The Laughing Tree

The laughing tree is a folktale. This African story originates from Nigeria and is told to teach children that stealing is not good and can land you in prison and make you ashamed for long.

Laughing tree

The Laughing Tree

 

Once upon a time, the villagers of a small village were very unhappy. This village is in the middle of the forest, and the cause of their unhappiness was that their palm fruits, which they used to make palm oil, were continuously stolen by a thief they did not know. They tried everything they could to catch the thief, but he proved to be more than a match for them. They could not apprehend him.

 

“It must be that the gods are angry,” said the villagers. So they devised a plan to appease the gods. They sacrificed goats, chickens, and rams and made different forms of offerings and prayers to the gods. Still, nobody knew who the thief was.

 

The thief was Tortoise. He had a fetish for palm kernels, and every night, he would creep out of the house with a knife for cutting the kernels, a sack to put them in, and a strong piece of rope for climbing the palm tree. All night long, he would work on stealing people’s palm fruits, and then before the sun rises, he would leave.

 

One night, while he was rushing to go to his ‘work’, Mrs. Tortoise hurried in and begged him to stay home.

“Why should I do that?” He asked.

“It’s dark, and I’m afraid something may happen to you.”

“Don’t worry, my dear. I’ll be alright. I like the dark.”

“Stay at home, dear,” she begged. 

“Just for tonight.”

 

But Tortoise was too greedy for more palm kernels and didn’t listen to her. He left the house regardless of the plea that came from Mrs. Tortoise. When he stepped out, it was so dark that he actually thought of turning back. But still, he went on into the dark.

He kept bumping into this and being poked by that. This continued till he exclaimed: “Oh, how I wish I were at home!”

 

Just when he thought things couldn’t get worse, he crashed into a big tree. The tree swayed from left to right and then began to laugh. This scared Tortoise very much, and he turned and ran away. He didn’t stop running till he got to his front door. He walked in; when he regained his breath, he said to Mrs. Tortoise: “Dear, I’m back.”

Mrs. Tortoise was so happy to see him, but she tried to hide her shock because he was back so early. Tortoise, on the other hand, said nothing about what happened. The following night, he went out again. Unknown to him, the Laughing Tree that he bumped into the other night was waiting for him, and he saw Tortoise stealing the palm kernels. The Laughing Tree, which was known as Alumo told the other trees about Tortoise’s horrific act, and they got so upset.

 

“Theif!” said the Coconut Tree.

 

“That’s cruelty!” said the Mango Tree.

 

“We must do something about it!” said the Guava Tree.

 

“Yes, but what should we do?” asked the Kola Tree.

 

“There is only one thing to do. We must teach him a lesson!” the Orange Tree replied.

 

‘What sort of lesson?” the Pawpaw tree asked.

 

The trees thought for a long time and finally settled on what to do. 

 

“Let’s give him the fright of his life.” Alumo, the Laughing Tree, said.

 

“Hurrah! Hurrah!” the other trees shouted.

 

“I’ll let you know when he is coming again.”

 

The following night, Tortoise was back, and immediately after Alumo saw him, he started laughing. 

 

Then all the trees asked: 

“Alumo, Alumo, why are you laughing? Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo.”

 

Alumo then broke into a song, and the other trees joined in, singing in chorus:

 

Tortoise is on his way,

Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo,

To steal the palm kernels

Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo,

In his right hand, a knife,

Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo,

In his left hand, a rope,

Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo,

On his back, a sack,

Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo.

 

Immediately they were done signing, they waited in a great deal of silence, and when Tortoise passed by, they booed and called him all sorts of names. With a terrible fear running through his body, he ran back home.

Unknown to him, a farmer saw and heard everything. The farmer ran straight to the village and told an Elder.

 

“Ah! This is very good news, my son. Go home and come back in the morning,” said the Elder. In the morning, the Elder took him to a meeting of all of the Elders.

“At last, the gods have answered our prayers,” the Elders said after they heard the farmer’s story. 

“But we have to keep this a secret until we have caught the thief.”

 

The farmer promised not to tell anyone. The Elders agreed that two Elders should go with the farmer to the location of the Laughing Tree to capture the thief. The Elders and the farmers waited for Tortoise for three nights, but he didn’t show up. He was really frightened by the incident that happened with the Laughing Tree. The Elders were starting to lose patience.

 

“If nothing happens tomorrow night, I shan’t come again,” said one of the Elders.

“Neither shall I,” the other agreed.

“We must exercise patients, my Elders,” the farmer tried to appeal to them.

“You forget that you are still young. We don’t have the pleasure as we are long past our youth. We can’t continue to stay out of our beds all night. I can already feel my eyes closing,” the Elder said and yawned.

 

On the fourth night, they sat under the Laughing Tree waiting, and suddenly, they heard a laugh.

Immediately they got up and looked around.

 

“Did I just hear laughter?”

 

“Yes,” one of the farmers replied.

 

No sooner has he spoken than Alumo broke into a song: 

“Ha! Ha! Ha! Hee! Hee! Ho! Ho! Ho!”

 

“Alumo, Alumo, why are you laughing? Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo.” The other trees asked.

Alumo then broke into a song, and the other trees joined in, singing in chorus:

 

Tortoise is on his way,

Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo,

To steal the palm kernels

Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo,

In his right hand, a knife,

Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo,

In his left hand, a rope,

Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo,

On his back, a sack,

Alumo, the king of laughter, Alumo.

 

The singing suddenly stopped, and the three men saw Tortoise pass by. They followed him silently till he got to a palm tree. When Tortoise got there, he put all his equipment down. He took out his rope and tied it around himself and also around the tree. Holding the knife in his right hand, he began climbing

the tree. Soon, the palm kernels fell loudly on the ground. Then the three men rushed out and held the sack to catch the palm kernels.

Tortoise looked down, and when he saw that he was discovered, with fear, he jumped from the tree but fell straight into the sack. The three men carried Tortoise back to the village and put him in prison.

When he got out of prison, he was so ashamed that he hid his face if he saw anyone looking at him, and every Tortoise still does this today.

 

 

Moral Lesson:

Stealing is a wrong practice that should not be encouraged.

 

Origin of The Laughing Tree: Nigeria

 

 

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