The Hare and the Hedgehog

The Hare and the Hedgehog by Brothers Grimm illustrated by Gustav Sus

The Hare and the Hedgehog is part of the collection by Brothers Grimm since 5th edition (1843) and is officially numbered as KHM 187 (Der Hase und der Igel).

gustav-sus-hare-and-hedgehog-cover

It’s actually a fable, not a fairy tale, what is just one example of forms in the collection which was (properly) named as ‘stories’ by the Grimms, not ‘fairy tales’, as later editors and translators insisted until the majority of audience accepted (wrong) naming.

There are about one hundred similar fables where proverbially fast and proverbially slow animal competes. The most famous is absolutely The Hare and the Tortoise, but we can also find combinations of armadillos, crabs, pigs and, snails competing with antelopes, birds, foxes, leopards, stags, and wolfs.

The form of the fable about a hedgehog and hare is a framed story what means we start with a story-teller (grandfather), who tries to convince his audience about the truth of his storytelling.

But this is a very simple addition to otherwise also pretty simple and straight to the point plot about the hare who insults the hedgehog just enough to be punished for his attitude.

Here is the summary:

The hare meets the hedgehog at the field where both came to check how the carrots and the cabbage grow. Hare mocks the hedgehog about his short and bent legs. Word followed another word and animals made a bet – the one who can run faster across the field will get a gold coin and a bottle of cognac from the other.

gustav-sus-hare-and-hedgehog

The hare wants to start right away but the hedgehog demands half an hour of delay before the start because he wants to have breakfast before the match.

The real reason wasn’t the breakfast but his plan which included his wife. She was very similar to him and her mission was just to stand at the other end of the field. When the hare arrives there, she should just say: ‘I am already here!’ and nothing else.

gustav-konrad-sus-hare-and-hedgehog-picture

Indeed, the hare runs much faster across the field not noticing his opponent stopped after a few steps. When the hare run to the end he saw hedgehog’s wife and, believing he is dealing with the hedgehog, wants another race. Of course, he ends in the place where the hedgehog (this time the real one) already awaits him.

The hare doesn’t want to admit his defeat, so he wants to run again and again.

There were 73 races altogether and he lost all of them.

In the middle of 74th, he falls down with blood spraying out of his neck. The hedgehog and his wife went home with a gold coin and a bottle of cognac.

gustav-conrad-sus-public-domain-illustration-of-hare-and-hedgehog

The story ends with returning to the storyteller who explicitly presents two lessons:

  • First: Never mock-up somebody who is smaller than you. It may fare badly for you.
  • Second: Always marry somebody who is just like you. not better, not worse, just of the same class and possibly the same appearance. It paid well to the hedgehog, isn’t it?

There are some pretty interesting speculations about the mythological and astrological interpretations of The Hedgehog and the Hare like this story is sometimes also titled.

* The name of the hedgehog is Swinigel. Igel is German for Hedgehog and Swin is an old name for Sun. A hedgehog with its pricks really looks like a sun with sunrays.

It’s hard to say how much of the naming came from the so-called oral tradition and how much is done by Wilhelm Grimm who tried to connect every story with mythology if it was due or not.

* 73 races correlate with 73 days, what is exactly one-fifth of the year (365 days) or two and a half lunations. We can find correlations with this number in old St. Mary’s feasts being 5 in one year and exactly 73 days apart (but there are so many possibilities according to different countings and standards, this can’t be a solid proof).

St. Mary is very tightly related to the Moon cycles. In the Catholic rosary, there are exactly 59 pearls (the sum of days in two lunar months).

december-6th-days-to-go-countdown

There is also a 73-day difference between autumn equinox, represented by St. Rupert (The feast of St. Rupert is celebrated on September 24) and December 6, represented by St. Nicholas (traditionally accompanied by Krampus aka black devil). If there is a full moon on the equinox (Rupert means brightness), a dark moon will fall on December 6 (krampen means claw, what corresponds with dark forces kidnapping the moon).

As we can see in the picture above there are 7 days following the autumn equinox in September. Then we add 31 days from October, 30 from November and first 5 of December. The result is December 6 as the 74th day after September 23. The day when the Hare dies. The day of the Krampus …

* 74th race, when the hare died (in the blood), could be interpreted as the total eclipse of the moon. This should happen exactly 74 days after the full moon which happened on Sunday (it’s mentioned as a bright autumn Sunday in the fable) and look at the astronomical tables this gives as a date which could be encoded in the story: Dec 5 in year 317.

* 74th race, when the hare died (in the blood), could be interpreted as the total eclipse of the moon. This should happen exactly 74 days after the full moon which happened on Sunday (it’s mentioned as a bright autumn Sunday in the fable) and look at the astronomical tables this gives as a date which could be encoded in the story: Dec 5 in year 317.

Just a few years later (325) a Nicean Council happened. The relations between Sun and Father God, date of Easter and some other important issues of Christianity were debated there.

full-moon-rabbit

* The shape of the hare is clearly visible if we connect dark spots of the moon. Several civilizations in Asia, Mesoamerica, and Europe believed in connection of hare and moon.

moon-hare-china

All these are pure speculations, of course, yet we have an old proverb: where there’s smoke there’s fire. Or: there is at least a grain of truth in every rumor.

All used pictures are public domain or used by permission. Illustrations of the picture book are done by Gustav Konrad Sus (1823-1881) for Broschek Verlag, Hamburg, published in 1855.

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