Saturday, June 2, 2012

Nigerian folktale - the Baboon and the Tortoise

Dear friends, today Iam sharing a lovely folktale from the West African country of Nigeria. Thanks to www.motherlandnigeria.com and the Punchontheweb archive for providing the folktale idea, image courtesy of the above 2 websites and several more with animal pictures. It is a trickster moral story.

Once a baboon and a tortoise were friends. They spent time happily stealing figs from the farmer's tree and daring his gun and fierce dogs. Doesn't this seem like an odd pair? Do you think both of them were happy with this kind of life? No....not so much for the tortoise, well. He didn't like this very exciting kind of life. So he told the baboon that one day they should plant their own fig trees, without worrying about the farmer, his gun and dogs. The baboon agreed happily seeing that the plan was much safer, but he was a lazy fellow and didn't care much about growing his plant. Though, the tortoise earnestly grew his plant, watering it regularly. Naturally, it was he tortoise's tree which grew well with tall branches and green leaves, but the baboon's ignored tree was withering and falling dead.
Finally figs sprouted on the tortoise's tree and the tortoise was attracted to the delicious figs. Being a small animal, he couldn't climb the tree, and asked the tall and tree - inhabited baboon for help, to which he replied, "Oh, sure, why not." But would the baboon be so kind to selflessly help the tortoise. Of course not, he was a trickster. He ate the figs and relished them till finally the tortoise saw its juice dripping out of his mouth. He shouted from below,", Hey, you are finishing off my figs, give me some!" The wily baboon said,"Of course, I'm looking for fully ripe figs for you, wait for a tad more", and so he went on munching. At last, he said,"Oh, sorry, there were no nicely ripe figs to give you", and with a jump, hop and somersault, he went away merrily with a hearty laugh.
Just as the tortoise was looking woefully, a cheerful robin redbreast came that way, and inquired,"Why do you look so glum? What has happened?", and the tortoise told him all that had happened,"Please be kind and give me some figs". Even the robin was not so kind; he offered the tortoise ripe figs, and when he agreed, the robin said there were only unripe ones left. Then, when the tortoise asked for the unripe ones, the robin said there were no figs at all, and flew away with a chirp. Ever since, tortoises are believed to look sad and never have smiled. 
The next day, the baboon gulped down more figs and mocked the tortoise, making him furious. The day after this, the shepherd came, and offered to help the tortoise avenge the mean baboon. He was a kind lad, and after giving some figs to the tortoise, and loading his gun, placed it high in the tree. Tied to its trigger was a long string that hung to the ground. Soon, the baboon came back, and asked the tortoise about the string. He replied,"If I pull the string one way, it will bring down ripe figs, but if I pull it the other way, it brings thunder and lightning in the clouds". The baboon was astounded and pulled it in disbelief. The gun shot with thunderously loud bangs, and appeared like lightning, thunder and clouds. The frightened baboon ran off, and ever since, baboon are said to have been frightened by guns and even looking at one. The tortoise, who was always sad, laughed inside himself. But he wasn't just as innocent and naive, in fact he was so angry with the baboon that he wanted to further punish him. http://archive.punchontheweb.com/images/September/Saturday/pix20110903203929.gif
So, when they met the next time, the tortoise stood listening to a beehive. When the baboon asked him what he was doing, he replied,"I'm listening to the music that is coming out from this hole". But the baboon thought it was too soft and inaudible and was very disapproving. The tortoise said that it was a church and if the baboon wanted a louder hum, he needed to bang the hive with his fist and shake its hole with a nearby stick. When the foolish baboon did the same, the bees hummed louder and angrier, stinging him with rage. The baboon ran away painfully and jumped into a river to escape the bees. But each time he put his head out of the water, the bees stung him, and eventually their anger eased off and they returned to their hive.
The baboon scratched out the stings and baboons are believed to scratch themselves ever since. He was furious and wanted to bite the tortoise, who was now staring at a mango tree. The baboon screamed angrily, but the tortoise replied, though nervous,"I didn't tell you to hit and punch the hive so hard and almost pierce a hole on it. He was staring for so long that the baboon became curious rather than angry. When asked about it, he said,"Iam looking at the delicious mangoes which I wish I would eat". The baboon had swellings on his eyes and didn't realise that the tortoise was actually pointing out to a wasp-hive. The fat-headed baboon tried to pick the 'mangoes' and got badly attacked by the wasps. This made him extremely furious and he wanted to eat the tortoise now. The tortoise defended himself saying that he was pointing out to a mango tree and the baboon had handled a wasp nest, so it wasn't his fault. A cricket came chirping by and, because baboons love to eat crickets, the baboon chased it till it went into a tree-hole.
The baboon boasted that he could catch the cricket and in the attempt, caught a snake by mistake, which bit him. The snake was so angry on being disturbed that he bit the baboon hard. The tortoise was content with his revenge. From that day, tortoises, snakes, wasps and bees are said to have been good friends. And because the bees enjoyed the sweet figs, they have been crazy about any sweet thing and fruit. The snake decided to live on the branches of the fig tree instead of his old tree hole, since he could watch out for any approaching enemy. The baboon is also believed to have changed to a much less active creature. 

This folktale shows us how people may have made folktales, they would have wanted to explain why many things are the way they are (take a look at the 'ever since' - es...) and not knowing a scientific explanation, would imagined up the 'why' as stories which were later verbally passed and cherished by the folks. 

However such explanations may often be evil beliefs superstitions and should never be accepted to be true.

1 comment:

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