Miles Kington: Muhammad Ali - floated like a hare, stung like a tortoise

'You may have the speed,' said the tortoise, 'but I have the defence. I can't see you getting through that'
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The Independent Online

It's time for some more modern fables today, I think...


One day the hare and the tortoise agreed to have a boxing match.

"There is no way you are going to beat me at boxing!" boasted the hare. "Anyone who has ever seen a March hare knows that I can punch and weave and dodge with the best of them!"

"You may have the speed," said the tortoise, "but I have the defence. I can't see you getting through that."

"You're so ugly, you're so slow," said the hare, "Why I fight you I don't know.

"But I'll catch you in round four, And lay you out upon the floor."

"Muhammad Ali may have been a great boxer," said the tortoise, "but he was a bloody awful poet."

Going into the fight, the hare was the 10-1 favourite. And for eight rounds, the hare danced round the tortoise, hitting him at will. Unfortunately, he could only hit his shell, as the tortoise refused to come out. In round nine, the repeated hitting took its toll; the hare's paws became too painful to carry on and he retired hurt.

"I am ready for a rematch any time," said the tortoise. "But next time, I insist he wears gloves. It was very noisy in there."

MORAL: Always back the underdog, especially if it's a tortoise.


A fish swimming in the river caught what he thought was a worm but turned out to be the bait on the end of an angler's line. He was pulled in by the fisherman, who removed the hook roughly from his mouth and threw him back in the river, where he painfully swam away. After a month, the mouth had more or less healed up, but he was caught by another fisherman and had his mouth torn once more, before being thrown back again.

"You have all my sympathy," said a passing fox to the bleeding fish. "I know what it is like to be hunted."

"Oh, I am not being hunted," said the fish. "This is all done in sport. I should hate to be hunted. I am sure that would be horrible."

MORAL: If fish could scream, angling would have been banned a long time ago.


One day a St Bernard dog and a Shetland pony met each other and stopped to chat. A passing fox could not help laughing.

"What's so funny?" said the St Bernard.

"Your sizes," said the fox. "You are only a dog but you are actually bigger than your friend the horse. It isn't often you see a dog looking down on a horse. In a way, it upsets the whole basis of logic. One of the definitions of a horse is that it is an animal which is larger than a dog. Yet here we have a horse smaller than a dog. Does that mean that your friend from Shetland cannot logically be defined as a horse? Or should we redefine you, sir, as a horse?"

Maddened by his taunting, the dog and the pony turned on the fox and beat the shit out of him.

MORAL: It is not always clever to be clever.


Once upon a time, there was a sweet and innocent unicorn which was made fun of by all the other animals for having only one horn.

"What's the point of having just one horn?" said the stag, shaking his antlers.

"You're an evolutionary throwback," said the buffalo.

"You wouldn't be worth hunting," said the elk. "They could only hang one coat on you."

The unicorn was so miserable she went to a cosmetic surgeon and asked to have her horn removed. This was done, and the unicorn proudly went back to the wild, but the elk and buffalo and stag ignored her, thinking she was only some kind of white horse. So the unicorn went back to the cosmetic surgeon and asked to have her horn replaced.

The surgeon inspected the unicorn's head. "No need for an operation," he said. "Give it six or nine months and it will grow back again naturally."

"But I want it back now!" said the unicorn.

"Tough," said the surgeon.

MORAL: You have to suffer to be fashionable, and even then you may not be fashionable.