What an interesting guy this Aesop. A slave, reported to be ugly as hell, ends up freeing himself from his master, sleeping with his wife and then becoming a diplomat. What’s also interesting is his legendary status as storyteller and maverick solidified in 1 A.D. around the same time as the Bible, and isn’t that why some of his stories live on today as widely and commonly known as some of the Biblical ones? The one that I was thinking of (when I started fastidiously clicking onto hyperlinks on Wiki) was the Hare and the Tortoise. You know this fable is retold in Japan to children as often as I can remember. It’s nice and accessible because the protagonists are two fairly well-known and easy to visualise animals. The animals talk, so they are humanised but they still aren’t the same as us, which makes the tale all the more palatable.
Hare is bragging, being a bit of dick basically, showing off how fast he can run or hop or whatever. He’s in a pub probably on a Sunday lunchtime when everyone’s in with their family and dogs having a nice meal out. The Tortoise, an upstanding citizen of their village who always pays his taxes and puts out the recycling, can’t help but overhear Hare bragging at the bar. Tapping himself up to the eyeballs. Talking utter nonsense and drivel. The Tortoise after testing his patience gets up and goes to the far taller Hare now propping himself up on the bar, and says
‘Excuse me for interrupting but you and your chums are stirring up quite the racket, can you keep it down a bit.’
Hare spits and replies, ‘Petulent insolent nonsense. You’re the one that’s making a fool out of yourself!’
‘No sir, that is most clearly and definitely you’, Tortoise said looking down at Hare’s flies which were undone.
‘Oh sod you - you slow piece of shell’, uttered Hare in a slur, ‘curse you and all your slow type.’
The pub fell in to a hushed silence, for hadn’t Hare quite publicly admitted something Speedist? I can’t enforce to you enough how Hare was not a popular fellow; he was renowned for having unsavoury views, particularly when it came to judging other species and their inferiority to Leporidae.
‘Right I’ve had it with you Hare!’ Piped up Tortoise, ‘You and me outside now.’
The pubgoers flocked out on to the sandy gravel driveway and the pub landlord, Beetle, clambered over some disused barrels and crawled out before Hare and Tortoise.
‘Alright lads. I’m marking out a line here in the gravel. You and Hare note this is the starting line.’ The crowds cheered and the landlord continued, ‘Now the time is just coming up for 1PM. You two fellas warm yourselves up because this is going to be a race!’ The crowds roared and some beer was spilt.
Hare burped and sneered at Tortoise. The Tortoise remained calm.
Now Beetle orated, ‘The finishing line is that cow gate at the top of the hill before you reach the windmills. We’ll all be waiting for you up there, and I’ll assign lookouts along the way to make sure none of you ain’t cheating. Do you hear me boy?’ Beetle leaned in closer to Hare whose breath smelt of bad booze.
The crowds began to shuffle and stumble and make their way across the path and over some grass towards the hill. The distance was about 1 km. Anyone could have done it in under an hour but for Tortoise this job could take at least five. When the clock struck one and the church bell ding-donged Tortoise set off at his ungodly slow pace of 4m per minute (at a push). Hare completely unaware the clocks had struck one turned round from the starting line and trundled off to use the bathroom of the pub. Now that everyone had scattered all that was left was Tortoise several metres away from the line but not far away really.