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The Hare of Inaba

Page 1, The Hare of Inaba

This version of the Hare of Inaba was published on December 1886 by Takejiro Hasegawa and translated into English by Mrs. T. H. James and illustrated by Eitaku Kobayashi. It was originally a Japanese folktale called Inaba no Shirousagi and existed long before it this publication was produced for a Western audience.   

The Hare of Inaba is about eighty-one brothers who are vying for the love of a princess. The youngest brother is oppressed by the rest of his family and is made to do the tasks of a servant. The eighty-one brothers leave to find the princess, forcing the eighty-first brother to carry their packs. They quickly outpace him and reach a hare lying out in the open with no fur whom they tell to bathe in salt water and then lay in the sun.  As the rabbit listens to the brothers, his condition becomes worse, his skin cracking because of the salt.  The eighty-first brother, who has fallen behind his family because of the packs, then reaches the hare.  The eighty-first brother then tells the hare to bathe in fresh water and dry off with reeds.  The hare’s fur grows back thicker than ever, and he tells the brother that because of his kindness, he will win the princess, and not his eighty other brothers.  The moral of this story is that guile is not always rewarded, but instead humility and compassion are recognized and prized.  Also, as obedience and conscientiousness are valued traits in Japanese society, the eighty-first brother represents how those with these qualities will be rewarded.    

Exhibit Created by: Emily Hickey and Emily Shafer