The moral to this story is not "slow and steady wins the race"! That homily means that you shouldn't rush things or you'll wind up cutting corners and making stupid mistakes. In this story, however, the hare doesn't rush things at all — with the tortoise as his opponent, he figures he can take his time. The moral of the story is about not getting arrogant and lazy. Why does everybody feel the need to tack that non-sequitir moral onto a perfectly serviceable fable?
Not wanting to only reformat page, I wish to lay a comment upon the subject as well. Apparently, the point of the non-sequitur Aesop is that the hare was quick but not steady(it stopped and napped as mockery), while the tortoise kept going. Still it is dumb, and there are plenty other Aesops that fit better(even though it's the original Aesop's Aesop), making this a clear case of a Broken Aesop. Quick and Steady would still beat Slow and Steady.
A phrasing that makes more sense is "Slow but steady wins the race," as opposed to quick but not steady, raw talent but no perseverance.
That's exactly the problem, that is not the moral. The original Aesopian moral of The Tortoise and The Hare is "Hard work can beat talent, when [talent is] neglected". "Slow and steady" is either La Fontaine or other people's thing.
Among the morals that I have found could be interpreted in the fable include 'Never underestimate your opponent or you will be doomed to failure,' 'Arrogance is a dangerous thing,' 'Hard work and perseverance can exceed natural talent,' 'Always compete with honor' (the hare lost because of a taunt, after all) or even running instructions; 'Going too fast will cause you to need rest, and you will be slower in the long run.' Alternately, it could be the good-to-know but obvious Never stop and take a nap in the middle of a race. For that matter, how long is this race? Even if he lost, if the Hare assumed he had enough time stop and take a rest that seems overly long...
The hare was competing against a turtle. Consider how slow turtles are in real life. If the track was decent sized instead of a short burst of speed thing (say, a 1 mile track or longer instead of the 100 meters race), the hare could reasonable assume there was enough time to take a nap and beat the turtle anyways.
Turtles (box turtles, anyway) can be quick little buggers. It's more tortoises, in this troper's experience, that are consistently slow.
Tortoises may be slow, but they are extremely persistent. From my experience of them as a child, they are surprisingly persistent, especially if it comes to eating plants in the garden that they're not allowed to. There certainly is some truth to the story, don't assume you can take your eyes off a tortoise for too long.
According to my copy of Aesop's Fables, Aesop never wrote morals to them anyway. The fables became extremely well-known, and used to illustrate various points, but all the morals were added by others. Some of the morals you commonly find bear almost no relation to the story.
According to mine, they not only are extremely straight-forward, they also have some stupid morals that are just there to fit the story, apparently.
It should especially be noted that slow and steady will only win the race if your opponent acts like a fool. In any other case, slow and steady won't win you any race at all.
This troper once read a version where the Hare lost the race on purpose to cheer the Tortoise up; apparently the rest of the animals were annoyed by his constant wangsting about being so slow. This troper is still confused on what the moral is there.
Do nice things for people?
If you complain enough, people will give you what you want?
This troper has nothing to add but feels that this page would benefit from Lore Sjoberg's take: "Generally speaking, slow but steady loses the race rather humiliatingly. Slow but steady wins the pie-eating contest. The story is amusing enough, but the moral should be changed to 'Slow but steady wins the race if all the other participants are narcoleptics,' or alternatively 'Don't be a moron.'"
'Don't be a moron' is really what 90% of all aesops boil down to anyway.
One way to read the moral is: "Don't just give up, even if your opponent is much stronger than you. Keep in the contest, and be prepared to take advantage when your opponent makes a mistake."
The moral I've always got is, "Fast and steady wins the race."
It's all in the "steady". The moral is about persistence. Persistence gives you a chance to win, even in the face of a colossal disadvantage like slowness. Because you never know what circumstances might arise, like your opponent being an overconfident moron. But if the tortoise had not been persistent and steady, he would still not have won even if the hare slept all day.
It is, it should be said, possible for a story to have more than one moral, and different morals which are applicable to different readers and different situations. For the tortoises among us (i.e. the "slow"), it can be indeed be 'slow and steady wins the race' — or alternatively, keep going, persevere, your opponent might leave an unexpected opening you can exploit, etc.. For the hares among us (i.e. the "fast"), it can also be "don't get overconfident in yourself" — don't be an idiot, you're skilled but you're not untouchable, don't think you've got something won until it's all over, etc.. It's not necessarily an all-or-nothing, only-one-moral-allowed situation.