How the Rabbit got his coat

Storytelling with children is really important – try this story out with your little ones – perhaps make a rabbit finger puppet to play out the story too!

A long time ago when the world was new and all. All the animals had coats of different patterns, different sizes and different colours. Some had long fur others short. Some dark and others bright as the sun. They were always talking, talking about whose coat was the best.

The most proud of all the animals was the Otter. She believed her coat was so much better than the others, she would not even live among them for fear for them getting her dirty. Instead she lived far, far up the stream.

In fact Otter had moved so far up the stream, so long ago, many of the younger animals had never even seen her. They began to wonder if her coat really was that fine. So one bright spring Morning, as the days got longer and the young hatched and sprang out of their warm nests, a great meeting was called.

The young ones, who had heard so much about Otter, were worried she would not come. No one even really knew exactly where she lived.

Now the Rabbit thought her coat was the best. She had fine soft fur, smooth as the pussy willow: but what good was it if Otter did not come to the meeting. People would never know her coat was the best. So she made up her mind to travel up the great river and tell Otter of the great meeting.

When she arrived she saw otter with a wondered soft brown fur coat, at once she knew that Otters coat was indeed the most wonderful. Otter was glad to see a visitor and asked her why she was so far up the great river. “ Oh”, said the Rabbit, “the animals sent me to bring you to a great meeting to celebrate the animal with the best fur, and as you live so far away they were afraid you might not know the road.” Otter thanked the Rabbit and together they set off to the meeting.

For three days and three nights they traveled down the river together, until they reached a pass where the thorns grow big and tall and tangled.

Rabbit began to collect sticks and dried leaves, and when Otter asked why she said it would be nice to have a warm fire to spend the evening by. After this Rabbit got a stick and whittled it down to a paddle. The Otter wondered and asked again what that was for. “I have good dreams when I sleep with a paddle under my head,” said the Rabbit.

Next the rabbit began to cut away the thorns to make a clean trail to the water. Otter once more wondered and ask what the Rabbit was doing. Rabbit said “this is the place where is Rains Fire, and it looks like the sky is angry tonight. You go to sleep and I will sit up and watch: if the fire does come I will call to you and you can run into the river. Better hang your coat on that tree over there, so it doesn’t get burnt.”

Otter did exactly this and then curled up and began to sleep. Only Rabbit kept awake. After the fire was only embers the Rabbit filled the paddle with hot coals and threw them up into the air shouting, “Otter, Otter it is raining fire! Run it is raining fire” As the hot coals fell all around the otter up she jumped and ran into the river.

Rabbit at once took Otters coat and put it on. Springing away as fast as she could. Otter has never yet come out of the water.

Rabbit sprang down the track to the great meeting. All the animals were waiting to see Otter. At last when they saw her they said to one another “Look Otter is coming, oh her coat surely is the most marvelous” But the Otter kept her paw over her face and his head down, eventually the brown bear lent close and lowered the paw. All at once everyone saw Rabbits nose. She sprang up to run away and as she started away the Bears paw struck her and pulled her tail off, but rabbit was too quick for them a ran away. And that is why Rabbit lives alone in the field, always watching, with a little white tail in her otherwise prefect coat.

Written from a traditional Cherokee Folk Story
by Stephanie Green