Definitions

slow but steady wins the race

The Tortoise and the Hare

The Tortoise and the Hare is a fable attributed to Aesop. French poet Jean de La Fontaine adapted into the poem: "le lièvre et la tortue" The story concerns a hare who one day ridiculed a slow-moving tortoise. In response, the tortoise challenged his swift mocker to a race. The hare soon left the tortoise far behind and, confident of winning, he decided to take a nap midway through the course. When he awoke, however, he found that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, had already won the race (although in some versions, he may have also been bragging to some other people).

The story in extended version

Once upon a time a hare saw a tortoise walking slowly along and began to laugh and mock him. The tortoise challenged the hare to a race and the hare, thinking himself the fastest animal around, accepted. They agreed on a route and started off the race. The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time. Then seeing that he was far ahead of the tortoise, he thought he'd sit under a tree for some time and relax before continuing the race.

He sat under the tree and soon fell asleep. The tortoise, plodding on, overtook him and finished the race. The hare woke up and realized that he had lost the race.

The moral, stated at the end of the fable, is, "Slow and steady wins the race."

Film adaptation

The fable was adapted into a Silly Symphonies animated short subject of the same name by Walt Disney Productions in 1935 (although IMDb states it was released in 1934, the official book Disney A to Z by Dave Smith states it was released on January 5, 1935). The hare was named Max Hare (a pun on the name of the boxer Max Baer) and the tortoise was named Toby Tortoise. In 1936, Max Hare and Toby Tortoise appeared in another Silly Symphonies cartoon called Toby Tortoise Returns, in which Max and Toby are engaged in another match as fighters in a boxing ring. It also served as the inspiration for three Bugs Bunny Merrie Melodies cartoons co-starring Cecil Turtle. Archie Comics also turned the character of the tortoise into a Sonic the Hedgehog character named Tommy Turtle.

The Tortoise and the Hare also make a cameo among the non-human Fables in the Fables comic book.

Allusions to the fable

In the sitcom Scrubs, Perry Cox retells the fable with Chief of Medicine Bob Kelso in place of the hare, calling the tale "The Tortoise and the Pain-in-the-ass Chief of Medicine That Everybody Hates". The story remains true to the fable for most of the way, until the end when the tortoise bites the calf of the chief of medicine, who is then devoured by the other tortoises on the track. Cox describes it as "a disturbing children's book... but one that stuck with me, nonetheless".

Jazz Jackrabbit was described by their creators as "Remember the tortoise and hare? They are still fighting, even in the future".

In an episode of Garfield and Friends's U.S. Acres, Booker and Sheldon decide to make the fable more modern, by turning the characters into intergalactic hero and villain with powerful ships (they considered before turning the tortoise into a ninja, but they realized that is not original).

Walt Disney's Fun-to-Read Library adapted the story as Goofy's Big Race, in which Goofy (in a slow old-fashioned car) and Donald Duck (in a convertible) race to an ice cream shop in Horner's Corners. Along the way, Donald, confident that he will win, gets into all sorts of distractions (such as going skateboarding with Huey, Dewey and Louie and trying unsuccessfully to help win a baseball game) while Goofy keeps his mind on the race.

MAD Magazine parodied the story as a "Modern Day Fairy Tale" comic strip in which the tortoise wins because the hare was beaten up by the Ninja Turtles.

In mathematics and computer science, the "tortoise and the hare" algorithm is an alternate name for Floyd's cycle-finding algorithm.

The Moody Blues song "Tortoise and the Hare" from the album A Question of Balance is loosely based on the fable. The song "The Tortoise and the Hare for a New Age" by BJ Dooley (The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay) retells the story with references to science, magic, and cheating.

An animated retelling of the fable was released as part of the Living Books series of children's computer games in 1993.

The online webcomic Turtle vs. Bunny shows a much more violent take on the classic story with reader participation determining the outcome.

Sesame Street used the fable as the basis for two Sesame Street News Flash segments; in the first, Kermit the Frog accidentally wins the race, and in the second, the tortoise has a rocket attached to his shell.

An episode of the Second series of The Backyardigans called Horsing Around alludes to this fable, although in this case it is a slow-moving donkey and his rider who beat two much faster horses and their riders.

In Copley Square in Boston, Massachusetts, the finish line of the Boston Marathon, a statue has been placed of the characters from the story.

An abbreviated version of this fable is referenced in the often-heard expression in the business world: "You snooze, you lose."

In Germany, a slightly different fable / fairy tale called Der Hase und der Igel ("the hare and the hedgehog") is more popular. It was publicized for the first time in 1840 and afterwards made popular by the Brothers Grimm. Here, a hedgehog beats the hare in a race by situating his wife at the end of the track. Before the hare can arrive, the hedgehog's wife – who looks very similar to her husband – calls out "Ick bün all dor" (Lower German, "I am here already"). The hare cannot understand his loss, sets up a new race, is tricked again … and finally dies from exhaustion. – In Germany, the popular board game Hare and Tortoise is designed after this version of the story and runs under the name "Hase und Igel" (hare and hedgehog). In the satirical short story Achilles and the Tortoise and the Hedgehog, the fable has been combined with the classical paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise.

The fable was the basis of a big race in the September 2008 issue of Ranger Rick, in which Becky Hare raced Bosley Box Turtle, and, in the middle of the race, rescued a group of box turtles being captured as pets, thus losing again to the turtle.

See also

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