aesop on flickr

When I was on Samos, Aesop’s island, I saw both a tortoise and, briefly, a hare.
What is it about this story, and others from Aesop, that has inspired artists so much?

For instance:

The Tortoise and The Hare

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Uploaded on May 3, 2006


tortoise and hare

Uploaded on August 2, 2007
by bird in the beehive

The story of course continues to give us its meaning



  1. isl_gr said

    Seriously and between you and me now, we humans love to identify with the turtle because like a turtle, we are always facing extremely bad kinetic problems (standing up and on ONLY 2 legs!). On the other side, exactly like the turtles we are obstinent and we have a strong memory too (like a turtle’s and more) so we do not forget the goal.This why, imo, this fable is so popular. It puts in value a few basic characteristics of the human race: bad mouvement but strong memory. Mind over body._

  2. Simon G said

    lol – that’s interesting that you identify with the tortoise… I see what you mean – extremely bad kinetic problems – we are not “naturals” like other species. We can’t run as fast as cats, or fly without a machine, or swim like a dolphin. And there are so many things to do that we are not “natural” at. (hope this is not stretching your idea too far.)
    But I always felt too, sort of fickle and mercurial, inconsistent, like the hare. So I am torn…

  3. AKK said

    Yes, but if we are in good shape and we find food and water, we can walk very very very long distances. There is a school of anthropologists who claim that too much importance was given to the human hand and that the human foot is as (if not more) important. There are 42 little bones in it, can you imagine?

  4. Simon G said

    The foot! – I’m surprised – I’ve never heard that before, that humans are distinctive for their feet. In cockney rhyming slang we call ehem “plates of meat”. The hand always seemed so much more dextrous…

    – short pause for thought –

    Is it because the other great apes are so good in trees, and our ancestors chose the footpath instead? So more distance was covered?

    – but then there are many animals that migrate or travel long distances. Does the tortoise? He doesn’t have to worry about finding a house when he arrives…

  5. Anonymous said

    Dogs are quadrupeds and apes are quadru-handed (can’t remember the latin scholarly term for “hands”). But there is one ape who is biped and bihanded and that’s us! Yes, we chose the footpath. Unlike apes who are very static, we like travel and when there is trouble we migrate. Thanks to our feet and with the fat in our body that helps us float, we can swim too! Quadruped cats and dogs can swim, but all other apes but us, go down like lead and drown.
    Tortoises can swim too. They hate travelling but they do it when they need to. It’s not speed but the sense of the right direction. When I was a kid I took pleasure to carry a turtle some place else to see if it could find the way back. It took a week, and if there was not wall in between, it was always back!

  6. Simon G said

    I guess you didn’t have any busy roads near you as a child then.

    Well, now I feel more indebted to the foot. There ought to be a Rudyard Kipling-style “Just So” story (you know, like “The Cat Who Walked by Himself” ) about man’s decision to turn his back hands into feet. After his long journeying he returns to explain himself to the other primates. They are puzzled, no dismayed, when they see he can no longer swing from branch to branch: “What have you done!? Look at you; you have extremely bad kinetic problems. Your back hands are so flat.”
    “Oh, but I have been walking, walking…”
    “And that’s a good thing?! How can you escape from Lion and Snake down on the ground like that? How can you get all the best fruit?”
    “Ah, but I have seen many things…”

  7. AKK said

    Wow! You have just given out a great fable! Scientists also say that the tall grass of the savanah had a lot to do with the upright posture of our bodies and hence the flat foot. The primate of your story didn’t only have to turn his back hands flat but he had to stretch so that he could see what was ahead.
    How hard all that must have been!
    A well known writer was perhaps right when he said that for the last 500000 years mankind is on holidays!

  8. Simon G said

    holidays! Who said that?!

    I suppose holidays can be stressful – missing the plane, not speaking the language, getting onto the wrong ferry, being taken to a hotel a long way away from the beach…

  9. Anonymous said

    ha ha ha 🙂 No. The writer was Bruce Chatwin and by holidays he meant “easy-living”. A paleolanthropologist had told him that in Africa. They had been discovering sculls of humanoids killed by sabre-toothed lions. All of those skulls had two holes in the back from the lions’ long teeth. Apparently the lion killed and carried away our ancestors the same way cats do with mice! Have you ever seen a cat do this?

    And… ooop… we ‘ve made a loop… back to Marios’ fable, didn’t we?
    That was funny 🙂

  10. Simon G said

    (Yes, my cat Tisha likes to ‘toy’ with the mouse quite a bit while it is still (half) alive.)


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