The Invincible Tortoise
Cameroonian


Once upon a time, Tortoise was the adviser to, and spokesman of, the King. He was hard working, honest and just in what he did. Because of this, he stirred against him the hatred of other animals and they began to try ways of killing him. Although he knew that he was hated for his honesty and because the King loved him much he never failed to keep the company of his adversaries.

One day, the animals held a secret meeting to plot against Tortoise. They decided to assemble in the house of Deer and sent word to Tortoise that the child of Deer was seriously ill and that the wise advice of Tortoise would be very necessary.

The son of Deer was asked to lie down and to quake with limbs as if he were suffering from high fever. Tortoise arrived and was surprised by the assembly in the house and almost went back.

"Enter," said Porcupine. "We heard of the sad news almost at the same time and having gathered here we felt you must come and give your wise advice, for if we leave Deer alone, he may be so miserable. We will also benefit from your advice."

Tortoise said that it was the greatest honour that other animals gave him. They showed him the child on the bed further into the room and he was going near to the bed. Leopard who sat by the door had been asked and he accepted to catch and strangle Tortoise when he was about to leave the room. After touching the child and feeling his pulse and temperature, wise Tortoise remarked that the child was not so sick as they thought. He said that the child would not die but he advised the father to visit a native doctor. He promised to send some medicine when he got back to his house.

"Before I came, I passed and told the King that I was going to visit your child," Tortoise told Deer. "The King said he too is coming but he wants me quickly."

As Tortoise said so, all the animals were afraid that the King was coming. As Tortoise approached the door to take leave of them, Leopard leaped on him. Monkey who sat on the other side of the door was about closing the door when Tortoise managed to shout before his throat was completely pressed by Leopard: "Hey! That is the King coming to visit the child! Don't kill me!"

As he heard that the King was coming, Leopard released him at once and the door was opened again very quickly. As soon as he was released, Tortoise wobbled out of the room. All eyes were peering outside in fear of receiving the King. Tortoise had dodged and disappeared behind the house. There was no King! The plot failed! After waiting in vain to see the King, the animals knew that their enemy had cleverly deceived them to save his life.

The animals who had assembled together did not want to scatter without plotting again to kill Tortoise. They thought of what they could do again to get rid of the one they regarded as an enemy. They said Tortoise cared little for any of them and they termed him a victimizer and a crook!

It was not long when they arrived at a decision. Well, three days from then was the labour day for the King. Every male in the village was to go up the hill to clear grass to roof the guest house in the King's palace. Tortoise himself had announced this and he would personally supervise the work. He would visit the job site once before retiring to continue his services in the King's palace. The animals therefore decided that a special bundle of grass shall be tied and kept ready to Tortoise to carry when returning to the palace after visiting the job site.

On the labour day, all the animals went up the hill very early and were busy the whole day clearing the grass and tying it in bundles which were being carried to the palace.

Late in the afternoon towards the time work was soon going to stop, Tortoise arrived carrying two spears. He greeted the workers cheerfully and they answered him with respect and thanked him for coming to encourage them.

"We knew you would come late, " said Antelope, "because of much work with the King. We have therefore prepared your bundle for easy carrying." He pointed to the bundle of grass specially made for Tortoise.

"Thank you very much," said Tortoise. He went nearer the grass. He looked at it with suspicion and just then he had an idea of what he should do to ascertain that the grass was not a trap for him.

He said, "My father had taught me a lesson and it is this: 'Never you eat anything without tasting it nor do any work without first examining its implications!' I must therefore comply with my father's teaching before I carry this bundle of grass."

As he finished speaking, Tortoise held one of the spears with a firm hand which went backwards to fling the weapon through the bundle of grass. Just at that moment there were several shouts of "Don't shoot! Don't shoot, son of the great one!"

Before the animals had even shouted twice, the bundle of grass had tumbled and rolled on the ground by itself. A fierce-looking Leopard tore it open, jumped out from inside and ran without looking behind into a nearby bush! It was the plan of the animals to enclose Leopard into the bundle so that he may gradually send out his hands and hold Tortoise by the neck and strangle him.

The other animals would then regard Leopard as their redeemer and support his appointment as spokesman of the King. When Tortoise saw this he nodded and simply said, "Thank you all for the plot."

The animals began shrugging their shoulders, each denying involvement in the plot. Once more, guided by intuition, Tortoise escaped the evil plans of his enemies.
                                                               
--Told by J.T. Barika

The Invincible Tortoise
Identifying Facts:

1. Explain the first plot against Tortoise.
       --The animals had Deer's son pretend to be sick. They sent for          Tortoise for his advice. The Leopard would then catch and strangle          Tortoise as he left Deer's house.

2. Describe the second assassination plot against Tortoise.
       --The animals had Leopard hide in a bundle of grass Tortoise would          carry to the King for his roof. Leopard would reach out of the bundle          and strangle Tortoise.

3. In each case, how does Tortoise escape harm?
         --He uses his brain. The first time he tricks them into thinking the            King is coming and the second time he wants to shoot the bundle            to be sure it's safe.

4. Which animals, besides Tortoise, are mentioned in the story?
       --Deer, Porcupine, Leopard, Monkey, and Antelope.

Interpreting Meanings:

5. Why do you think the animals resent Tortoise's honesty?
     --They are jealous. (answers will vary)

6. In your opinion, why does Tortoise spend so much time with the animals he knows hate him?
      --He is smart enough to want to keep an eye on them.
      --He hopes to change their minds.
      --He can't help it because the King, his boss, makes him.
             (answers vary)

7. Is it common for people to dislike and try to defeat people who are honest? List the kinds of situations can you think of support your opinion?       --Answers vary greatly.

8. This story is different from the others in that it doesn't attempt to explain anything. It does, however, contain some lessons about "animal" behavior. What is one of those lessons?
      --Honesty is the best policy.
      --Being cautious can save your life.
      --It is best to think with a clear head in a difficult situation. (Think with         your head not with your fists.)