Nigerian Folktales

Nigerian Folktale: Tortoise and the Elephant

tortoise and elephant

Long ago in the animal kingdom of Agodo, animals lived in peace and harmony, and they could all talk like human beings. The kingdom was ruled by the lion and the animals so much loved his reign.

But there was a time the lion fell sick. The sickness was so bad that Karatu, the great herbalist that lived in the jungle, had to be consulted. Karatu said the king could only get well if he drink a concoction made from elephant body parts.

In the kingdom of Agodo, the elephant was a big bully and tyrant, the animals never loved him and were also scared of him because of his size and strength. When the king’s subjects asked the animals who could capture the elephant, there was no response. The king then managed to speak, he said, “I will give anyone who capture the elephant half of the kingdom and my beautiful daughter to marry“.

On hearing this, the tortoise stepped forward and pledged to bring the elephant. The king’s subjects were happy and wished him success.

The tortoise instructed the king’s guard to dig a very big pit in front of the palace and cover it with a mat, then place a throne on it. The guards did as they were instructed.

Then tortoise went home and quickly fried some akara (bean cake) with honey. It was so delicious that tortoise himself ate five out of the ten akara he fried and took the remaining five with him to look for the elephant.

After searching for four days, the tortoise decided to give up on the search but then, he sighted the elephant beneath a tree near the bank of a river. He walked up to the elephant and immediately threw a ball of akara at him. The elephant perceived the aroma and ate the akara immediately.

The elephant asked the tortoise where he got such a sweet akara and the tortoise replied, “Long live the king! Your majesty, king elephant, after king lion’s death, the animals have decided to make you the king of Agodo and this akara is part of the food prepared for your coronation“.

The elephant was very happy to hear this but was also sceptical. When the tortoise noticed this, he gave the elephant the remaining akara and he hurriedly ate it then followed tortoise to Agodo without further questions.

When the tortoise and elephant got to the kingdom, all animals welcomed them with joy because they were glad that their king, lion, will be cured of his illness because the tortoise had brought the elephant needed for the concoction.

They sang songs and this made the elephant believed tortoise the more. The elephant said, “my friend tortoise, thank you. I am glad to become the king of Agodo kingdom. Do not worry, I will make you a chief.”

When they reached the front of the palace, the elephant saw the throne and instantly sat on it. The mat gave way and both the throne and elephant fell into the big pit. The king’s guards quickly brought out their clubs, spears and swords and killed the elephant within few minutes.

The elephant was butchered and used for the concoction and the king got well again.
The king fulfilled his promise and so tortoise got half of the kingdom and married the king’s pretty daughter as well.

Thanks for reading,

Cite this article as: Teslim Omipidan. (July 19, 2017). Nigerian Folktale: Tortoise and the Elephant. OldNaija. Retrieved from

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