5 Tortoise Folktales Nigerian Kids Can Never Forget

November 3, 2021

Many Nigerian kids grew up hearing folktales about the crafty tortoise and eventually came to realise that Mr Tortoise, or Ajapa as he is sometimes called, is the worst scammer in the business. Here are  7 Tortoise folktales we’ll never forget. 

1. Tortoise in the sky

In this story, Tortoise tapped into his inner Nigerian politician and asked for a feather from every bird so that he could make wings to follow them to a feast in the sky he wasn’t invited to. After taking advantage of their kindness, he tricked them by making them change their names for this party. He chose the name “All of you,” which led to this dirty bitch eating all the food and drinks that the party organisers offered to “All of you”. The birds got pissed, collected their feathers, and left him stranded in the clouds. This shameless animal still had the guts to beg one of the birds to bring out all the soft things in his house so he could jump from the cloud. Already over tortoise’s nonsense,the bird brought out the strongest materials in his house for the tortoise to land on. Mr Tortoise jumped and doomed his species to an eternity of cracked shells. 

2. The Tortoise and the Wisdom gourd

One thing about the folktales starring Tortoise is how illogical it can be. In this story, Tortoise was distressed because he wanted to be the wisest person in the world. So he gathered all of the world’s wisdom into a gourd, which totally makes sense and took a long trip to the biggest tree he could find so as to hide his new treasure. When he found it, he noticed that his son had been following him. With all the knowledge he had, he didn’t know how he’d be able to climb the tree while holding the gourd. His son told him to put the gourd on his back so he could climb it. He was confused at how smart his son was since he had collected all the wisdom in the world. Realising how foolish his quest was, the tortoise smashed the gourd and went back home. 

3. Tortoise and monkey

Turns out that the tortoise and the monkey used to be friends a long time ago, but one day, the monkey cheated Mr tortoise. Instead of taking accountability for his actions, the monkey laughed in the tortoise’s face and refused to apologize. Tortoise went home and asked his wife to prepare the sweetest bean cakes she’d ever made. When it was ready, Mr Tortoise took it to the Lion and offered some to him. Lion loved it so much, he had to know where he could get some. Tortoise lied that it was made with monkey’s faeces and to get it that sweet, he had to be severely beaten. Lion immediately dashed off to the monkey’s house and demanded that the monkey produce bean cakes. Monkey tried to explain that there must’ve been a misunderstanding but was immediately beaten to a pulp by Lion. Lion eventually realized that he had been a pawn in the tortoise game and leaves. Tortoise, who had watched the whole thing play out, came out from his hiding place to laugh at him. The jungle is tough sha.

4. The tortoise and the princess

In this Tortoise folktale, there was a king with a beautiful daughter who wanted to marry her off so he organised a contest and invited all the eligible men in the land. He ordered his chefs to make the hottest pepper soup and, on the day of the contest revealed that whoever won his daughter’s hand in marriage would be someone who could drink the pepper soup without showing discomfort. All the men and animals tried to drink the pepper soup but could not hold back. When it was Tortoise’s turn, he devised a plan. He told the crowd that he was going to sing a song for the princess and that anytime he drinks from the bowl, they should all collectively hiss. The tortoise then used their loud hiss to cover up his as they enjoyed the song too much to notice. He soon finished the soup, and while the king was sad to hand his beautiful daughter to a tortoise, he had made a vow and could not go back on it. The tortoise should be in jail.

5. Why the Tortoise has a bald head

Turns out that tortoises used to have hair before. Long ago, Mr dog and his family were making porridge yam, like the evil spirit he is, Mrr tortoise somehow smelt and followed the aroma to the dog’s house. Instead of asking for a plate like a sensible person, Tortoise decided to lie that the king had summoned Mr dog and his family, Tortoise promised to safeguard his house while they were away. As soon as they left, he began to eat as much as he could, knowing that they would hurry back as soon as they realized that the king wasn’t even around. He heard them approaching and decided to take some porridge home for his family but he had nothing to put it in, he got the brilliant idea to stuff the porridge in his hat and wear it. Mr dog came back and was so annoyed that Tortoise had wasted his time and they argued for a bit when all the tortoise wanted to do was rush home. The pain eventually got too much for the tortoise to bear, so he removed his hat and the porridge along with his hair fell out to everyone’s dismay. That’s why Tortoises are bald. 

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