Storyteller: Nkita nyara akpa? (When a dog picks up his backpack?)
Audience: Nsi agwu n’ohia! (All faeces in the bush go wanting)
Storyteller: Spread your mats and sit at the foot of the tree. It was a long day for me, we could use a good story to wrap it up. I welcome all of you again to today’s dialogue.
The Dog and His Backpack
The introit above is used to start a folktale in Igbo storytelling tradition. Sometimes it illustrates a story of its own. A very short one, which is half told by the audience. Tired storytellers can blurt out, and the unsuspecting audience in response won’t know that that was the end of the tale. Indeed, it’s more of a notion, which impresses or assumes that each time the dog (nkita) picks up his sacks or bags, all animal faeces in the bush would go wanting. Yes, the premise is that dogs eat other animal waste. Not all dogs eat other animal waste if you ask me. Also, if dogs had bags and why they were particularly personified as those who go about the bush collecting other animal waste is a story of its own. This notion is more of a proverb than a tale, I’m yet to determine its root. But it’s good to make mention of it. It’s rational to remember that it is part of the storyteller’s childhood background.
In our last dialogue, we explored why the Tortoise was a celebrated con artist in African folklore. We tried to compare the characters of the real-life Tortoise and that of the mythological world. The two characters do not correlate. The real-life Tortoise is just an animal that goes about its business as every other living thing. On the other hand, the mythological Tortoise is a shrewd, cunning and mischievous being or person.
As I promised, we would use a tale to wrap up the night. And tonight’s folktale is widely known and told in West Africa. I remember hearing it as a growing child. I’ve also heard a different version of the race between the Tortoise and the Dog. Now pay attention, and I’ll like to read what morals we have in the story if there’s any. Ifochakpi!
The Tortoise and The Rabbit
Nnabe, the Tortoise, and the rabbit was chatting when the Tortoise suddenly declared, “I bet I can beat you in a race.” The rabbit was stunned for a minute. He wasn’t sure he heard his friend correctly. “Did you say something about a race?” He asked. The tortoise elaborated, “Yes, I challenge you to a race, and I want all the animals present to witness your defeat.”
This cracked up the rabbit; he started to laugh. “This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard,” he said. “It will take you many years to cover the distance I can run in one day. It is silly to race against you. Everyone knows that I will win.”
But the Tortoise won’t have that, he pleaded with the rabbit until he accepted to race, and a date was fixed for the race between the two.
The day of the race came, and several animals came to witness the start of the race. There were also several animals waiting at the finish line.
The race began, and the rabbit hurried away, eager to get the race over with. The rabbit still thought it was ridiculous to be competing against the slow Tortoise in a race. But what the rabbit didn’t know was that the Tortoise had positioned his cousins along the race path while he waited near the finish line.
As the rabbit turned the corner around the forest path, he saw the Tortoise walking ahead of him. “What?! This is impossible!” he exclaimed. “How did you get here?” he asked.
“Though I stroll when I run fast, I run so fast you don’t even see me pass you,” Tortoise relatives replied. “Impossible!” Muttered the rabbit as he ran ahead of that tortoise.
The rabbit started to run faster. As he turned another corner in the forest path, he again saw the Tortoise walking ahead of him. “How did you get in front of me again?” He asked.
“Though I stroll when I run fast, I run so fast you don’t even see me pass you? Tortoise’s relatives replied as he slowly walked along. “Impossible!” Muttered the rabbit as he ran past the Tortoise.
The rabbit started to run even faster. Again, he turned a corner and saw another Tortoise walking ahead of him. “Oh, no! This cannot be happening,” Thought the rabbit as he ran past that tortoise. He wasn’t going to stop to talk anymore. He tried to run even faster but he couldn’t because he was getting tired.
Then, as he turned the corner to run the last stretch of the race, he saw Tortoise walking across the finish line ahead of him. “Impossible! Impossible!!” He yelled, but the Tortoise was declared the winner of the race.