The Beekeeper & The Bewitched Hare

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched HareThe Beekeeper & the Bewitched Hare 

Illustrated By: Jesse Einhorn-Johnson

ACROSS A MOOR IN SCOTLAND there once lived a lad who earned his living as a beekeeper. Though he lived by himself in a cottage he wasn't at all lonely, maybe because he felt a connection with his bees.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

In warm weather when the heather was in bloom and purple flowers blanketed the land, the bees buzzed about with a satisfied kind of hum, sipping nectar wherever they liked, and he felt happy for them. In late fall when the wildflowers became scarce and the buzzing of the bees became more erratic, he could feel their anxiety. Sometimes the lad complimented his bees on an especially large batch of honey, and they seemed to buzz about in pleasure and pride. Folks in town said the lad could talk to the bees.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

Of course that couldn't be true, but in a way he felt they understood each other very well.

One evening as the lad was checking his beehives, two hounds suddenly appeared from across the moor, barking wildly and dashing directly toward him.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

The object of their chase soon became apparent when a white hare leapt out of the heather into his arms. Quickly the lad tucked the terrified animal under his jacket.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

The two hounds circled his legs, barking angrily. He picked up a stick and swung it around.  Eventually the dogs gave up and bounded away. When the dogs disappeared from view, the lad set the hare back on the ground and returned to work. But instead of hopping into the thicket, the hare followed him, twitching its nose and eyeing him steadily.

He went inside his cottage and the hare ambled in behind. "Well, you act like you want to be my pet," he said. "I suppose you'd like a bit of dinner. I just might have a carrot for you." He let the hare nibble on a carrot while he scooped some stew into a bowl for his own dinner. When they had both finished, the hare jumped onto his lap and he stroked its head and ears. "Ooch!" he said with surprise, noticing its face. "I've seen black or pink eyes on a white hare, but how did you get those blue eyes?" The hare responded by stretching its back for more petting.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

The next morning the lad took the hare to the hives to introduce her to his bees. He knew that changes in the environment can alarm bees and he didn't want the presence of the hare to unsettle them. So he held out the hare for them to inspect, then set her down close to his feet. The bees dipped down and spun around her face but she didn't seem to mind.

After they satisfied their curiosity and returned to their hive, he took the hare to the next beehive for another round of introductions.

One afternoon a few weeks later as the lad was setting trays of sugar water in the beehives, he noticed an old woman ambling along the track across the moor. Thinking he might sell her a fine comb of honey, he met her at the gate. However before he could speak, she pointed to the hare, who was peering out from behind a heather shrub.

"You don't see that every day," said she with a crooked smile. "A blue-eyed hare."

"You don't see that every day," said she with a crooked smile.  "A blue-eyed hare."

"Aye, 'tis true," said the lad, turning to admire his pet.

"What do you want for her?" said the old woman.

"You mean to purchase? Ooch, the hare is not for sale."

"Everyone has a price, lad. Look, here at this bonnie piece of gold. It's not every day you are offered a gold coin for a common hare, now is it?"

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

"She's not common, and she's not for sale," frowned the beekeeper.

At once the old woman, whom the lad had thought much too old for such friskiness, sprung over to grab the hare. A bee hovering nearby gave a loud shrill, a sound that surprised the old woman and apparently alerted the other bees. In moments a dark swarm had gathered and rushed to attack the old woman.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

"Eek!" she cried, spinning around and running away. "You'll be sorry you didn't hand over that worthless hare when you had a chance!"

The next day at his stall in the marketplace, where the lad was selling his honey, the beekeeper shared what happened with the vendors who tended the stalls next to his.

"That old woman was a witch," said the baker.  He took a moment from arranging his scones and meat pies into neat rows to cross his arms and lean forward. "Take my word, you'd best be careful."

"Aye," agreed the seller of sweaters and kilts on the beekeeper's other side. "That woman was a witch, no doubt about it."

"That woman was a witch, no doubt about it."

The lad thought, "Maybe, but then again these two often talk about one person or another being an elf or witch in disguise.  It may have been just a strange happenstance, too."  

Still, just to be safe, that night the lad barred his windows and locked his doors. 

The next morning, the lad found the hare hopping about in front of the beehives with nervous anxiety.  "What's gotten into you?" he said.  The hare rubbed its head against the beehive door.  When the lad opened it, the hare hopped over to the tray of sugar water he had set inside the day before. 

"What's the matter with you?" he said again as the hare stood next to the tray, shaking its head vigorously.  The lad leaned forward.  "Hmm, this water smells different.  Could it have turned bad somehow?"  The hare hopped even more excitedly than before.  "I best dump this and replace it," said he, and the hare shook its head in agreement.  The beekeeper poured the tray onto a patch of grass and heather, and the greens sizzled and turned brown in an instant. 

"Wow!" the lad said in amazement.  "I'd better check the other trays, too."   One by one, he emptied each tray until at last the hare settled down.  "How did you know?" said he, stroking the hare, and she seemed to sign in relief.

The rest of the summer passed. Soon frost lay on the ground in the morning.  Few flowers and very few bees remained out in the cold air. Most bees had already retreated to the hives where they began their cold weather work of keeping the hive warm enough for their queen to lay her eggs.

