I wrote the following for the Sitting Room’s 2018 anthology. The organization, which houses a spectacular library of writing by women and hosts workshops and classes open to all, asked those interested in contributing to the anthology to take a myth, legend or other traditional tale and give it a fresh, original treatment.
By Laura McHale Holland
Hare here. Yes, the long-eared bugger everyone chides because Tortoise beat me in one silly race. Okay, I admit I was puffed up, a walking ego, a not very nice guy. If I’d been a kid on your playground, I’d have bullied you a time or two. But I wouldn’t say I was ever malicious.
You’ve read the fable, right? You know the gist of it. I boasted of my speed and prowess. All. The. Time. Now, that alone may have been tolerable, but I made fun of Tortoise, too, made him feel less-than. This finally ticked him off, and he challenged me to a race. Crazy right?
I thought it would be an easy win. What hare in his right mind wouldn’t? But from the start, I shot so far ahead, I became overconfident, scatterbrained, or both, depending on how you spin the tale. I dawdled, thinking poor Tortoise would never catch up. Plus, what fun would it have been if I’d just bounded at top speed to the finish? No, I had to taunt him, let him think he had a chance—then dash his hopes in style.
But, as you know, the upset was stunning. I live on in infamy, because people love to root for the underdog. Face it. Most of us have, at times, felt like 3’s on a scale of 1 to 10. And only a fraction of us actually are 10’s. We’re 5’s or 6’s, maybe 7’s. So a story about a humble tortoise besting a bumptious hare has legs. It offers hope.
So take your encouragement from this tale if you must. Chant, “Slow and steady wins the race” as you go through your days. There’s good in that.
But here’s the thing: life is a series of crossroads with new choices to make. Who’s to say I didn’t learn from my mistakes? If Tortoise and I raced again, which could easily happen if I goaded him, and if I became my true self, a focused speed demon, which is likely because I am not stupid, after all; Turtle would be left wallowing in mud and never challenge me again. He’d have to create a new motto, too, something like, “Stay in your lane” or “Do what you’re good at.” For Tortoise that might be sunning on a rock, and I guess there’s not much of a story in that.