Aesop's version of the fable begins with a quarrelling hare and tortoise, who agree to the race, then part ways amicably. The hare, “trusting in his natural speed”, is confident that he will win with little effort, and so, has a nap at the side of the road. Both Bierce and Thurber take a different approach.
Bierce's version begins with the hare instigating the race, after “having ridiculed the slow movement of a Tortoise”. The tortoise issues the challenge and the hare accepts. This version has the inclusion of a third animal, a Fox “to...be the judge”, where Aesop's original had only the two characters. This is also the only iteration where one of the characters is female.
In terms of length, both Aesop and Bierce stay with a short but 'punchy' paragraph, Aesop's ending with the moral of his story, while Bierce chooses to leave out a stated moral altogether. Thurber, on the other hand, regales us with a much more intense and thought-provoking version of the classic tale.
In Thurber's iteration, the discourse begins with a “wise young tortoise” reading “an ancient book”. This is the only version which gives us a sense of time and history. This beginning sentence is also the first implication that this tortoise is considered clever and knowledgeable, although this may be yet another play on irony, that the tortoise considers himself wise, but in reality, he later shows us that he is naive and full of self-importance. Thurber's version, following Bierce's, includes additional characters in the story, a long list of secondary characters (“weasels, stoats, dachshunds, badger-boars, short tailed field mice and ground squirrels”), and a bull-frog and a gun dog who are involved in the
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