THE TORTOISE AND THE DRUM

THE TORTOISE AND THE DRUM 1
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THE TORTOISE AND THE DRUM 2
One day, the
tortoise was walking along a forest path when he came across a palm tree that
had plenty of palm kernel fruits. The tortoise was hungry and the fruits
looked juicy and ripe to eat, if only he could reach one of them. He got hold
of a long stick and successfully shook some of the fruits off the tree.
Unfortunately, before he was able

to pick up these fruits from the ground,
they rolled into a hole. He shook more fruits off the tree but the same thing
happened.

The tortoise then decided to follow the fallen fruits and find them wherever
they fell. So he went into the hole, but no could not find any of the fruits.
The fruits must have rolled further down the hole, he thought, so he
continued down the hole, walking for hours until he dropped right out of the
hole into what appeared to be a village square. The tortoise had walked all
the way down to the spirit world.

As he looked around, he found a spirit happily chewing on one of his palm
kernels, the very last palm kernel. The tortoise exclaimed those are my palm
kernels, you have to give them back. The spirit apologized, he did not know
that the fruits belonged to the tortoise, but promised to give the tortoise a
special drum in exchange.

The spirit led the tortoise into a building where there were several rows of
drums along the wall and asked the tortoise to pick any one. There were drums
of all sizes but the tortoise picked a small drum which would be easy to
carry since he had a long walk ahead of him.

When the tortoise returned to the forest, he stopped to rest under a tree.
While resting, he picked up his new drumstick and beat the drum with it. To
his astonishment, a feast appeared before him there was a sample of every
food that he liked. He ate until he was completely stuffed, then he slept
under the tree for he was too full to continue his trip.

The following morning, he woke up, picked up his drum and went to his house.
Once there, he sent a message out to all the other animals to come to his
house. When all the animals were gathered, the tortoise beat his drum and a
huge feast appeared. Everyone was delighted and they all ate and partied
until they were all exhausted.

The following day, every animal was at the tortoise’s house again. The
tortoise beat his drum, a feast appeared and they all ate. They did this every
day. Very soon, the tortoise got tired of beating the drum and appointed the
elephant as his official drum beater. However, when the elephant beat the
small drum, the drum broke. And there was no feast.

The tortoise would have to return to the spirit world to get a new drum and
he immediately set off on this journey. Fortunately, he could remember the
exact spot where the palm tree stood. When he got there, he picked up a stick
and shook some palm kernels off the tree. The palm kernels fell to the ground
and just lay there. The tortoise picked up every one of them and threw them
down the hole that led to the spirit world. Then he went after them.

When he arrived in the spirit world, he found the same spirit at the same
spot. You again, he exclaimed. You have eaten my palm kernels, you have to
give them back?. Here are your palm kernels, the spirit said. He had not
eaten them as he had just arrived and was only picking them up. The tortoise
counted the palm kernels and insisted that some were missing and accused the
spirit of lying. He demanded compensation for the missing palm kernels. The
spirit again offered to give him a special drum.

This time, the tortoise picked the biggest drum he could find. He needed a
drum big enough for the elephant, and the bigger the drum would also produce
more food. It took the tortoise several days to drag the big drum back to the
surface, so that he was very tired and hungry.

He picked up his new drum stick and beat the drum. Instead of food, a
thousand whips appeared. The tortoise alarmed, started to run to his house
but the whips followed him and whipped him all the way home.


Narrators comments: I had a feeling that this folktale may be not
be of Yoruba origin. This story of the King’s magic drum from Calabar (South Eastern Nigeria) somewhat validates
that feeling. It’s a different story but contains similar elements – the
magic drum, palm kernels, spirits and of course, the greedy tortoise.

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