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Rabbit and Tiger.

A Vietnamese Folktale

Rabbit perched quietly at the forest's edge, cleaning her whiskers. She wanted very much to relax and take her afternoon nap, but she sensed that Tiger, the ruler of the forest, was near. "He could eat me up in one bite," she said to herself, shuddering at the thought.

When Rabbit was younger, she could have easily outrun Tiger. Now her muscles and joints had begun to ache, and Rabbit was feeling old and stiff.

"The only way I can keep from becoming Tiger's next meal is to outsmart him," she thought.

Rabbit spent the rest of the day trying to think up a way to outsmart Tiger. But the idea that kept coming to her made her whiskers quiver with fear.

At first Rabbit tried to talk herself out of such dangerous plan, but at last she decided she had no other choice.

"I will try it out tomorrow," she said. "Otherwise, I must hide for the rest of my life and never nap in peace."

Bright and early the next morning, Rabbit set off for the forest along a trail that she knew Tiger would use. She had just sat down to wait when Tiger came strolling down the trail.

Tiger was surprised to have a handy meal waiting so willingly. He padded up to Rabbit and placed a huge paw on her back.

"I have enough room in my stomach for one last tasty morsel," he said, running his tongue over his whiskers. "How thoughtful of you to wait for me."

Rabbit sat quietly and said nothing, hoping her plan would work.

"What is wrong with you, Rabbit? I have always frightened you, as I frighten all the animals of the forest. Today you sit here and wait for me to gobble you up. Aren't you afraid of me?"

Rabbit felt the weight of his giant paw and hoped Tiger couldn't feel her trembling under it. "Afraid of you?", she said, trying to sound calm. "Why should I be afraid of you?"

"Because I am the ruler of the forest, that's why," huffed Tiger.

"That's not what I heard."

Tiger eyed Rabbit suspiciously. "What are you talking about?" he growled.

"All the animals of the forest got together for a special meeting while you were out hunting last night. Maybe that's why you haven't heard," said Rabbit, daring to look straight into his glowing amber eyes.

"Haven't heard what?" asked Tiger.

"That you are no longer the ruler of the forest," said Rabbit, slipping out from under the giant paw. "The animals have decided that I am the fiercest animal in the forest."

"A puny thing like you?" scoffed Tiger, opening his mouth wide enough to swallow her whole.

"I can prove it," said Rabbit, gulping at the sight of his sharp, gleaming teeth. "I will ride on your back as you go through the forest. That way you will see for yourself how terrified the animals are of me. If they are not, then you can make me your next meal."

Before Tiger had time to think, Rabbit hopped onto his back and urged him to move on.

Tiger slunk through the trees. As usual, every animal fled at his approach. But before they ran, they stopped to stare at Rabbit with wide-eyed amazement. Mistaking their looks of amazement for terror, Tiger thought, "Look at their frightened faces! Rabbit must indeed be the fiercest animal in the forest."

He sank to the ground at her feet. "Rabbit, forgive me for how I have behaved," he begged. "And if you can find it in your heart, spare my life."

"Very well," said Rabbit, quite pleased with how things were working out. "But because you have frightened me so in the past, you must promise to leave this part of the forest and never return."

Tiger agreed. From then on, Rabbit not only enjoyed her afternoon naps in peace, she won the admiration of the other animals for her cleverness.
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Author:Castleman, Virginia
Publication:Highlights for Children
Article Type:Short Story
Date:May 1, 1999
Previous Article:Candy's Tree House.
Next Article:Wise Words.

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