folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther types
275, 275A, 275B, 275C, 275C*, and 1074
from around the world
translated and/or edited by
D. L. Ashliman
UNNECESSARY Delays in all pressing Affairs are but just so much time lost, beside the hazard of intervening Contingencies that may endanger a total Disappointment. Let not the Work of to Day be put off till to Morrow: For the future is uncertain; and he that lies down to sleep in the middle of Business that requires Action, does not know whether he shall live to wake again: Or with the Hare in the Fable here, out-sleep his Opportunity. a plodding Diligence brings us sooner to our Journey's End, than a fluttering Way of advancing by Starts and by Stops; for 'tis Perseverance alone that can carry us thorough-stitch.
The hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. "I have never yet been beaten," said he, "when I put forth my full speed. I challenge anyone here to race with me."
The tortoise said quietly, "I accept your challenge."
"That is a good joke," said the hare. "I could dance around you all the way."
"Keep your boasting until you've beaten," answered the tortoise. "Shall we race?"
So a course was fixed and a start was made. The hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the hare awoke from his nap, he saw the tortoise nearing the finish line, and he could not catch up in time to save the race.
Moral: Plodding wins the race.
"Let us make a match," replied the tortoise. "I'll run you five miles for five pounds, and the fox yonder shall be umpire of the race."
The hare agreed, and away they both started together; but the hare, by reason of her exceeding swiftness, outran the tortoise to such a degree that she made a jest of the matter, and finding herself a little tired, squatted in a tuft of fern that grew by the way, and took a nap, thinking that if the tortoise went by, she could at any time fetch him up with all the ease imaginable.
In the meanwhile the tortoise came jogging along at a slow but continued pace, and the hare, out of too great security and confidence of victory, oversleeping herself, the tortoise arrived at the end of the race first.
"Oh, well," replied the hare, who was much amused at the idea, "let's try and see."
And it was soon agreed that the fox should set a course for them and be the judge. When the time came both started off together, but the hare was soon so far ahead that he thought he might as well have a rest. So down he lay and fell fast asleep. Meanwhile the tortoise kept plodding on, and in time reached the goal. At last the hare woke up with a start and dashed on at his fastest, but only to find that the tortoise had already won the race.
Slow and steady wins the race.
To run is nothing; we must timely start.
The hare and tortoise here shall teach the art.
"Let's bet," the tortoise said, "my clever spark,
Which, you or I, the first shall gain that mark."
"The first? What, are you mad?" the hare replied,
"Take hellebore and purge; your talk is wide."
"Well, mad or not, I'll bet!" the tortoise cried. --
The stakes accordingly were paid,
And near the winning-post were laid.
What were the stakes we won't say in this place,
Nor who it was that judged the race.
The hare had scarce four jumps to make,
Of such as, nearly caught, he's wont to take;
Leaving the hounds behind, who then may wait
For the Greek Kalends, roaming until late.
Taking his time, to feast at ease,
And list and sniff whence comes the breeze,
The hare lets now the tortoise go,
Like a grave bishop pacing slow.
And now behold the tortoise gone,
Toiling, hastening slowly on.
The hare the bet but little priced,
And such a victory despised;
He thought, in his great pride of heart,
'Twas yet too soon for him to start.
So, browsing, resting at his ease,
Oblivious of his bet, he sees
The tortoise the wished goal about to gain,
He sprang like lightning, but he sprang in vain.
The tortoise won just as the hare took flight.
"Well," she exclaimed, "good runner, was I right?
What means your swiftness, yielding thus to me?
And if you bore your house, what would it be?"
One warm summer's day Master Fox was resting at Schwäg Meadow. He saw a snail next to him and immediately proposed a wager as to which of them could run faster to St. Gallen.
"You're on!" said the snail, and set forth immediately -- a little slowly to be sure, for he was carrying his house with him on his back, as was his custom.
The fox, in contrast, continued his rest, intending to start off in the cool of the evening, and he dozed off. The snail took advantage of this circumstance and secretly crept into the fox's thick bushy tail. As evening approached, the fox took off and was surprised that the snail was nowhere to be seen. He presumed that he had covered a little bit of the course already.
When he reached St. Gallen's gate and could still see nothing of the snail, he turned around proudly and called out tauntingly, "Snail, are you coming soon?"
"I'm already here!" answered the snail, for without being seen, he had removed himself from the fox's tail and crept through the bottom of the gate.
Thus the proud fox had to admit that he had lost.
As they started out the frog made fun of the snail, saying, "Don't crawl along so. Instead hop like I do; otherwise you will never win the wager." Then away he hopped.
However, arriving at the city, he found that the gate was closed, and thus he had to wait until the next morning when the gate would be opened.
In the meantime the snail crawled steadily onward, and she too finally arrived at the city. Of course, she also found the gate closed, but for her that was no obstacle. She simply crawled over it, and thus won the wager.
This story was actually made up, young ones, but it really is true, for my grandfather, who told it to me, always said whenever he told it, "it must be true, my son, otherwise it couldn't be told." Anyway, this is how the story goes:
It was on a Sunday morning at harvest time, just when the buckwheat was in bloom. The sun was shining bright in the heaven, the morning wind was blowing warmly across the stubble, the larks were singing in the air, the bees were buzzing in the buckwheat, and the people in their Sunday best were on their way to church, and all the creatures were happy, including the hedgehog.
