The Monkey and the Tortoise

Here is a story:

The Monkey and the Tortoise became friends. They would often have great fun playing together. One day, the Monkey sent the Tortoise a letter which said: My friend, come and visit me because we have not seen each other in a long time. The Tortoise was delighted.

When the day of their meeting came about, the Monkey killed two chickens, cooked the mush and brought it into the house. Then the Monkey took a huge and high stool and made the Tortoise sit on it. When the Tortoise sat on the stool, he could not even see where the mush was put. The mush was put on the floor. The Tortoise saw the chicken and it looked so good he began salivating. The Tortoise said to himself: Let me get some mush, but it was too far away from him. So he thought: I will go down and eat on the ground, but he said again to himself: No, they will laugh at me. He tried various ways, but failed each time. Then the Tortoise sat down and realised what had happened. He said to himself: My companion is bad; he does not like me because he made me sit on such a high stool when I am so short. When the Monkey’s wife came to the house to take away the dishes, she noticed the food hadn’t been touched and remained exactly as she had put it. So she asked: Why have you not eaten any mush? The Tortoise replied: I ate before I left my house. And the Tortoise left feeling very angry.

After a month went by, the Tortoise found a way to make the Monkey suffer. So he sent him a letter: I would be very pleased if you would come to visit me. The Monkey read this and got very happy that the Tortoise was still his friend. In the morning, the Monkey thoroughly washed himself and took his wife along, saying: Today we will eat like never before. When they arrived, they were very nicely greeted and invited into the house, but they noticed the small mat that was laid out for them to rest. The Tortoise ’s wife cooked them a very nice meal: six chickens, the leg of an antelope, and beer. The Tortoise’s wife prepared everything and she called the Monkey and his wife inside the house to eat. The Tortoise brought in the things and the Monkey, seeing what they had prepared, started to drivel and swallow saliva noisily. The Tortoise said: Just before you eat my friend, I would like to ask you one thing. Please go and wash yourselves in the river as we always do before we eat. The Monkey replied: Very well, it’s no problem. He then said to his wife: Let us go to the river to wash our hands; then we start to eat the mush. Earlier that day, the Tortoise had burned the grass by the river surrounding the area where they all washed themselves. Therefore, there was a lot of black burned grass and we all know how a Monkey walks on the earth.

The Monkeys went and washed themselves, they were very clean and said to each other: Let’s go and eat. They stomped over the burned grass and their feet became dirty, and so they went back to the river to wash themselves. This continued on for the rest of the day and the Monkey reasoned: If we return with dirty feet they will say that we are dirty.

The Tortoise said: Today I will destroy him! The Monkey remembered what pain the Tortoise went through when the Monkey made him sit on the high stool. The Monkey ran back to the Tortoise’s house with dirty feet and began to yell at him saying: You have no respect! Do what you want with the mush. I am going home. The Tortoise said: Go home then! At least now you know what it felt like for me. The Tortoise ate all of the food his wife had prepared and the Monkey and his wife went home on an empty stomach.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: it teaches that we should love each other as we love ourselves. We should remember that a miser will be severely punished by others when himself in need. Trickery never pays in the long run and destroys friendships. When harmed, a person has the right to take revenge.

The Mambwe proverbs say: The first (offence) does not cause a cry, the next makes (somebody) cry (Aka nkolelo, kasilizya; aka kusyalicizya, kakalizya; Kamukolele kasilizya, akakasyalicizya kakalizya); A small arm follows its companion (Akakasa kakakonka, akauze); A small dried gourd rind follows its companion (Akatowa kakakonka, akauze); (An animal) steps (walks) where (another animal) stepped (walked)(Ikalyata, muno yalyasile).

Subjects: bad deeds – revenge – love – egoism – miser – punishment – trickery – friendship


Written by Daniel England, Cikunta 4th of April 1984. Cf. in second version 4 (The Tortoise that Befriends the Monkey) written by Edward Mwimbe.