The White Hare of Inaba

In Japan there is a folktale known as The White Hare of Inaba. At the beginning of the tale, a white rabbit tricks a group of crocodiles (or sharks in some versions) to form a bridge for him so he can cross the ocean. Not happy about being tricked, they proceed to skin the poor rabbit. At this same time, eighty brothers had set out to visit a princess to seek her hand in marriage. On the way they met the injured rabbit who by this time was in a very sorry state.

'Okuninushi no Mikoto, the White Hare of Inaba, and the Crocodiles' - Katsushika Hokusai.

The poor rabbit begged the brothers for help. However, they were quarrelsome and much more interested in their own endeavor. Cruelly, they told the rabbit to bathe in salt water and dry himself in the wind, which of course left him in even more pain. At this, the brothers laughed and headed off  again. The youngest brother, Onamuchi (later to be known as Okuninushi) was gentle-hearted and stopped to help the rabbit. He suggested bathing in the fresh river water and making a soothing balm out of cattail pollen to relieve his pain. This process restored the rabbit completely and it was at this point he revealed himself as a god.

From 'Japanese Fairy Tale Series - Hare of Inaba.'
In one version of the tale, Okuninushi then carries on until he reaches the palace at which time the princess advises that it is he that she wishes to marry. In another version, the rabbit informs Okuninushi that he will marry the princess out of gratitude for his help, thus rewarding his benevolent nature. Okuninushi himself was later to be worshipped as a god throughout Japan.

'The Hare of Inaba & Onamuchi-no-kami at Hakuto Shrine in Tottori' via Wikipedia.
You can read the full story from The Japanese Fairy Book here. The first two illustrations below are also from The Japanese Fairy Book.

The Japanese Fairy Book
The Japanese Fairy Book

Shinto Cocoro
 
 
 
From 'Japanese Fairy Tale Series - Hare of Inaba.'
 
'Okuninushi no Mikoto, the White Hare of Inaba, and the Crocodiles' - Katsushika Hokusai.

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