One chilly October morning as the lad was collecting honey from the hives, a gypsy caravan rolled by on its way southward. He waved to the driver and a young gypsy man waved back.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

Much later, the lad noticed a sack of grain lying in the road just past the gate.

"Ooch, it must have dropped from the gypsy van! They'll never know it's missing till they set up camp tonight.  By then it'll be too dark to come back looking for it."

So the lad hoisted the sack onto his cart and followed the tracks that the gypsy van had dug behind in the earth. In an hour or so he caught up with them. He hailed them and when they stopped, he handed the young gypsy driver the sack of grain.

"Do you mean to tell me you followed us all this time to return our sack of grain?" said the young gypsy man. "Most folks are more than glad for us to go and never see us again."

"Do you mean to tell me you followed us all this time to return a sack of grain?" said the young gypsy man.

"Why shouldn't I bring it back to you?" said he. "Else I'd have to think about your poor horses missing their dinner tonight."

Just then the hare poked its head out from under the beekeeper's jacket.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

"And what is that?" said the gypsy lad. "A blue-eyed hare?"

"Yes," he said with pride. "A special one, is this hare."

"More than special, I'd say," said the gypsy fellow. "Grandma!" he called inside the van. "You have to see this."

An old woman with a bright headscarf, long pleated skirt, and puffed white blouse stepped out of the van.

"What do you think of that?" said the gypsy man, nodding toward the hare.

"What do you think of that?" said the gypsy man, nodding toward the hare.

"Oh my goodness!" said the grandmother.  "This is astounding!"

"My hare?" said the beekeeper.  "I like her fine but she's not all that special."

The old woman shook her head.  "Then you don't know," she said.

"Know what?" said the lad.

The old woman shook her head.  "Then you don't know," she said.

"Tis a lassie," said the grandmother. "A lassie who's been bewitched!"

The beekeeper gasped. Then he spilled out his story. He told both of them about the two dogs who had chased the hare across his moor, the strange old woman who had tried to grab her, the bees who had forced the witch away, and what his friends at the marketplace had said about the old woman.

"Your friends are right," said the grandmother in a firm voice, "That woman was a witch, and I wouldn't be surprised if she was the very one who bewitched the lassie. Who knows what mischief she is capable of?  One thing you can count on, she will come back. She's biding her time for the lassie, that she is."

"What is she waiting for?"

"She's biding her time for the lassie, that she is."

"All Hallow's Eve, I suspect," said the grandmother. "The bees will be back in their hives by then and no longer a threat to here. Most of all, that's the one day of the year when the magic of witches is the strongest."

"What can I do to protect the hare?" he said, alarmed.

"Tell me, how much can you communicate with the bees?"

"Well, we seem to understand each other.  I don't know if that's just my imagination, but it seems that way to me."

"Hmmm, however you talk to them, you may need their help. When you go home, explain to the bees that the witch may return.  Before the sun sets on All Hallow's Eve, tie a good strong cord around the hare's neck and shoulders.  You must keep her on your lap till past midnight."

"Tell me, how much can you communicate with the bees?"

"I can do that," said the lad.

"Do you think this will be easy?" said the grandmother. "When the hare is under the witch's spell, she may pull and jump with a power that will shock you.  But you must hold her tight, no matter what. If your bees can help you, all the better."

The old woman looked at him with her old watery eyes. "That's all I can say. Other than to wish you luck."

When the lad returned to his cottage, he hurried the hare from hive to hive, repeating what the old gypsy woman had told him. On one hand, he felt a bit silly explaining all of this to a mass of bees. Yet by their collective sounds they seemed to murmur in understanding, like how a crowd of people might do when responding to a speaker. When the lad stepped away, he sensed a building excitement from within the hives.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

On All Hallow's Eve, the beekeeper tied a strong cord around the hare's neck and shoulders, and set her on his lap. There she stayed contentedly until the darkness settled so thickly that he could only see the profile of her white fur.

Then suddenly the hare lurched so powerfully that he could barely contain her. She twisted with such might it was all he could do to keep her from sliding out of his hands. Just as she started to wriggle free, he heard a hum that meant his bees were encircling them. Closer and thicker came the bees, forming a tall and deep surround. The hare jerked her ears and twitched her nose. She flitted on his lap and hopped about but no longer tried to escape.

Finally the hare settled down once more. And then - the marvel of it! No longer was a white, blue-eyed hare on his lap, but a bonnie blue-eyed lassie!  Of course, she moved off his lap at once and they both took a few steps away.  When they looked up, they smiled. 

"So it's true," he said, "you're a lassie.  You saved my bees.  How did you do it?  How did you know about the poisoned water?"

"I was under the witch's curse," said she. "I could feel her magic was trying to poison your bees in revenge.  You saved me," she said. "Now the curse is gone."  They both smiled again. 

"Won't you stay for tea?" he said. 

"That I will," said she.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare

And each of them knew in their hearts they would stay together for much more than tea, for all the years to come.  And indeed, that they did.

The Beekeeper and the Bewitched Hare




  • Did you ever feel you could communicate closely with an animal? Tell about it.
  • Do you think someone who is kind to animals will be kind to people, too?