The Monkey and the Turtle

The Turtle and the Monkey

Narrated by Eutiquiano Garcia of Mexico, Pampanga

It was mid-day. The blinding heat of the sun forced all the water-loving animals—such as pigs, carabaos, and turtles—to go to the river-banks and there seek to cool themselves in the water. On that part of the bank where a big shady tree stood, a monkey and a turtle were having a good time, discussing the past, present, and future. Just then they saw a banana-stalk floating by.

“Don’t you think that it would be a wise thing for us to get that banana-stalk and plant it?” said the monkey.

“Can you swim?” replied the turtle.

“No, I can’t, but you can,” said the monkey.

“I will get the banana-tree,” said the turtle, “on condition that we divide it. You must allow me to have the upper part, where the leaves are.” The monkey agreed; but when the stalk was brought to shore, the monkey took the leaves himself, and gave the turtle only the roots. As the humble turtle was unable to fight the monkey, all he could do was to pick up his share and take it to the woods and plant it. It was not strange that the monkey’s part died, while that of the turtle brought forth clusters of ripe bananas in time.

When the monkey learned that the bananas were ripe, he went to visit his friend the turtle. “I will give you half the bananas,” said the turtle, “if you will only climb the stalk and get the fruit for me.”

“With great pleasure,” replied the monkey. In less than a minute he was at the top of the tree. There he took his time, eating all he could, and stopping now and then to throw a banana-peeling down to his friend below. What could the poor turtle do? It was impossible for him to climb.

“I know what I’ll do!” he said to himself. He gathered pointed sticks, and set them all around the base of the tree. Then he cried out to the monkey, saying, “The hunters are coming! The hunters are coming!” The monkey was very much frightened, so he jumped down in the hope of escaping; [367]but he was pierced by the sharp sticks, and in a few hours he died. Thus the turtle got his revenge on the selfish monkey.

When the monkey was dead, the turtle skinned him, dried his meat, and sold it to the other monkeys in the neighborhood. But, in taking off the skin, the turtle was very careless: he left here and there parts of the fur sticking to the meat; and from this fact the monkeys which had bought the meat judged the turtle guilty of murder of one of their brethren. So they took the turtle before their chief, and he was tried.

When the turtle’s guilt had been established, the monkey-chief ordered him to be burned.

“Fire does not do me any harm,” said the turtle. “Don’t you see the red part on my back? My father has burned me many times.”

“Well, if fire doesn’t harm him, cut him to pieces,” said the monkey-chief angrily.

“Neither will this punishment have any effect on me,” continued the wise turtle. “My back is full of scars. My father used to cut me over and over again.”

“What can we do with him?” said the foolish monkeys. At last the brightest fellow in the group said, “We will drown him in the lake.”

As soon as the turtle heard this, he felt happy, for he knew that he would not die in the water, However, he pretended to be very much afraid, and he implored the monkeys not to throw him into the lake. But he said to himself, “I have deceived all these foolish monkeys.” Without delay the monkeys took him to the lake and threw him in. The turtle dived; and then he stuck his head above the surface of the water, laughing very loud at them.

Thus the turtle’s life was saved, because he had used his brains in devising a means of escape.