The hedgehog was standing before his door with his arms crossed, humming a little song to himself, neither better nor worse than hedgehogs usually sing on a nice Sunday morning. Singing there to himself, half silently, it suddenly occurred to him that while his wife was washing and drying the children, he could take a little walk into the field and see how his turnips were doing. The turnips were close by his house, and he and his family were accustomed to eating them, so he considered them his own.
No sooner said than done. The hedgehog closed the house door behind him and started down the path to the field. He hadn't gone very far away from his house at all, only as far as the blackthorn bush which stands at the front of the field, near the turnip patch, when he met up with the hare, who had gone out for a similar purpose, namely to examine his cabbage.
When the hedgehog saw the hare, he wished him a friendly good morning. The hare, however, who was in his own way a distinguished gentleman, and terribly arrogant about it, did not answer the hedgehog's greeting, but instead said to the hedgehog, in a terribly sarcastic manner, "How is it that you are running around in the field so early in the morning?"
"I'm taking a walk," said the hedgehog.
"Taking a walk?" laughed the hare. "I should think that you could better use your legs for other purposes."
This answer made the hedgehog terribly angry, for he could stand anything except remarks about his legs, for by nature they were crooked.
"Do you imagine," said the hedgehog to the hare, "that you can accomplish more with your legs?"
"I should think so," said the hare.
"That would depend on the situation," said the hedgehog. "I bet, if we were to run a race, I'd pass you up."
"That is a laugh! You with your crooked legs!" said the hare. "But for all I care, let it be, if you are so eager. What will we wager?"
"A gold louis d'or and a bottle of brandy," said the hedgehog.
"Accepted," said the hare. "Shake hands, and we can take right off."
"No, I'm not in such a hurry," said the hedgehog. "I'm very hungry. First I want to go home and eat a little breakfast. I'll be back here at this spot in a half hour."
The hare was agreeable with this, and the hedgehog left.
On his way home the hedgehog thought to himself, "The hare is relying on his long legs, but I'll still beat him. He may well be a distinguished gentleman, but he's still a fool, and he'll be the one to pay."
Arriving home, he said to his wife, "Wife, get dressed quickly. You've got to go out to the field with me."
"What's the matter?" said his wife.
"I bet a gold louis d'or and a bottle of brandy with the hare that I could beat him in a race, and you should be there too."
"My God, man," the hedgehog's wife began to cry, "are you mad? Have you entirely lost your mind? How can you agree to run a race with the hare?"
"Hold your mouth, woman," said the hedgehog. "This is my affair. Don't get mixed up in men's business. Hurry up now, get dressed, and come with me."
What was the hedgehog's wife to do? She had to obey, whether she wanted to or not.
As they walked toward the field together, the hedgehog said to his wife, "Now pay attention to what I tell you. You see, we are going to run the race down the long field. The hare will run in one furrow and I in another one. We'll begin running from up there. All you have to do is to stand here in the furrow, and when the hare approaches from the other side, just call out to him, 'I'm already here.'"
With that they arrived at the field, the hedgehog showed his wife her place, then he went to the top of the field. When he arrived the hare was already there.
"Can we start?" said the hare.
"Yes, indeed," said the hedgehog. "On your mark!" And each one took his place in his furrow.
The hare counted "One, two, three," and he tore down the field like a windstorm. But the hedgehog ran only about three steps and then ducked down in the furrow and remained there sitting quietly.
When the hare, in full run, arrived at the bottom of the field, the hedgehog's wife called out to him, "I'm already here!"
The hare, startled and bewildered, thought it was the hedgehog himself, for as everyone knows, a hedgehog's wife looks just like her husband.
The hare thought, "Something's not right here." He called out, "Let's run back again!" And he took off again like a windstorm, with his ears flying from his head. But the hedgehog's wife remained quietly in place.
When the hare arrived at the top, the hedgehog called out to him, "I'm already here!"
The hare, beside himself with excitement, shouted, "Let's run back again!"
"It's all right with me," answered the hedgehog. "For all I care, as often as you want."
So the hare ran seventy-three more times, and the hedgehog always kept up with him. Each time the hare arrived at the top or the bottom of the field, the hedgehog or his wife said, "I am already here!"
But the hare did not complete the seventy-fourth time. In the middle of the field, with blood flowing from his neck, he fell dead to the ground.
The hedgehog took the gold louis d'or and the bottle of brandy he had won, called his wife from her furrow, and happily they went back home.
And if they have not died, then they are still alive.
Thus it happened that the hedgehog ran the hare to death on the Buxtehude Heath, and since that time no hare has agreed to enter a race with a hedgehog.
The moral of this story is, first, that no one, however distinguished he thinks himself, should make fun of a lesser man, even if this man is a hedgehog. And second, when a man marries, it is recommended that he take a wife from his own class, one who looks just like him. In other words, a hedgehog should always take care that his wife is also a hedgehog, and so forth.
Both did run very fast, and neither would give in to the other. So it went on year after year, and there seemed to be no end to the strife. Tired of this constant fight, one day the hare said to the buffalo, "Let us try a race together and settle this quarrel once for all."
The buffalo was well contented with the proposal, and they agreed to race one another. When the day came, the hare, putting his ears back, started the race. He ran so fast that you might have said he was flying upon the ground.
But the buffalo was a match for him. He went thundering away, his hoofs splashing the mud and raising seas of mire. The earth shook at his furious tread. He soon overtook the breathless hare which was running, panting as fast as its little legs could carry it.
Then a thought struck the hare, and he cried to the buffalo, "Ho, friend! Take heed how you are thundering along. The earth is shaking, and if you are not careful, the earth will give way under you. See how it is rocking under your feet."
When the buffalo heard the hare's story, he stopped still for a while bewildered, and then, being frightened, lest the earth should give way under him and he sink beneath, he checked his pace and began to walk slowly and tread gently.
That was just what the hare had wanted, and pulling a long nose at the buffalo, he ran swiftly by, leaving the buffalo a long way behind. Thus he won the race, and there was no longer any strife between the hares and the buffaloes.
But ever since the buffalo walks slowly and treads lightly upon the ground.
A hedgehog made a wager with the devil to run him a race, the hedgehog to have the choice of time and place. He chose to run up and down a ditch at night. When the time came the hedgehog rolled himself up at one end of the ditch, and got a friend to roll himself up at the other; then he started the devil off. At the other end of the ditch, the friend said to the devil, "Now we go off again." Each hedgehog kept repeating this formula at his own end of the ditch, while the devil ran up and down between them, until they ran him to death.This story would be introduced by the remark, "Now we go off again, as the hedgehog said to the devil."
One day when Brer Rabbit was going lippity-clippiting down the road, he meets up with old Brer Terrapin, and after they pass the time of day with one another, they keep on talking, they did, until by and by they got to disputing about which was the swiftest.
Brer Rabbit, he says he can outrun Brer Terrapin, and Brer Terrapin, he just vows that he can outrun Brer Rabbit. Up and down they had it, until first thing you know, Brer Terrapin says he has a fifty-dollar bill in the chink of his chimney at home, and that bill done told him that he could beat Brer Rabbit in a fair race.
Then Brer Rabbit says he has a fifty-dollar bill that says that he can leave Brer Terrapin so far behind that he could sow barley as he went along, and it would be ripe enough to cut by the time Brer Terrapin passed that way.
Anyhow, they make the bet and put up the money, and old Brer Turkey Buzzard, he was summoned to be the judge and the stakeholder. And it wasn't long before all the arrangements were made. The race was a five-mile heat, and the ground was measured off, and at the end of every mile a post was stuck up. Brer Rabbit was to run down the big road, and Brer Terrapin, he says he'd gallop through the woods. Folks told him he could get along faster in the road, but old Brer Terrapin, he knows what he's doing.
Miss Meadows and the gals and most all the neighbors got wind of the fun, and when the day was set, they were determined to be on hand.
Brer Rabbit, he trains himself every day, and he skips over the ground just as gaily as a June cricket.
Old Brer Terrapin, he lies low in the swamp. He had a wife and three children, old Brer Terrapin did, and they were all the very spitting image of the old man. Anybody who knew one from the other had to take a spyglass, and then they were liable to get fooled.
That's the way matters stand until the day of the race, and on that day old Brer Terrapin and his old woman and his three children, they got up before sun-up and went to the place. The old woman, she took her stand near the first milepost, she did, and the children near the others, up to the last, and there old Brer Terrapin, he took his stand.
By and by, here come the folks. Judge Buzzard, he comes, and Miss Meadows and the gals, they come, and then here comes Brer Rabbit with ribbons tied around his neck and streaming from his ears. The folks all went to the other end of the track to see how they would come out.
When the time comes, Judge Buzzard struts around and pulls out his watch and hollers out, "Gents, are you ready?"
Brer Rabbit, he says "yes," and old Miss Terrapin hollers "go" from the edge of the woods.
Brer Rabbit, he lit out on the race, and old Miss Terrapin, she put out for home. Judge Buzzard arose and skimmed along to see that the race was run fair.
When Brer Rabbit got to the first milepost, one of the terrapin children crawls out of the woods, he does, and makes for the place.
Brer Rabbit, he hollers out, "Where are you, Brer Terrapin?"
"Here I come a-bulging," says the terrapin.
Brer Rabbit is so glad he's ahead that he puts out harder than ever, and the Terrapin, he makes for home. When he comes to the next post, another terrapin crawls out of the woods.
"Where are you, Brer Terrapin?" says Brer Rabbit.
"Here I come a-boiling," says the terrapin.
Brer Rabbit, he lit out, he did, and comes to the next post, and there was the terrapin. Then he comes to the next, and there was the terrapin. Then he had one more mile to run, and he's wheezing and puffing. By and by old Brer Terrapin looks way off down the road, and he sees Judge Buzzard sailing along, and he knows it's time for him to be up. So he scrambles out of the wood and rolls across the ditch and shuffles through the crowd of folks and gets to the milepost and crawls behind it.
By and by, first thing you know, here comes Brer Rabbit. He looks around and he don't see Brer Terrapin, and he squalls out, "Give me the money, Brer Buzzard, give me the money!"
Then Miss Meadows and the gals, they holler and laugh fit to kill themselves, and old Brer Terrapin, he rises up from behind the post and says, "If you'll give me time to catch my breath, gents and ladies, one and all, I suspect I'll finger that money myself," he says, and sure enough, Brer Terrapin ties the purse around his neck and scaddles off home.
So the tortoise said to the rabbit, "I'll run a race with you." So the rabbit laughed at the tortoise. So the rabbit asked where he wanted to run a race to.
The tortoise said, "Down to the river, where the water lilies grew."
And the rabbit said, "You'll grow old and die before you get there."
But the turtle said to the rabbit, "Who shall we have for a judge to this race?"
An' the rabbit said, "We'll get Mr. Wolf for a judge."
So they said, one, two, three, an' away they went. So the rabbit ran right fast till he got in sight of the river where the water lilies grew. And he lay down in the shade to rest. While he was resting, he fell fast asleep. And when he awoke again, it was the next day at dinnertime. So he was very hungry; and he ran into a near field an' eat some clover, an' he didn't know that the tortoise had passed him while he was asleep. So after he had ate his dinner, he ran right fast to the goal. But who should he find when he got there, waiting for him, but the tortoise who he had laughed at the day before.
But the deer began to grumble and said, "Well, it is true that out here on the prairie you have beaten me, but this is not where I live. I only come out here once in a while to feed or to cross the prairie when I am going somewhere. It would be fairer if we had a race in the timber. That is my home, and there I can run faster than you. I am sure of it."
The antelope felt so glad and proud that he had beaten the deer in the race that he was sure that wherever they might run he could beat him, so he said, "All right, I will run you a race in the timber. I have beaten you out here on the flat and I can beat you there." On this race they bet their dew-claws.
They started and ran this race through the thick timber, among the bushes, and over fallen logs, and this time the antelope ran slowly, for he was afraid of hitting himself against the trees or of falling over the logs. You see, he was not used to this kind of traveling. So the deer easily beat him and took his dew-claws. Since that time the deer has had no gall and the antelope no dew-claws.
The bow priests [apilashiwanni] of the winners went over to see Hawk. They said to him, "We wish to have a race. We wish you and Mole to run against each other."
Hawk said, "When is the race to be run?"
They said, "We wish to have it tomorrow."
Hawk said, "No, we cannot have it tomorrow. You must wait four days."
The bow priest of the losers went to Mole. He said, "We want to have a race between you and Hawk."
Mole said, "When is the race to be run?"
"We wish to have it tomorrow."
Mole said, "No, we cannot have it tomorrow. You must wait four days."
The day before the race they collected the stakes: beads, red and white, and turquoise. The night before, Mole went to the houses of the others (i.e., the other moles), and told them at different places, as Hawk should come along, to stick out their heads. Mole said, "About that time urinate and wet yourselves, so that, when Hawk comes up and sees you, he will think you are sweating."
Mole went to his house and stayed there all night. Hawk staid in his house all night. The next day they brought the stakes into the plaza.
When they had finished laying the bets, Mole said to Hawk, "Which direction shall we take? I will go under ground, and you above ground."
Hawk said, "Let us go by Matsakya, Tsililiima, Tekiapoi, Awiela, Alihemula, Kopachia, Telaluwaiela, Akiapoella, Kushinolko, Matsakya."
As soon as they started off, Mole went into his hole and staid in it. Hawk flew on to Tsililiima. There a mole poked out his head, and called out, "Keep on! We are running together. Keep on as you are!" Then he went back underground.
Hawk flew on to Tekiapoi. There another mole poked out his head, and called out, "Keep on! We are running together. Keep on as you are!"
Meanwhile Mole, he who made the bet, prayed to his father the sun, and the clouds began to gather. By the time Kopachia was reached and the mole there looked out of the hole, Hawk was behind. The mole waited. He said, "If you don't make haste, I shall leave you behind." By that time the rain was falling fast.
When Hawk reached Telaluwaiela, he was wet through. At Akiapoella, Hawk was wobbling, he was drenched. The mole there said, "You best make haste, I am leaving you far behind. I had to wait here for you a long time."
Hawk could hardly fly. At Matsakya, Mole jumped out where the things were piled, and said, "That is the way to win a race."
Mole won everything: the beads, the turquoise. He took them all to his house. Hawk lost everything. He was so muddy he could scarcely fly.
One day Nanbush was walking along the shore, when he saw a pike in the water, which he decided to catch. He jumped in but missed the fish, so he thought he would wash his hands and make some soup. He went on and saw someone else in the water.
He called out, "Well, my brother, is this where you live?"
"Yes," the stranger answered, "This is where I live, and I am the chief."
Whereupon Nanbush said, "I never saw you before."
Then the Turtle-chief said, "Tomorrow I expect to take part in a race and I am betting my life on it."
Nanbush asked him, "Whom are you going to race?" "I am going to race an elk," said the chief, "and now I am going to get ready."
He placed other turtles around the lake and told them what to do, and then he was ready for the race.
Nanbush saw the elk the next morning, and it looked very fat and good to eat. He said to himself, "The Turtle will probably give a feast after the race. I will be there and see who will win."
Soon they were ready to start. By means of his brother turtles, the chief won and the elk was beaten.
