Aesop's Fables
Slow and Steady
Wins the Race

Aesop's Moral:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Other ways of saying it:
The race is not always to the swift.
Persistence wins out.
You can rest when you're done.
Don't be over-confident.
Keep on keepin' on!

Aesop's Fable:

The Tortoise and the Hare

A Hare one day ridiculed the short legs and slow pace of the Tortoise, who replied, laughing: “You might be fast, but I will beat you in a race.”

The Hare thought this was ridiculous and accepted the challenge.

Both the Tortoise and the Hare agreed to let the Fox decide where the race should begin and end and what course it should follow.

'Slow and Steady Wins the Race.' Cropped image from Fables in Rhyme for Little Folks From the French of La Fontaine, illustrator John Rae

The Hare took a rest beside the racecourse and fell fast asleep.

When he finally woke up and resumed racing to the end, he saw that the Tortoise had already finished...and was now napping happily and comfortably.

Another version

In The Aesop for Children, illustrated by Milo Winter, there's a translation that places us much more in the mindset of the Hare, which I find a great deal more fun and involving. Appropriately, this one is entitled

The Hare and the Tortoise

A Hare was making fun of the Tortoise one day for being so slow.

"Do you ever get anywhere?" he asked with a mocking laugh.

"Yes," replied the Tortoise, "and I get there sooner than you think. I'll run you a race and prove it."

The Hare was much amused at the idea of running a race with the Tortoise, but for the fun of the thing he agreed. So the Fox, who had consented to act as judge, marked the distance and started the runners off.

The Hare was soon far out of sight, and to make the Tortoise feel very deeply how ridiculous it was for him to try a race with a Hare, he lay down beside the course to take a nap until the Tortoise should catch up.

The Tortoise meanwhile kept going slowly but steadily, and, after a time, passed the place where the Hare was sleeping. But the Hare slept on very peacefully; and when at last he did wake up, the Tortoise was near the goal. The Hare now ran his swiftest, but he could not overtake the Tortoise in time.

The Hare and the Tortoise summary:

The Tortoise and the Hare may be Aesop's most famous fable, and "Slow but steady" his most famous moral.

(Though in the 2nd version above, the moral is given as "The race is not always to the swift." While "slow and steady wins the race" is an encouragement to the tortoises among us, "the race is not always to the swift" serves more as an admonition to the hares!")

I've often heard a version told that has the hare challenging the tortoise, but note that Aesop's intent in the versions above is that the challenge is Tortoise's, resulting from Hare's contemptuous taunts.

Note also that Tortoise expects to win!

Taken from Hare's point of view, the fable's message is a warning against over-confidence, though there really isn't enough information in the fable about Hare to tell us why Tortoise thought he could win. That's why when you read or see the story told in popular media, there's usually a lot more to it!

(Disney got a full 8 minutes out of it in 1934. See below.)

Slow and steady wins the race.

Jean De La Fontaine tells a more modern, rhyming version of this fable.

How to use Aesop's Fables.

More stories with morals.

Storytelling to improve behavior.


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