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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859) Grimm

Hare and Hedgehog

From “Popular Tales”

IT was a beautiful morning, about harvest-time; the buckwheat was in flower, the sun shining in the heavens, and the morning breeze waving the golden corn, while the lark sang blithely in the clear blue sky, and the bees were buzzing about the flowers. The villagers seemed all alive; many of them were dressed in their best clothes, hastening to the fair.

It was a lovely day, and all nature seemed happy, even to a little hedgehog, who stood at his own door. He had his arms folded, and was singing as merrily as little hedgehogs can do on a pleasant morning. While he thus stood amusing himself, his little wife was washing and dressing the children, and he thought he might as well go and see how the field of turnips was getting on, for as he and his family fed upon them, they appeared like his own property. No sooner said than done. He shut the house door after him and started off.

He had not gone farther than the little hedge bordering the turnip field when he met a hare who was on his way to inspect the cabbages, which he also considered belonged to him. When the hedgehog saw the hare he wished him “good morning” very pleasantly.

But the hare, who was a grand gentleman in his way, and not very good-tempered, took no notice of the hedgehog’s greeting, but said, in a most impertinent manner, “How is it that you are running about the fields so early this morning?”

“I am taking a walk,” said the hedgehog.

“Taking a walk!” cried the hare with a laugh. “I don’t think your legs are much suited for walking.”

This answer made the hedgehog very angry. He could bear anything but a reference to his bandy legs, so he said, “You consider your legs are better than mine, I suppose?”

“Well, I rather think they are,” replied the hare.

“I should like to prove it,” said the hedgehog. “I’ll wager anything that if we were to run a race I should win!”

“That is a capital joke!” cried the hare. “To think you could beat me, with your bandy legs! However, if you wish it, I have no objection to trying. What will you bet?”

“A golden guinea and a bottle of wine.”

“Agreed,” said the hare; “and we may as well begin at once.”

“No, no,” said the hedgehog; “not in such a hurry as that. I must go home first and get something to eat. In half an hour I will be here again.”

The hare agreed to wait, and away went the hedgehog, thinking to himself, “The hare trusts in his long legs, but I will conquer him. He thinks himself a very grand gentleman, but he is only a stupid fellow after all, and he will have to pay for his pride.”

On arriving at home, the hedgehog said to his wife, “Wife, dress yourself as quickly as possible; you must go to the field with me.”

“What for?” she asked.

“Well, I have made a bet with the hare of a guinea and a bottle of wine that I will beat him in a race which we are going to run.”

“Why, husband,” cried Mrs. Hedgehog with a scream, “what are you thinking of? Have you lost your senses?”

“Stop your noise, ma’am,” said the hedgehog, “and don’t interfere with my affairs. What do you know about a man’s business? Get ready at once to go with me.”

What could Mrs. Hedgehog say after this? She could only obey and follow her husband, whether she liked it or not. As they walked along together he said to her, “Now, pay attention to what I say. You see that large field? Well, we are going to race across it. The hare will run in one furrow, and I in another. All you have to do is to hide yourself in the furrow at the opposite end of the field from which we start, and when the hare comes up to you, pop up your head and say, ‘Here I am!’”

As they talked, the hedgehog and his wife reached the place in the field where he wished her to stop, and then went back, and found the hare at the starting-place, ready to receive him.

“Do you really mean it?” he asked.

“Yes, of course,” replied the hedgehog; “I am quite ready.”

“Then let us start at once,” and each placed himself in his furrow as the hare spoke. The hare counted “One, two, three!” and started like a whirlwind across the field. The hedgehog, however, only ran a few steps, and then popped down in the furrow and remained still.

When the hare, after running at full speed, reached the end of the field, the hedgehog’s wife raised her head and cried out, “Here I am!”

The hare stood still in wonder, for the wife was so like her husband that he thought it must be he. “There is something wrong about this,” he thought. “However, we’ll have another try.” So he turned and flew across the field at such a pace that his ears floated behind him.

The hedgehog’s wife, however, did not move, and when the hare reached the other end the husband was there, and cried, “Here I am!”

The hare was beside himself with vexation, and he cried, “One more try, one more!”

“I don’t mind,” said the hedgehog. “I will go on as long as you like.”

Upon this the hare set off running, and actually crossed the field seventy-three times; and at one end the husband said, “Here I am!” and at the other end the wife said the same. But at the seventy-fourth run the hare’s strength came to an end, and he fell to the ground, and owned himself beaten.

The hedgehog won the guinea and the bottle of wine, and after calling his wife out of the furrow they went home together in very good spirits, to enjoy themselves together. And if they are not dead, they are living still.

The lesson to be learned from this story is, first, that however grand a person may think himself, he should never laugh at others whom he considers inferior until he knows what they can do; and, secondly, that when a man chooses a wife, he should take her from the class to which he himself belongs; and if he is a hedgehog, she should be one also.