Ijapa the tortoise was not only a trickster, he was also very lazy. As such, he often had little or nothing with him.
One day, he was hungry. Really hungry. So he sat in front of his mud hut thinking of how he could get a free meal.
After thinking, and thinking and thinking… He decided to go visiting.
He went off to his friend Igbin’s place, perhaps he could meet him eating.
A while down the road, he smelled something wonderful. There was food on the fire! He quickened his footsteps.
When he arrived he was met with the sight of Igbin’s wife turning a huge pot of steaming yam porridge. His mouth began to water. He greeted her and went in to see his friend.
After a while, the meal was ready. Igbin’s wife set the table and invited Ijapa to come and dine with them. Not wanting to seem greedy, he declined, hoping he would be begged to eat, so he could graciously accept.
Didn’t happen. His host and the wide dug in, without a second invitation. Ijapa sat there with his tummy rumbling. He plotted on how to get a share of the meal. He then made up a plan. With the excuse that he heard something and wanted to check, he went out and then snuck into the kitchen through the back door.
There it was! A glorious pot of yam porridge with bits of fish and meat just sitting there and looking good. He tries to taste a bit. Too hot. He wanted to take some…
He raised his hand to scratch his head and touched his cap. Aha!
You see, in those times, Ijapa had a lot of hair, silky smooth and ink black. He always wore a cap when he went out, to keep the hair fresh and prevent it from dirtying. It was his pride and joy.
Turning the cap upside down, it made a fantastic container. So he ladled some of the porridge into it.
Just then, he heard footsteps. He had to hide the porridge. Without thinking, he put the cap on his head again.
Instantly it began to burn him. He went back to the living room and informed his hosts that he had to leave. They begged him to wait a bit more but he refused. Igbin’s wife asked him to wait, so she could pack a bit of porridge for him to take with him, but no. Igbin excused himself from the table determined to escort his friend a bit.
Oh sweet God, how the porridge burned!
Ijapa was in pain. He jumped from foot to foot. He wanted to get it done with but Igbin insisted on seeing him a long way. When his friend eventually left, Ijapa took off his cap and rushed to a nearby stream to wash his head. He was badly burnt. All his marvelous hair was gone!
Since then, he has been bald.