Why Rabbit Has A Short Tail

Retold by Barbara Shining Woman Warren

Cherokee Words:

  • Rabbit tsi-s-du
  • Fox tsu-la
  • Fish a-tsa-di

Back when the world was young, tsi-s-du had a very long bushy tail. In fact, his tail was longer and bushier than the tail of tsu-la. Now tsi-s-du was very proud of his tail and he was constantly telling all the other animals about how beautiful his tail was. One day tsu-la became so tired of hearing tsi-s-du brag about his tail that he decided to put an end to the boasting once and for all.

The weather was getting colder. One day it finally became so cold that the waters in the lake and streams froze. A few days later, tsu-la went down to the lake carrying four a-tsa-di. When he got to the lake, he cut a hole in the ice. He tied those four a-tsa-di to his tail, then sat down and waited for tsi-s-du to come.

Soon tsi-s-du came hopping over the top of the ridge. When tsu-la saw tsi-s-du, he quickly dropped his tail into the cold water. tsi-s-du hopped right up to tsu-la and said, "What are you doing, Fox?" tsu-la answered, "I'm fishing". And tsi-s-du asked, "With your tail?" tsu-la replied, "Oh yes, that's the very best way to catch the most a-tsa-di."

Tsi-s-tu said, "How long you been a fishing?" tsu-la lied and said, "Oh, only about fifteen minutes." tsi-s-du asked, "Have you caught any a-tsa-di yet?" Then tsu-la pulled up his tail, and there were those four a-tsa-di hanging on it.

Tsi-s-du asked, "What do you plan to do with the a-tsa-di you catch?" tsu-la said, "Well, I figure I'll fish until I catch enough a-tsa-di to take to the Cherokee Village and then trade them in for a pair of beautiful tail combs. There is only one set of tail combs left and I really want them." Tsu-la could see that tsi-s-du was thinking. Tsi-s-du thought to himself, "If I fished all night long, I bet I would have enough a-tsa-di by morning to trade at the Cherokee Village. Then I could get those tail combs for myself."

Tsu-la said, "It's getting late and I'm cold. I think I'll come back and fish some more in the morning. See ya, Rabbit.." Then tsu-la loped off over the top of the ridge. As soon as tsu-la was out of sight, tsi-s-du dropped his tail down into the icy water of the lake. Brrrrr, it was cold! But tsi-s-du thought, "Oh, no. I want those tail combs more than anything." So he sat down on the hole in the ice and fished all night long.

Soon after the sun came up, tsu-la loped over the top of the ridge. He ran right up to tsi-s-du. He said, "What are ya doing there, Rabbit?" The teeth of tsi-s-du began to chatter. "I'm ffffissshing, Fffox." Tsu-la asked, "Well have you caught any a-tsa-di?" Tsi-s-du started to get up but he found he couldn't budge. He said, "Fffox you've ggott to helppp me. I'mmm ssstttuck."

So tsu-la, with a big smile on his face walked behind tsi-s-du. He gave tsi-s-du one mighty big shove. Tsi-s-du popped out of that hole and landed clear across the other side of the lake...But his tail...was still stuck in the frozen water. And that's why from that day to this, tsi-s-du has such a very short, short tail.


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