Written By: Chioma Onyewuchi
A long time ago, when the animals could still talk, there was a famine in the land. The famine was so bad that there was absolutely no food to eat in the animal kingdom. Many of the animals were suffering and dying one by one. The Tortoise would not go down without a fight. He was the most cunning of all the animals and was determined to find some food for himself and his family.
More about this
One day, the Tortoise observed that the birds in the kingdom were not starving like everyone else. They looked fresh and their feathers were not drying up. He made it his business to find out what their secret was.
Being as cunning and clever as ever, he went to the birds to ask them what their secret was. Of course, they were reluctant to tell him! After assuring them that he could help them to get even more food if they told him their secret, the birds conceded. They explained to him that the people of the Sky were responsible for the meat on their bones. The Tortoise promised to help them get even more food, and with his cunning mind, he developed a plan. He told the birds that if they helped him get to the Sky, he would be their spokesperson. All the birds, and indeed all the animals of the kingdom, knew that Tortoise was an amazing orator; so, they agreed. After discussion, they had hatched a plan. Each bird would contribute a few feathers to Tortoise until he had enough feathers to make wings that would allow him to fly.
On the day that the birds and Tortoise agreed to go to the Sky, Tortoise put on his plumage and was finally able to fly. When they all got to the Sky, they were given a grand welcome. As their spokesperson, Tortoise introduced himself and spoke on behalf of the birds. Since he had the most unique and colorful plumage, the Sky people immediately thought that Tortoise was their chief. When they served the food to their guests, they served Tortoise first, as a result. The birds were not pleased with that.
However, Tortoise had another trick up his sleeves. He told the birds that at grand occasions such as these, each animal would take up an alternative name. After the birds each chose a name, Tortoise chose the name “All of you” as his name. When the hosts brought more food for their guests, Tortoise made a point of asking who the food was for. “Well, the food is for all of you,” the hosts said. With a smirk, Tortoise turned to the birds and stated that since the food was for “All of you” and his chosen name was “All of you,” the food was for him alone. The poor birds watched angrily as the Tortoise ate everything!
When it was time to go, the birds were so angry that they each took their feathers from Tortoise. He was now unable to fly back home. Sensing danger, Tortoise begged the birds to send a message to his wife to bring out all the soft things from his house so that when he jumped from the Sky, he would be okay. All but one of them refused. The eagle, the angriest of all the birds, agreed to give the message to Tortoise’s wife.
The eagle flew back to Tortoise’s house and told his wife that Tortoise requested that she bring out all the hard things from the house. Of course, she began to do just that. She brought out the mortar, the plates, the wooden tables…all the hard things you can think of. With his limited vision, Tortoise couldn’t see what was being brought out so he assumed that the eagle had given the right message to his wife.
When Tortoise jumped from the Sky, he got the surprise of his life. He landed on the hardest and sharpest objects and his shell broke into many pieces. With the help of his wife, he was able to pick them up and glue them back together. Unfortunately, his previously smooth shell was never smooth again. The process of putting the pieces together was less than perfect and his shell became rough.
This is why the tortoise has a cracked shell.
***The Folktales Section is dedicated to the preservation of the amazing folktales and stories we were told growing up. This wonderful tradition has been passed on for generations, and it is our responsibility to continue to preserve them. Please feel free to share the folktales and stories you remember from your childhood with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.***