Category Archives: Thursday’s Tales

Thursday’s Tale: The Affair of the Hippopotamus and the Tortoise

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Today I have another story retold by Elphinstone Dayrell in Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria, 1910. “The Affair of the Hippopotamus and the Tortoise” tells why the hippopotamus is always in the water. I found the story at worldoftales.com.

Many years ago the hippopotamus, whose name was Isantim, was one of the biggest kings on the land; he was second only to the elephant. The hippo had seven large fat wives, of whom he was very fond. Now and then he used to give big feasts for everyone, but a curious thing was that, although everyone knew the hippo, no one, except his seven wives, knew his name.

At one of the feasts, just as they were about to sit down, the hippo said, “You have come to feed at my table, but none of you know my name. If you cannot tell my name, you shall all of you go away without your dinner.”

As they could not guess his name, they had to go away and leave all the good food behind. But before they left, the tortoise stood up and asked the hippopotamus what he would do if he told him his name at the next feast. So the hippo replied that he would be so ashamed of himself, that he and his whole family would leave the land, and for the future would dwell in the water.

Now it was the custom for the hippo and his seven wives to go down every morning and evening to the river to wash and have a drink, which the tortoise knew. The hippo used to walk first, and the seven wives followed. One day when they had gone down to the river to bathe, the tortoise made a small hole in the middle of the path, and then waited. When the hippo and his wives returned, two of the wives were some distance behind, so the tortoise came out from where he had been hiding, and half buried himself in the hole he had dug, leaving the greater part of his shell exposed. When the two hippo wives came along, the first one knocked her foot against the tortoise’s shell, and immediately called out to her husband, “Oh! Isantim, my husband, I have hurt my foot.” At this the tortoise was very glad, and went joyfully home, as he had found out the hippo’s name.

When the next feast was given by the hippo, he made the same condition about his name; so the tortoise got up and said, “You promise you will not kill me if I tell you your name?” and the hippo promised. The tortoise then shouted as loud as he was able, “Your name is Isantim,” at which a cheer went up from all the people, and then they sat down to their dinner.

When the feast was over, the hippo, with his seven wives, in accordance with his promise, went down to the river, and they have always lived in the water from that day till now; and although they come on shore to feed at night, you never find a hippo on the land in the daytime.

The thing I don’t understand is why the hippo wouldn’t let them eat if they didn’t know his name, but at the same time didn’t seem to want them to know it. Seems silly. The hippo brought the whole thing on himself.

Some hippo facts:

Hippos are the third largest living land mammals, after elephants and white rhinos. The average female weighs around 3,000 lbs. while males weigh 3,500 to 9,920 lbs.

A hippo eats about 80 lbs. of grass each night. They travel up to 6 miles in a night to get their fill. They also eat fruit that they find.

Hippos are very aggressive creatures and are very dangerous. They have large teeth and tusks that they use for fighting off others that they see as threats, including humans.

Though hippos move quite quickly through the water, they can’t swim. They move through the water by pushing themselves off other objects.

The word “hippopotamus” comes from the Greek word for “water horse” or “river horse.” However, hippos and horses are not closely related. The closest living relatives to hippos are pigs, whales and dolphins, according to the San Diego Zoo.

A hippo must stay moist, because if its skin dries out, it will crack. Its skin also secretes a red fluid that is thought to be an antibiotic, sunscreen and skin moisturizer.

Hippos can stay underwater for up to 5 minutes without coming up for air. When they sleep in the water, their bodies automatically bob up to the top of the water so that they can take a breath, and then they sink back to the bottom.

Hippos are fast for their size. They can run up to 14 mph.

Hippos are very loud animals. Their snorts, grumbles and wheezes have been measured at 115 decibels. Hippos also use subsonic vocalizations to communicate.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

Thursday’s Tale: Why the Bat Flies by Night

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Photo from ARKive of the Straw-coloured fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) – http://www.arkive.org/straw-coloured-fruit-bat/eidolon-helvum/image-G80300.html

We went to an air show last weekend and I’m hoping to pull together some pictures to share Saturday. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a tale about flying. “Why the Bat Flies by Night” was retold by Elphinstone Dayrell in Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria, 1910. I found it at worldoftales.com.

A bush rat called Oyot was a great friend of Emiong, the bat; they always fed together, but the bat was jealous of the bush rat. When the bat cooked the food it was always very good, and the bush rat said, “How is it that when you make the soup it is so tasty?”

The bat replied, “I always boil myself in the water, and my flesh is so sweet, that the soup is good.”

He then told the bush rat that he would show him how it was done; so he got a pot of warm water, which he told the bush rat was boiling water, and jumped into it, and very shortly afterwards came out again. When the soup was brought it was as strong and good as usual, as the bat had prepared it beforehand.

The bush rat then went home and told his wife that he was going to make good soup like the bat’s. He told her to boil some water, which she did. Then, when his wife wasn’t looking, he jumped into the pot, and was very soon dead.

When his wife looked into the pot and saw the dead body of her husband boiling she was very angry, and reported the matter to the king, who gave orders that the bat should be made a prisoner. Every one turned out to catch the bat, but as he expected trouble he flew away into the bush and hid himself. All day long the people tried to catch him, so he had to change his habits, and only came out to feed when it was dark, and that is why you never see a bat in the daytime.

I guess the moral here is just because you consider someone your friend, it doesn’t mean they have your best interest at heart.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

Thursday’s Tale: The Tulip Fairies

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Photo found on Pinterest

Tulip time has passed here in Ohio, but it is still spring, I can tell by the cool dreary, rainy weather outside today. I though I’d share this short tale from England. It’s a bit bittersweet.

Once upon a time there was an old woman who lived by herself in a little house. She grew a bed of beautiful multi-colored tulips in her garden, which she would cut and bring into the house, to cheer herself up.

One night she was woken up by the sounds of sweet singing and of babies laughing. She looked out of the window and the sounds seemed to be coming from the tulip bed, but she couldn’t see anything. The next morning she walked among her flowers, but there were no signs of anyone having been there the night before.

On the following night she was woken up again by sweet singing and the sound of babies laughing. She rose and stole softly through her garden. The moon was shining brightly on the tulip bed, and the flowers were swaying to and fro. The old woman looked closely and she saw, standing by each tulip, a little fairy mother who was crooning and rocking the flower like a cradle, while in each tulip cup lay a little baby fairy laughing and playing.

The old woman was a kind-hearted soul, and so she stole quietly back to her house, and from that time on she never picked another tulip, nor did she allow her neighbours to touch them.

The tulips grew brighter in color and larger in size day by day, and they gave off a delicious perfume, like that of roses. They began to bloom all the year round too. And every night the little fairy mothers caressed their babies and rocked them to sleep in the flower cups.

Eventually, the day came, as it must, when the good old woman died, and the tulip bed was torn up by people who did not know any better, they didn’t know about the fairies, they didn’t know about the babies, and instead of tulips they planted parsley, but the parsley withered, and died, and so did all the other plants in the garden, and from that time on nothing would grow there.

But the good old woman’s grave grew beautiful, for the fairies sang above it, and kept it green – while on the grave and all around it there sprang up tulips, daffodils, and violets, and all the other lovely flowers of spring.

I love tulips and daffodils. When they were blooming in my garden I cut some and brought them in to work. I think it’s okay; I think all the fairies at my house live in the backyard, not the front flowerbed.

Brought flowers in to work today to brighten my desk #springflowers

A post shared by Carol Evans (@carolsnotebook) on

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

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