Nightslade hares come out at night and feast on the nyam nyam root. They are several times bigger than normal Calorean hares, have pointed fangs, red eyes and a bad attitude towards intruders.
Through almost closed eyelids he saw a rapid movement in the grass ahead and the biggest hare he had ever seen lurched suddenly through the grass.
“Are they all that big?” exclaimed Beau.
“Mostly,” said Arnold, “although the adults are bigger.”
I bought a hare at the weekend. Not a real one, of course – just a garden ornament. I particularly wanted a hare because my children’s book Beau Garnie & the Invisimin Mine features hares throughout. I hoped it might bring inspiration when writing the next book in the trilogy.
My son wanted to call the hare Septima after Beau’s hare or Bluebell after Skyle’s. He could have called it 13 after the dark coated hare who scampered home to take the Gold chalice in the Calorean hare hurdles, but none of that happened. Instead my husband took one look at it and christened it ‘Hartley’ after the hare in the TV show Pipkins. And the following day, my friend did exactly the same.
It made me wonder about the use of hares in popular culture. There aren’t that many really. Rabbits are wildly popular in literature and television, but hares much less so. And it seems a peculiarly British choice of animal.
Perhaps one of the better known literary hares is The March Hare from Alice in Wonderland. John Tenniel’s illustration depicts the hare with straw on its head; a sign of madness in Victorian England. The poor March Hare was compelled to behave as if it were always tea time because the Mad Hatter ‘murdered time’ when he sang to the Queen of Hearts.
And who can forget the charming Nutbrown hares from ‘Guess how much I love you’. Although never stated, the hares are thought to be father and son. Little Nutbrown hare declares his love by the width of his arms or the height of his hops and Big Nutbrown hare keeps surpassing this, finishing with the wonderful line “I love you right up to the moon and back.”
Then there’s Jack hare, creation of Kit Williams in his ‘Masquerade’ fantasy puzzle book. Not only was Jack Hare the courier from the moon to the sun, but the treasure itself was a small gold & jewelled amulet hare. Worth about £5000 at the time of publication, the jewelled hare was later sold for £31,900; a great deal more expensive than my new garden hare acquisition.
There being a few other hares to choose from, I’m not sure why my friends and relatives have so decidedly christened our hare Hartley. Perhaps it’s because we are all 1965’ers and Pipkins was part of our growing up. And my intelligent, noble ornamental hare has now taken on the personality of the shaggy eared, moth eaten old hare from the 1970’s. But the hares in Beau Garnie are recently created and not yet well established – 13 and Bluebell don’t exactly trip off the tongue. Perhaps one day in the future, someone will buy a stuffed hare toy and the first name they think of will be Septima.
In Calorean, the main mode of transport is hare back riding. Not only does Beau get about the realm by hare, but he is also an accomplished jockey and regular competitor in the annual Calorean hare hurdles.
Calorean hares Septima and Bluebell are similar to Lepus Europaeus, the native brown hare of England. This species was introduced to Britain in the Iron Age, originating from the other side of the North Sea.
The brown hare has long, black tipped ears, golden brown fur and a black tipped tail. Accelerating to speeds of 45mph, it’s no wonder that Beau is able to compete so competently on his Calorean equivalent.
Brown hares live in grassland and arable land, dwelling in a small depression in the ground called a form. There, they raise young leverets, feeding them daily on wild grasses and herbs. Brown hares have 2 – 3 litters a year and breed in March and April. The expression “mad as a March hare” comes from the ‘boxing’ displays as the female fends off the male during the mating season.
Hares have enjoyed much publicity in Gloucestershire this year with the arrival of the Cirencester Hare Festival over Easter. 25 giant, fibre-glass sculpted hares were created and positioned around Cirencester. It’s well worth a visit to see these beautiful hares, lovingly crafted by local artisans.
To read about Beau, Skyle and their beloved hares, click here.
In the magical world of Calorean, hare racing is the favoured sport. The Calorean hare hurdles run annually with Gold Chalice day the highlight of the racing year.
Beau Garnie is a skilled rider and competes regularly. But he is a member of the Argan tribe where hares are housed in communal stables, given numbers rather than names & animal ownership is strictly forbidden. Beau longs to own his own hare…..
“…my favourite hare is called 7,” said Beau glumly. “But she isn’t mine, more’s the pity.”