Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans (§14 of the Hare Cycle)

Version 1

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

It is said of Hare that he pushed all the birds that had been abusing humans higher into the sky, and all the animals who were committing evils against mankind he pushed further down under the earth. Hare thought to himself, "I have destroyed all those beings who abused my uncles and aunts, now I must find animals that humans can eat." Hare brought together all the animals in a council to determine which of them would consent to be eaten by human beings. Elk was asked first. In those days he had long, sharp teeth, so naturally he declared that he expected to be the hunter, not the hunted. Hare prepared a concoction of sour berry juice and told Elk to sample it, saying that it was human blood. It was so sour that it knocked Elk's front teeth out. After this, he readily consented that elks could be eaten by men. After this, Deer consented without reservation. When Hare asked Horse, he said, "I will live and work with our uncles and aunts, and shall carry heavy loads." Hare thanked him very much.

Now Hare had brought some oil with him that he would use to fatten those animals who had consented to be food for humans. By merely rolling in the oil they would be fattened. The first one to take a roll was Bear, that is why bears are so fat and oily today. Before anyone could stop him, Mink jumped in and rolled around in the oil. All agreed that he was not good enough to eat, so they pulled him out by the tail and squeezed off every drop of oil on him. That is why minks are so thin today. The skunk also jumped in without being asked. They were about to pull him out, on account of his odor, when he said, "If people eat me when they are sick, it shall drive the disease from them." When they heard this promise, they let him proceed. All the rest of the chosen animals then took their oil bath and departed.

Bear proved to be an unusual case. After Hare had gotten Deer's consent to be food, he had asked Bear. Bear demanded that people fast before hunting him. "If they do not fast," he declared, "I will put my paw up and block the entrance of the cave so that they will never find me." "Nonsense," replied Hare, "my uncles have strong medicines, and what is more, they have dogs that can track down anything." After the animals had been fattened, Hare showed the people how bears were to be hunted. He first prepared a sweat bath with plenty of vapor. There he concentrated his mind — his thought reached all the trees, the grasses, and even the weeds, stones, and soil. He set a kettle of dried corn boiling, then made an offering of tobacco. He asked his grandmother to sing the Blackroot Songs with him, songs of great medicine. As Bear sat in his cave, he was overcome with a desire to look in Hare's direction — for he could hear all that was going on. Finally, he did look. Just then, Hare cried out, "I felt someone's mind turn towards me!" But his grandmother just urged him to try harder. This time Hare sang his dance songs, and when the bear heard them he could not resist dancing himself. As the aroma of the food reached him, Bear could not resist it and desired to come over to where Hare was. Thus he could not keep his mind off Hare. As Hare looked into the fire, he saw an ember jump towards him. Then he knew that the bear's mind had turned towards him. After that, Hare went to sleep. The next morning, Hare told his dogs, "Last night a mind came to me from somewhere over there," so they set out in that direction. The dogs ran ahead and one of them reached the bear's cave. Bear put his paw in front of his cave, but the dog had no trouble finding him. "If you keep quiet about me," said Bear, "I'll give you a nice piece of fat." However, the other dog came up and both began to bark at him. As they tried to drag Bear out of his cave, Hare arrived. "It is good," he said, then commanded the bear to come out of the cave, all the while poking him with a stick. When the bear finally came out of his cave, Hare pointed his arrow at him. Bear expected at any moment to be shot and couldn't stand to look, but Hare then ran around to the front of the bear and aimed again. Then the bear came right up to Hare, so Hare aimed again at his heart. The bear stopped, and Hare again drew his arrow back. At this point the bear began to cry. "Why do you cry?" asked Hare. "I thought you were supposed to be tough? If one of my uncles had been hunting you, even if you had put your paw up in front of your cave, you would have been killed by now." Then Bear acknowledged, "Hare, you were right. I was wrong for thinking that the humans could not find me. I will therefore offer myself to anyone who has done as you have, Hare." Thus, ever after people have hunted bears the way Hare did.1

