After the tortoise had won the race against the hare, the other animals began to consult him about improving their running speeds. They had not seen what happened during the race: half of them had been at the start, and the other half at the finishing tape. The first group had seen the hare dashing off into the distance, and the other group had seen the tortoise crawl across the finishing line, and the hare running up second. No one had actually seen the tortoise moving fast, but they came to believe, as the only explanation, that he must have gone into some sort of over-drive during the main part of the race, slowing down when he had passed the hare and was leading by a huge margin. As the animals had no watches, none of them knew just how long the race had taken.
No one listened to the hare’s story – a loser always has an excuse.
The tortoise, at first, used to deny that he had any special powers, but they said so often, ‘Oh, that’s your modesty’, that in the end he began to believe in them himself. His friends made him a Victory Medal, which he always wore round his neck. He became more and more confident, and then arrogant, and finally got himself into a situation where he more or less had to challenge the hare to a new match.
‘I’ve done it once, and I’ll do it again,’ he confided to his friends.
Only the cockatoo, who had flown over the course during the first race and seen what happened, thought the tortoise would lose. The others said to him, ‘You’re mad; look what he did last time,’ and he replied, ‘Look what he is. He may have won a race, but he’s still only a tortoise.’
The day of the race came. When the hare crossed the finishing line, the tortoise had gone six feet three and a half inches. The animals dispersed without looking at each other, as the cockatoo screamed with laughter.
© Trevor Leggett – The Tortoise