The talkative tortoise
Koka and Kekee were two cranes who lived happily in a village pond feeding on the fish, which were plentiful. Ibba the tortoise too lived in the mud in the pond.One year, it did not rain at all. Little by little, the pond began to dry up and get smaller. Fewer and fewer fish were to be found. At last, all the water dried up completely. There was no pond any longer and no fish for Koka and Kekee to feed on. There was also no mud for Ibba the tortoise.

Koka told Kekee “We have no more fish to feed on in the pond. Let us fly away to look for another lake or pond with water and fish”. Kekee agreed and they got ready to fly away. Poor Ibba heard them and spoke up “Dear cranes! Please do not leave me behind in this dry pond without water or mud! I am sure to die. Do take me with you”.

The kind hearted cranes agreed to take Ibba along. They found a long stick and told Ibba “Friend, bite hard on this stick and hang on for dear life. Each of us will hold on to one end and fly away with you till we reach another pond. But you should remember never, never to open your mouth”. Ibba the tortoise was very grateful for their help. He bit hard on the stick as he was told and hung on while the cranes took up the two ends of the stick and flew away.

As the cranes flew along looking for another pond, Nariya a hungry jackal, looked up and saw the strange sight of a tortoise flying through the sky on a stick carried by cranes. He shouted up at the cranes “Where are you flying with that troublesome Ibba?” Ibba got angry when he heard this. He forgot the good advice given by the cranes never to open his mouth. He wanted to shout back at the jackal “They are flying with me to teach a cheeky Nariya a lesson”. But when the silly tortoise opened his mouth to shout, he let go of the stick and fell like a stone out of the sky. The cranes flew away.

Nariya the hungry jackal was very happy. He was sure he could eat up the tortoise that has fallen from the sky. The scared Ibba now recovered his wits after his fall. As Nariya came up to him Ibba drew his head and feet into his shell and lay as still as a stone.
They hungry Nariya turned Ibba in his shell this way and that way and kept on trying to bite it. But he only hurt his teeth as the shell was very hard.

Ibba the tortoise then spoke up, in a quiet little voice from inside the shell “Brother Nariya, I see that you are hungry and want to eat me up. Unfortunately my flesh is as hard as a rock. If you want to eat me you should soak me thoroughly in the river to soften my flesh”. The hungry Nariya thought that this was a good idea. He picked up Ibba and trotted with him till they reached a river.

Nariya then carefully slipped the tortoise into the river, but kept his paw on Ibba’s shell to prevent it escaping. The cunning Ibba spoke up once again “Brother Nariya, I am now thoroughly soaked and my flesh all over is very soft – except for the one dry patch where you rest your paw”.

As the shell yet felt hard, the foolish Nariya believed the tortoise and raised his paw so that Ibba could soak better. As soon as he did so, the cunning Ibba swam away down the river, as fast as he could. The Nariya was left behind angry at Ibba’s escape, and hungrier than ever before. A Sri Lankan folk story retold in English by Tissa Devendra
In ‘Princes Peasants and Clever Beasts’

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