I heard this on This American Life last week. It is kind of a fun story. I hope everyone else finds it so. I found the transcript and then just pasted it here. It is by Jonathan Goldstein. His story about the tortoise and the hare is itself based on a retelling of the Aesop’s fable by the 18th Baron of Dunsany, Edward Punkett. Jonathan’s the host of the CBC radio show and podcast, WireTap, which you can hear on many public radio stations and you can get from the iTunes Store, where a version of this story first ran.
Honorable animals of the forest council, Secretary Otter and Chairman Skunk, I’m sorry, but I must interrupt. I know that time is of the essence. So I will keep my remarks brief. I stand before you not an arrogant hare, nor a flashy hare as some of you would have it, but merely a hare who cares about this forest and all of its creatures.
I’ve not come here to cast dispersions on the tortoise. This is not a time for partisanship. Whether you be a hare man or a tortoise man, we must all work together. But to save the forest from its impending doom, it’s important you know the truth about the race known as Tortoise versus Hare.
Look, I know how this makes me look. The hare is a poor loser, you say. The hare has a problem with tortoises. Well, I’m going to stop you right there. Let the record show that I have nothing against turtles of any kind. The snapping turtle is godfather to 27 of my kids, for crying out loud.
But if you think there is any chance that tortoise beat me fair and square, you are deluding yourselves. Tortoises don’t have a reputation for being slow. They are slow. Everyone knows this. It’s not a question. It’s not debatable. It just is.
So imagine my surprise when, one morning, I wake up to discover the entire forest is talking about how I challenged the tortoise to a race. Think about it. Why would a hare challenge a tortoise to a race? It doesn’t make any sense. What would it prove? If I win, I’m an [BLEEP]. If I lose, I’m an embarrassment to my species.
Oh, how I was vilified after that race. In the picture they ran on the cover of The Forest Post, I’m pulling my whiskers out, stomping on my top hat and yelling at a judging official. There I was, the arrogant buck-toothed hare with the fabulous libido that everyone loves to hate finally receiving his comeuppance. And the lies that were told about the race itself– why would I stop just shy of the finish line and eat a large turkey dinner with all of the trimmings? Or why would I pull out a beach chair and take a sun tanning break? First of all, I burn easily. And second, what am I, an idiot?
In the days after the race when I put forth my multiple tortoises in multiple forest nooks theory, I was labeled a paranoid, a conspiracy nut, not to mention a specie-ist for suggesting that tortoises all look the same. But I knew then as I know now that there was a network of them, tortoises, all working in cahoots, stationed behind trees, hiding in briar patches all along the racing route. Nonetheless, the tortoise was awarded the title of fastest in the forest. And I’d no choice but to shake his wrinkled, little, green hand and congratulate him.
But dear fellow forest dwellers, back to the business at hand of this emergency meeting. As Smokey Bear alerted us this morning, the forest is burning. Time is of the essence.
With all due respect to the authority of this council, sending the tortoise as messenger to alert the creatures of these woods that there’s a fire raging and they must run for their lives? Not the best choice in the world. The tortoise left three hours ago. But if you rise up onto your toes, you can still see him creeping along down there at the bottom of the hill.
So he cheated. And normally, I would let this go. Who among us has not cheated at one time or another? Opossum has cheated at checkers. Fox has cheated on his taxes. And I’m the first to admit that because of my own arrogance I’ve cheated myself out of your friendship. And I’ve also cheated with some of your wives.
But the point is we can no longer let this tortoise charade go on. If we don’t do something now, lives will be lost. So just give me the OK to get running and as soon as I pick up my top hat at the blockers, fill my jogging pipe with tobacco, eat a light dinner of sprouts and Tam Tam crackers and get my retainer inserted, I’ll be on my way. All in favor, say “aye.” For the love of this forest and all that is good, please say “aye.”