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Tina L. Hanlon

"How Rabbit Lost His Tail" - or - "How Rabbit Stole Otter's Coat"


Duvall, Deborah L. How Rabbit Lost his Tail: A Traditional Cherokee Legend. Illus. Murv Jacob. Grandmother Stories Series. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 2003. 32 pp. Rabbit has the Cherokee name Ji-Stu in this version of the tale. He is popular with the girl animals at dances because of his beautiful long tail, until Otter attracts their attention with his smooth coat. Ji-Stu loses his tail when he tricks Otter into taking off his coat before the council to decide who has the most beautiful coat. Yona, the observant bear, recognizes that Ji-Stu is disguised in Otter's coat and claws at the bushy tail, which he later carries on his rattle at dances. Otter learns to love swimming as a result of Rabbit's trick and Ji-Stu realizes he can run faster in the woods with a small tail. Jacob's beautifully detailed white-on-black drawings help tell the story in circular roundels and other shapes within each double-page spread, accompanied by traditional border designs. Similar intricate designs are reproduced on backgrounds in deep colors on the book jacket  and end papers.

Ross, Gayle. How Rabbit Tricked Otter and Other Cherokee Trickster Stories. Illus. Murv Jacobs. The Parabola Storytime Series. HarperCollins, 1994. Foreword by Chief Wilma Mankiller. In the title story, Rabbit is supposed to invite Otter to a dance in his honor, but Rabbit envies Otter's beautiful coat so he steals it and disguises himself as Otter at the dance. He convinces Otter that they are staying overnight in a sacred place where he should remove his coat to protect it and expect to see "Fire Falling from the Sky Spot." The end of the tale explains why otters like to swim and how Rabbit lost his curly tail he had been proud of. This book tells fifteen tales of Rabbit, the Cherokee trickster hero, from a time when animals and people spoke the same language. With a full-page acrylic painting for each tale by an illustrator of Cherokee-Kentucky descent. Also recorded as an audio cassette. Ross is from Texas, but she and her stories are descended from the strong Cherokee culture that their ancestors took from the Southeast to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears, at the time when Ross's ancestor John Ross was chief.

"How the Rabbit Stole the Otter's Coat." In Scheer, George F., ed. Cherokee Animal Tales. Illus. Robert Frankenberg. Holiday House, 1968. Rpt. Tulsa, OK: Council Oak Books, 1992. pp. 69-74. Contains a long introduction, "About the Cherokee," with background on the history of the Cherokee, James Mooney's collection of Cherokee myths, and traditional beliefs about animals that used to dance at their council fires like humans. This tale stresses the different coats among the animals, and their decision to hold a council to determine who had the finest coat. Rabbit, fearing that the little-known Otter might win, goes to bring Otter from his distant home. He tells Otter they are sleeping at The Place Where it Rains Fire, tricking him into removing his coat to protect it. When Rabbit throws up coals from the fire, Otter jumps in the water and stays there, never making it to the council. Bear discovers that Rabbit is disguised in Otter's coat and strikes Rabbit, who escapes quickly but loses his long tail in the scuffle. Many of these 13 stories are pourquoi tales explaining particular features of real animals, including also The First Fire and Why the Terrapin's Shell is Scarred.

"How the Rabbit Stole the Otter's Coat." In Myths of the Cherokee. Ed. James Mooney. From Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1897-98, Part I. 1900. Reprinted in Internet Sacred Text Archive, 2001.

"How Rabbit Stole Otter's Coat." In Curry, Jane Louise, reteller. The Wonderful Sky Boat and Other Native American Tales of the Southeast. Illus. James Watts. New York: Simon & Schuster. The book includes an introduction by the author (from Ohio), notes on the tribes that tell these tales, and some background references.

"How Rabbit Stole Otter's Coat." In Judson, Katharine Berry, ed. Native American Legends of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2000. Includes other Cherokee tales "The Corn Woman," "Origin of the Bear," "The Death Trail," "Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting," "Rabbit and Tar Wolf," "Welcome to a Baby," "Baby Song," "Song of the Mother Bears," "The Man in the Stump," "When the Owl Married," "How Partridge Got His Whistle," "How Kingfisher Got His Bill," "Ball Game of the Birds and Animals," "The Groundhog Dance,""Why the 'Possum's Tail is Bare," "The Wolf and the Dog," "The Star Creatures," "The Thunders," "The Man of Ice," "The Nunnehi," "The Little People," "The War Medicine." Originally published Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes. Chicago: A.C. McClurg, 1914.

See also:

The Rabbit, the Otter, and Duck Hunting and other Cherokee animal tales

Appalachian Picture Book Bibliography: Cherokee Tales

Compare with:

"Rabbit's Tail." In Smith, Jimmy Neil, ed. Why the Possum's Tail is Bare and Other Classic Southern Stories. New York: Avon, 1993. pp. 141-45. An African American tale told by Sherry Des Enfants of Lithonia, GA. Rabbit gets Alligator into an argument about who has the most relatives. When a couple thousand alligators show up, Rabbit jumps across their backs, counting them and succeeding in his plan to cross the muddy swamp without dirtying his long fluffy tail, until one impatient alligator bites off his tail.

Other African American animal trickster tales, many of which feature Brer Rabbit. See, for example, tales listed at Folklore in Books by Virginia Hamilton.

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