mayans who have really adopted western ways of trickery and greed, but jumping off at the end to take their land back, and holding fast to their own real values.

These orally-transmitted Rabbit tales cleverly convey a hidden message of hope for the conquered Mayan people, and a warning to educate themselves but not to assimlate totally to the western values of the conquerers like the too-clever, greedy Rabbit did. His desire for power is rejected by the rulers, even when he betrays and kills his own to please them, and his greed and conceit in the end cause him to lose.


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CREDITS: Fierce Rabbit-with-short-ears is a traditional brocade weaving pattern, used by Mayan women weavers from the Chiapas highlands Sna Jolobil weavers' collective. This elaborate weaving is done on hand backstrap looms outdoors (in that aspect it resembles traditional Navajo weaving). Many patterns (as well as ink sketches of people and antiquities) were drawn by Pedro Meza to illustrate The Living Maya by Walter E. Morris, Jr., Henry Abrams, Inc.: 1987. This book tells history, current Mexican Mayan village life, and some traditional lore in context of a beautifully illustrated and carefully-produced art book (photos by Jeffrey Foxx). Focus is the preservation and rediscovery of the complex ancient technique of brocade weaving, mainly for women's huipil (a traditional over-dress that encloses a Mayan woman in the center of her woven universe). Very highly recommended book.

The photo and sketch of the classic-period Copán head of the Mayan ruler 18 Rabbit, who was captured and killed around 750 A.D. by a smaller city-state, are from The Second Voyage of the Mimi illustrated student book, Sunburst Software/Wings for Learning, 1993.

The intaglios of monkeys, alligator, hat-dancer were traced in FreeHand from Mayan stamps from an archaeology book used by the Akwesasne Notes page layout editor Doug Bradway years ago; source unidentifiable now. I colored and converted them to bitmaps for these pages.

Page prepared by Paula Giese. Explanatory text and graphics copyright 1995.
Mayan stories copyright Yax:Te' Press 1995, used by permission.

Last updated: Saturday, February 17, 1996 - 7:45:14 AM