Long ago, a young girl went for a walk through a dark forest. She wore a long red coat with a red hood, and because she wore it all the time, everyone called her Red Riding Hood.
As she turned a corner on the path, she came face to face with a rabbit. The rabbit looked at her; she looked at the rabbit, and the rabbit started to run.
“Don’t be afraid!” Red Riding Hood called out. “I won’t hurt you!”
She ran after the rabbit, weaving around trees and bushes, and they both jumped over a stream.
The rabbit ran as fast as he could; however, Red Riding Hood was the fastest girl alive. (The previous summer, she ran away from a wolf.) As she caught up with the rabbit, she reached to grab him, but he leaped into a bush—and BAM! He smacked head-first into a boulder, fell on the ground, and did not move.
Red Riding Hood dropped to her knees and said, “Oh, my! I’m so sorry. I only wanted to be your friend.”
Picking up the rabbit in her arms, she hurried home to her Grandma who lived in a house a mile from the forest’s edge.
When Red Riding Hood reached the house, she opened the door, and found her Grandma sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea.
“My goodness!” Grandma said with wide eyes. “Did you kill a rabbit for dinner?”
“No,” Red Riding Hood sighed. “I ran after him, and he hit his head.”
Then Red Riding Hood started to cry.
“Don’t worry,” Grandma reassured her. “We’ll help him get better.” She folded a blanket, placed it in a wooden box, and Red Riding Hood laid the rabbit down.
A week went by, and they nursed the rabbit back to health. Day by day, the rabbit lost his fear of humans, and he and Red Riding Hood became good friends. She named him Thump.
The two friends played tag, had running races, and when they were both tired, they sat by the garden and ate carrots and celery.
Then one day Thump said, “I miss my two best friends.”
Red Riding Hood took a deep breath and forced a smile. “I’ll take you back to the forest tomorrow.”
The next morning, Red Riding Hood walked with Thump to the forest. When they reached the forest’s edge, she got down on her knees and hugged him.
“I’ll miss you,” Red Riding Hood said sadly.
“I’ll visit you again soon,” Thump promised.
Red Riding Hood waved as the rabbit hopped away and disappeared into the trees.
When Thump found his friends—Lucky and Big Ears—they were both happy to see him.
“We thought you were dead!” Lucky said.
“I hit my head on a boulder,” Thump explained. “And then I was rescued by a girl, and she and her Grandma took care of me.”
“What?” Big Ears said. “I don’t believe it. People are bad.”
Lucky agreed. “Yeah, they want to eat us.”
But Thump said, “No, that’s not true. People are good. The only reason they don’t like us is because we run away from them. That makes them feel rejected.”
Big Ears said, “That’s crazy talk! People love killing animals. They think it’s a good thing.”
No matter what Thump said, he couldn’t convince his friends that people were good, so he said, “I’m going to prove it to you.”
The next day, Thump and his friends hid in a bush beside the forest path until a boy walked by. Thump jumped out of the bush and said, “Hello!”
The boy stopped and said, “Hello there.”
“Would you like to pet me?” Thump asked.
“Okay,” the boy replied. And Thump sat still while the boy petted him on the head.
After the boy was gone, Thump said to his friends, “I told you! People are good if you are good to them.”
But Lucky said, “That was just a little person. Big people are bad.”
“Alright,” Thump said. “Let’s wait for a big person.”
The rabbits hid in the bush again, and waited until a young woman walked by.
Thump jumped out of the bush and said, “Hello.”
The woman stopped and said, “Hello to you.”
“Do you have anything to eat?” Thump asked.
The woman reached in her bag and gave him a carrot. Then she said, “Have a nice day!” And she walked away.
After the woman was gone, Thump said to his friends, “Do you believe me now? People are good.”
Big Ears said, “Okay. Maybe women are good. But not men.”
Lucky nodded his head. “Men are evil.”
Thump sighed and said, “You don’t know people like I do. Let’s wait for a man.”
Thump’s friends didn’t want to stay, but they agreed to hide in the bush one more time.
The rabbits waited until an old man walked by. Then Thump jumped up out of the bush and said, “Hello.”
The old man stopped and said, “Hello, rabbit.”
“My friends are afraid of you,” Thump said. “But I’m not.”
The old man, who was a hunter, held a rifle in his hand, but it wasn’t loaded. “Don’t run away, rabbit. Just sit still.”
“Why would I run?” Thump said with a smile. “If I’m nice to you, you’ll be nice to me. I believe animals and people should be friends, not enemies.”
“That’s beautiful,” the hunter replied. “I couldn’t agree more.” He hadn’t eaten all day, and his hands trembled from low blood sugar, which made it difficult for him to load his rifle. He dropped one of his bullets on the ground, and picked it up.
Thump said, “I love people, and I love you!”
The hunter finished loading his rifle. “And I love rabbits!” He raised his rifle, took aim, and shot Thump in the head!
The two rabbits in the bush were horrified. Their friend was dead, but they didn’t have time to cry. They both ran for their lives.
The hunter took aim at the running rabbits, fired several shots, but he missed, and the rabbits escaped.
“Oh well,” the hunter said with a shrug. “At least I got one.” Then he rubbed his belly. “I’m starving!”
He picked up the dead rabbit, put him in his knapsack, and when he got home, he made a big pot of rabbit stew.