The Prince and the Hare

We’re having a gentle shakeup! My aim, moving forward, is to post a piece of fiction here – a short story or a piece of poetry – about once a month. I haven’t written much fiction lately and I’m excited to get back to it!

I wanted to start with a classic that I first published on my now-defunct Livejournal in 2010. People seemed to like it at the time and I still think it’s a cute story. I’ve tidied up the punctuation and grammar but everything else is the same as when I first shared it.

The titular Lime Green Prince was first invented by a friend and used as a joint writing exercise, so he has been many things over time – a towering king in terracotta armour, a he/him lesbian with a dragon guard, a poor man who earned his title by being kind – but this was his original story as written by me. He’s also why I have limes in my logo. I imagine he’ll be back here in some form or another in the future!

The Prince and the Hare
a grown-up fairy-tail

The young man woke at the break of dawn as pale sunlight leaked through the broken living room blinds and onto the end of the couch where his head rested, and he decided that it was time for adventure.

This happened to the young man often. He would stay in a place for a few months, maybe a year at best, until he was recognised, or became bored of his surroundings, and then he would set out in a direction that he had not yet travelled towards.

This time, he set out into the city after breakfast in his clean travelling boots and his new warm fleece, and he flipped a coin, and chance dictated that he should travel east, along the coast of the great city. So the man set out with a song in his heart, and made sure to keep to paths where there were no people to notice him, and this led him across great rocky beaches and through deep forests.

On the fourth day of his travels, his new boots filled with sand and his pack heavy on his shoulders, he found himself at a tiny wooden structure a few miles into the woods.

The young man presumed this was a shrine to some forest god or other – he’d seen a lot of them on his travels over the years – so he knelt before it in respect, and closed his eyes in silent thanks to whatever was watching over this forest. When he opened them after his short prayer, however, he noticed that this shrine had little windows, and a door with working hinges and a tiny door handle, and the number 14 painted onto a mailbox nearby that was no bigger than his fist. The young man closed one eye and squinted into one of the windows; there were curtains and, if the man strained his eye a little, a toile tea-set with miniscule sugar tongs on the windowledge. There was even what looked like a tiny pot of carrot and coriander soup bubbling away on the stove. Before he even realised what he was doing, he found himself taking the miniature door handle between finger and thumb and turning it.

Before him stood a hare, stock-still, with a broom fixed half-way off the floor mid-sweep, her little white tail just sticking out beneath a blue apron. Her eyes were shining wide in her head and, after a second or so of the two beings staring at each other in shock, she started to scamper for the back door.

“Wait! Don’t run,” said the young man, instinctively reaching out a hand to stop her but accidentally punching the side of the house in the process, “You’re safe with me.”

The hare’s breath slowed a little.

“Who are you, sir?” she asked. “Why are you here?”

“They call me the Lime Green Prince,” he said, and reached out to shake her tiny paw. She lay her broom across the floral rug and shook his finger politely. All around her were vases, photos, and other knickknacks, all newly polished and gleaming in the light of a small fire crackling in a tiled fireplace. “I’ve been trekking through the forest and I stopped when I saw your house. It’s beautiful,” he added, sincerely.

“Well, sir, you can stay for the night, if you like,” she said warily, picking up her broom again and moving it to a cupboard under the stairs. “We don’t have many guests in these parts, but if you are as trustworthy as you seem, it would be awfully rude of me to send you back out into the woods for the night.”

“That’s very kind of you,” said the young man, “but I’m afraid I’m far too big for your beautiful little house.” He gestured around him with a finger. “It would be my honour, though, to set up camp just outside.”

“If that suits you, sir, it’s what we’ll do” she said. “And at the very least you must stay for dinner.”

It was a statement, not a question, and so the young man lay on his tummy at her front door so that he could see her, and the little brown hare served up a feast of carrot soup, fresh bread, and sweet tea, while he talked about his travels and of his homeland far to the West, where he did not like being a celebrity or having the responsibilities of a prince, and had left in search of a less noble destiny years ago (although exactly how long ago, he could not remember).

When the soup and the bread and the tea were all gone, the young man set up his tent and rolled out his sleeping bag, and he slept restlessly, for the night was cold and he could not help but imagine the little brown hare asleep inside her cosy hut, with fire dancing in the grate and a patch-work duvet to cuddle up in.

The next day, the young man was woken by a long pair of feet on his chest, and whiskers in his eyes. As he stirred and rubbed his face, the hare got comfortable on his sleeping bag and said,
“Good morning, Green Man. May I ask a favour of you, sir?”

“What is it?” he mumbled, sitting up in the new light.

