The Tortoise and the Hare

Mme Hare has a lolloping stride that zigzags across the ground and back. She moves fast but cannot keep to a straight line. This is for distraction, naturally, to confuse predators who would like a tasty stew for lunch. Her speed is impressive, though it makes her short-sighted. She peers at what is close to, noticing burdock and dandelions, which she likes to snack on while snatching a rest. Round the next corner is a bend beyond her usual; and far above her head, the hills are a bluish blur.

Mr Tortoise would never be eaten, so he can afford to plod affably forward. One foot at a time, he moves placidly in a straight line. Indeed so peaceful is he, you might fall asleep if you were waiting for him to catch up with you.

Early bets were on Mme Hare to win the annual hedge chase. Always politely letting the ladies go first, the organisers were charmed by her sparkling energy and confident poise. Her eyes shone as she looked down on her challenger, Mr Tortoise, with his thickset body and legs close to the ground.

To a cheer from the assembled crowd, off they ran. Spectators thinned out further down the line, until it was just Hare, running thud, thud, thud, alone along the path. Despite catching a hind leg in a snare of bindweed, despite slipping into several holes, she built up a considerable lead. “Too easy” she thought. “I’ll just snatch a rest here, for a moment” and closed her eyes.

Mr Tortoise was far behind, but he kept a straighter line. Because his pace was constant and undemanding, he had lots of time to look around. Watching carefully farther down the track, he was able to avoid the snags and slips that had caught out Mme Hare, so that ever so calmly, he caught up with the lady, and was soon level pegging, then overtaking Mme as she slept. He was quiet too, and said not a word to anyone: not greeting the badger watching from his set, nor the blackbird carefully guarding his patch of green. Taking his time to look ahead and consider the easiest path, Mr Tortoise could see exactly where he might best cross the finishing line.

It was a raindrop that finally woke Mme Hare from her dreams of victory. The wind was up, ruffling through her fur and making her shiver. “Where am I?” she thought sleepily. “Ah, yes, the race. I had better get on, then…The race! Where is Mr Tortoise? Where is he?” She jumped clear in the air, and saw his careful shape just about to cross the line. Though she darted and ran as fast as she could, sleepiness held her back. She lost the race, and as Mr Tortoise was hoisted onto the shoulders of Mr Dog for a lap of victory, there was nothing Mme Hare could do except sit and watch.

Moral: Going slowly and taking the long view may seem uninteresting, but it is more likely to achieve the desired outcome.

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