As was promised last week, Laolu’s Blog will be bringing you stories from Africa’s wealth of Folklore. First up, Nigeria, West Africa, “the tug of war.”
“Long long ago, when the earth was young, animals could speak and walk on two legs. They lived the way humans do, and were comfortable in their forest abode.
Of all the animals, the tortoise “Ijapa” was different. He was a wily trickster and cunning in his ways. So one day, after sitting in his house brewing up some mischief, he decided on something. Just the other day, the elephant had made a boast about his strength, and ridiculed the weak powerless animals among which he included the tortoise.
Seated in his mud hut, the wily trickster came up with a plan and so went off in search of the elephant. Soon he was before the gigantic herbivore. He wasted no time in challenging him to a tug of war to prove his strength. The elephant agreed.
Word went far and wide about the tug of war and everyone was curious as to what the tortoise had up his sleeve this time.
The day chosen for the anticipated tug-of-war soon arrived. When the elephant arrived the animals let up a great cheer. Ijapa made his quiet arrival. After the rope was presented and tested for strength, the elephant grabbed one end, Ijapa the other. Then he declared in a loud voice that he, being an amphibian, would partake in the tussle from his place of strength, the water.
With those words, he tied the rope around his waist and dove into the water. The agreed signal was that when he was ready, he would give a slight pull. The rope gradually stretched till it became taut. And there was a little tug from inside the water. The elephant began to pull.
Amazingly, the line would not give.
He pulled harder.
Still, no ground given. The elephant started sweating. He was pulling with all his might, eyes popping and veins standing out, and yet there was no sign of the tortoise losing or waning in his amazing strength.
Hours later, the elephant collapsed and fell to the ground, exhausted. He had given up. The tortoise then emerged from the water with the rope tied around his waist and the elephant conceded defeat.
From that day onward, animals feared the tortoise and his amazing strength. None knew that the tortoise had tied the rope to a huge boulder under the water. That was what the elephant had been struggling with.
But he had been taught a sound lesson and learnt not to ridicule the “weak”. That lesson stayed with him till the end of his days.”
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