Once upon a time, in the woods in the northern area of Pakistan, there lived many different kinds of animals. This area is famous for high mountains and very dense forests, and for hundreds of years these animals lived side by side as friends and helped one another in times of need and difficulty.
Sometimes the big bear liked to dance, and all of the animals would get together to see his magnificent performance. The Langoors (long tailed monkeys) would hang upside-down from the branches by their long tails. The elephants would use their long trunks to pick apples and peaches and apricots from the trees and share them among their friends. The snakes, with their beautifully patterned skin, would wrap themselves around the trunks and branches of the trees like brightly coloured banners. And the birds would sing beautiful songs while the hare used the shell of the tortoise to beat out a rhythm on his drum.
Often, by popular request, the proud peacock would display his colourful tail feathers behind him in the shape of a huge fan and begin a graceful dance that would last for many hours. All of the animals would clap and cheer at this impressive display.
One day, after just such a performance by the bear and the peacock, the young hare became jealous that he was not being praised in such a way. He wanted to show all of the animals that he too could do something impressive. The fact that he was being ignored made the hare quite ill tempered. He even began teasing the tortoise. ‘How slow and almost dead you are,’ said the hare. ‘The only thing that you are useful for is as a stick for my drum.’
The tortoise did not like being teased in this way and said, ‘You are not being fair. I can do things too!’
‘What things?’ replied the hare. ‘You are simply too slow to do anything. If there was a fire you would even be too slow to escape and so you would perish in the flames.’
The tortoise, always so patient and kind, did not like being ridiculed by the hare and was tired of his friend always bragging about how fast he could run. ‘I can escape from danger just as well as you,’ said the old tortoise. ‘I could even compete with you in a race,’ he announced.
The hare was astonished at such a challenge. ‘You!’ he exclaimed. ‘You would like to race with me? Ha, Ha, Ha!’ The hare laughed so much that he fell off the rock that he was sitting on and collapsed onto the ground.
When the hare finally dragged himself up from the ground, he looked at the tortoise once more with a smug grin on his face. ‘And I suppose you would win this race?’ he asked. ‘Are you sure you are not dreaming?’ And with that, he began laughing some more.
The tortoise was very annoyed with the conceited hare. ‘Who are you to make assumptions and doubt my determination?’ he asked.
‘Ok, Ok,’ conceded the hare. ‘We will have a race!’
All of the animals had been listening to the tortoise and the hare and they all agreed that the race would take place the following morning at sunrise.
The following morning arrived and the tortoise made his way to the clearing in the forest where the race would begin.
The finish line was at the foot of the nearest hills where the wise owl sat watching over the racetrack with his yellow flag. He was the referee and his decision would be final. The chattering parrot was given the duty of announcing the start of the race, and the hare suggested that whoever lost the race would invite all of the animals to a tasty dinner. The tortoise agreed reluctantly. Now that he was actually going to have to race, he was not at all sure that he would be able to win against the speedy hare.
Both the hare and the tortoise stood at the start line with the other animals standing here and there along the sides of the racetrack. The parrot called out in his shrill voice: ‘On your marks, get ready, steady… one, two, three, go!’
The hare immediately skipped and hopped from the start line and in seconds reached a tree several metres away. He sat beneath the tree and looked back at the tortoise who had only managed to move a couple of inches from the starting line. ‘Oh, I can’t stand this pitiful sight,’ the hare said to himself. ‘I think I will go and pull out some carrots from the field and have my breakfast while I am waiting for the old tortoise to catch up.’
And so the hare ran to the small field next to the clearing and pulled up some carrots. After munching several of the juicy carrots, the hare began to feel very sleepy. He yawned and looked over towards the racetrack in the clearing. The tortoise was so slow that he had not moved far from his original position. ‘What a silly old nutcase,’ the hare said contemptuously. ‘That tortoise is so slow that I think I will have a little sleep before continuing with the race.
And so the hare drifted off to sleep in the field. He was so sure he would win the race that he even began dreaming about his victory. He dreamt that all of the animals of the forest were standing along the sides of the racetrack cheering him along and waving their little flags as he flashed across the finish line with the old tortoise far behind.
Meanwhile, the tortoise continued at his steady pace along the racetrack, eventually passing the lazy hare who was still sleeping in the field. ‘Have a good rest, hare,’ thought the patient tortoise. ‘I will see you at the finish line.’
The tortoise smiled to himself and carried on his slow and steady progress until he eventually crossed over the finish line to win the race!
Once the wise owl had declared the tortoise the winner, the old tortoise hid himself behind a small rock and waited for the hare to arrive.
Sometime later, the hare eventually woke from his sleep and immediately began the race again, assuming that the slow tortoise was still far behind. In no time at all, the hare zoomed across the finish and fell to the ground with a thud. ‘Hooray, hooray!’ exclaimed the hare. ‘I’ve won, I’ve won!’
It was then that the tortoise raised his head from behind the rock. ‘Not really,’ he said in his gentle voice. ‘I am afraid I have already won the race.’
‘How did you get here?’ the hare asked in amazement.
‘Just like you did,’ replied the tortoise. ‘I came along the racetrack as quickly as my old feet would carry me.’
‘But you are very slow and I am very fast!’ exclaimed the hare.
‘That may be, but I have won the race. Isn’t that right, Mr Wise Owl?’
‘Yes indeed,’ said the owl. ‘You are the winner and the hare is the loser.’
‘This is not fair!’ cried the hare, barely disguising the anger in his voice. ‘We should repeat the race and this time I will show you!’
The wise owl approached the hare. ‘This is your punishment for being so arrogant and always thinking that you are better than others,’ he said. ‘That was your first mistake.
‘But I was winning, you could see!’ exclaimed the hare. ‘If I had not gone to sleep along the way, this old tortoise would never have won the race!’
‘And that was your second mistake,’ declared the wise owl. ‘You were irresponsible and you fell asleep before the job was done.’
‘Well,’ said the hare, ‘I think the tortoise should be the one to cook for us all as he won the race and it is he who should be the host of the dinner, not me.’
Upon hearing these words, the owl looked very sternly at the cheeky hare. ‘This is your third mistake, young hare. It was your idea that the loser should cook the meal, and now you are trying to get out of this commitment. I am the referee and this will not be tolerated.’
All of the animals agreed that the hare was being very cheeky in trying to get out of his promise. He had lost the race and he should be the one to cook the meal.
When the wise owl pointed out that the hare had been arrogant and irresponsible, and was even now trying to break his promise, the young hare became so embarrassed that he lowered his eyes to the ground and used his long, floppy ears to cover his face.
But the wise owl insisted that the hare cook the meal and invite the tortoise and the parrot and all of the animals of the forest.
The hare reluctantly agreed to cook the meal, and it was during this long process of cooking that the hare learned his lesson. He told himself that he would never again be so lazy and conceited. And he would never, ever, underestimate the talents of his friends.
That night, the owl, the parrot, the tortoise, and all the other animals of the forest, enjoyed the wonderful meal that the hare had cooked for them. The friends talked and laughed and ate, and the hare even congratulated the tortoise on his victory in the race!