#FolktalesWednesday: Tortoise and The Elephant

Once upon a time, there was an elephant who lived in a jungle near a small town. Because this elephant was the strongest animal around, he turned himself into a menace to the people in the town. From time to time, he would come into the town from his abode in the jungle and destroy the crops and other properties of the townspeople. The king of the town had set many traps for the elephant, but all of them failed. He  sent many  of his best warriors and hunters against the elephant, but none of them could match the elephant’s  strength and power.  Because of this, the townspeople lived in perpetual terror of this elephant.

It was during this period that Tortoise came to live inside the town. It was not long after he moved in, that the elephant came on one of his regular rampages, destroying several houses and farms in the town, including the farm which Tortoise had just planted. Frustrated, Tortoise went to the king and asked him “Your majesty! Don’t you think we should do something about this elephant that has been destroying all of our properties and making us live in terror?” The king replied “We have tried everything we can, we have set traps for him, we have sent the best warriors and hunters that we have to face him, yet he keeps outwitting them at every turn. In fact that is why I have put aside a reward for whoever kills this elephant. Whoever kills this elephant will get a third of everything the king owns.” With that, Tortoise thanked the king and went home. The next day he went deep into the jungle where the elephant lived. The elephant was surprised to see Tortoise and he trumpeted in his most fearsome voice “Who are you, and what are you doing here?” Tortoise did not allow his fear to show, he greeted the Elephant politely and said “ A good day to you sir. My name is Tortoise and I just moved here. I heard that you are the most powerful creature around here, that you are even more commanding than the king of the town. So I have come to pay my respects to you as you so richly deserve.” The elephant, of course, was an extremely vain animal, so he was taken in by the tortoise’s flattery. The two animals became good friends. Tortoise soon learnt that the elephant’s favourite food was Akara, and Tortoise made it a point of duty to bring some for him from time to time.

A few months later, Tortoise went to see the king again, this time around he said to the king “Your majesty, I have found a way to get rid of the elephant that has been terrorizing our town.” “How do you hope to do that?” the king asked skeptically. Tortoise replied: “This is the plan, your majesty. First of all, get labourers to dig a giant ditch directly in front of your palace, the ditch must be big enough to contain an elephant. Then cover it with a woven mat, it must be the kind of high quality mat you use in your council room. Then invite all the townspeople for a festival to celebrate the coronation of the elephant as the king of the town. Also I will need like five of your best drummers to accompany me somewhere. Then leave the rest to me.”

The king did not understand how Tortoise’s plan might work but given that he had no other option, he decided to go with it anyway. He quickly demanded that the things that the Tortoise had demanded be done at once. Tortoise told his wife to fry some delicious Akara for him. In no time at all the Akara was ready. Tortoise then poured honey on the Akara to make it even more delicious then he went to the Elephant’s house in the jungle and said joyfully “Friend elephant! I have very important news. The people of the town have decided that they want you to be their king.” “What of the present king, has something happened to him?” the Elephant demanded. Tortoise answered “Well the people of the town say he is a fool and a weakling because of all the times he has tried and failed to kill you, and that since there is no creature wiser and stronger than you in this area, you should be their king instead.” “To show their sincerity they asked me to give you this.” He gave some of the honey flavoured Akara to the elephant. When the elephant tasted it, his face lit up in delight. “This is the best Akara I have ever tasted, what did they put into it to make it so delicious?” “ Well you will learn that soon enough, because the people have promised that once you agree to become their king, you can have as many of it as you want for the rest of your life.” Then as if on cue the drummers and the singers that the Tortoise began to sing the praises of the elephant and to beat their drums this was the song they sang:

Lead:   Eerin ka rele o wa joba   (Elephant let’s go home so that you can become king)

Reply : Eerin yeye Eerin Yeye

L:         Iwoyi ola re                             (this time tomorrow)

R:       Eerin yeye Eerin Yeye

L:       Eje a se bala                     (rivers of blood will flow)

R:      Eerin yeye Eerin Yeye

L:     Agbada a se bolo                (basins will be splattered in blood)

R:    Eerin yeye Eerin Yeye

The Elephant was carried away by the praise, he did not know when he began to dance. As he danced he began to follow Tortoise and his group of praise singers back to the town. Halfway to the town the elephant suddenly stopped. He turned to the Tortoise in anger “ What does the last two verses of that song you are singing mean? Is this a trick to catch me unprepared so that the townspeople can kill me?” The Tortoise laughed long and hard “Of course not. Would they go through all the trouble of frying all this nice Akara, and allowing the king’s personal praise singers to come with me to your house if they wanted to kill you? Or after all these years, would they not know that you are too smart to fall for this kind of trick?” Tortoise reached into his bag and gave the elephant more of the Akara. At the taste of the delicious Akara, the elephant’s suspicions evarporated again. He continued dancing. Soon the group reached the palace, the elephant danced heartily, while the praise singers and the drummers passionate sang and drummed for him The Tortoise also slipped him some Akara from time to time. When the townspeople saw the elephant they all shouted “Kabiyesi O!” and prostrated in unison. The elephant then confidently strode over the specially prepared mat to the huge throne prepared for him, but no sonner had he stepped on the mat that it caved into the ditch and the elephant fell in along with it. The king promptly summoned the best hunters in the town, who came with their guns, cutlasses and cudgels. In only a few minutes, the elephant was dead.

The king was overjoyed that Tortoise had solved the problem that had been plaguing the townspeople for years. He promptly split his property into three and gave the Tortoise one part, as he had promised. That was how the tortoise became a rich person.

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