The Hare and The Hedgehog

This little-known Grimm brothers’ tale will please lovers of traditional stories but also, possibly, leave them uneasy. Hedgehog is insulted one Sunday morning by Hare. He challenges Hare to a race and there’s where our tale – and uneasiness – takes off. Hedgehog and his wife conspire to trick Hare, and they succeed. One moral of the story, according to Grimm scholars, is that a man should marry someone of his own kind, from his own class. The other is that brains beat brawn. But (spoiler alert) Hare does not survive the race. So there is a very dark side to this tale. Is Hedgehog clever or a downright cheat? Did Hare actually insult him? Is the ending happy or sad?

The narrative is true to the traditional Grimm text. The illustrations are sublime. Laustroer is a young artist with a string of awards and exhibitions to his name. And one can see why. These illustrations are strikingly beautiful, very clever and ask the same questions as the text. Do we empathise with Hedgehog or with Hare? Is Hedgehog actually the hero? Hare looks quite debonair while the Hedgehogs are depicted as feral, rough, and slightly sinister with their spines poking through their clothes – a detail echoed in thorny brambles and barbed wire. The race scenes are depicted with great movement and huge energy. There is also a touch of dark humour throughout. Check out the little tin of sweets on the title page…

All in all this thought-provoking picturebook should be an interesting addition to any child’s bookshelf.