HOW THE TERRAPIN BEAT THE RABBIT
The Rabbit was a great runner, and everybody knew it. No one thought the
Terrapin anything but a slow traveler, but he was a great warrior and very
boastful, and the two were always disputing about their speed. At last they
agreed to decide the matter a race. They fixed the day and the starting place
and arranged to run across four mountain ridges, and the one who came in first at
the end was to be the winner.
The Rabbit felt so sure of it that he said to the Terrapin, “You know you can’t
run. You can never win the race, so I’ll give you the first ridge and then you’ll
have only three to cross while I go over four.”
The Terrapin said that would be all right, but that night when he went home to
his family he sent for his Terrapin friends and told them he wanted their help. He
said he knew he could not outrun the Rabbit, but he wanted to stop the Rabbit’sboasting. He explained his plan to his friends and they agreed to help him.
When the day came all the animals were there to see the race. The Rabbit was
with them, but the Terrapin was gone ahead toward the first ridge, as they had
arranged, and they could hardly see him on account of the long grass. The word
was given and the Rabbit started off with long jumps up the mountain, expecting
to win the race before the Terrapin could get down the other side. But before he
got up the mountain he saw the Terrapin go over the ridge ahead of him. He ran
on, and when he reached the top he looked all around, but could not see the
Terrapin on account of the long grass. He kept on down the mountain and began
to climb the second ridge, but when he looked up again there was the Terrapin
just going over the top. Now he was surprised and made his longest jumps to
catch up, but when he got to the top there was the Terrapin away in front going
over the third ridge. The Rabbit was getting tired now and nearly out of breath,
but he kept on down the mountain and up the other ridge until he got to the top
just in time to see the Terrapin cross the fourth ridge and thus win the race.
The Rabbit could not make another jump, but fell over on the ground, crying mĭ,
mĭ, mĭ, mĭ, as the Rabbit does ever since when he is too tired to run any more.
The race was given to the Terrapin and all the animals wondered how he could
win against the Rabbit, but he kept still and never told. It was easy enough,
however, because all the Terrapin’s friends looked just alike, and he had simply
posted one near the top of each ridge to wait until the Rabbit came in sight and
then climb over and hide in the long grass. When the Rabbit came on he could
not find the Terrapin and so thought the Terrapin was ahead, and if he had met
one of the other terrapins he would have thought it the same one because they
looked so much alike. The real Terrapin had posted himself on the fourth ridge,
so as to come in at the end of the race and be ready to answer questions if the
animals suspected anything.
Because the Rabbit had to lie down and lose the race the conjurer now, when
preparing his young men for the ball play, boils a lot of rabbit hamstrings into a
soup, and sends some one at night to pour it across the path along which the
other players are to come in the morning, so that they may become tired in the
same way and lose the game. It is not always easy to do this, because the other
party is expecting it and has watchers ahead to prevent it.
Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney