Tales by Moonlight: Why Elephants and tortoises Don’t Get Along

Sandra Appiah May 06, 2011

Face2Face Africa presents: “Tales by Moonlight”

 Only the kind of stories our great culture is known for. Tales not of rabbits or hares or doctors and preachers but of local symbols that have moulded the African morality for centuries.

 It’s nightfall, the moon is full and the pitch black sky is filled with stars that twinkle at different frequencies akin to the flashing light bulbs of a room filled with cameras. The night is still only in sound as the cool breeze sends chills indicative of need for great company and a raconteur. So hope you are comfortable, sit back, take a load off as we reintroduce you to the wonderful world of African folklore.

 Why do you think the elephant and the tortoise don’t get along?

 A long time ago in a time when animals could still talk there lived a great King who ruled of the Gbogan. The King had been ill for a long period of time almost at the point of death. He assembled his council and after the failed attempts of several medicine men to revive him to his prime; “Ikumejakako” a wildly revered Witch doctor and herbalist was consulted. His prognosis was a remedy that required a special brew made from elephant body parts unless the result would be his death in seven days.

 The King and his Chiefs looked at each other confused as to how they would trap an elephant. The share size of its trunk would crush four grown men. Following the consultation a town crier was sent out announcing through out the kingdom that the task at hand was to capture an elephant. Reward for securing such a huge package within seven days would be an inheritance of half the kingdom and marriage to the Kings daughter.

 Only the Tortoise stepped up to take the challenge making only one request of the king, that a very deep pit be dug concealed with mats and leaves, on top of which should sit a throne fit for a king. The tortoise made some delicious Akara(Bean cakes) placed them in his travel sack rapped around a stick and then set out for the arduous task of finding the elephant.

 Wandering through the forest trailing the huge animal and making inquiries of various animals, he had no luck. It was not until the third day that he made some significant progress towards his goal. Was he dreaming or is that an elephant sitting under a tree?

 He planned his approach carefully as he channeled the wisdom of ages that is a common characteristic of his kind.


Elephant, what are you doing here…haven’t you heard the news?


What news? Do not disturb my siesta tortoise, I do not like gossip


I don’t believe my eyes, a whole King, resting in the forest under a shade!!


A King, what King?


YOU!! The king is dead and the elders have decided to make you king over the people.


(Roars with laughter)

You must be a joker tortoise, who would want to make an old ugly elephant like me a king?


There is no time for explanations, preparations are already at an advanced stage in the kingdom for your coronation, we must make haste, see, I have proo.

 (He brought out one of the “akara” balls and handed one over to the elephant)

This akara is only a small part of the delicacies being prepared for your coronation.


(Putting the akara into his mouth)

Hmmmmm….this is delicious…really delicious it must be true, lets make haste.

 The tortoise led the elephant straight to the palace with a promise of impending kingship and the delicious bean cakes throw at intervals. The tortoise decided to totally sell the story by singing a popular coronation tune as news of the elephant’s capture travel throughout the kingdom. Every household came out on the streets to see for themselves if the feat was possible. The subjects suddenly found themselves joining in the songs the tortoise was singing.

 The Elephant with a full belly connected the dots. It automatically became clear to him that the tortoise had been telling the truth. Why else would these people be envious of me and why these delicious akara thrown my way. Surely this is not a trick. It can’t be. Elephant finally gave into it, carrying on an almost majestic swagger and even what could be seen to be a spring in his step.

 The atmosphere was one of festivity, singing, dancing and smiling faces. The likes of which had not been seen in the kingdom for a long time. The Elephant proceeded to assume his throne in a reign that would last for years on end. He sat down to the roaring crowd and elated faces and in a frozen moment in time he was on top of the world as he waved his tusk at his adoring subjects. In that instance the throne gave way and sunk into the pit below as the King’s strongest warriors descended on the creature and butchered it.

The King took a taste of the broth and was instantly well. Tortoise was rewarded for his achievements and received all that was promised.

An elephant never forgets so till this day the rivalry continues.

Do you think Tortoise and the Princess lived happily ever after? Is the Tortoise the wisest Animal on earth? Most importantly what are the morals of the story?

 All these questions and more would be answered in following installments of Tales by Moonlight on F2FA.


Last Edited by: Updated: February 25, 2014


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