A long long time ago the tortoise was determined to learn to fly. His wife often used to tell him not to set sail using someone else’s star but he was really determined and nothing was going to stop him. The reason that the tortoise gave for having to learn to fly was because he needed to visit his friend who was an osprey and lived in the treetop.

So to be able to visit, he would have to be able to fly. His wife said that she was sure the Osprey would understand but the tortoise being as stubborn as he was, did not want to listen. The Osprey often came to visit and the tortoise had to often give an alternative excuse on why he could not reciprocate the visit.

The tortoise watched the other animals closely to see if he could find a way to learn how to fly. He watched the storks, the eagles and the vultures and decided that if they could fly then so could he. The hyena was walking past the tortoise and asked him what he was daydreaming about. The tortoise told him that he was going to learn to fly and the hyena laughed so much that he fell over.

The hyena then ran to tell the other animals what the tortoise had told him. He told the wildebeest, the elephant, the warthog, the cheetah, the monkeys and the zebra and they all came to see the tortoise try to fly.

While this was going on – in a treetop a long way away tortoise’s friend, the Osprey was waiting for a visit from his friend the tortoise.

Tortoise spent the next couple of weeks in the bush trying to find a way to enable him to fly. Then one day he was looking at the sky and especially the sun and then he realized ….. he knew how he could fly.

He hurried home as fast as a tortoise could hurry to tell his wife. He told her that he knew how he could fly but that he needed her help. His wife again reminded him that he should not sail using someone else’s star but the tortoise was not listening. He again told his wife that to be able to fly was his dream and because she loved him, she agreed to help.

The tortoise had planned that the Osprey arrive at his home the next day. The Osprey arrived feeling very fit and handsome as he had spent the morning flying in the blue skies. He asked if the tortoise was at home.
The tortoise’s wife advised the Osprey that the tortoise had gone away but that he had left a gift for the Osprey.

She handed him a large bundle that was wrapped in tobacco leaves and tied tightly with twine. The Osprey thanked her, picked up the bundle in his talons and flew to his house.

What the Osprey didn’t know was that the tortoise was tied up in the bundle that was given to the Osprey. The tortoise was so pleased with himself and knew he would surprise the Osprey when he opened the bundle to find him in there. He couldn’t wait to see his friends face and how clever he was to think of this way to fly.

But as the sun beat down as they were flying, the tortoise was starting to feel hot and sticky and the leaves were making him itch – he hoped they would land soon. The Osprey was happily flying around and enjoying himself and was in no rush to go home. The tortoise was not having fun anymore and suddenly asked the Osprey if they could land.

The Osprey had such a fright at hearing a voice come from the bundle that he opened his talons and let the bundle fall. It was a long way towards the ground and even though the tortoise was shouting for help, nobody could see him inside the bundle and didn’t know where the cries were coming from.

The bundle fell towards the ground and when it hit the ground the tortoise burst free from the leaves. Luckily the leaves had cushioned some of his fall, but he was very bruised, battered and trembling with fear. His shell had cracked when he landed after such a great fall, but he managed to limp home to his wife.

His wife scolded him when he got home and told him that she had said he should never sail using someone else’s star and that included ever flying using anyone else’s wings.

And so it was that to this day the tortoise has a pattern of cracks on their shells which is the legacy they pass on to generations to come.


African Folklore - The Tortoise & the Osprey

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