El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inle’
Mon 23rd Jan 2012 at 09:54:02
Box canvas 30x40” (75x100 cm)

Once on the other side of Caesar’s Belt, Hazel brings his rabbits under cover to rest, before carrying on their journey towards Efrafa during the night.
As you would expect, Dandelion is telling a story and Bigwig prevails with his request: it’s the story of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inle’.

Part Three: Efrafa
From Chapter 31: The Story of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inle’

By kind permission of Richard Adams

At last they came to a high place where there was no grass. They scrambled upward, over splinters of slate, among gray rocks bigger than sheep. Mist and icy rain swirled about them and there was no sound but the trickling of water and sometimes, from far above, the cry of some great, evil bird on the wing. And these sounds echoed, for they were between black cliffs of stone, taller than the tallest trees. The snow lay in patches all about, for the sun never shone to melt it. The moss was slippery, and whenever they pushed out a pebble, it rattled down and down behind them in the gullies. But El-ahrairah knew the way and on he went, until the mist grew so thick that they could see nothing. Then they kept close to the cliff and little by little, as they went, it overhung them until it made a dark roof above their backs. Where the cliff ended was the mouth of a tunnel, like a huge rabbit hole. In the freezing cold and silence, El-ahrairah stamped and flashed his tail to Rabscuttle. And then, as they were about to go into the tunnel, they realized that what they had thought, in the gloom, to be a part of the rock was not rock. It was the Black Rabbit of Inle’, close beside them, still as lichen and cold as the stone.

I think many things are left out, if only the truth could be known,” said Dandelion, ”for no one can say what happens in that country where El-ahrairah went of his own accord and we do not. But, as I was told, when they first became aware of the Black Rabbit, they fled down the tunnel - as needs they must, for there was nowhere else to run. And this they did although they had come on purpose to encounter him and all depended on their doing so. They did no differently from all of us; and the end, too, was no different, for when they had done slipping and tripping and falling along the tunnel, they found themselves in a vast stone burrow. All was of stone: the Black Rabbit had dug it out of the mountain with his claws. And there they found, waiting for them, him from whom they had fled. There were others in that burrow also - shadows without sound or smell. The Black Rabbit has his Owsla, too, you know. I would not care to meet them.”
The Black Rabbit spoke with the voice of water that falls into pools in echoing places in the dark.
”El-ahrairah, why have you come here?”
”I have come for my people,” whispered El-ahrairah.
The Black Rabbit smelled as clean as last year’s bones and in the dark El-ahrairah could see his eyes, for they were red with a light that gave no light.
”You are a stranger here, El-ahrairah,” said the Black Rabbit. ”You are alive.”
”My lord,” replied El-ahrairah, ”I have come to give you my life. My life for my people.”
The Black Rabbit drew his claws along the floor.
”Bargains, bargains, El-ahrairah,” he said. ”There is not a day or a night but a doe offers her life for her kittens, or some honest captain of Owsla his life for his Chief Rabbit’s. Sometimes it is taken, sometimes it is not. But there is no bargain, for here what is is what must be.”

- Aldo Galli -