A new take on an old tale. Speedy the Hare gives his version of his famous race with the tortoise and he would like you to know that, whatever you may have heard, he is the fastest creature on the farm. Truly!
Pictures for Storynory by Sophie Green. Click pictures to make them bigger.
Hello. My name is Speedy, and for good reason. I’ve got long, long legs and I can really go! You can catch me if you can – but I don’t think you will.
In a race, I come first. Always. I never, never lose. Well alright, there was that one time that I took the silver medal – but it only ever happened once. It’s so unfair that people keep going on about it. I blame that Aesop. He’s the one who wrote it all down.
It happened in March, and that’s the time of year that we hares go a bit crazy you know. We’re so busy springing in the Spring that sometimes our thoughts just can’t quite keep up with our legs. Look, I’ll tell you what happened – just so that you understand that it wasn’t really my fault. It could have happened to anyone.
Do you know that old tortoise who lives in the next field? He’s so slow, that the first time I saw him I thought he was a rock. In fact, I’ve seen rocks that move faster than he can. His head looks like, well, a cabbage, and his feet look like Brussels sprouts. Quite frankly, he’s a ridiculous creature.
One day I was leaping around the fields and he was just watching me, and nodding that cabbage-like head of his. I bounced up to him and said: “Come on you lazy old thing, is that all the exercise you take? Just nodding all day long? I’m surprised you don’t nod off to sleep.
The tortoise didn’t answer. His mouth was full of grass and he was chewing – very slowly.
Just then a fox popped out of the hedge-row. He scratched his flea bites and said: “Don’t you know that the tortoise hibernates?”
“Hiber-what’s?” I asked.
“Hibernates,” said the fox again. It means that he goes to sleep for the whole winter.”
“HA! Sleeps – For the whole winter!” I said. “That’s incredible. He must be the laziest creature alive. In fact, it’s hardly fair to say he is alive. If he was dead it would be hard to tell the difference.”
It was all too easy to mock the tortoise. He couldn’t be bothered even to stick up for himself. He just kept on munching, so slowly.
But the fox, who’s a big know-it-all, replied for him:
“Most likely he will be around after we are both long gone. Tortoises can live for over 100 years.”
“A hundred years!” I exclaimed. “Just nodding, chewing, and occasionally plodding. I’d get bored out of my mind. I have to run and jump and win races. If you’ve got speed, then you can really know that you’re alive!”
Then that wily old fox said: “I’ll lay a bet that the tortoise can beat you in a race. Not a quick dash of course. He’s hardly a sprinter – but a proper race over a good distance. Say, up to the top of that hill and back. I don’t believe you’ll beat him in a race like that.”
“Pah!” I said. “I’ll beat that old tortoise over any distance, any day, any time.”
That’s how I got myself into that infamous race with the tortoise. The fox arranged it all for us the next day at noon. The sun was high in the sky, and the heat was scorching. It was more like summer than spring.
All the local creatures came to see the fun. The crows cawed and the cows munched like they normally do. You could tell that something interesting was going to happen because they were swishing their tails, and not just to keep the flies off. It was the biggest thing to happen around these parts for ages.
Of course almost everyone was backing me to win. You only had to look at me -lean, fit, with a terrific bounce in my step. And then look at HIM – an old, cabbage head, with a great shell on his back. I was the clear favourite. Only the fox was backing the tortoise. He was taking bets off his cronies, the badger and the rat. If I won, he would do them a month of services and favours. And if the tortoise won, they would have to work for him for a whole month. The badger and the rat thought the fox must have gone soft in the head to make such a silly bet.
At last the fox called out: “Ready, Steady, Go!” I hung around for a moment to see the tortoise lumber off the starting line, but he was taking so long about it that I got bored and shot off towards the hill. I was flying across the field, but I must say, the hill was a long way. Even I couldn’t get there in a moment. At the end of the field I looked over my shoulder and saw that the tortoise had hardly gotten started. I’d say his top speed was about one mile per week. I had no doubt at all that victory was mine.
I crossed another three fields, and at last I got to the hill and I started to make my way up. It was tougher going now, and my legs were starting to feel less springy than usual. I took another look back and saw that the tortoise was only half way across the first field. I decided to stop for a breather and a bit of a chuckle.
How did the fox ever think that the old cabbage-head could beat me? Doesn’t he know that I’m speedy by name, speedy by nature? And I thought he was smart!
In fact, just to show him how confident I was of winning, I sat down. “Give the old lumber-along a sporting chance,” I said to myself. “And when he gets near, I’ll dash off again. That will make the race more entertaining.”
I stretched out and chewed on a long piece of juicy grass. I knew one of the beady-eyed crows would see me and report back to the crowd how I was so far ahead that I could afford to take things easy. In fact, I thought it wouldn’t do any harm just to close my eyes for a moment or two. My eyelids certainly were feeling a bit heavy after running up hill under a hot sun. In fact, I thought that 40 winks would refresh me, and I would set off all the faster when I got going again.
Oh! How pleasant it was to lie down on such a glorious day. The grasshoppers were singing and the breeze was rustling ever so gently in the trees. Soon I was dreaming of victory. They would be talking about this on the farm for weeks. But dear, dear me. I must have well and truly dozed off, because when I woke up, I shivered. The sun was going down, and the air was a bit cooler. For a moment, I couldn’t remember where I was, and then I recalled the race. I stood up and scanned the hill below for sight of the tortoise. Perhaps he had just done the logical thing and given up and gone back home. So I started to jog up to the top of the hill, and then run gently back down again. Still no sign of my rival.
It was almost dark when I got back to the farm gate and the finishing line. The cows had gone off to be milked, and only the fox, the badger, and the rat were waiting for me.
“Hello guys,” I said. “What’s my prize?”
“What’s your prize?” Said the badger. “Your prize is that we are working for the fox for a month.”
“GRRRR!” said the rat, really quite angrily. “You’ve well and truly let us down. You might be Speedy by name, but you’re dead lazy by nature. Beaten by a 100 year old slow-coach. It’s disgusting, truly disgusting.”
Only the old fox had a sly grin on his face.
“Thank you hare,” he said. “You’ve proved me right, as I usually am. The tortoise plodded in home just over an hour ago. It only goes to show that slow and steady always wins the race.”
So now you know all about the one and only time that I came less than first in a race. Of course you shouldn’t go supposing that the tortoise is faster than me. It was just a one-off kind of disaster. I mean, oversleeping like that? It could have happened to anyone. I’m still the fastest creature on the farm – and don’t let anyone tell you different.
Well I must dash. No time to hang around chatting like this. Catch you later!
And that was the story of ‘The Hare and the Tortoise,’ as told by the Hare.