Then the Turtle killed the elk. Nanbush stayed, hoping to get some of this meat, but the Turtle said, "I am going to feed all my children and there will not be enough meat to go around."
Whereupon Nanbush proposed that he should carry the meat home for them. The Turtle agreed to this and went home to wait for Nanbush. Nanbush, however, took the meat to his own home and there ate it all.
The Turtle said, "I know one who would beat you."
"Would you go and get him?" said the men.
The Turtle said, "I am the one."
So the men challenged him, but he would only race on one condition, and that was that he might run under the water and go around the lake close to the shore, and in order that they might know where he was he would tie a red ribbon around his neck.
The men then asked the Turtle what he would bet for the race, and the Turtle answered, "My life."
Then the men said, "Well, tomorrow morning you get ready and come around with that ribbon around your neck, and we will race you."
During the night the Turtle called together some of his brothers, and tied a red ribbon round each of their necks. Then he placed them a distance apart all around the lake. In the morning the Turtle went to the place which they had picked out as their starting point, and found the men already there.
When the word "go" was given, the boat started off and the Turtle dropped underneath the surface of the water. When the Turtle rose to the surface again, the boat was right abreast of him, and when the Turtle rose a second time, the boat people noticed that the Turtle was gaining on them. When finally, the last Turtle rose, the boat was only half way round.
The Turtle won the race and got the reward.
Turtle bet his back against Frog's tail.
On the third day Turtle was given head start. Frog stood there taking more bets. Finally he started, and ahead in a low place he saw Turtle going out of sight. Each time he looked ahead he saw Turtle going out of sight. He hurried faster and faster, but did not overtake him. Just as he crossed the last low ground he saw Turtle over the line. He had to give up his tail. It took six turtles to beat him, but he lost the race. Now the pollywogs have to lose their tails before they can become frogs.
One day, when the tortoise was basking in the sun, a stag passed by, and stopped for a little conversation.
"Would you care to see which of us can run fastest?" asked the tortoise, after some talk.
The stag thought the question so silly that he only shrugged his shoulders.
"Of course, the victor would have the right to kill the other," went on the tortoise.
"Oh, on that condition I agree," answered the deer, "but I am afraid that you are a dead man."
"It is no use trying to frighten me," replied the tortoise. "But I should like three days for training; then I shall be ready to start when the sun strikes on the big tree at the edge of the great clearing."
The first thing the tortoise did was to call his brothers and his cousins together, and he posted them carefully under ferns all along the line of the great clearing, making a sort of ladder which stretched for many miles. This done to his satisfaction, he went back to the starting place.
The stag was quite punctual, and as soon as the sun's rays struck the trunk of the tree the stag started off, and was soon far out of the sight of the tortoise. Every now and then he would turn his head as he ran, and call out, "How are you getting on?" and the tortoise who happened to be nearest at the moment would answer, "All right, I am close up to you."
Full of astonishment, the stag would redouble his efforts, but it was no use. Each time he asked, "Are you there?" the answer would come, "Yes, of course, where else should I be?" And the stag ran, and ran, and ran, till he could run no more, and dropped down dead on the grass.
And the tortoise, when he thinks about it, laughs still.
"All right," replied the deer.
On the day of the race the deer ran swiftly to the well, and when he got there he called, "Mr. Snail, where are you?"
"Here I am," said the snail, sticking his head up out of the well.
The deer was very much surprised, so he said, "I will race you to the next well."
"Agreed," replied the snail.
When the deer arrived at the next well, he called as before, "Mr. Snail, where are you?"
"Here I am," answered the snail. "Why have you been so slow? I have been here a long time waiting for you."
The deer tried again and again, but always with the same result; until the deer in disgust dashed his head against a tree and broke his neck.
Now the first snail had not moved from his place, but he had many cousins in each of the wells of the town and each exactly resembled the other. Having heard the crows talking of the proposed race, as they perched on the edge of the wells to drink, they determined to help their cousin to win it, and so, as the deer came to each well, there was always a snail ready to stick his head out and answer "Here I am" to the deer's inquiry.
"You are very slow," said the carabao to the shell.
"Oh, no," replied the shell. "I can beat you in a race."
"Then let us try and see," said the carabao.
So they went out on the bank and started to run.
After the carabao had gone a long distance he stopped and called, "Shell!"
And another shell lying by the river answered, "Here I am!"
Then the carabao, thinking that it was the same shell with which he was racing, ran on.
By and by he stopped again and called, "Shell!"
And another shell answered, "Here I am!"
The carabao was surprised that the shell could keep up with him. But he ran on and on, and every time he stopped to call, another shell answered him. But he was determined that the shell should not beat him, so he ran until he dropped dead.
But the carabao snorted when he heard this proposal; and he replied, "You slow thing! You ought to live with the drones, not with a swift and powerful person like me."
The turtle was very much offended, and to get even he challenged the carabao to a race. At first the carabao refused to accept the challenge, for he thought it would be a disgrace for him to run against a turtle. The turtle said to the carabao, "If you will not race with me, I will go to all the forests, woods, and mountains, and tell all your companions and all my friends and all the animal kingdom that you are a coward."
Now the carabao was persuaded; and he said, "All right, only give me three days to get ready for the race." The turtle was only too glad to have the contest put off for three days, for then he too would have a chance to prepare his plans. The agreement between the turtle and the carabao was that the race should extend over seven hills.
The turtle at once set out to visit seven of his friends; and, by telling them that if he could win this race it would be to the glory of the turtle kingdom, he got them to promise to help him. So the next day he stationed a turtle on the top of each hill, after giving them all instructions.
The third day came. Early the next morning the turtle and the carabao met at the appointed hill. At a given signal the race began, and soon the runners lost sight of each other. When the carabao reached the second hill, he was astonished to see the turtle ahead of him, shouting, "Here I am!" After giving this yell, the turtle at once disappeared. And at every hill the carabao found his enemy ahead of him.
When the carabao was convinced at the seventh hill that he had been defeated, he became so angry that he kicked the turtle. On account of the hardness of its shell, the turtle was uninjured; but the hoof of the carabao was split in two, because of the force of the blow. And even today, the carabaos still bear the mark which an unjust action on the part of their ancestor against one whom he knew was far inferior to him in strength produced on himself.
The butterfly would leave his back and fly a little way ahead, saying, "Here I am, cousin," till the poor bird died exhausted; and the butterfly, who had no longer his back to rest on, perished also.
So the king crow settled on a tree to watch, but as he could see nothing from his perch on the tree he flew down to the ground, and walked along by the waterside. And when he thought to see some man exclaiming, he caught sight of the water snail.
"Hullo, you there," said he, "where do you come from?"
"I come from the eddy below the rapids," said the water snail, "and I only want to get as far as the headwaters of this river."
Said the king crow, "Wait a bit. Suppose you go down to the river mouth as quickly as you can, and we will have a wager on it." (Now rivers are the water snail's domain, in which he has many comrades.)
"What is to be the stake?" asked the water snail.
"If I am beaten I will be your slave, and look after your aroids and wild caladiums (on which the water snails feed). Then the king crow asked, "And what will you stake?"
The water snail replied, "If I am beaten the river shall be handed over to you, and you shall be king of the river."
But the water snail begged for a delay of twice seven days, saying that he felt knocked up after ascending the rapids. And the delay was granted accordingly.
Meanwhile however the water snail hunted up a great number of his friends and instructed them to conceal themselves in each of the higher reaches of the river, and to reply immediately when the king crow challenged them.
The day arrived, and the king crow flew off, and in each of the higher reaches the water snail's friends replied to the challenge. And at the river mouth the water snail replied in person. So the king crow was defeated and has ever since remained the slave of the water snail.
So the wild hog ran, and raced, and galloped, and fumed; and just when he arrived at the goal, the frog leaped off, but the wild hog did not see him, and so he was forced to say, "Why, you fellow, you have done it."
Then he proposed that they should see which of them could leap best. "Just as you please," replied the frog. "Do your best, for if you don't exert yourself you will regret it, so don't have a stomachache for nothing."
So the two came to the waterside to try who could leap farthest. And when they came there, and the wild hog was just about to do his best, the frog jumped again upon his neck. And again the stupid fellow knew nothing about it, for what good is it to be big if one has no sense? And so, when they were just at the goal, the frog leaped off again, and so he was first, upon which the wild hog foamed at the mouth, and his eyes turned red. And again he was astonished to see the frog take it so easily, and said, "There is no getting the better of you, you rascal!"
Tortoise had formerly lived in the same town with several other animals. But, after awhile, they had decided to separate, and each built his own village.
NoteDiscussions about seniority are common causes of quarrel in Africa. The reason assigned why tortoises are so spread everywhere is that the antelope tribe, in public meeting, recognized their superiority. At Batanga, Gaboon, Ogowe, and everywhere on the equatorial west coast, there are tortoises even in places where there are no other animals. On account of this, the tortoise is given many names; and has many nicknames in the native tribes, e. g., "Manyima," and "Evosolo."
One day, Tortoise decided to roam. So he started, and went on an excursion; leaving his wife and two children in the village. On his way, he came to the village of Antelope. The latter welcomed him, killed a fowl, and prepared food for him; and they sat at the table, eating.
When they had finished eating, Antelope asked, "Kudu! My friend, what is your journey for?"
Tortoise answered, "I have come to inquire of you, as to you and me, which is the elder?"
Antelope replied, "Kudu! I am older than you!"
But Tortoise responded, "No! I am the elder!"
Then Antelope said, "Show me the reason why you are older than I!"
Tortoise said, continuing the discussion, "I will show you a sign of seniority. Let us have a race, as a test of speed."
Antelope replied derisively, "Aiye! how shall I know to test speed with Kudu? Does Kudu race?" However, he agreed, and said, "Well! in three days the race shall be made."
Tortoise spoke audaciously, "You, Mbalanga, cannot surpass me in a race!" Antelope laughed, having accepted the challenge; while Tortoise pretended to sneer, and said, "I am the one who will overcome!"
The course chosen, beginning on the beach south of Batanga, was more than seventy miles from the Campo River northward to the Balimba Country.
Then Tortoise went away, going everywhere to give directions, and returned to his village. He sent word secretly to all the Tortoise Tribe to call them. When they had come very many of them together, he told them, "I have called my friend Mbalanga for a race. I know that he can surpass me in this race, unless you all help me in my plan. He will follow the sea-beach. You all must line yourselves among the bushes at the top of the beach along the entire route all the way from Campo to Balimba. When Mbalanga, coming along, at any point, looks around to see whether I am following, and calls out, 'Kudu! where are you?' the one of you who is nearest that spot must step out from his place, and answer for me, 'Here!'"
