The Battle of the Rabbits

“The Battle of the Rabbits” by Muhammed Mustajab is a sort of ridiculous and slightly gruesome story of a young man’s encounter with a colony of rabbits. However, while bizarre happenings are physically occurring, the thoughts in the young man’s head provide great insight into the social norms of Egypt. This young man is going to meet the father of his future wife, who also happens to be a former prime minister. The prime minister lives in a large villa, with a garden where all of the absurdities with rabbits occur. The young man comes from a poor, humble family. His father is what the young man impetuously refers to as a peasant, but decides to call him a farmer because it holds more social significance.

 

The short story lets the reader into the mind of the young man, where he is holding mock conversations out of nervousness for his meeting with the former prime minister. The conversations revolve around him attempting to make himself seem as socially worthy as possible, admitting his humble family while trying to hold his own stature as an educated, working young man. These fake conversations tell the reader about the importance of social status in Egypt. The young man admits that he is not nearly as worthy as his to-be bride, and carefully selects his language in order to paint himself in the most flattering way.

 

These simulated conversations take place as the young man is traveling to the villa and while he is waiting to meet the former prime minister. He is waiting in what I understand to be an atrium or garden that has patio furniture and a colony of white rabbits. The young man doesn’t seem surprised to find the rabbits, he even relates them to the pen of rabbits his mother had when he was a child. To me, this seems rather bizarre, for a fine palace-like home to host a bunch of rabbits, but again, the young man isn’t fazed. In fact, he sets out on a sort of rabbit hunt, and ends up killing a few of them. This is even more perplexing for me, as it seems weird and honestly rude to go into someone’s house and then kill his rabbits.

 

What is also bizarre is that he is doing this while waiting to meet a former prime minister, and at one point he gets so sweaty he takes his shirt off. I’m not entirely sure as to whether I’m missing some sort of old norm in the rabbit owning area or if the story is just meant to be startlingly bizarre in order to emphasize the stress of the conversations in the young man’s mind, and therefor the stress of the situation of meeting the father of the woman you love, when everyone involved is aware that you are of a lower class and could be deemed as “unfit”!

Author: Melinda McCoy

3 Comments

  1. Amy Gentile

    I think if you look closely, you can see his descent into madness as time passes from morning to night and the former Prime Minister never comes. In his imagination he begins calling him “Your Excellency” and at his lowest point is calling “Dearest Daddy in Law.” Not showing up all day and night, and having been left to wait for your girlfriend’s father in a run down, dusty garden where even the water is no longer functioning is the ultimate insult. He is not even worthy of the PM rejecting him, not even worthy of acknowledgement. The title is also an allusion to the famous rabbit hunt where Napolean Bonaparte, the almighty conqueror, is defeated by rabbits. There is also numerous “rabbit words,” indicating the narrator, too, is like a rabbit, the very lowest on the social class system, the literally consumable. What is eaten to sustain those in power, to keep them alive and in power. So, … anyway, this story is full of subtle meanings about what happens to those who feel so completely excluded, what is the danger, or… perhaps the PM just didn’t get the message. And then, regardless of how “real” the limitations of this social class system on the narrator, he still descends into mad violence none-the-less.

    • Carolyn Jones

      Hi Amy I really liked what you said. My class is studying this story at UC Santa Barbara and we also discussed Napoleon but I still do not understand why it is called the Battle of the Rabbits because unlike the original story the man destroys the rabbits not vice versa. If you have any thoughts about the name of the sotry please let me know.

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