The Prince of the Hares was playing with his children in front of his burrow, one day, when, growing tired, he threw back his ears, drew in his feet, and lay down to sleep.
Meanwhile the sun came up and passed so close to the earth that it burnt his back full of holes. The Hare felt very sore; and as he rubbed himself, his fur came off in great patches, so that his beauty was spoiled. He was furiously angry, and starting up, cried out that he would fight the sun; and in spite of all that his friends could say, went at once in pursuit of him.
The land where the Hare lived was a vast plain. When he had come to the end of it, he climbed a high hill in order to look over the country. He saw below him on the other side a field of green plumes nodding to the west wind. He had never seen corn growing before, and did not know what these plumes were.
He ran eagerly to the place, broke off as many as he could carry, and hid them behind the rocks. Then he rubbed two dead branches together and made a fire, in which he roasted the corn.
Presently the owner came along, and seeing the damage done, called his warriors to fight the thief.
The Hare had burrowed a hole at the side of the rock, and when the arrows were hurled at him, he blew them back with his magic breath. The warriors ran to catch him, but so great was their haste that one rushed upon another, and each caught only the other's fists. Then they thought of digging him out. They worked until the Sun Prince was half way home, but before they had caught sight of the Hare, he had escaped through a secret passage.
He ran to a rock a little way off and higher than the one beneath which they were digging, and hurled his magic ball at the burrow, breaking away the floor and the sides, so that it fell in, burying the Chief and all his followers.
The next morning the Hare saw two men making arrowheads of hot rocks. He watched them heating the rocks, and when they were red hot, he cried out: "Oho! hot rocks will not burn me!"
The men looked up, and one of them said: "Are you a wizard?"
"No," said the Hare, "but I am a better man than you are, or the man who is working with you. I will lie on the hot rocks, if you will let me hold you on them in the same manner."
They agreed. So, when the rocks were glowing, the Hare laid himself on top of them, and the men pressed him down against them with their hands. But he breathed heavily, and his magic breath so cooled the part on which he was lying that not a particle of his fur was singed.
The men having no such protection, soon begged for mercy, but the Hare held them to their promise and they both perished. "So much for making one's self equal to a wizard," said the Hare to himself as he continued his journey.
The following day he passed by a high cliff round which the winds blew so hard that it was known by the men of that country as Hurricane Cliff. It overhung a deep ravine in which were sunflowers as tall as trees and the heads were heavy with seeds.
The Hare took a handful of seeds and amused himself by throwing them into the air and catching them in his mouth. While doing this he heard voices, and looking up, saw a group of women who were plotting to kill him.
"Oho!" they said, "let us call the hurricane to hurl a rock down on him."
The Hare said nothing, but went in full sight of them and began eating the seeds with great relish. The women looked at them longingly, and finally asked him to share his dainties with them, not knowing what he really had.
He tossed a handful of seeds into the air, and they tried hard to catch them, but failed again and again, each time going nearer to the edge of the cliff till, in her eagerness, the one nearest the edge reached out too far and fell into the ravine. The others were so close that they fell over her; so all but two were dashed to pieces, and these vowed vengeance on the Hare.
He met them soon afterwards gathering berries, and called out that he would give them the revenge they wished. "Come," said he, "you may blow these blackberry thorns and leaves into my eyes. I will let you try first and if you do not blind me you must let me do the same to you."
They took him at his word and threw a handful of little else than thorns. But by breathing as he had done when on the hot rocks, he blew them all from him.
The women trusted to their hands to protect them, but the Hare aimed well and the thorns passed between their fingers and put their eyes quite out.
He had one more adventure with women. While passing through a lonely place he saw several women weaving jugs of willow which they made water-tight by smearing them inside with pitch. They, too, were planning to destroy him.
He went boldly up to them and proposed that they should put him inside one of the jugs. As he could not get into those already made they put him into one that was not finished and wove the neck of the jug about him, making it very small, so that he should not escape.
While they were laughing at the ease with which he had been caught he burst the jug open and stepped out unhurt.
He then compelled them to get inside of the jugs and to let him weave the necks about them. He worked slowly at first to make them think that he did not know how to weave, but he made the necks strong and fastened them well.
