Judge Rabbit and the Snails retold by Cathy Spagnoli
One day in Cambodia, the famous trickster Judge Rabbit went to drink in a pond.
Little Snail was already there, but Judge Rabbit pushed him away.
“I’m bigger and faster than you, silly Snail,” he said. “So go away. This is my pond.”
“That’s not fair,” said Snail. “It belongs to everyone. And you shouldn’t boss me around just because I’m small. I’m little, but I’m smart.”
“All right,” said Judge Rabbit. “Let’s have a race around the pond in the morning, to see how clever you are. If you win, I won’t come here. If I win, you have to leave.”
Snail agreed and Judge Rabbit hopped off to rest. But Snail went to call his family and friends. Soon, he stood on a rock to speak.
“Please help me win the race tomorrow,” he cried to them all. “If we work together, we can trick Judge Rabbit. We’ll each hide near the pond in different places. As he runs, we’ll answer him one at a time. Then he’ll think there is only one snail going very, very quickly around the pond.”
All the snails swayed in their shells and agreed eagerly. Early the next morning, each one searched for a secret hiding. One snail hid behind a big stone. Another snail hid near a tree. One by one, they circled the pond and waited. Finally, Judge Rabbit came, ready to begin. Snail joined him and the two started off. Judge Rabbit raced ahead and soon called back, “Sorry, Snail, you lose.”
But a voice called out in front of him, “No, I’m way ahead.”
Judge Rabbit ran faster and faster, his ears bumping the air, as he cried, “Now, I’m winning.” But a small voice sang out in front, “No, you’re in back of me.”
Judge Rabbit shook his head and made his feet run faster than a train. Finally, he was almost around the pond so he called, “Now you’ve lost, Snail.”
“Sorry,” said a small voice. “But I’m still ahead of you, poor Rabbit.” Judge Rabbit could not believe it. How could such a small animal move so fast? He took a huge breath and pushed through the air like a jet.
With that final burst of speed, he crossed the finish line and collapsed, croaking, “I won!”
“No, no, Rabbit,” said a small, happy voice. “I’ve been waiting and waiting. I finished long before you did.”
Judge Rabbit looked at the tiny snail in front of him. He couldn’t believe how fast he moved. And Snail didn’t even seem tired.
“All right,” he said at last, shaking his ears. “You win. I won’t come here again.”
“You can still come, Rabbit. But just be nice to those smaller than you,” said Snail as Judge Rabbit hopped slowly away.
All the snails crawled out of their hiding places to celebrate. They waved their antennas and bumped shells to clap. They munched on green leaves, played all day at their favorite pond, and then curled up happily to sleep snail dreams.
Cathy Spagnoli, 2003