Turtle story for our grandchildren
Here is a story for my grandchildren in Fiji. It is adapted from a story collected by Donald Stokes in Papua New Guinea. I was surprised to see that they call a butterfly Bebe just like in Fiji.
How the turtle got her shell
Once upon a time Tameala the turtle and Bebe the butterfly were the best of friends. Tameala looked very different in that long ago time because she did not have a shell. She was pink and skinny and quite naked.
Bebe was a pretty butterfly with bright orange, black and yellow patterned wings. They did look a funny pair together but they used to joke with one another as they sat under the banyan tree telling stories. Bebe ate ripe mangoes and ripe bananas and the nectar from flowers.
One day Tameala was trying to push a large rock over and she accidentally passed wind. Bebe screwed up her nose at the smell. Then Tameala noticed that when Bebe passed wind, the smell was quite sweet.
"How do you do that?' Tameala asked.
Bebe said, 'It must be the sweet bananas and mangoes that I eat.'
'Show me the bananas that I can eat them,' said the turtle.
Bebe flew about and laughed. 'Okay. We can sample each others' foods.'
So they collected seaweed and bananas and mangoes and put them in two piles then started to taste the food of each other. They ate until their bellies were huge and they couldn't eat any more. And they both said, 'Excuse me,' when they passed wind.
'Bananas are so delicious,' said Tameala laughing.
'But, there is a problem,' said Bebe, flying about patting her fat tummy. 'The bananas belong to people in the village and they'll kill you if they catch you stealing from their plantation.'
The next night Tameala crept up near the village and pulled down a bunch of ripe bananas. When she was stuffing the fifth banana into her mouth, someone came out and caught her and tied her to a stake.
Next morning Tameala was still tied up. She felt very said when she heard that they were collecting firewood to build a big fire to cook her.
An old blind woman was given the task of watching that Tameala did not escape, so Tameala had a plan. 'Please cut the rope loose. It is marking my skin and your people don't want it damaged for a fine feast. I won't run away.'
The foolish old blind woman cut the rope. Tameala held out a stick and said, 'Old woman, take my arm. I won't go anywhere.' And then Tameala escaped and started plodding towards the sea for a cool swim. It was a slow journey and hot in the sun. She found a wooden bowl and put it on her back to stop her getting sunburnt.
Meanwhile in the village the men saw the tracks in the sand and found out that the turtle had escaped so ran down to the beach to catch her. They threw their spears at her but the wooden bowl protected Tameala and at last she was swimming in the sea.
She called out to the men, 'Now go back and cook the piece of wood the old woman has in her hand! Ha ha!' Bebe flew overhead, very worried about Tameala, and as the turtle swam, Bebe kept on flying above.
They reached an island and lived happily there for many years.
Bebe met other turtles on the island and one day she laid eggs in the sand. Some time later she was delighted to see little turtles breaking out from the shells. Then there was another surprise. Tameala's eyes grew wide with happiness when she saw that the baby turtles all had little shells on their backs just like Tameala's wooden bowl.
Tameala never again tried to eat bananas and mangoes and taught her little baby turtles how to eat seaweed and drink salty water. And Bebe's baby butterflies continued to fly about and complain about the smell when the little turtles passed wind.
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