Panchtantra Story: The Tortoise and the Rabbit

Photo by Maria Isabella Bernotti on

In a large forest, a tortoise and rabbit lived side by side, among many other animals. Everyone knows that rabbits are quick animals, and so was this rabbit. She had flexible back legs, could hop, jump into many high trees and bushes, and could run faster than many other animals in the forest. With her front legs, which were very useful, she could dig deep into the ground for tasty vegetables such as carrots and radishes. 

She was also very popular among all the others in the forest. All the animals surrounded her when she jumped high up in the air, when she juggled fruits and vegetables in air, and when she twitched her large and furry ears, making them all laugh and clap. Now the tortoise was nothing like her; he was slow and often just sat around for a long time. 

Also Read: Panchtantra Story: The Worm and the Elephant

He had a large shell on his back as all tortoises do, and he couldn’t move around too quickly. His small legs made digging for food quite tricky. He spent hours digging for the radishes and carrots that the rabbit could get to within a few minutes. He definitely couldn’t hop or jump, and climbing a tree was impossible for him. 

Now because of all the tricks the rabbit could pull of, she had become proud. She wanted to be even more popular in the forest; she wanted the other animals to clap and cheer for her even more, so she often poked fun at the poor tortoise. This made him sad, but there was nothing he could do about it. So, he went about his life, eating, sleeping, slowly walking around, and slowly gathering his food. 

Also Read: Panchatantra Story: The Lion and the Rabbit

One day, all the animals of the forest were sitting around, quite bored. The rabbit then thought of an idea to make things fun for everyone, and to become even more popular. She challenged the tortoise to a race. She promised him that she would be his slave forever, gathering his food, digging out his carrots and radishes, if he could win the race. The rabbit knew that the tortoise couldn’t win this race as he was much slower than her. Anyway, he was not interested in racing her, but she kept pushing and poking him, teasing him in front of all the other animals. 

So, he gave up; he just wanted to be left alone, so he agreed to the race. He thought that once this silly race is over, he could go back to slowly chewing on his food, after which he could take a long nap. All the other animals were ready for a lot of fun, and the day of the race finally came. There were some singing and dancing, and then came the time for the race. Everyone was cheering for the rabbit; she and the tortoise were at the starting line. She was raising her hands in the air like a winner, even before the race had started. 

Also Read: Panchatantra Story: The Loyal Mongoose

One of the others made a loud whistle-like sound, and the two runners took off. The rabbit wanted to fly like the wind, while the tortoise was going forward as fast as his legs could take him. The rabbit even waited around at a distance for him to catch up, and then he ran ahead again, teasing the tortoise often. Soon both were just two feet away from the finish line, which was only at the edge of a cliff. 

The rabbit knew that even now, she could win this race, even if both of them were very near the finish line. She closed her eyes and took a giant leap. The plan was to jump across the finish line at one time while the tortoise was still trying to cross over on his tiny legs. But this was a foolish move, a very silly move indeed. With her eyes closed, she leaped forward and leaped right over the cliff, and right into the sea. 

Also Read: Panchatantra Story: The Crab and the Stork 

This was very dangerous for the rabbit. The sea was full of hungry sharks who would have loved to tear her into shreds with their sharp teeth and eat her up. She was struggling to stay afloat in the water. All the other animals were afraid the rabbit would die, and it was then that the tortoise reached the edge of the cliff, slowly but surely. The tortoise didn’t think twice, he jumped over and fell straight into the water. But he was a quick swimmer, faster at swimming than walking or running, or digging for food.

Also Read: Panchatantra Story: The Monkey and The Crocodile

He swam quickly towards the rabbit; from behind her, the sharks were swimming towards her as well. When one shark was close enough to the rabbit to bite into her, the tortoise came in between. His hard shell was too strong for the shark to bite into. This was when the real race started. Before the sharks could reach her again, he held on to the long ears of the rabbit with his teeth and started swimming to the shore. Everyone was nervous; this was not so much fun anymore; they were watching a very dangerous race. 

The tortoise was swimming as fast as he could; the sharks were swimming as fast as they could to reach their dinner. In between, the helpless rabbit was scared for her life. The sharks were just behind her, snapping their scary jaws, their teeth like sharp knives, ready to cut her up. The tortoise was trying his best, swimming at the speed of light, working with all his strength to save their lives. At last, this deadly race came to an end. The tortoise had pulled the rabbit safely to the shore; the sharks were angry but helpless; they couldn’t make it on to the beach. 

Soon at the shore, all the other animals came to meet the tired and wet tortoise and rabbit. She was sad and ashamed; she knew that the slow tortoise had proved himself to be the fastest when it matters most. She said sorry many times, and every time he told it was okay, he didn’t mind, he was just happy that she was safe. After this, both of them were the best of friends.

Moral: Don’t show off your abilities, use them to help others in need. 

2 thoughts on “Panchtantra Story: The Tortoise and the Rabbit

  1. Pingback: Panchtantra Story: The Thief Who Turned into a Brahmin | MORAL STORIES THAT ENLIGHTEN, BOOK REVIEWS AND ARTICLES

  2. Pingback: Panchtantra Story: The Rabbit, the Partridge, and the Wild Cat | MORAL STORIES THAT ENLIGHTEN, BOOK REVIEWS AND ARTICLES

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