In a little-known variant on “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the latter loses more than a race.
In country scenes that, thanks to swirling brushwork, have a windy look, Lauströer places animal figures that are drawn with feral naturalism but dressed either in 19th-century Sunday clothes or in relatively modern-looking athletic garb. (The quills of the hedgehog and his wife poke viciously through both, adding a touch of deadpan humor.) The text is closely based on the German original, with just minor wording changes and multiple morals from which the sexist language and class consciousness have been removed. Following a snide remark about his crooked back legs from a “snooty” hare, the portly hedgehog proposes a race with a gold coin and “a bottle of mead” (cognac, in the picture) as the prize. To ensure his win, he secretly stations his equally rotund wife at the course’s opposite end to say “I am here already!” The astounded hare, who can’t tell one hedgehog from another, demands one rematch after another until, on the 74th, he drops dead from exhaustion. Hedgehog and his clan dance around the bloody corpse, then adjourn for a bit of bibulous partying. Just for fun, the artist adds an elegant little tin of poop pastilles (“Koprophagie”) to the title page.
It may be macabre, but it’s closer in spirit to the original than most newly refashioned folk tales. (Picture book/folk tale. 7-9)