Tortoise and Elephant African Folktale

Tortoise and Elephant is a thought-provoking African folktale. African folktales are stories forming part of an oral storytelling tradition shaped by the tongues of African elders passed down from one generation to the next. 

Tortoise and Elephant African Folktale

There was a great King who ruled in the village of Gbogan a long long time ago at a time when animals could talk. The King took very ill for a long period of time and was at the point of death. After several attempts by medicine men from within the kingdom to heal the king failed, “Ikumejakako”, the dreaded herbalist who dwelt in the evil forest was consulted. He examining the king and pronounced that the king would have to take a special brew made of elephant body parts or die within seven days.

The King and his chiefs wondered how they would capture a big and dangerous animal like an elephant. The king after consultation with his chiefs made an announcement throughout the kingdom that anyone who would capture an elephant within seven days would get half of the kingdom and his beautiful daughter as a bride.

The tortoise came forward to accept the challenge. He made a request of the King, that a very deep pit be dug and that the pit should be concealed with raffia and mats and that a throne fit for a king should be set on top of the pit. The tortoise made some “akara” balls (bean cakes) and set out into the forest in search of an elephant. The wandered through the forest making inquiries of his fellow animals until the third day when he stumbled on an elephant resting under a tree…….

Tortoise: Elephant, what are you doing here…haven’t you heard the news?

Elephant: What news? Do not disturb my siesta tortoise, I do not like gossip

Tortoise: I don’t believe my eyes, a whole King, resting in the forest under a shade!!

Elephant: A King, what King?

Tortoise: YOU!! The king is dead and the elders have decided to make you king over the people.

Elephant: (roars with laughter)….you must be a joker tortoise, who would want to make an old ugly elephant like me a king?

Tortoise: There is no time for explanations, preparations are already at an advanced stage in the kingdom for your coronation, we must make haste, see, I have proof (he brought out one of the “akara” balls and handed one over to the elephant) This akara is only a small part of the delicacies being prepared for your coronation.

Elephant: (putting the akara into his mouth) Hmmmmm….this is delicious…really delicious it must be true, lets make haste.

And so the tortoise led the elephant all the way to the village handing out the akara balls to him at intervals and singing popular coronation songs to him all the way.

As the tortoise and the elephant approached the palace, news of the capture of the elephant spread like wild fire, everybody came out of their houses and started following the duo to the palace joyous and joining in tortoise’s songs. This all created an atmosphere of festivities reinforcing the belief in the elephant’s mind that he was to be made king.

Elephant: Your story must be true…the people are really joyous to see me.
Tortoise: You know I wouldn't lie to you, can’t you see them singing that your reign shall be long?

As the throne finally came into sight, the elephant lumbered into it majestically dancing and singing. He sat on the throne and instantly the ground gave way beneath him and he fell into the pit. The king’s warriors immediately descended upon him with spears and clubs and butchered him. Once the king had taken a sip of the elephant broth made for him, he became instantly well and fulfilled his promise towards the tortoise.

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