When I was a child, I used to think of the stories of Æsop and the stories of Genesis along similar lines: interesting stories with frequently positive morals, but not to be taken seriously. Not once in my whole childhood did I encounter anyone - relative, friend, teacher, old homeless man - who suggested to me that, for example, Adam and Eve should be taken more literally than, for example, the Tortoise and the Hare.
I was thinking about that very idea the other day - as I tend to think about useless things. I thought about the similarities between Æsop and Genesis and got to wondering what it would be like if they were the same thing. How would it be if the Tortoise and the Hare was a story in the Bible? Or in the Qur'an? Or in the Tao Te Ching?
Well, my friends, it would be something like this:
IF THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE WERE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT:
(modelled on KJV)
10:1 And it came to pass that unto Dilash was born Zinhap. And in his two hundred and fifteenth year did Hare speak unto him, saying, Come! Let us race that we may find who is the fastest.
10:2 And Zinhap said unto Hare, Let me take your leave, for slow of foot am I. And Zinhap wept.
10:3 And the LORD appeared unto Zinhap, saying: Fear thee not. Thy name shall not be Zinhap, but Tortoise shall be thy name, and great shall be thy victory. I am God almighty. No harm shall come to those who believe in me.
10:4 And it came to pass that on the eighth day did Hare and Tortoise journey to the plains of Genuzzah, and they did run.
10:5 And Tortoise beheld Hare, as he ran, and Tortoise spake, saying, O God of Abraham, give me strength, I pray thee, for this race, lest I lose.
10:6 And the LORD did appear and Hare was cast into a deep sleep.
10:7 And Tortoise lifted his eyes and spake, O LORD! How great Thou art that thou hath delivered Hare into a sleep that I may be victorious. How Just is my LORD, to whom I am but a humble servant.
10:8 And thus did Tortoise begin his journey.
10:9 And it came to pass that Hare did awake and, upon seeing Tortoise who was approaching the finishing line did Hare speak, saying, How is it that Tortoise hath passed me? for slow of leg is he and I am fast. Forthwith I must make haste that victory may be mine.
10:10 And run did Hare, yet it was too late, for presently was Tortoise crossing the victory line.
10:11 And Tortoise did live a long life in Genuzzah and his years did number seven score and eight. And then he died.
IF THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE WERE IN THE QUR'AN:
(modelled on Pickthall)
100:2 Recite! Have We not told you of the tortoise and the hare? And how surely one day did the hare invite the tortoise to a race?
100:3 He said: O tortoise! Thou who are slow and dull of wit. Thinkst thou that a hare so mighty and great as myself could be beaten in a footrace?
100:4 The tortoise said: If Allah wills it, it will be so. There is nothing that Allah can not accomplish.
100:5 Thus did the tortoise and the hare commence their journey. And immediately did the tortoise speak, saying: My Lord! Exalted be Thee! Loose my legs that I may be able to run! Thou art merciful and righteous.
100:6 And indeed just as We have done countless times before did We greatly increase the speed of the tortoise and relieve his suffering. Lo! Is Allah not greater than the universe and all that lies therein? Assuredly we could create a tortoise that hath speed enough to overtake a disbelieving hare; could we not?
100:7 And verily the tortoise came to rest at the finishing line before the prideful hare. And on seeing this did the hare drop to his knees and call out: Lo! I have been a wrong-doer. Surely there is no God save Thee, Allah. Surely I am but a humble servant to Thee. Alas! I seek mercy from Thee. Praise be to Thee!
IF THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE WERE IN THE TAO TE CHING:
(modelled on D.C. Lau)
Long and arduous is the Way:
It is like a footrace.
The faster a traveller traverses it,
the slower he arrives.
Thus the sage walks slowly, with determination.
When he arrives at his destination,
he finds himself first in line.
When we harness the power of the Tao,
no slowness is too fast
and no speed is too slow.