Rustum’s grandmother had a beautiful bowl, which she used to drink tea whenever her sisters and cousins came to visit. It fit exactly between her cupped hands and kept the tea perfectly warm. It was dark brown, glossy and golden where the sun touched it, and it was covered with row after row of fine, white lines, so that it looked as if it was covered with the fur from a hare. So it was called the hare’s fur bowl.
One day, when his grandmother was out, Rustum took up the bowl and held it in his hands, looking at the tiny lines and imagining they were really fur. When he closed his eyes, it was as if the bowl itself was soft and warm, and when he opened his eyes again, a real, live hare was crouched between his hands.
Rustum stared, feeling the soft, warm creature’s heart beating between his fingers.
“What is your will?” asked the hare.
“My will?” said Rustum. “What do you mean?”
“I may grant you three things that your heart desires,” said the hare.
Rustum said, “I have a home, three meals every day and the love of my family and friends. My heart desires nothing else.”
The hare blinked. “You have no desire for wealth? Power? A beautiful bride?”
Rustum replied, “I have all that I need, and I’m too young to be married.”
The hard blinked twice. “Then if you will, you may help grant three things my own heart desires.”
Rustum agreed readily. “What is it that you desire?” he asked.
The hare said, with a great sigh, “I have seen much good, and much sorrow in the world. But wherever I have seen goodness, happiness follows, and wherever there is evil and selfishness and the struggle for power, sorrow follows. Take this,” he said. He took off his foot and gave it to Rustum.
“Touch whatever you see with this,” the hare said. “It will do good, and happiness will follow. But go quickly, for time is short.”
Rustum took the hare’s foot and went. In the road he saw a poor child, huddled against the cold. He touched the child with the hare’s foot and immediately the child was dressed in a thick coat and held a warm load of bread in her hands. She jumped up with a cry of delight and ran home to share it with her family.
Rustum saw a man who was blind and lame, struggling along the road. He touch him with the hare’s foot, and the man straightened up and threw away his crutches joyfully. “Now I am well and I can see, I can work!” he said. “My family and I will be able to eat again!”And he strode off.
A little further on he came to a house where a large family was sitting gloomily around an empty table in front of a cold fireplace. Rustum touched the house, and immediately a crackling fire sprang up in the fireplace and the table was covered with good food. The faces of the family lit up, and they began to eat hungrily.
Just then Rustum felt a hand on his shoulder. “I have been watching you,” said a man in a dark cloak. “What’s that you have?” The man seized the hare’s foot from Rustum. He touched his clothes and in the blink of an eye he was dressed in finest gold, and his purse was filled to overflowing with gold coins, so full that he could hardly carry it.
“Now I will have everything I want!” he cried. He touched the ground, and where the poor family’s house had stood, there was a great mansion with countless rooms and a fire burning in every room, while the poor family stood outside, shivering in the cold. “Ha!” cried the man. “The fields and rivers and valleys will be mine. They will run with gold and silver!” He touched the earth, and before Rustum’s eyes, everything was instantly transformed. Factories covered the fields. The clear stream was choked with grease and filth. People, grey and sad, filled the factories or wandered homeless along the roads.
Rustum’s heart quailed. Then he heard a distant voice. It was his grandmother calling, “It’s time for tea, Rustum! The aunties and neighbours are coming – where is my bowl?”
Quick as a flash, Rustum grabbed the hare’s foot away from the man, and touched him on head and shoulders. Straight away the gold and silver disappeared, and the factories and the dirt, and all was as it was, the sun shining on the fields of barley and the clear-running stream.
The man shook his head as if coming out of a deep sleep, and said, “The most terrible dream seized me!” He looked around and smiled, and went on his way.
Rustum took the hare’s foot and hurried home. He returned it to the hare, and before he could blink, the hare’s fur bowl was in his hands once more. “Here it is,” he called, and took it to his grandmother.