Historical Irreverence: Napoleon and the Hares from Hell
We all know history is boring, or at least those of us that attended public school do, but what we don't know is that it's boring because the Powers That Be are keeping all the good stories out of the text books! So please, join me, as I add satirical swagger to another Absolutely True Tale of Historical Irrelevance. This time it's about Napoleon and his not-quite heroic battle against a swarm of bunnies.
Diplomatic Rumblings Give Cause to Celebration
Once upon a time, in July 1807 if you have to be precise, there were two not-quite magical kingdoms: Imperial Russia and the French Empire. They were fighting a petty war over territory with each other, each elbowing the other country and whining there wasn't enough space to enjoy the fresh air, not with all these mouth breathers around. Everyone was enjoying giving each other the stink eye when finally a compromise was made. Napoleon was given a large swath of territory, owned by the current King of Prussia, who conveniently wasn't in attendance that day.
Enter the scene Napoleon's Secretary of Staff: Alexandre Berthier. It was Berthier who Napoleon left to organize a celebration over the new land deal and Berthier was over the moon to take on such a grand responsibility. His only real direction was that it was supposed to be a great rabbit hunt. So Bertheir took on the task with the wild zeal of only the kookiest of wedding planners. He sent out invitations to all the great military minds of the day and got settled in. This was going to be great.
Berthier Runs into Some Problems... And Comes up with a Fool-Proof Solution
Traditionally rabbit hunts in Europe revolve around the hunting of wild hares. Berthier was hosting this event on his property, which he assumed, had wild hares, but upon second thought perhaps he should ensure that there are hares to be caught. He couldn't have Napoleon over to hunt something and go home empty handed! He'd never hear the end of it! But with only three days until the big event he couldn't exactly round up a bunch of wild hares. Even if he could what would he do with them?! Instead he decided to go roving over the countryside buying up every domestic rabbit from every farm he could. He carried them in cages and set them up on his property to let loose at just the right moment. Of course being a man of great pride Berthier had gone all out and by the end of his little shopping spree some say he had as many as three thousand bunnies. Nope, there's no way this could go wrong!
The Guests Arrive...
Berthier probably didn't mention anything about the ravenous rabbits he'd amassed in the days previous, all getting ready to inspire the first act of Watership Downs. That was probably for the best. So as his guests arrived, in full military regalia, each staunchly holding their own rifle, Berthier was all the more pleased. He then led them accidentally into a Lagamorphic ambush. There, standing in the field, they were surrounded on all sides by three thousand very pissed off bunnies, all getting ready to come bounding out of their cages.
A Monsoon of Fluff is still a Monsoon
When the order was given to open up the cages a hangry little floppy-eared devil by the name of Sir Che Bun Bun III came ferociously leaping out his cage screaming his best bunny war cry. He led the charge as a monsoon of fluff followed behind him, leading them right to Napoleon's feet where Che Bun Bun stopped momentairily and let out a tiny adorable speech that historians think translates as, "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of Elderberries! NOW FEED US YOU BLEEPITY BLEEP BLEEPS!"
Napoleon and the other guests started to laugh at the sight of a swarm of adorable fluffy little bunnies hopping forward but there's an old wise tale that says you should never underestimate your enemies, no matter how frickin' adorable they are. That's when things started to get a bit hare-y. One bunny is indeed cute, two are adorable, but three thousand is a swarm and I have never heard of anything positive in a swarm. The writhing mass dashed forward and started to scrabble up Napoleon's ankles. "FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED USSSSSSSSSS!" they yelled in the language of French Rabbit.
A Most Undignified Retreat
Whether you love him or hate him Napoleon has gone down in history as one of the most adept military masterminds of modern history. However, no amount of tactical learning could have prepared him for this siege of bunnies. The second they reached his feet he was overwhelmed with panic. They were all piling on top of each other, several of the more athletic ones were even forming cheer leader-like pyramids to easier reach and scratch out his eyes. Shots were fired randomly in all directions in a failed attempt to slow down this tsunami of flying fur. The bunnies weren't having any of it. In fact when someone yelled to retreat they followed these silly humans back to the relative safety of their horse and carriages but that was, once again, where these elite military minds were wrong.
In a moment of unbridled herd intelligence the bunnies split off into two flanks. One flank swarmed the wheels of the carriages, flinging themselves at them in fits of suicidal frenzy. The other flank continued to follow Napoleon and the other men, biting their ankles, climbing up their legs, and fighting tooth and claw to get into the carriage with them. The onslaught was only stopped when, slamming the door behind them, the men beat a hasty retreat, bunnies flying off their carriage as they sped off, having finally lost their grip.
There Would be no Inquiry...
The ending of this story is just a touch fuzzy. We don't really know what exact words were exchanged between these men but I think it's fairly safe to guess that Napoleon probably muttered something about never speaking of this again while he gave Berthier the hairiest of eyeballs. Still, Berthier never lived up to this moment of madness. In fact he was probably hunting rabbits for the rest of his life. I mean if a handful of bunnies can colonize Australia I can't imagine what three thousand of the little buggars can do, especially in the moonlight when the mood is just right.