"How the Rabbit Lost its Tail." in Cabral, Len and Manduca, Mia. Len Cabral's Storytelling Book. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1997.

Ethnic Origin:

Haitian folk tale: pourquoi tale ('How and why' story).

Power Centers:

Dog whining.

Dog looks nice.

Dog leaving rabbit behind and heading for the boat.

Rabbit finally managing to communicate to the Captain that one of his passengers has no horns.

Dog chasing rabbit.






[Animals with horns.]


Dog and Rabbit have breakfast (open field?).

Anansi visits.

Dog and Rabbit go to the forest for supplies.

Dog and Rabbit make and start putting on headpieces.

Dog goes to look at reflection in the water.

Dog gets in line by the ship.

Dog gets on ship.

Rabbit runs up first hill by the water.

Dog on ship.

Rabbit runs up second hill by the water.

Dog on ship.

Rabbit runs up third hill by the water.

Dog on ship.

Dog jumps into water.

Rabbit takes off running.

Dog on beach.

Rabbit being chased by dog.

Rabbit's house/hole.


Dog and Rabbit are best friends. Anansi finds them and tells them about a boat leaving for the magical island that you must have horns to go on. Dog wants to go. Rabbit comes up with idea for pretend horns. Dog and Rabbit make horns. Rabbit helps Dog into his disguise but Dog runs off to catch the boat, leaving Rabbit behind, without helping rabbit into his disguise. Rabbit runs along the shore shouting to tell the captain that one of his passengers doesn't have any horns. Finally the captain hears and stops to check his passengers' horns. Dog jumps overboard, chases rabbit home, and bites off rabbit’s long, beautiful, fluffy tail.

Special Phrases:

'when stones were soft and some animals were not quite ready yet'

'Captain, oh captain, one of your passengers has no horns!'

'the rabbit ran, his long tail flopped'



References suggesting the story is relevant to developmental characteristics of preschool age children:

Piaget: 2-7 years- preoperational- importance of repetition.

Erickson: 3-6 years- initiative v. guilt- developing sense of ambition and social responsibility. Imaginative play helps children gain sense of the roles and institutions of society.

Huck: Preschool & Kindergarten- likes characters that are easy to identify with, [Dog wants to go somewhere but keeps being told no. Rabbit tired of dog whining. Both are pretty easy to identify with.] enjoys stories about everyday experiences, pets, playthings, home, people in the immediate environment, enjoys stories that involve imaginative play; likes personification of toys and animals, expects bad behavior to be punished and good behavior to be rewarded.

Source recommending story for storytelling:

Len Cabral

Bibliographic information on other versions of story:

Bell, Corydon. John Rattling Gourd of Big Cove: A Collection of Cherokee

Indian Legends. New York: Macmillan, 1955. pg43-47

Courlander, Harold. The Tiger's Whisker and Other Tales and Legends from

Asia and the Pacific. Illus Enrico Arno. New York: Harcourt Brace & World,

1959. pg87-89

Harris , Joel Chandler. The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus. Compiled

by Richard Chase. Illus. A. B.

Frost. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1955. pg80-83

The Cherokee version I read of the tale is fascinating and recalls the flavor of the woods and the Native American culture with a council of the animals and references to camping and breaking trails. As well as colorful lines as when rabbit says "This camp ground is called Di-ta-tla-ski-yi, the Place Where It Rains Fire." This tale would likely be wonderful for telling to older children but it lacks the repetition of language and the simplicity of the variant I chose to tell. The tale also involves more forest creatures and so may be less interesting or relevant to children who may have, or have at least seen and touched a pet dog or rabbit but likely know less of bears and otters.

Why Brer Rabbit is Bob-tailed is enjoyable for me to read silently but would likely present me with some problems in the telling. The text is presented in the "dialect of the cotton plantations of middle Georgia" and being unable to imitate the language effectively the story would lose a lot of its flavor in my telling. The story may also appeal more to older children as it seems to be lacking in the logic of justice or punishment for bad deeds which younger children prefer, save possibly in prior knowledge of the characters involved. The humor may also be lost on younger children.

The Japanese version, the counting of the crocodiles, bears the flavor of the culture with initial references to manners, and competitive, prideful animals arguing about the superiority of their 'kingdoms' in a manner that recalls the feudal warlords that reigned in Japan until the turn of the century. The story does have the logic of punishment for misdeed that appeals to this age range and would likely also be appropriate for preschoolers. It does however lack the appeal of repetition prevalent in the version I chose to tell. The story could be made to include audience participation and help teach or reinforce counting for children as the rabbit jumps across counting each crocodile.

 By Jennie Radovsky