“Why Tortoise has a Cracked Shell” from Urhobo folklore

“Why Tortoise has a Cracked Shell” from Urhobo folklore

Sunday, April 5, 2020 12:09 pm


A tortoise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Itaye!

Iye!

Once upon a time Bird and Tortoise had a quarrel. The quarrel went on for a long time with one trying to get the other into trouble. Tortoise would try this trick. Bird would escape. Bird would try his own. The cunning Tortoise would ‘jump am pass’. It went on and on! 

Itaye!

Iye! 

 One day Tortoise went to the king to report that Bird boasted that his father used to carry the world on his head! And that the king and his ancestors were very lazy! The king was very angry that Tortoise not only insulted him but also insulted his ancestors. His eyes were red like banga. Red like fire that is very hot. In the land, anybody who insulted the king was usually thrown from a hill to the ground for instant death.

Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Itaye! 

Iye! 

The king sent for Bird. Seated with him were all the prominent people in the land. Bird came in. The king asked Bird: ‘Is it true that you insulted me and said that me and my ancestors are lazy people?

Bird answered: No your majesty! It is Tortoise who insulted you by saying that even the king cannot carry the world on his head. Who are you that can carry the world?

The king replied: ‘One of you is lying. Is it true that you said you could carry the world on your head like your ancestors? 

Bird answered: Yes I said so! 

Itaye! 

Iye!

The people gasped. Bird just wanted to kill himself, they said. No man can carry the world!  The king then decreed that seven markets from that day Bird should come and carry the world on his head. And that if he failed to carry the world he would  be put to death. The assembly dispersed. There was much murmuring. Tortoise was happy that he had finally cornered Bird! And that Bird would certainly be put to death! 

Itaye! 

Iye!

Bird went home. At night he would toss here, toss there. He could not sleep. He cried in his sleep. He laughed at himself miserably. He called his dead father at night. His father answered him. After seven markets, the day came. 

Itaye! 

Iye!

The whole town was assembled in the town square. The king was there. The Ovieraye was there too. Tortoise was also there. All the chiefs and women. They were all waiting for Bird. Some strangers even came from other kingdoms including kings and queens. 

Itaye! 

Iye! 

Then Bird entered with ‘ofene’, swagger. He shook his waist this way. He shook it that way. The people looked on. The king then asked Bird. ‘Bird, are you ready to carry the world on your head now as your ancestors used to do?

Bird answered. Yes, my king! 

Itaye! 

Iye! 

Bird moved to the middle. He removed his wrapper. He bent down. He stood up and announced to the king: 

“O king! In the days of my ancestors it was the ancestors of Tortoise that used to lift the world on my ancestors’ head. 

Hmmmmmmmmmmm! The crowd chuckled. They immediately guessed where Bird was headed. 

Itaye! 

Iye!

“So my dear king, please order Tortoise to come and lift the world on my head! 

Everywhere was quiet. Tortoise looked here. Looked there. He was sweating. The king then ordered Tortoise to go lift the world. 

Itaye! 

Iye!

Tortoise pretended as if he was walking towards Bird. Then he changed course and tried to escape. The king’s soldiers pounced on him and brought him before the king. There and then the king decreed that because Tortoise could not do what his ancestors did he should be thrown down from the hill! 

Itaye! 

Iye! 

That was how Tortoise was thrown down from the top of the hill and the shell of his body got cracked. This is why the shell of Tortoise is always cracked! 

Itaye! 

Iye! 

WHAT IS THE MORAL OF THIS STORY? THE SAME QUESTION MY UDU- ORHUWHORUN MOTHER ASKED ME FIFTY YEARS AGO AFTER TELLING THE STORY. 

SHE USED TO CALL IT ‘GBOSIA!

 

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