58. The Tortoise, the Elephant, and the Hippo

"I'm so strong," Tortoise told Elephant, "I could pull you into the river."
Elephant laughed.
Tortoise tied a rope around Elephant. "I'll show you!" he said. "Wait here."
Then Tortoise found Hippo. "I'm strong enough to pull you out of the river."
Hippo laughed.
"I'll show you!" Tortoise said, tying the rope around Hippo.
"Dive deep," he said. "Then pull!"
Hippo dove deep, and then he pulled.
When Hippo pulled, Elephant pulled.
They both pulled hard.
"You really are strong!" shouted Elephant.
"Wait!" shouted Hippo, lifting his head up. "Is that you, Elephant?"
Then they both realized: Tortoise tricked them.
[a Calabar story from southern Nigeria]

Inspired by: "The Tortoise, Elephant and Hippopotamus" in Animal Stories from Calabar (published in Journal of the Royal African Society) by Henry Cobham, 1905.
Notes: You can read the original story online.


  1. Tortoise would have been laughing so much at their gullibility as they pulled against each other.

    1. A bit mean though mate tricking them both like that.