Ebba, a hare princess, wants to follow in the footsteps of her brave father. She also goes on a journey to free herself from the strict authority of uncle Stern, the evil Hare King. As a reader you also gradually discover the roots of the very first Easter hare ever. A thrilling Easter tale to share with the whole family!
Targeted Age Group:: 10-14, all ages, family read, read aloud
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The spring season and the origin of the Easter Hare inspired me to write this story.
“Prince Atta’s departure”
A very long time ago, in a dark field not that far away from here, there once lived a hare, who answered to the name “Stern”. Stern was not any ordinary hare; he was the king of all hares.
With an iron fist, King Stern ruled over the empire where it had been dark since time immemorial. Anyone, who did not listen to his orders, had to bear the consequences. Even those with blood ties to the king were not spared. His will was the law and it applied to all.
The Hare King had his own narrow ideas about everything. Even though there was no single subject in his entire empire who stood behind his decisions, they all did as he commanded.
For him, the rules were as clear as the full moon. Yes, within his territory in the dark field, you were protected and had a full belly at all times, yet no; food and lodging did not come for free. You would have to work for it, suffer hard, day and night, the whole winter.
But Stern’s empire was not a prison. One could come and go if he or she wanted. If you chose to leave it, nobody would stop you. Yet, one thing was sure: if you left, it was forever. You couldn’t return.
King Stern’s subjects soon realized that without help from within the field, they wouldn’t have much chance of survival on the distant frontier. And that thought kept them quiet.
One, however, decided to tempt fate. “Atta” was his given name. He was the very youngest of the king’s five brothers, but surely not the most docile hare of the empire.
Together with his love Hulde, he wanted to look for another, for a better, place far away from his brother Stern’s strict authority and dark territory. Before she gave birth to their first child, the fearless Prince wanted to find his own field, bathing in light.
“You apostate!” King Stern shouted.
Atta humbly bowed his head but then swiftly gathered courage. With his nose up in the air, he barked, “Even though I am your little brother, I, like any hare, am entitled to hold my own territory for my wife and child.”
Stern’s soul was on fire. “You dare to call yourself a brother?” He raged and hit his foot, which was black as soot, against the ground.
The ground under his feet began to shake dangerously. Atta was still standing face to face with his evil brother.
“As a true prince you above all should set an example, damn it!” Stern bellowed. His sharp voice cut to the bone.
Prince Atta felt extremely annoyed and opened his mouth to say something, as he wanted to stand up for himself. The sharp nails of his clenched fist painfully pierced his snow-white fur. I also have duties toward my family! he thought to himself but kept quiet. A deep and long sigh left his lips, before he decided to wisely press them back together.
He shook his head. Why on earth would I make more trouble?
Courtly calm, the Prince of Hares stared straight ahead. A battle of words was of no use. His brother was the king of this field and he would always have the last word. So it allowed him two choices: He needed to learn to live with it or had to leave.
The longer Atta thought about it, the firmer his decision became. He, his love, and their future child needed to go far, far away from here. Only then could they lead a peaceful life.
The king grumbled something incomprehensible, while his right eye shone right through Atta’s thick winter coat. The wild, swirling blood pulsed strongly in his neck. Nonetheless, he didn’t move even one leg. The calmness rippled slowly through his veins. I know what I am entitled to, and I, above all hares, won’t return before I have found what I’m looking for, he decided with certainty.
Atta’s eyelid trembled with tension, but his mind had never been as clear as it was at that moment. I am up for the journey! He turned away from his brother. He would not look back once while he hurried off the king’s field.
Every single day, Hulde hopped to the field’s frontier from where Atta had fled. Oh, she loved that man, who would soon rescue her and their future child from this dark, dead area, so much.
Atta was brave and she was proud of him. In a little while, they would move to their own field; their own little empire. It would be a luminous spot, where no one told their household what to do and how to behave. It was an abandoned but peaceful area, where they would live as outlaws. The thought of that created blissful feelings within her.
The future of them and their baby wobbled more than ever but it did not frighten her. In the land of dreams, Hulde collected food as a real runner and Atta protected them as a true hunter.
Every day her belly grew more but this hare never thought once of staying safely at home. In fact, you could ask her to do anything, but every single morning she first ran off to the frontier line, where she hopefully stood on the lookout for her lover.
The tempo of the pregnant hare heading for that line where the kingdom ceased to exist, became slower. First, she had run as fast as her long, strong legs could bring her. After one week, that running had turned into hopping and now it looked a lot like hobbling.
As the wheel of time rolled by, Hulde gradually lost all hope of a new, better life. When her bulging belly suddenly started to move, however, the tide turned forever. No; nothing and no one on Earth could ever thwart the happiness of this future mum. The new baby prince or princess would arrive very soon!
