The Tortoise and the Hare
“The Tortoise and the Hare” is a classic fable with a memorable moral: slow and steady wins the race. However, if you asked someone in Ancient Greece what it meant, they would tell you that even the greatest gifts could be ruined by idleness.
Stories are uniquely powerful at transferring meaning from one person to another. But there’s a danger there, because if your Red Thread isn’t perfectly clear and you don’t tell your audience the moral of the story, they are going to default to the one that they know. Two people can look at the same set of events and draw completely different conclusions.
However, as Tamsen shows us, the good news is that even though people love the familiar, they remember the new. If you can take what’s known and use the Red Thread to add that new piece to it, you can make something memorable and meaningful.
- The many versions and morals of “The Tortoise and the Hare”
- Aesop’s original fable, translated by Laura Gibbs
- “The Tortoise and the Hare” Wikipedia, detailing its history
Once upon a time, there was a boastful hare. And every day, he would tease his friend, the slow and steady tortoise. Until one day, the tortoise got fed up with all that teasing, and he decided to challenge the hare to a race. Well we all know how that story ends, the hare takes a nap, the tortoise keeps going, and we’re left with the enduring moral that slow and steady wins the race. But, that wasn’t always the commonly accepted moral to that story.
I’m Tamsen Webster, of TamsenWebster.com, and on today’s episode of Find the Red Thread, we’re going to talk about how the moral of those two morals, can help you tell more meaningful and memorable stories.
If you were to tell the story of The Tortoise and the Hare to someone in ancient Greece, they would’ve told you that the moral of that story was that even the greatest gifts could be ruined by idleness.
“That’s not the moral of the story,” you say, “that’s not how I was taught.” But think about how just subtly different emphasis on some different interpretations could land you at a very different meaning, even with the same events.
Let’s say the hare was a gifted runner. So gifted, that after challenging everybody, and never losing, he just stopped challenging himself at all. Not much different so far. Second, you could focus on the tortoise, and maybe slow and steady had a wider interpretation, and he was slow in a different way, and felt he had something not to prove to the hare, but to prove to himself. And so in order to do that, he challenges the hare to a race, the same thing happens, and now we’ve got the basis for multiple interpretations of that same story. We have the basis for why a moral could be that even the greatest gifts are ruined by idleness. But we also have now, a basis for a different meaning still. And that is, that your gifts are what you make of them. Same events, slightly different details, completely different meaning.
Now why might that be useful to you? Because we’re told, with good reason, that stories are an incredibly powerful way to make our messages more clear. And that’s because stories are uniquely powerful at transferring meaning from one person to another.
But there’s a danger there. Because if your Red Thread of your story isn’t perfectly clear, if you don’t draw the meaning out for people, if you don’t tell them the moral of the story, they are going to default to the one that they know. They’re going to default to their own Red Thread, their own interpretation. And you don’t have to look any farther than people talking politics, to know that that’s true. Two people, from two different political leanings, can look at the same set of events, and draw completely different conclusions.
But there’s hope as well, and it’s this: that while people are going to default, and they love the familiar, while they love the known, they remember the new. And that means that the best way to make our messages not only meaningful, but memorable, is to take what’s known and add that new piece to it. And the Red Thread can help you with that.
The first way is to work backwards from the Red Thread of a story, or the Red Thread of a point that you’re trying to make. What is the message that you’re trying to get? And then you go look for stories that match that. I need a story of disruption, here’s a story about Blockbuster. But beware, because if whatever’s familiar to you, is probably going to be maybe a little too familiar to other people. So do keep looking there.
And look for this way, the second way you can use the Red Thread. Which is to take a familiar story and draw new conclusions out of it. Just like we did with The Tortoise and the Hare, just like the book in the musical Wicked did with a story we thought we all knew, The Wizard of Oz.
Here’s what this means for you, ultimately. When you want to find stories to make your message meaningful and memorable, use the Red Thread, to make the known, new. I’m Tamsen Webster, of TamsenWebster.com. And that’s the moral, the Red Thread, of this story. Now go find your Red Thread.