Version 2 (§1 of the V.23 Text of the Hare Cycle)

translated by Richard L. Dieterle

Hocąk-English Interlinear Syllabic Text

(135) He acted to wake up. When he arrived in her body, he cut himself out. "I buried my little mother. Now I will give refuge to the lives of my own." He uncovered all these in every directions. When he saw the bad Walkers on Light (birds), he did it. He made them go higher up. All the bad Earth Spirits, again he pushed their backs further down. Therefore, the people remaining will continue on. (136) Then he killed all the ones who were not good; but all things, food, wood, which ever one he encountered, they were domesticated. Thus he did.

He picked them carefully. They were to be loaded with something. He gathered them together there. All things, the animals, bears, elk, these kind, all of these he gathered together. The little animals also, raccoons, skunks, muskrats, all of these kinds; also in addition they were to cover themselves with grease. (137) When he was through making them fat, then he would do it. All living things that were to be eaten, these he would cause to become fat.

At first Eel asked him, "What would I suck?" said Eel. "Could I eat humans?" he said. And so Hare said, "After you eat a piece with your teeth," he said. He showed him his teeth. The teeth were very long. He was also afraid. (138) And he asked this one to go and eat one of the people. "As you advised, I took some portion from him as he lay there, but quickly gave it back." By means of the great force of its sourness after he took it, his teeth fell out. At some places he had teeth remaining. Very tiny ones, small ones, remained. Eel cried there. Hare did not like it. He (Eel) said, "How could it not be? Your little uncles have this to work with. I will be meant for eating," he said. (139) And little Hare began thanking himself, "It is good, is it not? And again the deer, that will be meant for eating by the humans," he said.

Again then the bears asked him, "Will we be eaten?" He said, "He (the human) will find one only if he fasts," he said. "He need not fast. He sits. (140) If he is looking for one, it will be brought by hand through the partition from a storage pit by the door. For this reason, I will not proceed with this," he said. "It is not said that bears are of such a nature," Hare said. "If he was of such a nature, not by any medicine would he fall over dead by hand. Again, perhaps, when they got him they would not know a single thing about what to do."

And again the horse asked him, saying, "Hare, I ask permission to live with your little uncles and little aunts in the future," he said to them. (141) "I will go. Whatever one is heavy, I will be doing it myself," he said. Little Hare began to thank him, "It is good. You are the chief. You will do well. I know you are doing well without effort. It is because of you alone that he will not have to walk. When he calls you, you will come to him. Because of this, it is good," he said.

And he said to them, (142) "All of you will be eaten. You have promised me hides. You are to stand together with men." And they were defeated. "You will take part in this favor." When he told them, Bear was the very first one to lie down. There he now chose to give. Therefore, there was much fat. Only the things present were that way.

Mink dove right in there. "That can't be. He isn't good to eat," they were saying. (143) They chased him down and wrung him out. So also in that manner he jumped into it in order to steal it. "Koté, he did not do a good thing in not finishing. However, the fat on the head is all right," they said.

Little Skunk said, "If one of the humans becomes sick, he can eat me. The body will be held in a certain position to strike the thing against (?)," he said. Little Hare said, "What he said is good. He gave them life. (144) He will do it," he told them. Then everyone did all of it. And that was it.2

Version 3

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

Bear presided over a grand council where all the animals were to be apportioned their share of fat to carry. In the middle of the council lodge was a great vat of melted lard, and this was to be divided among the animals present at the council. While the participants were carefully discussing who should get the largest amount, Fox suddenly jumped into the vat and greedily covered himself with an enormous amount of fat. Bear yelled, "Seize him before he gets away," and the animals nearby grabbed Fox before he could get out the door. They dragged him back to the vat and squeezed all the fat off of him except for just a little on his upper limbs. All the other animals took a fat-bath until they had just the amount that the council agreed they should have, Fox, on the other hand, was unceremoniously thrown out of the council lodge, and that is why foxes ever since have never been fat.3

Commentary. "consented" — this notion reflects the widespread belief in hunter-gatherer societies that animals killed in the hunt have given their consent to be hunted.

