general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Story – Chaiyaphum, Thailand

Rabbit and Turtle

Everyone made fun of Turtle and said that he’s slow. Rabbit was very fast and jumped around everywhere. Turtle got mad and asked, “You want to race?” At the start of the race, Rabbit went very far and didn’t see Turtle anymore because he left him so far behind. So Rabbit took a nap to help Turtle a little bit. Turtle continued to walk slowly until he got to the finish line and Rabbit was still sleeping. When Rabbit woke up and got to the finish line he saw Turtle sleeping in his shell past the finish line waiting for him.

My mother said that she learned this story at her elementary school in Chaiyaphum, Thailand. The school was in a temple, and the classes were taught by monks. This particular story was taught to her in the first grade. The lesson or moral that the students were supposed to extract from the story was do not make fun of or look down upon others that are considered inferior. Do not think that we are better than others. When my mother went home from school and told her parents about the lesson, they elaborated on the story and talked about it because they had learned it in school when they were young as well.

This story can be considered marchen because it is not set in the real world and is not to be actually believed since there are talking animals interacting with each other. It is told for entertainment value and there is pedagogy because of the lesson that is taught through the story. This is also a classic story known in America as “The Tortoise and the Hare” as one of Aesop’s fables. The multiplicity and variation of folklore is shown with this story because it is known in both Thailand and in America. However, the difference in culture between Thailand and America is demonstrated through the different interpretations of the story. In America, it is generally accepted that the moral of this particular story is that slow and steady wins the race, which means that it is better to continue to work hard rather than working quickly for a short amount of time. Yet in Thailand, the moral is discouraging the teasing of others, looking down upon others, or considering others inferior. America’s perspective on the moral may come from the importance and emphasis on the capitalist economy in which people constantly work for money and hard work is a desired quality for people including students, employees, and bosses. While in Thailand, the emphasis is placed more on harmony and cohesion of the people throughout the country. So the lesson that people should not tease, taunt, or patronize others fits into this idea of maintaining peace and harmony.

The story of “The Tortoise and the Hare” is referred to in the book The Mythical Zoo by Boria Sax. The book mentions that it is one of “Aesop’s famous fables” and summarizes the story very briefly (Sax 259). Sax discusses “how the tortoise had won a race against the hare” (Sax 259) and how the tortoise is usually portrayed as calm and clever. On the other hand, the hare is said to often be portrayed as a “trickster” and “like most other tricksters, he often becomes a victim of his own cleverness” as in the case of Aesop’s fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare” (Sax 137).

Sax, Boria. The Mythical Zoo: An Encyclopedia of Animals in World Myth, Legend, and Literature. Pg. 137-138, 259. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001.

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