Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

The tortoise and the hare: a pandemic perspective

Pranita Rao 
Pune, India


The Tortoise and the Hare
The Tortoise and the Hare. Illustration From The Æsop for Children, by Æsop, illustrated by Milo Winter. Project Gutenberg. 

“Are you ready to lose again?” smirked the hare, looking down at the tortoise who was warming up for their weekly running challenge. The tortoise spent his days training body and mind to win races against the sporty hare; he was never successful.

“I feel different today, my friend,” replied the tortoise in a composed tone. “I can feel it in my gut. I will win today.”

“If not your running skills, at least your confidence level has improved,” said the hare sarcastically, tying his shoelaces.

While the hare walked toward the starting line, the tortoise looked at the sky and chanted a silent prayer. “Like that’s going to change anything!” laughed the hare, flexing his calves. “On the count of three, then?”

“Ah, okay, give me a minute to position myself,” replied the tortoise, anxiously trying different foot and ankle movements.

“Oh, c’mon! My mum must be icing the carrot cake now. I need to get home before my brothers eat all of it. I don’t have all the time in the world,” cribbed the hare.

“Fine,” replied the tortoise, stretching one last time. As they placed their feet on the starting line, they felt a gush of breeze on their backs. They faced one another, trying to decipher the other’s thoughts and fearing a loss of advantage. “On my count,” said the hare, “one . . . two . . .”

Before the hare could take the last count, another gush of breeze interrupted them. This time it was so powerful they lost their balance and fell to the ground.

“What on earth is that?” gasped the tortoise, watching the track behind them split into pieces as some invisible power crumbled it to ash. The hare stood dumbstruck as trees collapsed into the cracking road. He watched birds scream and fly away with their young into the distant sky until yet another sight distracted him.

“Tortoise, get up! The river . . . it’s coming toward us! We must escape!” yelped the hare, reaching for tortoise.

“Escape that? Are you crazy? I am a tortoise! I don’t even win races with you. How am I supposed to escape this apocalypse?”

The hare bent down and sat on the shaky ground. “Friend, we can do this. I have got your back.” Suddenly, the tortoise felt his shell being lifted. “Are you seriously going to run holding me on your head?” yelped the tortoise. The hare simply gripped his shell tighter and held him between his ears as he ran.

They covered many miles this way until the hare could not run any farther. He found a tree that was still fixed firmly to the ground and unaffected by the catastrophe, climbed to the top, and placed the tortoise on one of the firmest branches.

“Are you okay, my dear hare?” The tortoise could see that his brave friend was losing his might, and most importantly, his hope to live through this Armageddon.

“Do you think we will make it safely back home?” asked the hare with teary eyes.

“Not in time for your carrot cake,” replied the tortoise. The hare smiled and leapt closer. “Think of it this way,” continued the tortoise, “once we get through this, the world will be a better place to live in.”

“What do you mean?” asked the hare.

“Well, we would be entering the new world as friends,” said the tortoise, looking deeply into the hare’s eyes, “and that is something that would never have happened in the old world!”

“What about the ones we lose in this calamity?” asked the tortoise.

“What is lost cannot be saved, my dear hare, but what is left can be cherished.”

The hare took a deep breath and dusted himself off. As he reached out to pick up the tortoise, he felt a smack. “Hey! I am just trying to help,” said the hare, as the tortoise refused his gesture.

“I know, dear friend. However, I think I am ready,” said the tortoise.

“For what?” replied the hare.

“To run the greatest race of my life.”

“On the count of three, then?” The tortoise and the hare ran together for days, escaping gruesome traps set by nature. And one day the world finally stopped crumbling, having delivered a message to all beings on the earth.

Life began again on planet earth. The rivers were safeguarded, the roads became safe to walk, the birds returned to their nests, and once again all creatures could breathe without fear. “You did it, my friend,” said the hare, watching the tortoise rub his bleeding knee.

“I told you, I knew I was going to win,” smiled the tortoise. And they both walked through the new world in peace.




PRANITA RAO, BDS, MSc., is a healthcare writer, science communicator, and a dentist. A published author, she has a keen interest in bridging the gap between the common man and the healthcare industry with her quirky science stories. She is particularly interested in raising awareness about the environment using philosophy as a medium of education.


Summer 2020  |  Sections  |  Personal Narratives

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