On a lovely sunny day in the jungle, all the animals were in a playful mood and relaxed. There was the Hare, the Fox, the Squirrel, the Badger, the Hedgehog, the Weasel and the Tortoise. Suddenly, the Hare started saying he is the fastest among all of them. He said, “I can beat you all in any race. Dare to race with me?”

“We are too small and slow to race with you” The Squirrel, the Badger and the Hedgehog said in unison.

“What about you, Fox” asked the Hare. “No, not me, I am too tired from hunting throughout the night.”

There was silence in the group for sometime, then with little hesitantly, the tortoise spoke, “I can give it a try, if you like.”

The Hare had a hearty laugh to him and replied, “Ah ha, so we have enterprising Tortoise accepting my challenge.” The Hare held up a Gold coin that he had picked up from a nearby barn and said, “This Gold Coin will be the prize for the winner. We will race from here to the stone bridge on the other side of this forest.”

The Hare, confident of winning the race, laughed out loud and said, “Old tortoise, you have no chance of winning this race, you are too slow. Why don’t you just relax in this bright sun instead of toiling hard for this gold coin?”

All the other animals joined in the laughter. But the Tortoise was determined and said, “Lets not waste time and start the race. Who will start us up?”

The owl that was sleeping till now fluttered his wings and said, “Tu-whit-to-whoo” signaling the beginning of the long race to the stone bridge on the other side of the forest.

The Hare was rushing as soon as the signal was give and soon he was out sight. Meanwhile the Tortoise just started plodding his heavy body in the thick forest. All the animals were sympathetic to Tortoise and cheered for him, “Bug-up, dear old one. You can surely run faster.” The Badger and the Squirrel sneered, “Its no point actually, the Hare will win hands down.”

The Tortoise, unmindful of this hullabaloo, went on his task and inched towards the stone bridge, still very far ahead. The determination was writ in his face and he kept telling himself, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

The Hare moved on relentlessly through the thick forest over the swamps and bushes and finally reached a clearing and stopped to look behind. He waited to hear any sound of anyone following him, but neither could hear any sound nor could he see any trace of the Tortoise.

The Hare laughed out as he was very pleased, he was winning by the miles. He now walked at a leisurely pace and had reached almost at the end of the forest. He could actually see the stone bridge through the bushes at a distance not very far from where he was.

The Hare liked to boast and felt that reaching the milestone without his friends watching is of no fun and that he must wait for the other animals to catch up with him before he reached the stone bridge, the final point of the long race. They must applaud him, the victor, when he beat the Tortoise.

Thinking this, the Hare sat down under a tree and felt relaxed. Soon, because of the heat the Hare dozed off to sleep.

The Hare woke up to the cool breeze that was now blowing as the sun set and he could hear the animals cheering at a distance. The Hare thought, “So my friends are all here to see me win the race!” He stretched himself and got ready to race the remaining distance.”

The hare could not imagine that all the while that he was sleeping; the Tortoise not only caught up with him but slowly moved ahead of him. Now the Tortoise was only a few a steps from the final point – the stone bridge.

The Hare moved forward cheerfully and suddenly to his horror saw that the Tortoise was much ahead of him and was actually steps away from the stone bridge. Now, even if he ran his fastest, he cannot beat the Tortoise. The other animals are cheering the Tortoise and not him which he foolishly thought to be the case.

The soft-spoken and sensible Tortoise plodded the last few steps to the stone bridge with a satisfying smile on his face. He had won the race. He had beaten the boastful Hare. All the animals gathered there, cheered, “Well done, old Tortoise, you have beaten that show-off Hare handsomely. You are the Winner.”

The Tortoise was tired by now but still he moved to the top of the bridge and waved at the crowd acknowledging their applauding. It was a proud moment for the Tortoise and he was very happy.

The poor embarrassed Hare was now ashamed of himself for he had let go a great opportunity by his arrogance and had let the Tortoise win the race. He walked up slowly to the top of the stone bridge and handing over the Gold Coin to the Tortoise said, “Congratulations, you have won the race. Here is the prize – the Gold Coin for you.”

The Tortoise very much at peace with himself said, “Its okay buddy, you can keep the Gold Coin. I never ran for the Gold Coin. I only wanted to beat you in the race. I had lots of fun today and am very happy. Just remember, the slow and steady wins the long race, always.”

All the animals laughed out loudly. They all had a wonderful fun-filled day.

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