‘The Gray Hare’ by Leo Tolstoy

The Gray Hare by Leo Tolstoy, 1869

The magic trick:

Using anthropomorphism to share a message about community 

Tolstoy wrote a lot of very short stories for children. They are simple and sweet, “The Gray Hare” especially so. I think for a lot of these old-fashioned kids stories, we just assume the moral will be solid. Sometimes – especially with the Brothers Grimm – the messages are kind of wild. Really dark stuff. The moral here, fear not, is wonderful. It’s original, too. The hare shows bravery in order to succeed. Nothing groundbreaking there. But what is success? Here, success means joining community. The hare wants to go play with his fellow hares. How nice. And yeah, maybe that’s not even all that original either. But in the era of Trump? It feels like a morality gift from the heavens. And that’s quite a trick on Tolstoy’s part.

The selection:

The hare also stopped, sat on his hind legs, and then proceeded at his leisure toward the threshing-floor.

On the way across the field he fell in with two other hares. They were nibbling and playing. The gray hare joined his mates, helped them clear away the icy snow, ate a few seeds of winter wheat, and then went on his way.

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