“I thought perhaps we could gather vegetables together, today,” she said, playing with her ears in a bashful kind of way. “I may have friends coming to visit in a few days, so it would be nice to stock-up on the essentials.”

“It would be my honour”, said the young man, standing, “although I have to admit, I’m not very good at this kind of thing. I tend to live off of biscuits and instant noodles while I’m travelling.”

“Not a problem, sir”, said the hare graciously. “I can teach you what tastes good in these woods, so that you can eat fresh food from the land whenever you travel, and so that you can help me out a little.”

So the hare and the young man set out into the woods, the young man strolling a respectful distance behind the fast-hopping hare. She wound her way deeper into the woodland, bouncing artfully over the branches and through the drying leaves while the young man stumbled along after her.

The man had a tiring day, learning how to tell when carrots were ready to pick, which berries were sweet and ripe and which were poisonous, and how to avoid the traps of farmers and hunters. At the end of the day, the little brown hare served up a deep-filled Autumn vegetable pie and some big slices of carrot cake, and the young man went to sleep that night feeling a little bit cosier, a little bit wiser, and a lot more at home in the forest.

The next morning the young man was woken bright and early again by the hare, who seemed much less bashful than before.

“I was hoping that, today, you could help me work on patching-up my house,” asked the little brown hare, respectfully covering her eyes with her front paws as the young man dressed.

They spent the day playing in the woods while they collected snuggly green moss from the forest floor, found strong sticks to keep the outside of the hut windproof and lined the walls with shiny, waterproof leaves and dried flowers. When they were finished, the young man found himself able to stick his head and shoulders into the little house to add the final touches, and that night the hare served up a rich berry salad and gave him a kiss on the cheek for dessert. The young man went to sleep with his feet feeling a little longer, his ears feeling a little bigger. and his heart feeling bright.

The next morning the hare woke the young man once again and, this time, she invited him into her little house and asked him to hurry.

“I wish I could come in”, said the young man with earnest regret, rubbing sleep from his eyes, “but I’m too big for your house, remember?”

But the little brown hare just said, “Hurry, hurry!”, waving her paws as if to push away his concerns. “There are guests waiting for us.”

And so, curiously, the young man followed the hare to her door, and found himself the perfect size to fit through the frame, although his ears brushed the top of the wood. The young man had no time to wonder how this had happened because he suddenly found himself surrounded by rabbits, mice, and songbirds, all patting him on the back and wishing him congratulations on his wedding day.

The Lime Green Prince had no idea what to do. The hare had been so kind to him but she was, well, a hare, and he had not exactly been feeling like himself in her presence. He found himself sandwiched between a forest cat and a large stoat on the brown hare’s sofa while they gossiped about a squirrel who had lost her acorns, and he decided that, while he did not want to hurt the hare’s feelings, he could not marry her. The young man had to make his excuses and leave as quietly as possible.

For his first escape attempt, the young man took the hare aside and told her he had to go and fetch more food from the woods, as the guests were complaining that they were hungry.

“Don’t be silly, dear,” said the brown hare, and she sat him back down and patted his knee. “We collected plenty of food for the party a few days ago. Besides, dinner should be done, soon, and there’ll be a lot of it!”

By then, a raven had arrived to read their vows, and a suit had been laid out for the young man in the bedroom. The raven had brought the ‘happy couple’ a freshly-dug carrot as a wedding present, which the young man accepted as courteously as he could; even in his panic he marvelled at how large it was, bigger than he had ever imagined a carrot could look. He now knew how much his help in gathering the vegetables a few days before had meant to the hare, and he felt a pang of guilt and sadness for what he was about to do.
And so, as the brown hare announced that she would soon serve their wedding feast, the young man went into the bedroom and found the smart brown suit that had been laid out on the bed for him. He hauled the carrot into the corner, opposite a pile of wedding presents, and began to dress it in the jacket, shirt and trousers, tying the tie very carefully. He added some hay for ears and whiskers, then left it propped in the corner, as if admiring the gifts, and with a lot of effort and a fair amount of regret, wriggled out of the bedroom window, getting his big feet and fluffy tail caught a few times and hurting his knees as he dropped from the second floor before he was out, bounding across the forest with all the speed he could muster.

He ran and ran until he found himself, heart pounding, at the shore of a great green ocean, with only a little white tail as proof of his adventure. He thought of what the hare would do when she found her decoy fiancé, and the need to keep moving engulfed him. The Prince decided to head across the sea, to the south, where he knew nothing of the lay of the land – he hoped only that there would be no more forests. He sighed slightly, and headed for the dock.

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