This is a story about an odd little rabbit and how he came by an unlikely friend.
Night fell over the woods as it always did when the sun relinquished its claim over the skies. The moon’s cold light remained to push the darkness at bay, but even then, the wood was not so accommodating. Its treetops formed a green veil, shrouding any cheerful light from the mossy terrain.
In this darkness, the bushes shivered, and the branches rustled. They always did at this time of night.
And, as always, a white ball of fur quivered under the rose bush. It shut its eyes firmly, hoping there was nothing in the darkness to see.
It’ll be day soon,the little thing told himself. It’ll be day soon, and I won’t have to shut my eyes.
The furball’s name was whispered in the forrest. At first, the whispers had actually been the truth. But it is common knowledge that as whispers travel, actual sounds become other sounds and soon enough, the first whisper is lost.
Such was the furball’s name. Even he couldn’t remember what he had whispered so long ago to that wise eagle with a crooked beak who first asked for it. That whisper was in the past. Presently, the furball’s name was said to be Grenny, believed to be an odd annotation (or more likely, mutation) of ‘green-eye,’ for the white mass of fur had drawn his lids shut precisely for this reason: he was afraid of his own eyes.
In the light, they sparkled like emeralds, and not a creature of the forrest could turn away from Grenny’s gaze. His eyes were entrancing orbs, setting ablaze abnormal sensations in the wood—so abnormal, in fact, that the older species called it witchcraft. With their great influence and swift messengers, word about this abominable creature with green eyes spread through the forrest. And all were afraid, for they did not understand it.
The trees shook their branches, sending their leaves trembling as Grenny hopped innocently past. The air sat on his back as if he were a pack mule.
God Himself would have been quite ashamed of His creation as they shut their eyes to the furball’s plight, went about their business and scorned one of their own—as if to do so were only natural. And to the woodland creatures, it was natural, for fear did the most terrible things to the purest of hearts. Even the dear old wolves, whose howls of caution were treated as law could not resist the darkness that made its way beneath the damp, moss padded soil. The Grey Pack Wolves, known to be wisest throughout the forrest, were corrupted by the fear that so silently seeped into their fur coats. Their thick pelts shield them not from its evil power.
“And why shouldn’t we be afraid?” the woodland folk said to themselves. “Grenny is, after all, an abomination. An anomaly. A freak!”
Never before had the animals seen a rabbit with glowing green eyes that defied the night’s dark reign.
“He’ll bring nothing but trouble,” the chattering mouse said to his pups one evening as they gathered ‘round in their little hollow up the oak tree. “See, he’s already done it! None of us dare tread this forrest alone whilst he lives!”
Oh, if only the mouse had seen Grenny that very moment, scuttling into the wood’s gentle brook with his eyes pressed shut. Grenny fell in with a small splash! His fur was drenched in ice cold water, and his ears had flushed red with embarrassment.
Alone in the woods, the furball wept. His tears trickled down his whiskers to join the stream that flowed into the river. The wind was unkind tonight as it battered his damp back, and the wood’s leafy curtain did not allow the moonlight through.
Morning is yet far away, the little rabbit thought. And this singular thought brought tears to his cursed green eyes. Sobs wedged themselves up his throat, but Grenny was too sorrowful to let them out. He would have choked to death if he had remained stubborn in his misery. In fact, only when he could hardly breath did he allow sputtering gasps to emerge from his mouth.
Grenny knew he ought to be quiet, for the Grey Wolf Pack had taken to patrolling the forrest at night, and as far as he knew, he himself was the only threat around.
Suddenly, Grenny felt teeth grab him by the neck. The stream swept quietly beneath him, but no matter how much he wriggled his feet, he could no longer touch the surface.
The furball began to cry harder.
I’m doomed, he thought. He wondered what would become of him as he watched droplets of water slide off his fur. Would the wolves sentence him to death? Would they kill him themselves? Would he perhaps be exiled to a different woodland? Or worse: would they hand him over to those nightmarish petting zoos where the big folk would grab him by the ears?
Grenny sobbed even harder.
“There, there,” the creature said from behind him, his voice muffled by the teeth holding Grenny suspended in space. “There’s no need to weep, little rabbit.”
Grenny was so shocked by the creature’s kind tone that he completely forgot his recent fears.
“Who are you?” the furball said, squirming to get a glimpse of the creature.
