#FolktalesWednesday: Why the Tortoise Has a Bald Head


Once upon a time in the land of the animals,  Tortoise’s wife was feeling ill. So she called her husband and said to him: “please go to my mother’s house, tell her I have pains all over my body. She will give you some drugs that I can use to ease my pain.”

Tortoise went to his mother-in-law’s house to get the drugs. When he got there, his mother-in-law was cooking yam pottage. Even though the pottage was not ready to eat yet, it was already giving off a delicious aroma that was making the Tortoise’s mouth to water. Tortoise loved yam pottage, in fact it was his favourite food. However he did not want to look like a glutton in front of his mother in law, so he tried his best to ignore the aroma of the food and deliver his wife’s message. His mother-in-law replied: “Don’t worry, I have the drugs that your wife requested for here, i will go and get it for you now. but I have some yam pottage on the fire and it is almost ready to eat. If you can wait for a few more minutes, then you can have some before you go.” “No thanks,” Tortoise responded. “I don’t think I can wait for that long. Besides I just had breakfast, so I am full as it is.” The woman tried in vain to persuade  Tortoise to wait until the pottage was ready, but Tortoise refused. So she shrugged, and went inside to fetch the drugs that Tortoise’s wife had asked for.

It was then that the Tortoise started to regret not agreeing to eat of his in-law’s yam pottage, because the pottage was nearly ready now and the aroma  was so profound that Tortoise could barely think straight. but he was still feeling too ashamed to tell his in-law that he had changed his mind. He was still thinking of what to do, when his mother- in -law returned with the drugs. That was when Tortoise got an idea. He said to his mother in law “I just remembered that my wife said she wants some leaves of the kolanut tree to chew as she takes these drugs, sorry I forgot to mention it before.” Of course Tortoise’s wife did not ask him to collect any kolanut leaves, it was only a lie to get rid of his mother in law so that he could steal some of her pottage. The woman went to get the kolanut leaves  and  Tortoise quickly  to the still boiling pot of pottage. Unfortunately he had no plate to scoop the pottage into, so he scooped the fiery hot pottage into his cap and used it to cover his head as normal.

He immediately began to regret that decision though, because the piping hot pottage started to burn his head. In distress he called to his mother- in-law who was still looking for the kolanut leaves in her orchard “Ma, I have to go home now, something important just came up at my house.” The suprised mother in law called back, “Aren’t you going to take the kolanut leaves any more?” ” No ma, I just remembered that I can get some on my way home.” By this time the tortoise was already sweating profusely and hurting from the literal fire in his cap. Tortoise  literally flew from his mother-in-law’s  house to his own, he was sweating buckets and his head felt like it was being  dipped into a volcano. He did not stop to talk to anybody on the way and everyone kept wondering why the Tortoise (who was normally a sociable and friendly creature) was that agitated, but he could not tell anyone what he had done.

At last when Tortoise got to his house, he could barely even give the drugs he had brought to his wife, before he went to dunk his burning head into a large bowl of water. However, in the time between his mother-in-law’s house and his own, the hot yam pottage had completely burned all of Tortoise’s hair down to his scalp. by the time he removed his head from the water, it  was as bald as an egg. From that day on, the Tortoise hair has not grown back and he has remained bald headed.

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