By Dr. Chuks Osuji
Since I wrote an article exposing how the Tortoise tried to cheat his wife and how his wife caught him red handed, many readers and other interested people in Igbo Tradition and Culture have continued to request me to write more about the prowess of Tortoise.
Indeed, Tortoise by Igbo folk lore is a prominent actor. There are several stories depicting his crafty propensity. Although we know that the Tortoise is a little creature belonging to the reptile family. Of all the numerous stories about Tortoise, in all and all, all those stories, accusations, falsehood, cunning, among others associated to the Tortoise were the manifestation of human behaviour.
Those who are of my generation could still remember that before the advent of television, the Igbo children used to play during the moonlight period. They will come out to the community, kindred or village square after dinner clustering together to tell various stories. Indeed and in fact, most of the stories told were connected to various animals but more importantly, majority of them were about the Tortoise and its cunning prowess.
I could still remember that while growing up in the village, it was during those periods of moonlight plays that I learnt from immediate elder ones some of those stories. As I grew up before I left my village at the age of 12, I had mastered a lot of stories about Tortoise and his wife Alia.
Interestingly, in all the stories even when he was expected to be a victim, he would maneuver to be a champion.
In today’s write up, I can relate one or two stories in which the Tortoise made prominent plot.
One day at night, he went to his neighbor Apia, a flying bird with long peak. His mission was to extract a little fire flame to lit his own house. On reaching there, the Tortoise met Apia roasting some palm fruits. The way he eyed the fruits in the fire suggested that he would like to get some.
Then as he was about to leave, he eyed the palm fruits again and Apia asked him, “would you like to have some?”he replied in the affirmative with enthusiasm. Then Apia gave him two palm fruits to chew on his way. On his way, he chewed both with speed, quenched the fire in his hand and went back to Apia’s home. When Apia saw him, he replied, what happened to your fire? He replied and said I was overwhelmed with the oil nature of the palm fruits and did not know when the oil from the fruits quenched my fire. He started cursing himself of being too careless to have allowed his fire to quench.
Then Apia innocently told him not curse himself saying, everybody makes a mistake. As he was leaving, Apia have him another palm fruits to chew. He extinguished the fire and went back for the third time but unfortunately, by the time he went back, Apia had exhausted all the palm fruits she had roasted and also extinguished the flames. He was helpless. But before he left he asked Apia, “Please my neighbor, where did you get those palm fruits? They are very oily and tasty.”
Apia laughed a bit and told him that, “Tortoise my neighbor, I usually get them across the river where you cannot fly to because you don’t have wings.” “Tortoise laughed derisively at Apia’s as he told Apia, next time you want to go, I’ll like to follow you.” Then he asked Apia, “when next would you be going across the river to get another palm fruits? Apia innocently replied,” tomorrow morning. Tortoise replied and said,” please I will follow you and you’d be surprised how I will grow wings to fly along with you tomorrow morning. As the tortoise was about to leave, he told Apia, please I’d be here in the morning to follow you but before you go to bed, bring out your bag and leave it outside so that it will accumulate a lot of dews so that when we get there, it will not take us a lot of …