Myths of the Cherokee (James Mooney)

Week 13: Native American Tales - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images


The Rabbit Hunts Ducks and Turkeys

Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 900 words.

This time Rabbit gets into trouble with Otter, trying to imitate the way that the Otter hunts for ducks. The next time, Rabbit goes hunting with Wildcat instead, with a tricky plan for catching turkeys...

The Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting

The Rabbit was so boastful that he would claim to do whatever he saw anyone else do, and so tricky that he could usually make the other animals believe it all. Once he pretended that he could swim in the water and eat fish just as the Otter did, and when the others told him to prove it he fixed up a plan so that the Otter himself was deceived.

Soon afterward they met again and the Otter said, "I eat ducks sometimes." Said the Rabbit, "Well, I eat ducks too." The Otter challenged him to try it; so they went up along the river until they saw several ducks in the water and managed to get near without being seen. The Rabbit told the Otter to go first. The Otter never hesitated, but dived from the bank and swam under water until he reached the ducks, when he pulled one down without being noticed by the others, and came back in the same way.

While the Otter had been under the water the Rabbit had peeled some bark from a sapling and made himself a noose. "Now," he said, "Just watch me," and he dived in and swam a little way under the water until he was nearly choking and had to come up to the top to breathe. He went under again and came up again a little nearer to the ducks. He took another breath and dived under, and this time he came up among the ducks and threw the noose over the head of one and caught it. The duck struggled hard and finally spread its wings and flew up from the water with the Rabbit hanging on to the noose.

It flew on and on until at last the Rabbit could not hold on any longer, but had to let go and drop. As it happened, he fell into a tall, hollow sycamore stump without any hole at the bottom to get out from, and there he stayed until he was so hungry that he had to eat his own fur, as the rabbit does ever since when he is starving. After several days, when he was very weak with hunger, he heard children playing outside around the trees. He began to sing:

Cut a door and look at me;
I'm the prettiest thing you ever did see.

The children ran home and told their father, who came and began to cut a hole in the tree. As he chopped away the Rabbit inside kept singing, "Cut it larger, so you can see me better; I'm so pretty." They made the hole larger, and then the Rabbit told them to stand back so that they could take a good look as he came out. They stood away back, and the Rabbit watched his chance and jumped out and got away.

How The Wildcat Caught The Gobbler

The Wildcat once caught the Rabbit and was about to kill him, when the Rabbit begged for his life, saying: "I'm so small I would make only a mouthful for you, but if you let me go I'll show you where you can get a whole drove of Turkeys." So the Wildcat let him up and went with him to where the Turkeys were.

When they came near the place the Rabbit said to the Wildcat, "Now, you must do just as I say. Lie down as if you were dead and don't move, even if I kick you, but when I give, the word jump up and catch the large stone there." The Wildcat agreed and stretched out as if dead, while the Rabbit gathered some rotten wood and crumbled it over his eyes and nose to make them look flyblown, so that the Turkeys would think he had been dead some time.

Then the Rabbit went over to the Turkeys and said, in a sociable way, "Here, I've found our old enemy, the Wildcat, lying dead in the trail. Let's have a dance over him." The Turkeys were very doubtful, but finally went with him to where the Wildcat was lying in the road as if dead. Now, the Rabbit had a good voice and was a great dance leader, so he said, "I'll lead the song and you dance around him." The Turkeys thought that fine, so the Rabbit took a stick to beat time and began to sing: "Gälägi'na hasuyak', Gälägi'na hasuyak' (pick out the Gobbler, pick out the Gobbler)."

"Why do you say that?" said the old Turkey. "O, that's all right," said the Rabbit, "that's just the way he does, and we sing about it." He started the song again and the Turkeys began to dance around the Wildcat. When they had gone around several times the Rabbit said, "Now go up and hit him, as we do in the war dance." So the Turkeys, thinking the Wildcat surely dead, crowded in close around him and the old gobbler kicked him. Then the Rabbit drummed hard and sang his loudest, "Pick out the Gobbler, pick out the Gobbler," and the Wildcat jumped up and caught the Gobbler.


Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what happened when Rabbit tried to catch ducks?
  • how did Rabbit get out of the tree?
  • how did Rabbit and Wildcat fool the turkeys?

Source: Myths of the Cherokee, by James Mooney. From Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1897-98, Part I. Weblink.


Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM