Sacred-Texts African Index Previous Next
TORTOISE and Pigeon were often seen walking together, but unfortunately Tortoise treated his friend rather badly, and often played tricks on him. Pigeon never complained, and put up with everything in a good-humoured way. Once Tortoise came to him and said:
“I am going on a journey to-day to visit my cousins; will you come with me?”
Pigeon agreed to accompany him, and they set off. When they had go ne some distance they came to a river, and Pigeon was forced to take Tortoise upon his back and fly across with him.
Soon afterwards they reached the house of Tortoise’s cousins. Tortoise left his friend standing at the door while he went inside and greeted his relatives. They had prepared a feast for him, and they all began to eat together.
“Will you not ask your friend to eat with us?” said the cousins; but Tortoise was so greedy that he did not wish Pigeon to share the feast, and replied:
“My friend is a silly fellow, he will not eat in a stranger’s house, and he is so shy that he refuses to come in.”
After some time Tortoise bade farewell to his cousins, saying, “Greetings to you on your hospitality,” and came out of the house. But Pigeon, who was both tired and hungry, had heard his words p. 79 and determined to pay him out for once.
When they reached the river-bank, he took Tortoise up once again on his back; when he had flown half-way across, he allowed Tortoise to fall off into the river. But, by chance, instead of falling into the water, he landed on the back of a crocodile which was floating on the surface, and when the crocodile came up to the bank, Tortoise quickly descended and hurried away.
Pigeon saw what had happened, and that Tortoise had safely reached the land; so he flew ahead of him until he came to a field where a dead horse was lying.
To trick Tortoise once more, Pigeon cut off the horse’s head and stuck it in the ground, as if it grew there like a plant.
When Tortoise reached the field and saw the horse’s head, he went straight away to the King of the country and told him that he knew of a place where horses’ heads grew like plants.
“If this is true,” said the King, “I will p. 80 reward you with a great treasure; but if it is false, you must die.”
The King and a large crowd of people accompanied Tortoise to the field, but meanwhile Pigeon had removed the head. Tortoise ran about looking for it, but in vain, and he was condemned to die. A large fire was made, and Tortoise was thrown on to it.
But now Pigeon repented of the trick he had done, and quickly called together all the birds of the air. They came like a wind, beating out the fire with their wings, and so rescued Tortoise.
When Pigeon had explained this trick, the King pardoned Tortoise, and allowed the two friends to depart in safety.