"I will put my paw up" — it is said that "... hibernating bears often sleep with their paws located directly against their face ..."4

"he was overcome with a desire" — in the original MS, on the opposite page, the following is written: "Indians believe in distant hypnotism. They have a ceremony before they go hunting and by this ceremony they believe that they hypnotize the game or whatever they are after."5

"he cut himself out" — the initial narrative is a highly abbreviated form of the story of Hare's birth. He awoke within the womb of his earthly mother, and cut his way out. He then buried his mother and resolved to be a protector to all other human beings.

Comparative Material. There is an Ojibwe myth about Manabozho (Hare) that is almost exactly like this. Manabozho made a small lake of oil from the King of Fishes whom he had killed. He invited all the animals to a feast. When they arrived, they jumped into the lake of oil, establishing the amount of fat that they would carry according to who arrived first. Bear was the earliest along with Deer and Opossum. Moose and Buffalo came later. Partridge waited until the lake had been nearly used up. By the time that Rabbit and Marten arrived, there was nothing to be had. That is why these last two have no fat.6

The Cree version is also close to the Hocąk. Wisakejak, the Cree Trickster, called an assembly of the animals to let them know that in time there would be a race that looked like him. These people would need to hunt for meat. The bear and the buffalo promised to give food and clothing to the people, and the horse promised to be their slave. Then each creature specified how it would prefer to be killed. When people were created, Wisakejak told them how they were to proceed and that they were never to be cruel to the animals. He also taught them how to acquire herbs, vegetables, and fruit.7

With respect to Version 3, the Ottawa have a story about Red Fox that is almost exactly the opposite of the Hocąk story. This story is quoted in full from Juliette Kinzie's Wau Bun. There was a chief of a certain village who had a beautiful daughter. He resolved upon one occasion to make a feast and invite all the animals. When the invitation was brought to the red fox, he inquired, “What are you going to have for supper?” “Mee-dau-mee-nau-bo,” was the reply. (This is a porridge made of parched corn, slightly cracked.) The fox turned up his little sharp nose. “No, I thank you,” said he; “I can get plenty of that at home.” The messenger returned to the chief, and reported the contemptuous refusal of the fox. “Go back to him,” said the chief, “and tell him we are going to have a nice fresh body, and we will have it cooked in the most delicate manner possible.” Pleased with the prospect of such a treat, the fox gave a very hearty assent to the second invitation. The hour arrived, and he set off for the lodge of the chief to attend the feast. The company were all prepared for him, for they made common cause with their friend who had been insulted. As the fox entered, the guest next the door, with great courtesy, rose from his place, and begged the new-comer to be seated. Immediately the person next him also rose, and insisted that the fox should occupy his place, as it was still nearer the fire–the post of honor. Then the third, with many expressions of civility, pressed him to exchange with him; and thus, with many ceremonious flourishes, he was passed along the circle, always approaching the fire, where a huge cauldron stood, in which the good cheer was still cooking. The fox was by no means unwilling to occupy the highest place in the assembly, and, besides, he was anxious to take a peep into the kettle, for he had his suspicions that he might be disappointed of the delicacies he had been expecting. So, by degrees, he was ushered nearer and nearer the great blazing fire, until by a dexterous push and shove he was hoisted into the seething kettle. His feet were dreadfully scalded, but he leaped out, and ran home to his lodge, howling and crying with pain. His grandmother, with whom, according to the custom of animals, he lived, demanded of him an account of the affair. When he had faithfully related all the circumstances (for, unlike the civilized animals, he did not think of telling his grandmother a story), she reproved him very strongly. “You have committed two great faults,” said she. “In the first place, you were very rude to the chief who was so kind as to invite you, and by returning insult for civility you made yourself enemies who were determined to punish you. In the next place, it was very unbecoming in you to be so forward to take the place of honor. Had you been contented modestly to keep your seat near the door, you would have escaped the misfortune that has befallen you.” All this was not very consolatory to the poor fox, who continued to whine and cry most piteously, while his grandmother, having finished her lecture, proceeded to bind up his wounds. Great virtue is supposed to be added to all medical prescriptions and applications by a little dancing; so, the dressing having been applied, the grandmother fell to dancing with all her might, round and round in the lodge. When she was nearly exhausted, the fox said, “Grandmother, take off the bandages and see if my legs are healed.” She did as he requested, but no – the burns were still fresh. She danced and danced again. Now and then, as he grew impatient, she would remove the coverings to observe the effect of the remedies. At length, towards morning, she looked, and, to be sure, the burns were quite healed. “But, oh!” cried she, “your legs are as black as a coal! They were so badly burned that they will never return to their color!” The poor fox, who, like many another brave, was vain of his legs, fell into a transport of lamentation. “Oh! my legs! My pretty red legs! What shall I do? The young girls will all despise me. I shall never dare to show myself among them again!”8

