Minimalist Fables: The Tortoise and the Hare

This article is part of a new series where I use fables to teach children the values of minimalism and productivity.

Harry the Hare and Timmy the Tortoise signed up for a foot race in their neighborhood. Both wanted to win, because there was a big cash prize, and neither had a lot of money. Timmy was so poor that he spent his days wandering the desert in search of food and nutrients, also because he was a tortoise. Harry spent his time sleeping around with single rabbits. He had so many rabbit babies that he owed a fortune in child support.

At the starting line they two friends gave each other some good-natured ribbing. “I hope somebody turns you into soup.” said Harry, adding that “Turtles are what’s wrong with this country, why don’t you race back to the desert.” Timmy felt sad, and pulled his head back into the shell.

When the race started Harry was off in a flash. He used his big feet to race ahead of Timmy and all of the other competitors. After a few minutes he was so far ahead that he couldn’t see or hear any of the other racers. He stopped for a cigarette, which turned into two, then three, and pretty soon he had finished the pack. With still no competitors in sight he thought about turning into a nearby pub for a quick nip.

Timmy was way behind Harry. In fact, as Harry was enjoying the smooth taste of Marlboro 100’s, Timmy was still within sight of the starting line, in last place. Tortoises are not fast animals, but what Timmy lacked in speed he made up for in determination. Despite being in dead last, he pressed on, slowly, but steadily moving ahead. Spectators saw his grit and shouted words encouragement. “You’re going to lose stupid” and “I hate you” came the voices from the crowd.

After a few pints at the pub Harry wised up and decided he should finish the race. He resumed running at a leisurely pace and easily won, after all, hares are very fast runners. Mental fortitude can only go so far, and in the end pure genetics is the only thing that matters.

Harry collected a trophy and a huge sum of money for winning, enough to make him a very rich rabbit. In his victory speech, slurred from several post race beers, he attributed his win to genetics, and the fact that a rabbit has never lost a race to a tortoise in the history of the universe.

Long after the prizes had been awarded, and long after Harry had vomited all over the stage while accepting his trophy, Timmy was still trying to finish the race. It was getting dark out, and he was not even halfway done. Yet still he pressed on, determined to prove everyone wrong and finish the race.

Unfortunately for Timmy the race organizers had forgotten about him. The cones that marked the course were gone and nobody was directing traffic, meaning that Timmy was walking on a busy street at night with no lights or markers of any kind. A smarter turtle would have painted reflective markings on his shell so that drivers could see him at night. Timmy was not a smart tortoise. Determination is a noble quality for any man or beast, but without brains it can be easily misguided, often tragically so.

As Timmy plodded along in the darkened street he felt the rush of air as cars passed by only inches away. Eventually one came too close, and a tire grazed his leg. Timmy instinctively retracted into his shell, believing that it could protect him from all dangers. As has already been discussed, Timmy was not a smart tortoise. The shell was good protection from bears and coyotes, but not cars. Soon a second car clipped his shell, sending him bouncing off the sidewalk and back into the middle of the lane.

To his credit, Timmy had a very strong shell for a tortoise. The first car to hit him head on only cracked it slightly. With each additional impact the shell cracked more and more, until it was ready to shatter completely. In his last few moments of life, as the shards of shell were starting to dig into his soft skin, Timmy wondered what he had done wrong, a question that could not even be fully comprehended by his tiny reptilian brain.

In one final blow Timmy’s shell completely collapsed, and he was dead in an instant. When asked later, vultures who had been circling Timmy for most of the day would report that the final blow was dealt by a gargantuan pickup truck, seemingly fresh off the lot, being driven by a drunken hare.

TLDR for Kids: Genes, talent, and natural advantages trump hard work and determination every time. If you find yourself in last place in a race, give up. Don’t walk on the road at night without reflective gear. Don’t drink and drive, unless you have a high tolerance and are “pretty sure” you can make it. Finally, don’t be a tortoise or a hare.

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