Tortoise and Hare, maquette, bronze on marble, 12”
12" bronze maquette on marble base.
The tortoise and hare also live as public sculptures in Copley Square, Boston and as jewelry.
I was born and grew up in Newton. The Boston Marathon has been part of my life as long as I can remember. The only marathons I haven’t watched were when I lived out of state. My family had friends who lived on Commonwealth Avenue about half way up “Heartbreak Hill”. We would go there every year and prepare orange slices and cups of water at a little stand that we created. There were no “official water stops” then. I loved watching the men, there were only men then, as they sweated and pulled themselves up that long, long hill - knowing that they would be able to finish the race if they could manage this tough climb. When I grew up, I became a runner, having always been an athlete. I didn’t do the Boston Marathon, just the Bonnie Belle, but I ran all year round and loved the exhilaration that it elicited.
After watching the 1991 Marathon, I started thinking about what a sculpture might be like for the Boston Marathon, the oldest foot race in the United States. I wanted to create a sculpture that would be attractive to children, yet be a meaningful metaphor for the race. I knew the marathon was based on a Greek warrior who in 490 B.C. ran approximately 25 miles to announce the news of a great military victory. The Greek connection of using another kind of race, that of the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare created by Aesop ( ?620- 560 B.C.) came to mind. I couldn’t show a man running, or a woman, or a person in a wheelchair. It would be impossible to portray all the people from all over the world who run. The tortoise and the hare seemed a perfect metaphor to represent the wide variety of people who participate in the marathon - people of all ages, shapes and sizes, many of whom finish, but walk over the finish line.
Some of the marathon runners I know run just to finish, they don’t expect to win, they are challenged and want to have that wonderful sense of accomplishment. Persistence pays off. Slow and steady wins the race. They want to be a part of one of the most important sports event in the country. 1996 was the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon. I wanted to do something to commemorate that event.
I hope that children will cherish these animals - pat them, hug them and learn the important lesson that the fable teaches. After all, children are our future and they are the runners and citizens of tomorrow.
The Friends of Copley Square have sponsored this sculpture and they believed the fable was an ideal coupling of it and the Boston Marathon. The sculpture brings a needed human factor which is significant to the neighborhood and its children.
Nancy Schön is an internationally renowned sculptor, most well known for her celebrated Make Way for Ducklings in the Boston Public Garden. She is known for her warm, evocative representations of human and animal figures and has received many commissions both public and private in the United States and abroad.