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Stories in a Nutshell

Why Turtles Live in Water

A Tale from West Africa

Turtles used to live on the land, they say, until the time a clever turtle was caught by some hunters. They brought him to their village and placed the turtle before the Chief, who asked, ‘How shall we cook him?’

‘You’ll have to kill me first, and then take me out of this shell,’ said the turtle.

‘We’ll break your shell with sticks,’ they said.

‘That’ll never work,’ said the turtle. ‘Why don’t you throw me in the water and drown me?’

‘Excellent idea,’ said the Chief. They took the turtle to the river and threw him into the water to drown him.

They were congratulating themselves on their success in drowning the turtle, when two little green eyes poked up in the water and the laughing turtle said, ‘Don’t get those cooking pots out too fast, foolish people!’ As he swam away, he said, ‘I think I’ll spend most of my time from now on, safely in the water.’

It has been that way ever since.