Slow & Steady Does Not Win The Race

In a realisation that destroyed yet another piece of my childhood, the moral of the Tortoise and the Hare is NOT“slow and steady wins the race”.

Aesop’s Fables was one of my favourite books growing up. The variety of stories were both entertaining and educational with a clear moral at the end of each story stating what was supposed to be learned. One of the most popular stories to come from the collection is the Tortoise and the Hare which I recently decided to re-read to my daughter.

While many slight variations of the story have been printed, the synopsis is that a hare and tortoise end up in a race, the hare is quite arrogant at the start of the race telling everyone how much better he is, during the race the hare builds a very large lead, decides to take a break, ends up taking a nap, and awakens as the tortoise crosses the finish line. The moral listed is along the lines of “slow and steady wins the race” with some moderately altered versions such as “plodding wins the race” or “The race is not always to the swift.”.

Looking at the details of the story, it’s puzzling how anyone can draw that conclusion. The tortoise was not victorious because of a “steady pace”, it was only because his opponent was lazy. If this outcome was dictated by pace, a reasonable person would expect the story to reveal the hare was running too fast and got tired, which forced him to rest. However, the story never mentions fatigue and nothing in the text suggests his decision to rest had anything to do with being worn out. The loss was due to overconfidence, laziness, and arrogance. Without the element of laziness, the hare wins every time specifically because he is able to move at a much faster pace.

In conclusion, everything I learned about this fable as a child was a lie. In the absence of laziness, slow and steady does NOT win the race. A more logical conclusion to reach is “speed wins, but is wasted on the lazy”. So don’t be lazy or arrogant, unless you want to be passed by someone who is slow and steady.

A more logical conclusion to reach is“speed wins, but is wasted on the lazy”.

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