Then he rolled the jugs about till the women were shaken and badly bruised. They threatened to be revenged, but when he knocked them harder and their blood ran out over the ground, they begged him to let them out.
He would not, but, after a time, thinking that they had suffered enough, he struck each jug with his magic ball and put them out of their misery.
A tarantula who had watched the Hare resolved to punish him by his own methods. The spider had a magic club which poisoned everything it struck, but never injured him. He called to the Hare and asked to be struck with the club.
The Hare raised it and beat him on the head and back, but the spider remained unhurt. He began to suspect something wrong, and just before it was his turn to be struck he changed the spider's club for his magic ball and killed the insect with one blow.
Thus he traveled on, conquering all who opposed him or plotted against him, till he came to the edge of the world. There he saw a high cliff covered with trees of all sizes and kinds. He went up to the maple and said: "What are you good for, pray?"
The maple shook its leaves in great disdain and said: "I am the food of the Great Head. The blood of my children is sweet and nourishing, and they give it freely to the nations."
The Hare next went to the larch and asked: "What are you good for?"
"I," said the larch, "bind together the canoes of the people. If it were not for me they could not sail upon the lakes and rivers."
The cedar answered the question by saying: "I make the canoes strong, so that they will bear the weight of the great warriors. If it were not for me, none but women and children could sail on the waters."
The birch stood next in his way and said: "If it were not for me you could make no canoes at all. My bark is for the picture-writing of the people. How, but for me, could one Chief talk to his brother who lives by the distant river?"
The fir-tree boasted of its balsam without which the canoe could not glide upon the water.
"Ugh!" said the Hare. "You all say that no canoe could be made without you. You, Linden, you have no part in these canoes; what are you good for?"
"I," said the Linden, "am for the cradles of the children. Without me where could they be rocked and put to sleep when the beautiful red has gone from the sky and the night comes? From me you take the basswood for your bowls and your drinking-cups."
The Oak stood in his path, and before the question was put to it, touched his head with its lower branches and said in a deep voice: "I shelter the great warriors. I mark the spot for their councils. From my boughs are made the swift arrows that bring food to the feet of the hunter and carry death to his enemies."
The Ash sighed and whispered: "From me is taken the bow that speeds the arrow in its flight."
The Red Willow drooped its head as it said: "My bark is for the pipe of the Indian, my wands are to bid him to the feast. My osiers are for his baskets, his mats and his water-jugs."
Thus every tree claimed to be of so much use that men could not do without it. At last the Hare came to a little tree hardly more than a shrub, many of whose leaves were blighted. "Of what use are you?" asked he.
"None," said the tree, "unless you can use me."
"We shall see, we shall see," said the Hare.
He went to the top of the cliff and saw the sun just rising. It caught sight of him at the same moment, and knowing that he had come for vengeance, it retreated quickly into its cave.
It stayed there three days and all the world suffered from cold and darkness. At last the noise of the people in their discontent reached the sun and he was obliged to come out.
The Hare had his arrows ready and aimed many at him, but they fell short of their mark. When the sun was directly overhead he drew forth a magic arrow, which he dipped into a magic tear that escaped from his eye. With this he took good aim. It struck the sun and broke it into thousands of fragments.
The flying pieces set the whole world on fire. It burned the forest, the prairie, the villages, the corn and the wild rice, the pumpkin vines and the gourds, the grapes and the nuts.
The children of the Hare Prince ran into their burrow and the Great Elk led many of the other animals into a vast field in the Rocky Mountains, around which was drawn a sacred line that no fire could cross.
The fire burnt the cliff at the edge of the world. The Hare sought refuge first in one tree and then in another; but they were all destroyed except the little one that had said it was of no use. It was so small that it could not wholly protect him. His tail, his back, his feet and the tips of his ears were burnt, every part of him except his head.
He rolled over and over trying to get relief, but his pain was so great that his eyes burst, and the water gushing from them put out the fire.
The sun had been conquered and was summoned to appear before the council. They found him guilty of cruelty and indifference to the welfare of men; so he was compelled to travel the same trail day after day for all time and at a fixed distance from the earth. Thus he can no longer burn trees or animals, nor can he leave them in cold and darkness.