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Africa folklore Igbo culture Short story

Folklore: Tortoise and The Spirits 1

Growing up

Growing up was fun. School holidays took me to the countryside, where I was acquainted with folklore life. I have done strange but funny things like wearing a girl’s skirt to play with other toddlers (that’s a story for another day), returning to bury a dead crab in the stream, attempted to raise spiders, frogs, hoppers, caterpillars, and a sickly squirrel. Oh, I also tried to grow wild rice on crushed rock.

I remember some tales vividly and struggle to recollect others. The simple stories I still remember, but the longer ones have significant parts of it forgotten.

Now I want to tell a simple version of a story I was told when I was a child. It makes more sense to me now whenever I reminisce about the words, how I miss those days and stories.

If you don’t mind, you can sit with me and listen to this tale. Life is a circle, and stories take us all around it. It’s a cold night and a young one for that.

The Tortoise and The Spirits: The Magical Drum

One day, the tortoise was walking along a forest path when he came across a palm tree with 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 of the tree. Unfortunately, before he could pick up these fruits from the ground, they rolled into a hole. He nodded 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 one 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 cave into what appeared to be a village square. The tortoise had stepped 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 tortoise a unique 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 anyone. There were drums of all sizes, but the tortoise picked a small drum that would be easy to carry since he had a long walk ahead.

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 utterly 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 vast 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 hitting the drum and appointed the elephant as his official drum beater. However, when the elephant beat the small drum, the drum brake. 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 particular drum.

This time, the tortoise pick the giant 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 exhausted 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 lashes followed him and whipped him all the way home.

Categories
Muse Nature Pastoral Poetry Short story

The Crow and The Rabbit

A Crow was sitting on a tree
Doing nothing all day.
A small Rabbit saw the Crow,
And asked him, ‘Can I also sit like you
And do nothing all day long?’
The Crow answered: ‘Sure, why not.’
So, the Rabbit sat on the ground
Below the Crow, and rested.
All of a sudden a Fox appeared,
Jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the short poem is: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.

Categories
Christianity Short story

The Egg, The Coffee Beans and The Potato

A short story

A little boy named John lived in a beautiful home with his parents. One day, his father found him crying and asked if something was wrong. John said meekly, “I have so many problems in life, and talked about his ‘problems’. John’s father patiently listened to him. Then he brought a bowl and placed a potato, an egg and some coffee beans in it. He asked John to touch and feel the ingredients in the bowl, and say what he felt about them.

John described how he felt about each of them on touching them. The father smiled and asked John to place them all in three different bowls, pour water in them and boil them. He then boiled them all. After a few minutes, the father turned off the stove and placed all the bowls on the counter to cool them down. When they had cooled down, John’s father asked him to touch them once again and feel the egg, potato, and coffee beans. John had a different answer this time. He said, “the potato’s skin is easier to peel as it has turned very soft, the egg has hardened, and there is a fresh coffee aroma coming from the beans.”

Listening to John, his father smiled and told him how the potato, egg, and coffee beans reacted to adverse situations. The potato had become soft, the egg had turned out very strong, and the coffee beans had changed their form completely during their testing time in the boiling water.

Morals

Afflictions lift your stars! How you react to your seasons of trials and pain is what determines the outcome of your battles! Problems are part of life. They can make you hard as the egg or soft as the potato, etc. Battles can make us bitter or better! They can make you acidic or full of sweet aroma for living.

No wonder William Ward wrote: Adversities causes some men to break down; others to break records.” May your pain and adversities, cause you to break records!

Categories
Poetry Series Short story

Reflection: A Cold World

An empathetic mindset and love are what we need for a better world.

It’s utterly monstrous weather out there. Each time the breeze touches my skin, I shudder and sneeze. I’m cuddled on the bed, clutching a phone in one hand in a dark room, too lazy to read or even find a light. No candlelight anyway. My windows and doors are shut tight, yet the cold still came through. I grab the blanket to cast it over the tips of my exposed foot. And to determine where the burst of wind came from. It’s a cold world, no doubt and a dark one for that matter. It’s a lonely world for those who can’t afford blankets.

The homeless have nothing literally. I’m left with thoughts for those who feel this cold but can’t afford a blanket or a roof. Life can be so cruel. I’m sure that someone needs help. Somewhere around the street corner, you will see them. I trust that some good people will consider giving out old blankets or get new ones for those who can’t afford it.

From my bed, I wish for the stars on a freezing night. I don’t know; maybe they could somehow warm the night for the homeless. I feel sickly: bitter tongued, laziness, fever, and headache, all signs and symptoms of a tropical illness. So no poetry for me tonight, just my thoughts and bed.