Wistfully, Hulde thought of her beloved man, who any time now would become a real dad. When she had first met her white prince, they had had such dreams of having their own field. In that magical place, all hares lived in peace without unreasonable rules.
Atta loved to actively reminisce about that special area, where he himself was brought up as a child. He hoped to find it, even though he had no idea where to start looking.
The current kingdom and that special field in his memories were as different as day to night. As black and dark as it was here, it had been rare white and full of light over there, he remembered well. So, wherever that birthplace was, they knew it wouldn’t be near.
Prince Atta’s old ideas were at first rather vague, but soon grew into something more specific. Suddenly, his early wish seemed real, caught fire, and opened a path to a promising future.
Hulde often liked to daydream and muse about when their lives would cross, and they became one again. She lay in half a meter of high green grass with countless white-yellow flowers, hidden from any threat above. Hungry she bit off a leaf of clover. As a foodie, she tastefully nibbled it from leaf to root.
“Mmm!” Hulde pushed her body up and with a carefree attitude lifted her head above the ground. As far as she could see, a flower meadow spread out. Her body, now shaped something like a cone, bathed in a bright light that also warmed it. Enjoying the moment, she blinked against the sunbeams.
With great difficulty, Hulde managed to distinguish the blue sky that domed the luminous field that was their new empire.
She closed her eyes firmly to the frontier and curiously raised her long ears. Her lips curled in satisfaction. The sky was crowded with innocent birdsong and soft clucking.
Hulde’s nose twitched more eagerly than ever. She bit her lower lip full of disbelief. This new life smelled surprisingly sweet.
Suddenly panic-struck, all the air fled from Hulde’s lungs. “What is happening?” she shouted.
Atta’s one hand dragged her resisting body, his other hand tried to suppress her shout. He quickly pulled her along, into a pit under the ground.
Hulde was gasping in a way that made her feel her lungs could jump out at any time. She felt so shocked. For Mother Nature’s sake, why would he do such thing? When she caught Atta’s worried look, the stress levels in her body went sky-high. Danger! she understood. But, what kind of danger lurks outside, then?
Because her lover still held his hand over her mouth, she tried to ask it with her face. Yet Atta had only eyes for the earthen ceiling.
In an unguarded moment when Hulde stuck her head under the access hole of the pit, two immense wings skimmed over her.
Hulde’s rust-colored coat shook like a waving blade of grass. The fear of an early end directly took over. A bird of prey, a hunter, over here in our paradise? Overwhelmed with emotions, she collapsed.
A squeaky voice broke the silence in Hulde’s head. “You poor lass,” she heard someone say. When she opened her eyes, she saw a funny wrinkled brown hare with glasses and a walking stick.
The lady looked pale in the face as if she had just got the fright of her life. Gently and with one arm, she helped the pregnant woman up. Her gaze didn’t wander an instant away from the bulging belly.
“Well, you’ve already got more color than before!” The relief in her voice resounded. “How do you feel now, darling?”
Hulde shook the long ears on top of her head.
If someone looks colorless, it is that old lady herself, she thought. But with a smile, she gratefully squeezed the arm that had helped her to stand. “Everything is fine with me, thank you!”
Suddenly Hulde’s belly went up and down as if she had just run for her life to the borderland and back. Heavily panting, she sucked in a breath of air. Her lungs could barely keep up now.
Soothingly she caressed her dancing belly while she despairingly tried to get her breathing back under control. Somewhat concerned, she addressed the experienced oldie who did not leave her side. “I guess… I guess my water just broke.”
The new life in her moved more impatient than ever. She’d never felt such pain before in her whole life. Stubbornly, she tried to calm the increasing spasms.
“Dear darling,” she whispered and gave a deep sigh. “You’re too early, you know.” Yet the pain already writhed like a snake through her body and unfortunately, it seemed as if nothing could stop that.
Hulde felt sad, though not because of the pain. She simply didn’t want to give birth to a new life in this dark field. Oh, if only you, my dear, could wait a little longer; just until your father has brought me home!
The contractions came faster and faster after each other. The hare in labor bit her lower lip until it almost bled. Oh, how she yearned for a warm nest under a rosy sky.
Thinking of warmth, Hulde’s head was spinning and she sucked in all the fresh air her open mouth could catch. The sweat from her winter fur smelled salty.
“By the Mother of all Nature, this is neither the right time nor the right place, my child. Atta, bring me home!”
That same day this restlessness in her belly looked resolutely for a way to escape. It’s a pity the poor baby hare did not realize what a peaceful area it was abandoning and at what price.
After hours of maternal bravery, the exhausted Hulde put her firstborn on the black soil of Stern’s empire. In her large hole behind the bushes, well sheltered from the harsh cold and the cutting wind, lay the most adorable princess ever, not-so-quietly snoozing.