The Ottawa story seems to have been constructed in a series of oppositions to the story of Version 3.

Hocąk (et alia) Ottawa
Bear invites all the animals to a powwow in which they will make themselves suitable as objects for humans to feast upon by establishing how much fat they will carry. A human chief invites all the animals to a feast.
Fox has an arrogant sense of entitlement. Red Fox has an arrogant sense of entitlement.
He accepts the invitation. He rejects the invitation. After the quality of the food has been increased, he accepts.
Fox sneaks in front of all the other animals present. Red Fox is allowed to cut in front of all the other animals present.
Fox Red Fox
voluntarily involuntarily
jumps is thrown
into a vat of melted lard. a cauldron of boiling food.
His flesh is greatly augmented His flesh is diminished
by having (raw) fat added to it. by being scalded (cooked).
Fox had tried to get away with the amount of fat that he had added to his body. Red Fox had gradually worked himself into the position of honor nearest the fire.
He was prevented from escaping. He was invited to assume this position.
They squeezed from him all the fat that he had arrogated to himself, except for a little in his upper legs. In the lower legs where he had been scalded, the fur had turned black.
Thus foxes have been ever after. Thus foxes have been ever after.

In both cases the lessons are the same: the fox has been arrogant and greedy about his status, and as a result has been punished by bearing a symbolically appropriate mark on his body as a reminder to all of his folly.

Links: Hare, Earth, Bear, Elk (I), Foxes, The Sons of Earthmaker, Skunks.

Links within the Published Hare Cycle: §13. Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, §15. The Necessity for Death.

Links within the V.23 Hare Cycle: §2. Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Version 2.