Thus he located all the other tortoises in the bushes on the entire route. Also, he placed a colored mark on all the tortoises, making the face of every one alike. He stationed them clear on to the place where he expected that Antelope would be exhausted. Then he ended, taking his own place there.
Antelope also arranged for himself, and said, to his wife, "My wife! make me food; for, Kudu and I have agreed on a race; and it begins at seven o'clock in the morning."
When all was ready, Antelope said, to (the one whom he supposed was) Kudu, "Come! let us race!"
They started. Antelope ran on and on, and came as far as about ten miles to the town of Ubenji, among the Igara people. At various spots on the way Tortoise apparently was lost behind; but as constantly he seemed to reappear, saying, "I'm here!"
At once, Antelope raced forward rapidly, pu! pu! pu! to a town named Ipenyenye. Then he looked around and said, "Where is Kudu?"
A tortoise stepped out of the bushes, saying "Here I am! You haven't raced."
Antelope raced on until he reached the town of Beya. Again looking around, he said, "Where is Kudu?"
A tortoise stepped out, replying, "I'm here!" Antelope again raced, until he reached the town Lolabe. Again he asked, "Where is Kudu?"
A tortoise saying to himself, "He hasn't heard anything," replied, "Here I am!" Again Antelope raced on as far as from there to a rocky point by the sea named Ilale-ja-moto; and then he called, "Wherever is Kudu?"
A tortoise ready answered, "Here I am!"
From thence, he came on in the race another stretch of about tea miles, clear to the town of Bongaheli of the Batanga people. At each place on the route, when Antelope, losing sight of Tortoise, called, "Kudu! where are you?" promptly the tortoise on guard at that spot replied, "I'm here!"
Then on he went, steadily going, going, another stretch of about twenty miles to Plantation Beach. Still the prompt reply to Antelope's call, "Kudu, where are you?" was, "I'm here!"
As he started away from Plantation, the wearied Antelope began to feel his legs tired. However, he pressed on to Small Batanga, hoping for victory over his despised contestant. But, on his reaching the edge of Balimba, the tortoise was there ready with his, "I'm here!"
Finally, on reaching the end of the Balimba settlement, Antelope fell down, dying, froth coming from his mouth, and lay dead, being utterly exhausted with running. But, when Tortoise arrived, he took a magic medicine, and restored Antelope to life; and then exulted over him by beating him, and saying, "Don't you show me your audacity another day by daring to run with me! I have surpassed you!"
So, they returned separately to their homes on the Campo River. Tortoise called together the Tortoise Tribe; and Antelope called all the Antelope Tribe. And they met in a Council of all the Animals. Then Tortoise rose and spoke, "All you Kudu Tribe! Mbalanga said I would not surpass him in a race. But, this day I have surpassed!"
So the Antelope Tribe had to acknowledge, "Yes, you, Kudu, have surpassed our champion. It's a great shame to us; for, we had not supposed that a slow fellow such as we thought you to be, could possibly do it, or be able to outrun a Mbalanga."
So the Council decided that, of all the tribes of animals, Tortoise was to be held as greatest; for, that it had outrun Antelope. And the Animals gave Tortoise the power to rule.
The ants answered, "Why do you talk like this; do not despise us because we are small; perhaps we are better than you in some ways."
The elephant said, "Do not talk nonsense. There is nothing at which you could beat me. I am in all ways the largest and most powerful animal on the face of the earth."
Then the ants said, "Well, let us run a race and see who will win, unless you win we will not admit that you are supreme."
At this the elephant got into a rage and shouted, "Well, come we will start at once," and it set off to run with all its might and when it got tired it looked down at the ground and there were two ants. So it started off again and when it stopped and looked down, there on the ground were two ants. So it ran on again, but wherever it stopped it saw the ants, and at last it ran so far that it dropped down dead from exhaustion.
Now it is a saying that ants are more numerous in this world than any other kind of living creature; and what happened was that the two ants never ran at all, but stayed where they were; but whenever the elephant looked at the ground, it saw some ants running about and thought that they were the first two, and so ran itself to death.
This story teaches us not to despise the poor man, because one day he may have an opportunity to put us to shame.
From this story of the elephant we should learn this lesson; the Creator knows why He made some animals big and some small and why He made some men fools; so we should neither bully nor cheat men who happen to be born stupid.
There was once a girl who was so mad about dancing that she nearly went out of her mind whenever she heard a fiddle strike up.
She was a very clever dancer, and a smarter girl to whirl round in a dance or kick her heels was not easily to be found, although she only had shoes made of birch bark, and knitted leggings on her feet. She swept past at such a rate that the air whistled round her like a humming top. She might have whirled round still more quickly and lightly, of course, if she had had leather shoes. But how was she to get them, when she had no money to pay for them? For she was very poor, this girl, and could ill afford them.
So one day, when the fair was being held at Amberg Heath, whom should she meet but Old Nick [the devil]! He was going to see the fun of the fair, as you may guess, for all sorts of tramps and vagabonds and watch dealers and rogues go there. And where such gentry are to be found, others of the same feather are sure to flock together.
