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《Chinese Tales for Everyone__Real and Imaginary: (15) A Rabit and a Turtle》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Tales Real and Imaginary

(15) A Rabbit and a Turtle

Long ago, a Dragon King lived in a grand palace deep down in the ocean. It was a beautiful world, with colorful corals and fishes living in harmony.

One day, the King was struck with a rare disease. He became weaker each day until he lay dying. An old marine doctor examined him and prescribed a medicine to save him. It consisted of three kinds of seaweeds cooked with a rabbit liver.

“But a rabbit lives on land. Who can catch one for me?” the King asked in earnest. No one uttered a sound. From a corner came a voice saying: “I will go to catch a rabbit for Your Majesty.” It was a turtle who volunteered.

The King was overjoyed. He summoned his ministers to send the turtle on land. They all wished him a quick and successful journey.

The turtle walked through beaches and land for days. One day, on the foot of a hill, he spotted a rabbit eating green grass. He went forward and introduced himself: “I am a turtle from the sea. Back home we have all kinds of sumptuous grasses, white, yellow, red, and different shades of green. Please come for a visit and eat our many grasses to your fill.”

The rabbit was sorely tempted. She asked: “But how can I enter the sea and be back? I do not swim.”

“I will take you there and back on my back. I will also introduce you to the Dragon King.” the turtle promised.

The journey was a splendid experience for the rabbit, who had never seen such luminous and beautiful scenery. Colorful fishes dashed in and out of corals, and seaweeds waiving friendlily. Suddenly, they were in this sparkling palace illuminated by gigantic pearls. The King was sitting there with his ministers.

“Welcome to my kingdom, I thank you for coming to offer your liver to save my life.” said the King, his voice quavering and weak.

The rabbit was shocked. She had trusted the turtle to visit the ocean to see its grand beauty and to eat seaweeds, not to be killed as the king’s medicine!

However, she gathered her wit quickly. She said boldly: “I am very happy to save Your Majesty, such a powerful and kind lord of the ocean. Unfortunately, I came in a hurry with the turtle, and forgot to bring my liver at home. I will fetch it for you if the turtle takes me back quickly.”

“What!” shouted the King, “how can you forget such an important thing?

Don’t you always carry your liver with you?”

“I should definitely bring it if the turtle had told me, Sire. But since my liver has very special healing properties sought by so many people, I always keep it in lock at home. I say it again; I will fetch it for you as fast as I can.”

The rabbit spoke so matter-of-factly the King was convinced she was speaking the truth. He ordered the turtle to go with the rabbit right away.

Back on land the rabbit laughed loud and long.

The turtle said: “We should go quickly. My King is dying.”

“You are noble,” replied the rabbit, “but you have deceived me. In any case, since you have brought me back, I will forgive you. Now, you can catch me.” She disappeared as a wind, before the turtle realized the meaning of her words.

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Note: This is an English narration of a folktale in the book《古代民謠》. It describes the conflicts in life and death, honesty and deception, royalty and forgiveness in Confucianism and Buddhism. The rabbit’s simple curiosity and fascination of beauty and her wit and forgiveness taught us how to adapt to change and win.

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