By Traditional, re-told by Frans Timmermans
How the tortoise got its scars (second version)
Once upon a time there was a wedding in the sky. The bride and groom invited all the animals in the whole land. Those who had wings and could fly obviously would have no problem attending but those animals who lived on the ground would have a few problems getting there unless they could persuade a bird to take them on their back. Mr Tortoise really wanted to attend the wedding, he loved parties, but he had no idea how to get there. While he was mulling over this problem, a vulture landed near him, looking for scraps of food left behind by other animals.
The tortoise called out to the vulture, “Mr Vulture, I wonder if you are planning to attend the wedding next week?” The vulture confirmed that he had every intention of being there, if only because there would be lots of free food! Then the tortoise asked if Mr Vulture would consider giving him a lift. Vulture shook his head, “That might be a bit difficult”, he said, “I can see by looking at you that you are not very light, Mr Tortoise. What would you be prepared to give me in return, if I were to agree to your request?”
Now tortoise had been saving up, and he had a large pile of cowrie shells in his lair. So he promised to pay vulture as many cowrie shells as he could carry. Vulture agreed. So it came about that on the day of the wedding, Vulture came round to where tortoise lived, and collected him. Tortoise clung onto vulture’s back, and they arrived at the wedding in the sky without any mishaps. The wedding was a splendid feast and there were lots of different kinds of food to cater for all tastes. Vulture decided he would try some porridge, never having tasted this before, but found it very difficult to eat this with his beak. The porridge kept spilling, and some spilled on tortoise. Tortoise pretended to be very upset, and vulture pacified him by saying that he could keep his cowrie shells, and tortoise was very happy with this solution. Now he had got here completely free of charge.
Later, they were all drinking beer, and tortoise was getting a little careless. He was drinking a little more beer than usual at a party, and he started swaying about a bit. As a result, now tortoise spilt some beer on vulture’s head, and it was vulture’s turn to be offended. Tortoise again offered vulture as many cowrie shells as he could carry, but vulture just sulked off, he was not really interested in cowrie shells. Soon it was time for everybody to go home. The birds started flying away, including Mr Vulture. “Mr Vulture, wait for me!” called out tortoise, but vulture did not hear, and flew away. None of the other birds wanted to carry tortoise;
“You’re too big for my back!”
“You’re too heavy for me!”
“You’re too drunk, Mr Tortoise, you’ll only fall off!”
In the end, tortoise was left all by himself, and he realised the only way to get back to the ground would be to jump, and fall all the way down to earth. He knew he could not stay up here in the clouds! So he jumped, hoping that his landing would be soft, but he landed on some hard ground, and his shell broke into many pieces. In the morning his nephew and nieces came round, and stuck his shell together again, but now it showed many scars and cracks. And that is why every time you see a tortoise you can still see the scars on the back of his shell.
Found among the papers of John Fumey, my deceased father in law, in Madina, Accra.