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Group Three

21 The tortoise

22 A thin reed survives

23 The lion and the mouse

24 The goat and the lion

25 The mother lion

26 The donkey's shadow

27 The dove and the ant

28 The greedy boy's hand

29 The greedy woman

30 The tricky donkey

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21. The Tortoise Outraces the Hare

One day a young hare who almost could fly
Began to make fun when a tortoise crept by:
         How slowly you walk! Are you 90 years old?
        You're slow as molasses left out in the cold.
The tortoise looked up with a smile on his face,
Mister Hare, said the Tortoise, Would you care to race?
        What? Race with a tortoise?
said Hare in disgust,
         I can run like the wind and leave you in the dust!

Said the owl: Let's try it! We'll all come to see
If Hare or if Tortoise the swifter one be!
         Tomorrow we'll gather along the deer track
        And the race will go down to the river and back.
Next morning the owl gave a hoot as a sign
And the racers took off in the glistening sunshine,
        The hare ran halfway and was laughing and crowing
        While poor little tortoise was still getting going.

Some riverside flowers attracted the hare
So he had quite a mouthful but he didn't care.
        Although he got sleepy, he thought: I can rest
        And still come in first in this silly contest.
But as he was snoozing that tortoise slipped by
Like a slow-motion cloud in the summertime sky,
        Laughter exploded when that hare awoke,
        To find not the tortoise but HE was the joke.

MORAL: Slow and steady wins the day.


from the book Prayers and Fables and the forthcoming book Aesop's Best: 80 Fables in Verse by William Cleary

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