"What are you thinking about?" asked Old Nick, who knew well enough how matters stood.
"I am wondering how I shall be able to get a pair of leather shoes to dance in," said the girl, "for I haven't any money to pay for them," she said.
"Is that all? We'll soon get over that," said Old Nick, and produced a pair of leather shoes, which he showed her. "Do you like these?" he asked.
The girl stood staring at the shoes. She could never have believed that there were such fine, splendid shoes, for they were not common ones sewn with pitched thread, but real German shoes with welted soles, and looked as French as one could wish.
"Is there a spring in them as well?" she asked.
"Yes, that you may be sure of," said Old Nick. "Do you want them?"
Yes, that she did. There could be no doubt about that. And so they began bargaining and higgling about the payment, till at last they came to terms. She was to have the shoes for a whole year for nothing, if only she would dance in his interest, and afterwards she should belong to him.
She did not exactly make a good bargain, but Old Nick is not a person one can bargain with. But there was to be such a spring in them that no human being would be able to swing round quicker in a dance or kick higher than she did. And if they did not satisfy her, he would take them back for nothing, and she should be free.
With this they parted.
And now the girl seemed to wake up thoroughly. She thought of nothing else but going to dances, wherever they might be, night after night. Well, she danced and danced, and before she knew it the year came to an end, and Old Nick came and asked for his due.
"They were a rubbishy pair of shoes you gave me," said the girl. "There was no spring at all in them," she said.
"Wasn't there any spring in the shoes? That's very strange," said Old Nick
"No, there wasn't!" said the girl. "Why, my bark shoes are far better, and I can get on much faster in them than in these wretched things."
"You twist about as if you were dancing," said Old Nick. "But now I think you will have to dance away with me after all."
"Well, if you don't believe my words, I suppose you'll believe your eyes," she said. "Put on these grand shoes of yours, and try them yourself," she said. "And I'll put on my bark shoes, and then we'll have a race, so that you can see what they are good for," she said.
Well, that was reasonable enough, he thought, and, no doubt, he felt there was very little danger in trying it. So they agreed to race to the end of Lake Fryken and back, on each side of the lake, which, as you know, is a very long one indeed. If she came in first she was to be free, but if she came in last she was to belong to him.
But the girl had to run home first of all, for she had a roll of cloth for the parson, which she must deliver before she tried her speed with Old Nick. Very well, that she might, for he went in fear of the parson. But the race should take place on the third day afterwards.
Now, as bad luck would have it for Old Nick, it so happened that the girl had a sister, who was so like her that it was impossible to know one from the other, for they were twins, the two girls.
But the sister was not mad about dancing, so Old Nick had not got scent of her. The girl now asked her sister to place herself at Frykstad, the south end of the lake, and she herself took up her position at Fryksend, the north end of it.
She had the bark shoes on, and Old Nick the leather ones. And so they set off, each on their side of the lake. The girl did not run very far, for she knew well enough how little running she need do. But Old Nick set off at full speed, much faster than one can ride on the railway.
But when he came to Frykstad he found the girl already there. And when he came back to Fryksend there she was too.
"Well, you see now?" said the girl.
"Of course I see," said Old Nick, but he was not the man to give in at once. "One time is no time, that you know," he said.
"Well, let's have another try," said the girl.
Yes, that he would, for the soles of his shoes were almost worn out, and then he knew what state the bark shoes would be in.
They set off for the second time, and Old Nick ran so fast that the air whistled round the corners of the houses in Sonne and Emtervik parishes. But when he came to Frykstad, the girl was already there, and when he got back to Fryksend, she was there before him this time also.
"Can you see now who comes in first?" she said.
"Yes, of course I can," said Old Nick, and began to dry the perspiration off his face, thinking all the time what a wonderful runner that girl must be. "But you know," he said, "twice is hardly half a time! It's the third time that counts."
"Let's have another try, then," said the girl.
Yes, that he would, for Old Nick is very sly, you know, for when the leather shoes were so torn to pieces that his feet were bleeding, he knew well enough what state the bark shoes would be in.
And so they set off again. Old Nick went at a terrible speed. It was just like a regular north-wester rushing past, for now he was furious. He rushed onwards, so that the roofs were swept away and the fences creaked and groaned all the way through Sonne and Emtervik parishes. But when he got to Frykstad the girl war there, and when he got back to Fryksend then she was there too.
His feet were now in such a plight that the flesh hung in pieces from them, and he was so out of breath, and groaned so hard, that the sound echoed in the mountains. The girl almost pitied the old creature, disgusting as he was.
"Do you see, now," she said, "that there's a better spring in my bark shoes than in your leather ones? There's nothing left of yours, while mine will hold out for another run, if you would like to try," she said.
No. Old Nick had now to acknowledge himself beaten, and so she was free.
"I've never seen the like of such a woman," he said, "but if you go on dancing and jumping about like that all your days we are sure to meet once more," he said.
"Oh, no!" said the girl. And since then she has never danced again, for it is not every time that you can succeed in getting away from Old Nick.
"Not so," said the fox; "the hare was here long ago, and went back to cheer you on your way."
Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.
Revised March 23, 2013.