By Hans Christian Andersen
A prize, or rather two prizes, had been
announced a big one and a little one for the
greatest swiftness, not in a single race,
but for swiftness throughout an entire year.
' I got the first prize 1 ' said the Hare ;
there must be justice when relations and
good friends are among the prize committee ;
but that the Snail should have received the
second prize, I consider almost an insult to
' No ! ' declared the Fence-rail, who had
been witness at the distribution of prizes,
' reference must also be had to industry and
perseverance. Many respectable people said
so, and I understood it well. The Snail
certainly took half a year to get across the
threshold ; but has
broken his thigh-bone in the haste he was
compelled to make. He devoted himself
entirely to his work, and he ran with his
house on his back ! All that is very
praiseworthy, and that 's how he got the
' I might certainly have been considered too,'
said the Swallow. ' I should think that no
one appeared swifter in flying and soaring
than myself, and how far I have been around
far far far ! '
' Yes, that 's just your misfortune,' said
the Fence-rail. ' You're too fond of
fluttering. You must always be journeying
about into far countries when it begins to
be cold here. You've no love of fatherland
in you. You cannot be taken into account.'
But if I lay in the swamp all through the
winter ? ' said the Swallow. ' Suppose I
slept through the whole time ; should I be
taken into account then ? '
' Bring a certificate from the old
swamp-wife that you have slept away half the
time in your fatherland, and you shall be
taken into account.'
' I deserved the first prize, and not the
second,' said the Snail. ' I know so much at
least, that the Hare only ran from cowardice,
because he thought each time there was
danger in delay. I, on the other hand, made
my running the business of my life, and have
become a cripple in the service. If any one
was to have the first prize, I should have
had it ; but I make no fuss, I despise it !
And so he spat.
' I am able to depose with word and oath
that each prize, at least my vote for each,
was given after proper consideration,'
observed the old Boundary-post in the wood,
who had been a member of the body of judges.
' I always go on with due consideration,
with order, and calculation. Seven times
before I have had the honour to be present
at the distribution of prizes, but not till
to-day have I carried out my will. At each
distribution I have started from a fixed
principle. I always went to the first prize
from the beginning of the alphabet, and to
the second from the end. And if you will now
take notice, when one starts from the
beginning, the eighth letter from A is H,
and there we have the Hare, and so I awarded
him the first prize ; the eighth
letter from the end of the alphabet is S,
and therefore the Snail received the second
prize. Next time, I will have its turn for
the first prize, and R for the second :
there must be due order in everything ! One
must have a certain starting-point ! '
' I should certainly have voted for myself,
if I had not been among the judges,' said
the Mule, who had been one of the committee.
One must not only consider the rapidity of
advance, but every other quality also that
is found as, for example, how much a
candidate is able to draw ;
but I would not have put that prominently
forward this time, nor the sagacity of the
Hare in his flight, or the cunning with
which he suddenly takes a leap to one side
to bring people on a false track, so that
they may not know where he has hidden
himself. No ! there is something else on
which many lay great stress, and which one
may not leave out of the calculation. I mean
what is called the beautiful. On the
beautiful I particularly fixed my eyes ; I
looked at the beautiful well-grown ears of
the Hare : it 's quite a pleasure to see how
long they are ; it almost seemed to me as if
I saw myself in the days of my childhood.
And so I voted for the Hare.'
' But,' said the Fly, ' I 'm not going to
talk, I'm only going to say something. I
know that I have overtaken more than one
hare. Quite lately I crushed the hind legs
of one. I was sitting on the engine in front
of a railway train I often do that, for thus
one can best notice one's own swiftness.
A young hare ran for a long time in front of
the engine ; he had no idea that I was
present ; but at last he was obliged to give
in and spring aside and then the engine
crushed his hind legs, for I was upon it.
The hare lay there, but I rode on. That
certainly was conquering him ! But I don't
count upon getting the prize ! '
' It certainly appears to me/ thought the
Wild Rose but she did not say it, for it is
not her nature to give her opinion, though
it would have been quite as well if she had
done so it certainly appears to me jthat the
sunbeam ought to have had the first prize
and the second too. The
sunbeam flies in a moment along the enormous
path from the sun to ourselves, and arrives
in such strength that all nature awakes at
it ; such beauty does it possess that all we
roses blush and exhale fragrance in its
presence. Our worshipful judges do not
appear to have noticed this at
all. If I were the sunbeam, I would give
each of them a sunstroke but that would only
make them mad, and that they may become as
things stand. I say nothing,' thought the
Wild Rose. ' May peace reign in the forest !
It is glorious to blossom, to scent, and to
refresh to live in song and legend. The
sunbeam will outlive us all.'
' What 's the first prize ? ' asked the
Earthworm, who had overslept the time, and
only came up now.
' It consists in a free admission to a
cabbage garden,' replied the Mule. ' I
proposed that as the prize. The Hare was
decided to have won it, and therefore I, as
an active and reflective member, took
especial notice of the advantage of him who
was to get it : now the Hare is provided
The Snail may sit upon the fence and lick up
moss and sunshine, and has further been
appointed one of the first umpires in the
racing. It is so good to have a professional
in the thing men call a committee. I must
say I expect much from the future we have
made so good a beginning.'