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The Hare And The Hedgehog

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - ANIMAL STORIES





BY THE BROTHERS GRIMM

This tale, my young readers, will seem to you to be quite false; but
still it must be true, for my Grandfather, who used to tell it to me,
would wind up by saying, "All this is true, my son, else it would never
have been told to me." The tale runs thus:--

It was a fine summer's morning, just before harvest-time; the buckwheat
was in flower, and the sun was shining brightly in the heaven above, a
breeze was blowing over the fields, where the larks were singing; and
along the paths the people were going to church dressed in their best.
Every creature seemed contented, even the Hedgehog, who stood before his
door singing as he best could a joyful song in praise of the fine
morning. Indoors, meanwhile, his Wife was washing and drying the
kitchen, before going into the fields for a walk to see how the crops
were getting on. She was such a long while, however, about her work that
Mr. Hedgehog would wait no longer, and trotted off by himself. He had
not walked any very long distance before he came to a small thicket,
near a field of cabbages, and there he espied a Hare, who he guessed had
come on a similar errand to himself; namely, to devour a few fine heads.
As soon as Mr. Hedgehog saw the Hare, he wished him a good morning; but
the latter, who was in his way a high-minded creature, turned a fierce
and haughty look upon the Hedgehog, and made no reply to his greeting.
He asked, instead, in a very majestic tone, how he came to be walking
abroad at such an early hour. "I am taking a walk," replied the
Hedgehog.

"A walk!" repeated the Hare, in an ironical tone, "methinks you might
employ your legs about something better!"

This answer vexed the Hedgehog most dreadfully, for he could have borne
anything better than to be quizzed about his legs, because they were
naturally short, and from no fault of his own. However, he said to the
Hare, "Well, you need not be so proud, pray, what can you do with those
legs of yours?" "That is my affair," replied the Hare. "I expect, if you
would venture a trial, that I should beat you in a race," said the
Hedgehog.

"You are laughing! you, with your short legs!" said the Hare
contemptuously. "But still, since you have such a particular wish, I
have no objection to try. What shall the wager be?"

"A louis d'or," replied the Hedgehog.

"Done!" said the Hare, "and it may as well come off at once."

"No! not in such great haste, if you please," said the Hedgehog; "I am
not quite ready yet; I must first go home and freshen up a bit. Within
half-an-hour I will return to this place."

Thereupon the Hedgehog hurried off, leaving the Hare very merry. On his
way home the former thought to himself, "Mr. Hare is very haughty and
high-minded, but withal he is very stupid, and although he thinks to
beat me with his long legs, I will find a way to defeat him." So, as
soon as the Hedgehog reached home, he told his Wife to dress herself at
once to go into the field with him.

"What is the matter?" asked his Wife.

"I have made a wager with the Hare, for a louis d'or, to run a race with
him, and you must be witness."

"My goodness, man! are you in your senses!" said the Wife, "do you know
what you are about? How can you expect to run so fast as the Hare?"

"Hold your tongue, Wife; that is my affair. Don't you reason about men's
business. March, and get ready to come with me."

As soon, then, as the Hedgehog's Wife was ready they set out together;
and on the way he said, "Now attend to what I say. On the long field
yonder we shall decide our bet. The Hare is to run on the one side of
the hedge and I on the other, and so all you have to do is to stop at
one end of the hedge, and then when the Hare arrives on the other side
at the same point, you must call out, 'I am here already.'"

They soon came to the field, and the Hedgehog stationed himself at one
end of the hedge, and his Wife at the other end; and as soon as they had
taken their places the Hare arrived. "Are you ready to start?" asked the
Hare. "Yes," answered the Hedgehog, and each took his place. "Off once,
off twice, three times and off!" cried the Hare, and ran up the field
like a whirlwind; while the Hedgehog took three steps and then returned
to his place.

The Hare soon arrived at his goal, as he ran all the way at top speed,
but before he could reach it, the Hedgehog's Wife on the other side
called out, "I am here already!" The Hare was thunderstruck to hear this
said, for he thought it really was his opponent, since there was no
difference in the voices of the Hedgehog and his Wife. "This will not
do!" thought the Hare to himself; but presently he called out, "Once,
twice, and off again;" and away he went as fast as possible, leaving the
Hedgehog quietly sitting in her place. "I am here before you," cried
Mr. Hedgehog, as soon as the Hare approached. "What! again?" exclaimed
the Hare in a rage; and added, "Will you dare another trial!" "Oh! as
many as you like; do not be afraid on my account," said Mr. Hedgehog,
courteously.

So the Hare then ran backwards and forwards three-and-seventy times, but
each time the Hedgehogs had the advantage of him, for either Mr. or Mrs.
shouted before he could reach the goal, "Here I am already!"

The four-and-seventieth time the Hare was unable to run any more. In the
middle of the course he stopped and dropped down quite exhausted, and
there he lay motionless for some time. But the Hedgehog took the louis
d'or which he had won, and went composedly home with his Wife.





Next: The Wee Robin's Christmas Song

Previous: The Little Bear's Story



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