One of the commonest criticisms of 'A Passion Play' is that there's a childish, 'nonsense' piece inserted between Acts Two and Three, which bears no relation to the rest of The Play. In 1973 concerts, the band left the stage after Act Two and a filmed version of 'The Hare...' was shown; this is now available on the 25th Anniversary video, reissued as the 'A New Day Yesterday' DVD.
So why was it included?
The usual explanation, generally accepted but unconfirmed, is that it reflects the structure of a genuine mediæval Passion Play. Such productions were (are) punctuated by comic interludes; relief from the deadly seriousness of the main play.
'behling57' suggests that the practice extends back to Classical Greece, and I'm aware of similar devices in Shakespeare, but such cases tend to be incorporated into the main plot. I think the key point about the interval of a Passion Play is that the comic piece need not relate to the main story at all. In the highly religious mediæval plays, the interludes were often secular, even bordering on pagan. This is reflected (presumably deliberately, though I have no confirmation) in the film shown at concerts, with a horned narrator, a maypole and other pagan imagery.
At the natural break in a LP recording (i.e. the point where the listener needs to turn the album over), and in the context of a stage play (reinforced by the album sleeve), a brief interval makes sense. On a more pragmatic level, the interval was presumably included in live performances to give the band a rest and toilet break!
The full lyrics, accompanied by a transcript of how they fitted into the film, are here.
In case there's still someone who's failed to spot the animal puns, here they are:
Bee wanted to help.... answer began...
... Owl had been ... scowling
Kangaroo... + ...their guru.. = "You can, guru,..."
Newt knew too much...
'The Hare...' is very reminiscent of A.A. Milne's 'Winnie the Pooh' stories, especially in featuring an owl, a kangaroo and a rabbit (not a hare). However, I feel Kangaroo was included primarily for the '...can, Guru,...' pun.
'The Hare...' was developed into a children's book in 2002, by New York artist Michael Korb. The project was viewable online, though it seems it failed to find a print publisher and the link has expired, unfortunately.
Who is the Hare, anyway?
As usual, a potentially more 'profound' interpretation can be drawn from 'The Hare...'. Andy Jackson makes a persuasive argument for the identity of the metaphorical Hare: Jeffrey himself. "I see the story of the Hare is a kind of allegory of Jeffrey's youth as a highly-introverted potential artist at the beginning of his 'journey'." Jeffrey did wear glasses at school and occasionally afterwards, though that's probably not particularly relevant to the Hare's metaphorical spectacles.
The central premise of 'The Hare...' is that everyone believes Hare to be in crisis, lacking direction (he can't see where he's going), and unable to help himself. Yet at no point does Hare admit to being in any kind of trouble (or to anything...).
He's excited, and only appears helpless in the opinions of others.
It's known from interviews that Jeffrey's parents frequently hassled him about his prospects for life after school. "I can't imagine Jeffrey being the kind of guy to openly argue, but rather chew it over in silence and - eventually - decide for himself." He had formulated some embryonic 'life plans', but chose not to explain himself to onlookers, family and friends.
Hare never speaks, but sits in the middle of a commotion concerning his fate, caused by others around him and somehow not actually involving Hare himself. He is 'ostensibly motionless', and mute, which "... brings to mind Jeffrey's comment that an old acquaintance of his described him as being 'like wallpaper' and 'highly eccentric' at the same time - a kind of blank, and yet containing a bizarre energy. Hare only appears to be doing nothing, but there's an almighty internal buzz going on: the workings of the imagination."
It could be argued that the stern, scowling Owl is a father figure, whereas Kangaroo, the other, more interventionist authority figure of the piece, associated with Owl throughout, could be a mother figure, arguing with Owl about what's best for Hare.
"... young Hare can't go with Owl, because he's nodded off in his armchair, he can't go with Kangaroo because he's too big for her pouch, i.e. he's not a child any more, and can't return to the womb. He has to make it alone."
I'm unsure how the allegory extends to Newt and Bee, or, for that matter, the optician. Andy proposes Bee as a friend of Hare; that's as good an interpretation as any. The point is that the others know nothing about spectacles i.e. they are ignorant of Hare's needs and personal priorities. Ultimately, that's his business (his own affair) - "it's his journey, and his 'story', after all. Again, imagine a 16-year-old's, "You just don't understand!" - his private, mute dismissal of everyone's 'tempting' ideas.
"Because, in the end, Hare can see perfectly well where he's heading" - he has a back-up plan.
Coincidentally, Meyers also proposes Owl as a father figure, but only in a sense that fits his spurious grand thesis (that Tull's material 1971-78 form one work): "The Owl is the wise one who hinders the imagination of the poet... the ancestral father. Hare is Jethro Tull questing for vision of spectacles. Kangaroo is the Muse.... This little story actually illustrates the anxiety [Ian] feels in wrestling with the giant dead of his cultural heritage.".
Considering the interval piece in isolation, this suggestion is typically flawed, not least because the actions of Owl and Kangaroo simply don't fit these characterisations.
Leslie Miller acknowledges that the story of 'The Hare...' was indeed probably thrown in as a comic relief, but is also a fable, in the tradition of Aesop - a morality play with animals symbolising good/bad, foolish/wise, etc. The animals were very foolish to believe the ridiculous Hare. Moral: be wary of fools who are out to trick you, and be careful not to blow a minor issue out of proportion.
Michael Dawson interprets the piece as a restatement of the anti-clerical theme of 'My God' and 'Wind-Up'; the spectacles represent vision, in both a literal and a spiritual sense. Hare wisely rejects the conflicting advice of the various 'gurus' or religious leaders, realising that a clear vision is within himself all along, represented by the spare pair of spectacles.
Personally, I regard this as a credible interpretation but unlikely to be that intended by the author; I'm unsure whether Jeffrey shared Ian's views of organised religion and would have particularly wished to address the subject.
The album liner notes credit John Evan with 'speech'. Many people have understandably taken this as indication that John narrated 'The Hare...'. However, having heard band members speak in interviews, it is clear that the true narrator was Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, its author.
So why credit John? My theory!
A further source of confusion is the exaggerated Lancashire accent, not apparent in Jeffrey's interviews. This was an affectation, adding to the jokey atmosphere. For a more accurate reflection of Jeffrey's 'real' speaking voice in 1973, listen to 'No Rehearsal' on 'Nightcap' and the '20 Years...' box set - the '...one seat in the circle... passage is spoken by Jeffrey and Ian.
Few people realise that Jeffrey was the author of 'The Hare...'; Andy suggests that the credit to Ian and John was solely for the music, which had already being played during the Thick As A Brick tour. Most probably, the story was written independently of The Play, possibly without any reference to those lyrics. As Ian said in a 1979 BBC interview:
"We decided to put it on film, which meant that we could all go off stage for a glass of beer and a cigarette while this thing showed. So what we did was to make a film: we wrote a little thing around Jeffrey's 'Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles'...."
It's only fair, therefore, to give the final word to Jeffrey; speaking to Dave Rees:
|Rees:||What about 'The Hare...': are you a natural storyteller/writer?|
|Jeffrey:||Well, you can tell I'm not a natural storyteller by the way that I'm talking to you. It was described, probably correctly, as a bit of whimsy, which is okay, but I suppose it is very difficult to measure how much of that kind of material one should allow to creep in. Perhaps that was rather too much....|