Stories: featuring Hare as a character: The Hare Cycle, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Necessity for Death, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Kills Wildcat, The Messengers of Hare, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Kills Flint, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, The Hill that Devoured Men and Animals, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Grandmother's Gifts, Hare and the Grasshoppers, The Spirit of Gambling, The Red Man, Maize Origin Myth, Hare Steals the Fish, The Animal who would Eat Men, The Gift of Shooting, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Petition to Earthmaker; featuring Grandmother Earth as a character: Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Maize Origin Myth, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Owl Goes Hunting, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Kills Wildcat, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, The Necessity for Death, Hare Steals the Fish, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Kills Flint, The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man (vv 4, 6), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Redhorn's Father (?); featuring skunks as characters: The Skunk Origin Myth, The Bungling Host, The Boy and the Jack Rabbit; mentioning elks: Elk Clan Origin Myth, The Animal who would Eat Men (v. 1), The Elk's Skull, Deer Clan Origin Myth, The Creation Council, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Origin of the Hocąk Chief, Little Fox and the Ghost (v. 2), The Great Fish; See The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits; featuring Bear as a character: Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Bear Offers Himself as Food, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, The Hocąk Migration Myth, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Woman Who Fought the Bear; mentioning (spirit) bears (other than were-bears): White Bear, Blue Bear, Black Bear, Red Bear, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Shaggy Man, Bear Offers Himself as Food, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Redhorn's Sons, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, The Messengers of Hare, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Hocąk Migration Myth, Red Man, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Two Boys, Creation of the World (v. 5), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Brown Squirrel, Snowshoe Strings, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Spider's Eyes, Little Priest's Game, Little Priest, How He went out as a Soldier, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Trickster's Tail, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Warbundle Maker, cf. Fourth Universe; mentioning horses: The Big Eater, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Sun and the Big Eater, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights, Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, James’ Horse, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Boy who Flew, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, They Owe a Bullet, The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2); mentioning foxes: Trickster Takes Little Fox for a Ride, Little Fox and the Ghost, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, Redhorn's Father, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Scenting Contest, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Little Fox Goes on the Warpath, Holy One and His Brother; mentioning teeth: The Animal who would Eat Men, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Two Boys, The Birth of the Twins, The Twins Disobey Their Father, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Dipper, Wolves and Humans, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Children of the Sun, The Green Man, Holy One and His Brother, Partridge's Older Brother, The Brown Squirrel, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Shakes the Messenger, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, White Wolf, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth; mentioning caves: Big Eagle Cave Mystery, Blue Mounds Cave, Silver Mound Cave, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Woman Who Married a Snake, Little Human Head, The Waterspirit of Sugar Loaf Mounds, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, A Giant Visits His Daughter, Kunu's Warpath, Soft Shelled Turtle Weds, The Story of the Medicine Rite; mentioning sweat lodges or sweat baths: The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Lost Blanket, The Green Man, Bladder and His Brothers (v. 1), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, The Thunderbird, Snowshoe Strings, Waruǧábᵉra, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, The Birth of the Twins (v. 2), Lifting Up the Bear Heads, The King Bird, Little Human Head, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, The Shaggy Man, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, The Dipper, The Two Boys, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 2).

Another version of the bear hunting episode is found in Hare Establishes Bear Hunting.

Themes: animals assemble in a great council: The Creation Council, Snake Clan Origins, Why Dogs Sniff One Another; threatening four times to shoot a bear, and causing the bear to cry: The Shaggy Man, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting; animals volunteer to be eaten: River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake (a sturgeon), Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (beavers), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting (bears); an animal volunteers to be food for humans: Bear Offers Himself as Food, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting; a person (or spirit) aids someone in a task by concentrating his mind upon it: Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Petition to Earthmaker, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter; someone is able to exert supernatural power upon an object by concentrating his mind upon it: Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Messengers of Hare, South Enters the Medicine Lodge, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka.


1 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 111-113. Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) §22, pp. 87-90. The original Hocąk text is missing, but the English translation of Oliver LaMère is preserved in Paul Radin, "The Hare Cycle," Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3851 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago IV, #1: 134-150.

2 The Hare Cycle, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago V, #23: 135-144.

3 Charles Edward Brown, Wigwam Tales (Madison, Wisc.: Charles E. Brown, 1930) 28.

4 Gary Brown, The Great Bear Almanac (New York: Lyons and Burford, 1993) 130.

5 Radin, "The Hare Cycle," Winnebago IV, #1: 144 verso.

6 "Manabozho, or the Great Incarnation of the North," in Henry R. Schoolcraft, Schoolcraft's Indian Legends, ed. Mentor L. Williams (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1991 [1956]) 72.

7 Albert Lightning, "Some Adventures of Wisakejak," in Ella Elizabeth Clark, Indian Legends of Canada (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1960) 12-13.

8 Juliette Augusta McGill Kinzie, Wau-Bun, The "Early Day" in the North-west (Chicago & New York: Rand, McNally & company, 1901 [1856]) 368-371.