Tag Archives: Africa

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


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


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: Kiboko the Hippo



I was going though our photos from Disney the other day and ran across this tale that I never got around to sharing. David took the photo above of a hippo in the Animal Kingdom. I have never seen a hippo swimming underwater like that; it was so cool. This story was on a plaque near the exhibit.

Long, long ago Kiboko the Hippo did not live in the swift-moving river but in the open savannah among all the other creatures. He had a long. silky coat of fur and a lovely, bushy tail. Hippo was so vain of his fine fur that he would admire his image in the water and boast to all the other animals. “Am I not the handsomest creature of all?”

Kadima the Hare grew very tired of Hippo’s boasting and decided to teach him some humility. He piled up a nice soft nest of dry grass and offered it so Hippo, saying “such a handsome animal as you must have the finest bed  to sleep upon!” Hippo haughtily agreed and lay down to sleep.

The wicked Hare lit a fire at the edge of Hippo’s bed and sat back to watch. The fire set Hippo’s fur ablaze and he awoke in great surprise. Unable to put out the flames, Hippo ran to the nearest river and leapt in with a giant splash.

When Hippo emerged, his fine fur was gone, his tale was just a little stub and his burned skin was pinkish brown and bald. Weeping with shame, Hippo sank down into the water until only his eyes and nostrils showed, and has stayed there ever since.

Now I’ll grant you, at the beginning Hippo is too full of himself and did need to learn to not be so boastful, but I feel bad for him in the end.

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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