In the 19th century, European folklorists collected a story among the Hausa, the San, and the Khoikhoi, which describe how Hare came to have a split lip-- a variant of a myth told across Africa of how death came into the world. The story goes something like this:

Once upon a time the Moon summoned Hare to take a message to the human beings that live on earth. The message--that just as the Moon herself died away, but in time rose again, so too would human beings die and rise again.

Hare went down to earth, and whether Hare was forgetful, or spiteful, who can say? But in any case Hare got the message bass ackward. Hare told humankind that as the Moon rose and then died away, so too, should human beings rise, and then die.

The Hare returned to the Moon and reported on his mission. When the Moon heard what Hare had told humanity, she became so enraged that she picked up a hatchet to split open his head. She missed his cranium, and sliced through his upper lip. And to this day the Hare has a split lip. The Hare, quite upset at being attacked with a hatchet, struck out with his paws and scratched the Moon's face. And to this day, if you look up at the Moon, you can see those dark spots-- the scars which she received from Hare.

In his Uncle Remus tales, Joel Chandler Harris includes a version of this same story, only the Moon takes a shovel to Rabbit's face.


South-African Folk-Tales, by James A. Honey, 1910, at Internet Sacred Texts Archive. (accessed May 17, 2011)
William Bascom, "Moon Splits Hare's Lip (Nose): An African Myth in the United States." Research in African Literatures, Vol. 12, No. 3, Special Issue on Oral Traditions (Autumn, 1981), pp. 338-349, Indiana University Press (accessed May 17, 2011)

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