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The Tortoise and The Dove

Before I tell this tale, let me point out some facts, especially to my friends who are not Africans. In African society, the Tortoise is perceived as a wise and cunny animal. Naturally slow and quiet, one might wonder why this animal is considered a cunny fellow. I don’t know the reason, but it has been this way even before I learned to walk.

This short tale is perhaps not my best Tortoise story but teaches an important moral. Each time an account is to be told here in the countryside, we sit under some tree shade on an airy evening, listening to the tale-teller.

In a particular land, the Tortoise became friends with the Dove. The Dove was a stammerer so that they couldn’t talk properly. They lived together and ate together.

One day the Tortoise made a law; if you must eat, you must pronounce your name. That day they made porridge, and the Tortoise shouted his name. He crawled up to the food and started eating. The Dove tried calling his name, but all he could say was ‘Dodovo, Dod, Dovoo.’ This continued till the food finished. Recall that the Dove was a stammerer.

Learn more on Igbo folklore here.

The next day it was the Dove’s turn to make a law. And his law was, if you must eat, you must wash your hands without soiling them. The meal was soup. The Dove washed up and flew up to the food. The Tortoise washed, and as he crawled towards the food, he soiled his hands. Remember that the Tortoise can only crawl. He tried again and again, it was impossible. He sat down and cried. The Dove ate all the soup. After this, they decided not to make any other selfish law(s) in the house. They lived in peace once more.

I believe the lessons are clear and hope we consider others before making decisions that may affect them.

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