A Story From: Scotland
Read Time: ["6 to 10mins"]
For Ages: 5 to 7yrs., 8 to 10yrs.

The Beekeeper and Bewitched Hare Story

 

The Beekeeper and the White Rabbit ~ Fairy Tale Stories for Kids

 

Long ago in Scotland there lived a boy, a beekeeper, who lived in a cottage.  Though he lived by himself, he wasn't at all l0nely.  His bees kept company with him just fine.

In the summer when flowers covered the ground the bees buzzed about happily, and he felt happy, too.  In the fall when flowers were harder for bees to find, he could tell by their buzzing sounds hat they felt scared.  Then he would tell them what a good job they had done that summer, what large fine batches of honey they made! He knew they felt better by their cheerful buzzing.

People in town said the boy could talk to the bees. Maybe it was true and maybe it wasn’t.  But the beekeeper felt deep down that he and the bees understood each other.

One evening as the boy was outside checking his beehive, two dogs ran out of the woods barking, and coming right at him! In  front of the dogs raced a small white rabbit.

 

People in town said the boy could talk to the bees.

 

Quickly, the boy grabbed the white rabbit and hid it under his jacket. The two dogs circled around his legs, barking and jumping at him. He picked up a stick and swung it around. Finally, the dogs gave up and went away. When the dogs were gone, the boy set the white rabbit back down on the ground and returned to his beehive. But instead of hopping off into the woods, the white rabbit followed the boy.

All day long, the rabbit stayed just a few steps behind him.  When the boy went back to his cottage at the end of the day, the rabbit followed him into his hut. "Well," said the beekeeper.  "You act like you want to be my pet."  He looked around. "I suppose I could find a carrot for you."

He let the white rabbit nibble on the carrot while he scooped some stew into a bowl for his own dinner. When they had both finished eating, the rabbit jumped onto his lap.  He stroked the rabbit’s head and ears. "Wow!” said the boy. "I've seen black or pink eyes on a white rabbit, but how did you get those blue eyes?"

 

"Well," said the beekeeper.  "You act like you want to be my pet."

 

The next morning, the boy took the rabbit to the beehive to introduce it to them as his new pet. So he held out the rabbit for them to get to know.  The bees buzzed around the rabbit, but the rabbit didn't seem to mind and neither did the bees. Then the bees flew back to their hive and went back to making honey.

Sitting in his cottage one afternoon a few weeks later, the boy noticed an old woman walking along the road. Thinking he might sell her a fine honeycomb, he went out to the gate. Before he could speak, she pointed to the rabbit, who was hiding behind a flower.

"You don't see that every day," said she with an evil smile. "A blue-eyed white rabbit."

"Yes," said the boy, turning around to admire his pet.

"What do you want for it?" said the old woman.

"Oh, the rabbit is not for sale," said he.

 

"You don't see that every day," said she with an evil smile.  "A blue-eyed white rabbit."

 

“Come now, boy,” said the old woman.  “Everything has a price. Goodness, it’s just a rabbit! Look, here’s a gold coin. It's not every day you are offered a real gold coin for a common white rabbit, now is it?"

"My white rabbit is not common," said the boy.  "And she is not for sale!" 

Suddenly the woman, who then didn’t seem so old, jumped over the gate and reached out to grab the rabbit. A bee on a flower nearby gave a loud buzz that alerted the other bees. In a flash, a dark cloud of bees had gathered and rushed to attack the old woman.

"Eek!" she cried, spinning around and running away, a swarm of bees trailing behind her. You'll be sorry you didn't hand over the worthless rabbit when you had the chance!"

 

"My white rabbit is not common," said the boy.  "And she is not for sale!"

 

Market day was when the beekeeper sold his honey in town along with all the other merchants who were busy selling wares at their tables, too.  At a slow time of the day, the young man shared with the baker next to him what had happened the day before.

"Surely that old woman was a witch," said the baker, arranging his bread and meat pies into neat rows. "Take my word, you'd better be careful."

"No doubt about it,” agreed the merchant on the other side of the beekeeper, who was selling sweaters and kilts. "She is a witch.  If you don't believe it, yer aff yer heid!"

 

"Surely that old woman was a witch," said the baker.

 

"Then again,” the boy thought to himself, “these two say everyone is a witch."

Just the same, to be sure, that night he locked his windows and doors. From then on, he kept a close eye on his white rabbit at all times.

The summer passed. By the time frost lay on the ground in the morning, few flowers, and very few bees, remained out in the cold air anymore. Most bees were already back in the hives where they began their winter work of keeping the hive warm enough for their queen to lay her eggs.

One chilly October morning, the boy was setting trays of sugar water into the beehives when a wagon of traveling magicians rolled by on its way to the next town. The lad waved to the driver, and a young man in the wagon waved back.

A few hours later, the boy noticed a sack of grain lying in the road.

"Oh no, it must have dropped from the wagon! They'll never know it's missing till they set up camp tonight.  By then it'll be too dark to come back looking for it."

 

A few hours later, the boy noticed a sack of grain lying in the road.

