98. A Husband for the Princess

The Queen proclaimed, “Whoever fells this baobab tree with a single stroke of his sword shall marry the princess.”
Elephant swung his sword at the tree with all his might; the tree did not fall.
Likewise Rhino, Hippo, Lion, all the great creatures; they failed.
“Now let me try,” Tortoise said, and everyone laughed.
Then Tortoise spread food around the tree. Ants came. They ate the food. And then… they gnawed at the tree.
Tortoise waited while the ants gnawed; then Tortoise only had to touch the tree with his sword, and it fell.
That’s how Tortoise married the princess.

[a Swahili story from central Africa] 

Inspired by: "The Princess and the Tortoise" in Kiungani, or, Story and History From Central Africa by A. C. Madan, 1887.
Notes: You can read the original story online. These are stories written by boys in the schools of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa; you can find out more at Wikipedia. The princess is not happy with her ugly husband. She even throws him on the floor, and he shouts; he does NOT turn into a handsome prince when she does this. Instead, here is how the story ends: "people came and said to her, "It will not do to part with your husband." Then they loved each other very much, and made a promise to each other that they would never leave each other all their lives."

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