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Main > South African folktales > Fairy tale "The Little Red Tortoise"

The Little Red Tortoise

“‘Go down, go down, little Tortoise! You choke me!’ The Old Blue One could hardly speak; his throat was so full of tortoise.

“‘Peep! peep!’ said the little Red One, and held on more tightly than ever.

“‘Come up, come up, little Tortoise! You kill me!’ The Old Blue One was stamping and gurgling now.

“‘Peep! peep!’ said the little Red One, and hung on with his hard bent beak as well. He thought, ‘No! too many of my nation have sailed down this red sloot. I won’t let go.’

“I tell you, baasjes, Oubaas Giraffe danced and pranced over the veld; he screamed and bellowed; he gurgled and swallowed; he tried to get the little Red Tortoise down, and he tried to get him up; but it was no use. The little Red One clung fast to him till he was quite choked, and sank down in the sand and died.

“Then the little Red Tortoise crawled out, and went home to tell his Mam-ma that he had killed Oubaas Giraffe and that his nation could have peace again. Ach! but she was proud of him!

“‘It’s not for nothing you were born red,’ she said. ‘Come here, my little Crab, that I may put buchu under your arm. Come, my crooked-legged little one, let your mother sprinkle you with buchu!’

“When she had sprinkled him with buchu, they went and told their friends, and all the Tortoise nation rejoiced and went and had a great feast off Oubaas Giraffe as he lay dead in the veld.

“And they thought more of the little Red Tortoise than ever. Even the Young Ones, who had been angry with him, said, ‘He is wiser than we are. We will listen to what he says. P’r’aps, after all, there is something in being born a certain colour.’”

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