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     Volume 1 Issue 12 | December 23 , 2006 |


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The Cunning Tortoise

The elephant and the Hippopotamus were such good friends that they always took their meals together. 'Hello!' said the Tortoise, coming up to them one day at dinner. 'what a big, strong couple you are, to be sure! Funny to think that I'm stronger than either of you. You don't believe me? Then I'll show you. You, friend elephant, have only to take one end of this rope, and pull your hardest: you'll never be able to pull me out of the water!'

'I'll show you! trumpeted the Elephant angrily, and he seized one end of the rope. Th tortoise tied the other end to his hind leg and plunged down to the bottom of the river. But as soon as he got there, he untied the rope from his leg and made it fast to a great rock in the river-bed.

Then the Elephant pulled his hardest-pull and pulled, until the rope broke. At once the tortoise undid the end from the rock, fastened it quickly to his leg once more, and came puffing up to the top of the water, and out on to the bank with broken piece dangling behind him.

So the Elephant had to admit that the Tortoise was stronger than he. But the Hippopotamus snorted with amusement and said:

'It's my turn now. You take the land this time, and I'll pull you into the water,'

So the tortoise took a new rope, tied it to his leg, and went off into the long grass at the edge of the jungle, while the Hippopotamus dived into the river with the other end.

As soon as he was out of sight, the tortoise walked several times round a palm tree-so that when the Hippopotamus began to pull, the rope grew tight round the trunk, and did not slip however hard he tugged and hauled.

When the Hippopotamus grew tired of pulling, he came to the surface puffing and blowing the water from his nostrils. As soon as he saw him, the tortoise ran round the tree in the opposite direction until the rope was untied, and then came out of the long grass with it still knotted to his leg.

So the Hippopotamus had to admit that the tortoise was stronger than he. And the Tortoise said:

'Now, do you want me s a friend or as an enemy?" since you are obviously so much stronger than either of us.'

'All right then,' answered the Tortoise. 'And now you must let me feed with you and live with you always. But as I cannot be in two places at once, I shall spend all my time in the water with the Hippopotamus, and my son shall live on land with the Elephant.'

And from that day to this there have always been Land Tortoises and Water Tortoises. But the Water Tortoises are much bigger and fatter-for the Tortoise knew that there is often little enough food on land, but that there is always plenty of fish to eat in the Great River.

A Nigerian folk tale


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