Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How the Tortoise got the cracks on his scute

As is customary in Igbo land, the story teller starts by saying;
Story teller: Ifo chakpii
Audience: woo
Story teller: Onwere akuko m g’akoro unu (I want to tell you a story)
Audience: Koro anyi ka obi di anyi mma (Tell us to make us happy)
Story teller: Oruru otumgbe (once upon a time)
Audience: otumgbe ruo (it is time)

A long, long time ago, God invited all animals to a party in heaven. It was to be a party full of merriment, dancing and eating. The birds and bats were happy because they understood this to be an exclusive party for only volant animals. However, the tortoise was troubled because he really wanted to be a part of that party but he had no wings, and the Wright brothers were not born then (nor their ancestors) not to mention the existence of aeroplanes. He approached his friend, Dove to ask if he could please give him a lift to heaven. The Dove replied, ‘Tortoise my friend, you know I would if I could. You are more than 5 times my size, and you know heaven is far. You’ll have to go ask Mr. Eagle, he’s the only one who can lift you’. Tortoise left his friend and went straight to Eagle’s house to seek for a lift to heaven. To his surprise, Mr. Eagle agreed to give him a ride to heaven without a fuss. Mr. Tortoise thanked him and went home happily to prepare.

On the D-day, Tortoise was gorgeously dressed in his best isiagu dress with a matching red cap and black staff carved out of ebony. He was ready; the ‘smartest’ animal in the entire animal kingdom was ready to meet God. All the animals set out with the Tortoise on Mr. Eagle’s back and arrived in heaven by mid-day. But before God came out to welcome the animals, Tortoise, in his cunningness, told all the animals that it would be fantastic for every one of them to choose a new befitting name for the party. ‘In that way, God would be impressed and give us whatever we want’, he said. The animals were excited with the idea and they started choosing beautiful names. Mr. Eagle wished to be called “the golden leave” while Dove said he’d like to be addressed as “sunrise”. When they had all chosen their names, Tortoise announced that he’d love to be called “All of you”. The animals thought his name was funny so they laughed, not knowing that Tortoise had a sinister motive. God came out to welcome them and they all introduced themselves in their new names. God showed them around heaven and delegated one of his servants to bring enough food for all of them before he retired to rest.

It was time to eat and God’s servant brought so many foods and announced to the animals, ‘This is for all of you’. The Tortoise smiled and took all the foods to himself, citing that the servant specifically called his name. He ate all the food without sharing with the other animals, not even his friend Dove nor his ‘driver’ Eagle. He finished all the food by himself. God’s servant came again to drop drinks for them. The animals were about to start sharing the drinks when Tortoise called out to the servant in a loud voice, ‘Whose drinks are these?’

The servant replied, ‘It is for all of you’, and left. Tortoise, again, consumed all the drinks without sharing.

It was time to go home, and all the animals left him behind. Nobody agreed to carry him because they wanted to punish him for tricking them. However, he begged Dove to please tell his (Tortoise's) wife to cover their entire house with mattress and every other soft material she could find, and that he was going to land at any moment. The Dove agreed to deliver his message, but when he got to Tortoise’s house, he told the wife to fill the entire house with sharp objects, stones and any other hard materials she could find. She didn’t understand why her husband would make such demand but she had to comply; her husband hated disobedience. Tortoise looked from heaven to see his house filled with materials; he was impressed with his wife, and he jumped. He was expecting to land on soft materials, only to land on stones and sharp objects, shattering his scute in bits and vomiting all he had consumed in heaven earlier. On seeing what just happened, the wife ran to call Mr. Snail, who came to gum his scute together and treat her husband of his injuries. Mr. Tortoise was filled with remorse and he swore never to betray his friends again.

That is why the Tortoise has cracked, disjointed and rough looking scute till this day. (Benneth Obitte)

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