Some Versions of "The Tortoise and the Hare" Messed With the Moral

Atlas Obscura continues their Children's Literature Week with a look at the fable "The Tortoise and the Hare." The story, attributed to Aesop, comes down to us from antiquity, and has been told in many different ways.

In the tale, the two animals challenge one another to a race to prove who is fastest: mid-race, the hare lays down to rest, certain that it’s going to win. Then out comes the tortoise, plodding along without pause, the winner; slow and steady wins the race, as the moral goes. Then there’s a huge forest fire, and almost everybody dies.

Wait, what?

That's in Irish writer Lord Dunsany’s 1915 version of the tale, which is turned into a political joke with a terrific punch line. Read it and several other confounding versions of "The Tortoise and the Hare" that turned its message sideways.


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The German version has a hedgehog instead of a tortoise, and the hedgehog wins not by being faster, but by getting his wife to stand at the end of the race course and pretend to be him.
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