The Hare And The Tortoise.

In the forest there was a clearing where all the animals gathered each evening after going to the river to drink. The tortoise was usually the last to arrive, and the other animals would laugh at him as he plodded into the clearing.

"Come on, Slowcoach", they would call out as he came through the grass towards them. The tortoise would blink at them and continue slowly on his way until he reached the spot where he wanted to settle down.

The liveliest of all the animals in the forest was the hare. He ran so fast that he was always the first to arrive at the clearing. "Just look at me", he was boasting one evening. "I can run faster than any of you".

The tortoise ambled into the clearing, last as usual. To everyone's surprise, he went slowly across to the hare.

"Since you run so fast, could you beat me in a race?" he asked.

"I, beat you, in a race!" exclaimed the hare, and he fell on the ground laughing. "Of course I would beat you. You name the distance, Tortoise, but don't make it too far for your short little legs", and he roared with laughter again.

Most of the other animals laughed too. It did seem a very comic idea. The fox said, "Come on then, Tortoise, name the distance and the time and then we will all come to watch".

"Let us stall tomorrow morning, at sunrise", suggested the tortoise. "Well run from this clearing to the edge of the forest and return along the bank of the river to this spot again".

"Why, it will take you all day to go so far, Tortoise. Are you sure you want to go ahead with it?" asked the hare. He grinned at the thought of the easy victory he would have.

"I am sure", replied the tortoise. "The first one back to this clearing will be the winner".

"Agreed!" said the hare, as the tortoise settled down in some long grass to sleep for the night.

The next morning the clearing was full of animals who had come to see the start of the great race. Some ran along to the edge of the forest, others chose good places to watch along the way.

The hare and the tortoise stood side by side. As the sun rose, the fox called,

"Ready, steady, go!"

The hare jumped up and in no time at all he was far ahead of the tortoise, almost out of sight. The tortoise started off in the same direction. He plodded along, slowly picking up his feet, then slowly putting them down only a little in front of where they had been before.

"Come on, Tortoise", called his friends anxiously. But he did not lift up his foot to wave at them as the hare had done. He kept on moving slowly forwards.

In a few minutes the hare was a long way from the starting line so he slowed down. "It's going to take the tortoise all day", he thought, "so there is no need for me to hurry". He stopped to talk to friends and nibble juicy grass here and there along the path.

By the time he reached half-way the sun was high in the sky and the day became very hot. The animals who were waiting there saw the hare turn back towards the clearing. They settled down for a long wait for the tortoise.

As he returned by the river, the hot sun and the grass he had eaten made the hare feel sleepy.

"There's no need to hurry", he told himself. "Here's a nice shady spot", and he stretched himself out comfortably on the ground. With paws beneath his head, he murmured sleepily. "It won't matter if Tortoise passes me, I'm much faster than he is. I'll still get back first and win the race". He drifted off to sleep.

Meanwhile the tortoise went on slowly. He reached the edge of the forest quite soon after the hare, for he had not stopped to talk to friends or eat tempting fresh grass. Before long, smiling gently, he passed the hare sleeping in the shade.

The animals in the clearing waited all day for the hare to return, but he did not arrive. The sun was setting before they saw the tortoise plodding towards them.

"Where is the hare?" they called out. The tortoise did not waste his breath in answering but came steadily towards them.

"Hurrah, Tortoise has won. Well done, Slowcoach!" the animals cheered.

Only when he knew he had won the race did Tortoise speak.

"Hare? Oh, he's asleep back there by the river".

There was a sudden flurry and at great speed the hare burst into the clearing. He had woken and, seeing how long the shadows were, realized he had slept for much longer than he intended. He raced back to the clearing but he was too late.

Tortoise smiled and said, "Slow and steady wins the race".