Each time the baby opened her eyelids, Mother’s amber eyes lit up like mirrored golden sun rays. The daughter she named “Ebba”, seemed tiny in that huge cavern. With her rather short ears lying on her back, she resembled a ball of wool.
Finally, Ebba became tired and closed herself off from that place. A bit concerned, Mum’s nose rubbed that silver fur but her baby did not respond any longer. Occasionally her tiny round snout trembled in her sleep.
All at once Hulde became aware of the danger. Nothing will ever be the same now I am someone’s mummy. I have huge responsibilities I am taking on!
In her raging head, the fear of the unknown spread like wildfire. With her eyes focused as bullets, she crawled up, and transformed quickly into a clay cone.
Horrible thoughts tumbled within her. Oh, it is very important that I will see, smell, hear, taste, and feel the smallest threat in time. After all, with a firstborn, I’ll never be able to run away as fast as before!
The anxious Hulde sniffed her baby from head to toe, but soon realized that her Ebba was still odorless and therefore quite difficult to notice by predators, just as Mother Nature had foreseen. Rather relieved, she sat down, but her all-seeing eyes never wavered.
At a rapid pace, that quiet, nursing baby grew into an active, funny child. To the delight of the first lady-in-waiting, cute Ebba made the funniest somersaults she had ever seen. She actually loved to advise and assist Hulde with the nurture of the little princess.
Following her mum’s example, Ebba put down her feet over and over on the ground. She would keep practicing her homework, until she could make giant, flying leaps as well.
Fearless as she was, the girl put a bit too much force on her legs, which dangerously made her wobble. With bated breath, the ladyin-waiting and Ebba’s mum watched her disappear into the ground.
“Ouch!” came a sound from beneath, but the strong-minded hare climbed fit and well out of the treacherous hole. As if she had just been misled by Mother Nature, Ebba’s gaze wandered meaningfully over her mum’s muscular legs. Displeased, she pouted her lips. She detested her own clumsy, lanky legs so much!
With conflicting feelings, Hulde saw how her daughter persisted and finally made her first real hare jumps. Frolicking daughter Ebba reminded her of that courageous Atta; the dad who was lacking, the lover she missed.
The last she had seen of him were his snow-white muscular hind legs in the distance along the frontier. The fur of her little lass was of a similar color to his. She inherited her character, full of bravery and strength, from him as well.
Hulde’s heart became softened by the tears she periodically tried to keep inside. She suddenly felt quite claustrophobic in this field. For Mother Nature’s sake, why was it taking Atta so long?
In the end, she found her energy in the well-being of their little treasure, and dried her tears. From a certain perspective, she should be content with this happy, healthy miracle that Nature had given her.
The only manner to express her great gratitude, however, was by helping her still carefree child to stand strongly in the tough world, which that same Nature had forced her into.
Hulde sighed from misery but then shook her head, determined. Other, better times floated to the surface and managed to calm her. Atta is different, she knew. He always keeps his word.
“My brave, brilliant beloved one,” she whispered into the wind, “Tomorrow we’ll meet at the field’s frontier.” Her eyes shone with desire.
In this royal field, all hare sons were automatically incorporated into Stern’s army troops. Hulde could not think of her own little one having to patrol at such a young age in the very dangerous border zone.
Luckily, Atta’s wife was blessed with a daughter. Food collection was considered a much safer mission. In contrast to King Stern, who was in charge of all soldiers, his ladies-in-waiting were sweet to the girls and full of patience.
Yes, as a mother of a daughter, you could at any time accompany her. On the other hand, if you gave birth to a son, as a mummy, you learned quickly to let go.
A boy could only count on the care of his father, who remained on the sidelines. Imagine what would have happened if their child had been a son instead of a daughter. She would have been all alone under the stern regime of the black king! Hulde’s fur trembled from emotions. Oh dear, what cadet would survive such apprenticeship without any paternal assistance?
She gasped for breath. Again and again, her thoughts went to her prince. “Hey Atta, get us out of here, damn it!” Her lungs screamed. Tears rolled down her cheeks but her throat stayed bone-dry.
Slowly, some calmness returned to the young mum. She put her long, rust-colored ears flat on her back.
This situation is not forever, she comforted herself. He will come and get us out of here, that’s for sure!
In silence and filled with nostalgia and hope, Hulde continued to enjoy Atta’s parting gift: Ebba, their little Hare Princess.
Under the all-seeing eyes from a growing troop of curious ladiesin-waiting, the youngest niece of King Stern dug her first pit. If only her father could see her now…
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Leen Lefebre grew up in West Flanders where she works at the Local Heritage Service. As a kid, she threw herself upon each book that was available. Later, she turned around and settled on the worldwide web. She then emerged as a true explorer of literature, music, and sports. Leen is a dreamer and a doer – and this is how her stories rose up as charming and lively fairy tales for adventurers of all ages.