I ask myself this: If I under a roof can feel this sinister cold, how will the homeless manage? I hope that homeless children and women are safe in this weather. It’s unusual for me to sleep without thinking and praying for the less privileged.

If you have a bed and a roof, you should be super grateful. Let your empathy make people grateful to live. Remember the homeless in your prayers and almsgiving.

Categories
Short story

We are all brothers

‘Excuse me,’ said he, ‘but that’s a question I never like to hear asked. What does it matter where a man is from? Is it fair to judge a man by his post-office address? Why, I’ve seen Kentuckians who hated whisky, Virginians who weren’t descended from Pocahontas, Indians who hadn’t written a novel, Mexicans who didn’t wear velvet trousers with silver dollars sewed along the seams, funny Englishmen, spendthrift Yankees, cold-blooded Southerners, narrow-minded Westerners, and New Yorkers who were too busy to stop for an hour on the street to watch a one-armed grocer’s clerk do up cranberries in paper bags. Let a man be a man and don’t handicap him with the label of any section.’

‘Pardon me,’ I said, ‘but my curiosity was not altogether an idle one. I know the South, and when the band plays “Dixie” I like to observe. I have formed the belief that the man who applauds that air with special violence and ostensible sectional loyalty is invariably a native of either Secaucus, N.J., or the district between Murray Hill Lyceum and the Harlem River, this city. I was about to put my opinion to the test by inquiring of this gentleman when you interrupted with your own – larger theory, I must confess.’

And now the dark-haired young man spoke to me, and it became evident that his mind also moved along its own set of grooves.

‘I should like to be a periwinkle,’ said he, mysteriously, ‘on the top of a valley, and sing too-ralloo-ralloo.’

This was clearly too obscure, so I turned again to Coglan.

‘I’ve been around the world twelve times,’ said he. ‘I know an Esquimau in Upernavik who sends to Cincinnati for his neckties, and I saw a goat-herder in Uruguay who won a prize in a Battle Creek breakfast-food puzzle competition. I pay rent on a room in Cairo, Egypt, and another in Yokohama all the year round. I’ve got slippers waiting for me in a tea-house in Shanghai, and I don’t have to tell ’em how to cook my eggs in Rio de Janeiro or Seattle. It’s a mighty little old world. What’s the use of bragging about being from the North, or the South, or the old manor-house in the dale, or Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, or Pike’s Peak, or Fairfax County, Va., or Hooligan’s Flats or any place? It’ll be a better world when we quit being fools about some mildewed town or ten acres of swampland just because we happened to be born there.’

‘You seem to be a genuine cosmopolite,’ I said admiringly. ‘But it also seems that you would decry patriotism.’

‘A relic of the stone age,’ declared Coglan warmly. ‘We are all brothers – Chinamen, Englishmen, Zulus, Patagonians, and the people in the bend of the Kaw River. Some day all this petty pride in one’s city or state or section or country will be wiped out, and we’ll all be citizens of the world, as we ought to be.’

‘But while you are wandering in foreign lands,’ I persisted, ‘do not your thoughts revert to some spot – some dear and – ‘

‘Nary a spot,’ interrupted E. R. Coglan flippantly. ‘The terrestrial, globular, planetary hunk of matter, slightly flattened at the poles, and known as the Earth, is my abode. I’ve met a good many object-bound citizens of this country abroad. I’ve seen men from
Chicago sit in a gondola in Venice on a moonlight night and brag about their drainage canal. I’ve seen a Southerner on being introduced to the King of England hand that monarch, without batting his eyes, the information that his grandaunt on his mother’s side
was related by marriage to the Perkinses, of Charleston. I knew a New Yorker who was kidnapped for ransom by some Afghanistan bandits. His people sent over the money and he came back to Kabul with the agent. “Afghanistan?” the natives said to him
through an interpreter. “Well, not so slow, do you think?” “Oh, I don’t know,” says he, and he begins to tell them about a cab-driver at Sixth Avenue and Broadway. Those ideas don’t suit me. I’m not tied down to anything that isn’t 8,000 miles in diameter. Just put me down as E. Rushmore Coglan, citizen of the terrestrial sphere.’

My cosmopolite made a large adieu and left me, for he thought that he saw someone through the chatter and smoke whom he knew. So I was left with the would-be periwinkle, who was reduced to Würzburger without further ability to voice his aspirations to perch, melodious, upon the summit of a valley.

I sat reflecting upon my evident cosmopolite and wondering how the poet had managed to miss him. He was my discovery and I believed in him. How was it? ‘The men that breed from them they traffic up and down, but cling to their cities’ hem as a child to the mother’s gown.’


In memory of September 11 attacks on America.