“I will tell you once you stop your squirming, little rabbit,” the creature replied.
And so, with much patience required on his part, Grenny quelled himself. His furry feet dangled over the clear rushing water then the green forrest floor as the creature swivelled him away from the brook.
“I will let you down now,” the creature said kindly, “and when I do, I should like to hear the tale behind your sorrow.”
Suddenly, Grenny no longer felt as warm. Memory rushed to fill the empty space the warmth had left behind. As his paws came to rest on the thick mossy, so the tears returned to sting his eyes.
“There, there,” the creature said, towering over the little furball. “I mean no harm.”
And yet, when Grenny peeked past his little lids, he nearly fainted with fright! Sitting casually before him was the legendary Leader of the Wolves. His copper fur shone like embers in the moonlight. It rustled with the wind. The Leader’s dark eyes stared past his own snout and down at the quivering little rabbit.
Grenny was terrified once more. He shut his eyes tightly, hoping the Leader would not notice his abnormality.
But the Leader had noticed.
“I know who you are,” the wolf said cautiously.
Grenny let out a single sob.
The Leader flattened his ears back and tilted his nose to the moon. After a deep breath, he let out a low howl. Awoo!
Now, Grenny thought to himself, now I am doomed.
The howl echoed deep into the wood. It traveled along the stream, through the trees, past the great oak tree, waking the little critters and the bigger creatures. The wolves of the Grey Pack twitched their ears to the sound and ran off in response. An eerie silence filled the forrest. Every creature attuned to the great Leader’s howl.
Just when Grenny thought the silence was permanent, other howls filled the air, an orchestra of deep throated calls meant to awake the wood.
In minutes, the Grey Pack had gathered, sitting in a circle exactly a meter away from their pack head. They were so tall, and held their noses so high into the air that Grenny remained to them unseen. The pack had eyes for their leader alone. He had howled, and this was their answer.
The Leader surveyed the grey furred wolves sitting attentively about him. They made no sound, nor did they urge him on. He was their Leader, and they knew him well enough to remain silent.
At last, he spoke.
“Too long has it been since I first set foot in these woods. My years as a pup are as far from myself as the treetops are from the ground.” His eyes wandered beyond the pack surrounding him and into the far reach of the hills and mountains. “Yet, I remember.”
It seemed as if the wolf’s bright fur grew brighter still as he spoke: a fire rekindling.
“I remember the day the forrest whispered my name and yet knew me not. I remember when I was legend for nothing more than my own difference.”
“That day has gone,” a grey wolf said, his voice loud, echoing into the trees. “You are now legend for the wisdom you gift and seek.”
“And yet,” the Copper Wolf said kindly, “the woods have not learned. You still whisper of legends that are nothing more than fear and difference.”
The wolf pack was silent, for the fear of Grenny’s green eyes had blinded them from their own folly.
“I speak of the rabbit,” the Leader said more plainly. “Who sits amongst us if you’d only have the wits to see.”
Confusion followed, and pure panic soon after. Shame and realisation came later than the Copper Wolf had hoped.
“He is no threat,” the Leader said, his voice as soft as Spring sun. “He is as I once was.”
Murmurs and whispers ran through the pack, and the Copper Wolf heaved a heavy sigh. Beside him, Grenny’s eyes had produced fresh new tears. These tears were quite alien to the little rabbit, for these tears did not sting or pain. Instead, they seemed to radiate a warmth that Grenny had for so long lived without.
“Thank you,” the furball said to the wolf.
The wolf shook his fiery mane. “You have suffered long enough under my friends. Fear is a nasty enemy, and I am sorry it has warped your form for too long.”
The little rabbit blinked back the salty teardrops. “Oh, I do understand,” Grenny said, “after all, even I’m afraid of myself.”
The Copper Wolf smiled. “I am not afraid of you.”
The whispers caught what the Leader had said, and soon, the whole wood had heard their own version of the story. The wolves were overheard by the mice, and one mouse had chatted with the old toad, and the old toad had croaked to the owl, and the owl gave a hoot at anyone who would listen. The veracity of these stories cannot be confirmed, but one truth prevailed, for every woodland creature had seen it themselves: every night since the Leader had howled so ominously, Grenny sat wide-eyed upon the Copper Wolf’s back, and the two creatures discussed many things.
They were inseparable.
And the wood was more cheerful because of them.