 

The boy lifted the sack onto his cart and took off, following the tracks that the travelers’ wagon had left in the road. In an hour or so he finally caught up with them. When they stopped, the boy handed the young driver the sack of grain.

"Do you mean to tell me you followed us all this way to return this sack of grain?" said the young man. "Most folks are more than glad for us to be on our way."

"Why wouldn't I bring it back to you?" he said. "Or I'd have to think about your poor horses missing their dinner tonight.”

Just then the rabbit poked its head out from under the beekeeper's jacket.

"And what is that?" said the young man. "A blue-eyed white rabbit?"

"Yes," he said with pride. "It is my pet."

 

"And what is that?" said the young man.  "A blue-eyed white rabbit?"

 

"More than a pet, I'd say," said the young man. "Grandma!" he called inside the van. "Come out.  I want to show you something."

An old woman with a bright headscarf, long pleated skirt and puffy white shirt stepped out of the van.

"Now what do you think of that?" said the young man, nodding toward the rabbit.

"Oh my!" said the grandmother.

"It's only a rabbit," said the beekeeper.

The old woman shook her head.  "I wouldn’t say that."

"What else could it be?"

"Tis a lassie!” said the grandmother. "A girl who's been cursed with a spell!"

 

"Tis a lassie!" said the grandmother.  "A girl who's been cursed with a spell!"

 

The beekeeper could not believe it. Then he shared his story. He told them both about the two dogs, the strange old woman and what his friends at the marketplace had said about her.

"Your friends are right," said the grandmother, "That woman was a witch.  No doubt the very one who cursed this poor girl. One thing you can count on, she will come back. She's waiting for the perfect time."

"What time is that?"

"Halloween, I suspect," said the grandmother. "The bees will be all back in their hives by then and won’t bother her. But most important, that's the one day of the year when the magic of witches is the strongest."

"What can I do to protect my rabbit?" said the beekeeper.

"Tell me, did you say you can talk to the bees?"

"Not exactly talk..."

 

"What can I do to protect my rabbit? said the beekeeper.

 

"Hmmm, you may need their help. When you go home, explain to the bees that the witch may return.  Before the sun sets on Halloween, tie a good strong rope around the rabbit’s neck and shoulders and keep her on your lap till past midnight."  

"That sounds easy enough," said the boy.

"Do you think so?"said the grandmother. "When she's under the witch's spell, she may pull and jump with a power that will shock you.  You must hold her tight. If the bees can help, all the better."

The old woman took a deep breath and looked at him with her old watery eyes. "That's all I can say. Other than that, what will be, will be."

When the lad returned to his cottage, he carried the rabbit from hive to hive, repeating what the old woman had told him. He felt a bit silly explaining all of this to his bees. Yet, strangely, they seemed to understand.

 

"Do you think so?" said the grandmother.

 

Finally, it was Halloween. The beekeeper did as he was told.  He tied a strong rope safely around the rabbit’s neck and shoulders, and set her on his lap. There she sat calmly until it was so dark, he could only see her white fur.

Then suddenly, the rabbit jumped off his lap so strongly that he could barely hold her. She twisted with such might that it was all he could do to keep her from sliding out of his hands. Just as she started to wriggle free, he heard the buzz of his bees. Closer and closer came the bees, forming a cloud around the rabbit. The rabbit became calm again and no longer tried to escape.

And then, as if the magic curse had been lifted, the rabbit on his lap was no longer a rabbit at all, but a blue-eyed young girl! Quickly he removed the rope from around her neck. She stepped off his lap and they laughed at the wonder of it, they did not know what to think!

 

Closer and closer came the bees, forming a cloud around the rabbit.

 

As morning came, the bees flew back to their hives with pride. Over some tea and the bees’ honey, the girl told the boy the story of how she became cursed by the evil witch. But now, well, the girl almost thought of it as a blessing, rather than a curse. For if a boy could show such love and tender care to his bees and a simple white rabbit, than imagine the love and care he would show to her. You will not be surprised to hear that the two of them were soon married and lived happily for many long years.

end

Let us know what you think--

Did you ever feel you could communicate closely with an animal? If you did, tell about that time.

Do you think someone who is kind to animals is also kind to people?  Why or why not?

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SOURCE:

Retold by Elaine Lindy ©2007. All rights reserved.


FOOTNOTE:

The term Halloween, and its older rendering Hallowe'en, is shorted from All-hallow-even, as it is the evening of/before "All Hallows' Day" (also known as "All Saints' Day"). The holiday was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Sants' Day from May 13 to November 1. In the ninth century, the Church measured the day as starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although we now consider All Saints' (or Hallows') day to be on the day after Halloween, they were, at that time, considered to be the same day. (Wikipedia)

This story is called a sgeulachdan (skale-ak-tan) . A sgeulachdan is a tale that's told as part of the entertainment at a gathering such as a wedding or a funeral. Almost always the sgeulachdan had a theme for the occasion. "The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare" is a tale suitable for All Hallows' Eve, the holiday known in this country as Halloween.