The Tortoise And The Feast in Heaven

birds in flight 2 with a tortoise-thumb

The Tortoise And The Feast in Heaven

The Tortoise And The Feast in Heaven tells of love, tolerance, and acceptance, and greed. 

by Chinyere Nwosu 


Read on to find out why the tortoise has a patched shell.


The Tortoise And The Feast in Heaven




“Oruru otu mgbe”

“mgbe rue” 



Once upon a time, in the land of the aminals, the birds were the most admired. They had feathers flamboyantly arrayed in many beautiful colours and patterns. They worked together, taking flights, gathering in the skies, and sharing all they had in common. Every bird was equally important and valued.


The birds had a common practice – a feast in heaven. This feast took place at regular time intervals. The birds gathered in flocks by species and took their flight in unique formations. When the birds soared, they flapped their wings, steering their tails and keeping the flight formations. It was always a beautiful sight to behold. 

Other animals came to watch the flight, many secretly wishing to be a part of the flight. Friends of the birds cheered them on. 


Mbe – the tortoise was a close friend to the birds. Like, many other friends, he hoped and wished to be invited to join the birds’ feast one day. He was always there to cheer them when they took flight and chat when they returned to earth. The stories were enticing. 

“They were different meals to choose from”! one of the birds exclaimed. It was the little bird’s first time at the feast, and it was delighted. 

“Yes, my dear. That is always the practice.” The mother bird said. 

“Can we always have a feast?” the little bird asked, hopping from side to side and shaking her tail feathers. Everyone laughed. 

“You will see more of the feast.”, said the mother bird.

The little bird hopped away, whistling a tune on its way. 


Seizing the happy mood, Mbe asked the father bird if he could join them for the feast just once.

“It is a gathering planned for birds.” said the father bird.

“I know,” Mbe replied.

“But you can make an exception now and then and let your friends join you and share your happiness.”

The argument sounded right. Moreover, what harms can come from letting one friend come just once.

“Not a bad idea.” the father bird said. 

“However, I will have to discuss this with the other birds. The elders will decide.”

“That is fine,” Mbe responded. “Thanks, man.”


The birds deliberated and decided that they would make room for other animals to join their celebrations. There was just one major challenge – The feasts held in heaven, other animals do not fly. 

“How would we get the delegate there?” asked the wisest bird in the council.

Many presented their suggestion on how to get the animal there. The birds decided that every bird would donate a feather. They will design and fit wings on the selected delegate. This way, the animal can fly with them. The birds will support the animal when in flight until he becomes comfortable with the new wings and the sky.

The idea was brilliant. It will only cost each bird a feather. As much as birds value their feathers, donating one for such a course would not be difficult.


The head asked for nominations, and the council voted. Mbe was selected and accepted to attend the feast with the birds for the next season.

When Mbe’s friend told him that he would be going to the feast, he was happy and planned to make it an unforgettable adventure.


Flying tortoiseAfter what seemed like forever, even though it was just a few months, Mbe was told the date for the feast and time of flight. He was to come out earlier, so the birds would fix his wings. He was on time, and the birds decorated him for the flight. Other animals watched with satisfaction. The birds accepting one of them meant they were comrades, and other animals would be able to attend the feast in the future.


Finally, it was time to fly. The birds took off in their formations, supporting and guiding Mbe on the way. When they arrived at the venue, the conveners were glad to see the flocks again. They noticed the addition and asked why the birds included him. The leaders explained their reasons. The conveners were pleased. They turned to Mbe and asked, “what is your name ?”

“Unudum,” Mbe replied.

‘Unudum’ means all of you. The birds were stunned. That wasn’t its name. What was he up to now? They looked at one another. No one had an answer. As they sat down for the event, the birds only hoped nothing would go wrong. 


Everything went well until it was time to feast. The conveners declared – “we prepared all these meals for unu dum.” Meaning they were for all to enjoy. At the announcement, Mbe said that the meal was for him alone. The same went for drinks and meat. The conveners had announced that all was for unu dum. 


Mbe stepped forward and ate until he was unable to move. Still, he refused to share with the birds. When he had eaten everything, he stood to join the birds for the flight to earth. The birds were so wrought that each bird took his feather back. Mbe was left with no wings to fly. The birds took off and left him to find his way home.


Mbe pondered, screamed, pleaded, and hoped the bird would come back for him. “After all, they are kind,” he said to himself. But he waited to no avail. The conveners asked him to leave since the feast was over. So, in desperation, Mbe called out to his family and other animals for help. He said the birds left him stranded in heaven, and he would have to jump down to come home. Unknowingly to him, the birds had told everyone what he did. The incident meant that the birds would not take other animals to their feast in the future.


When they heard Mbe’s request that they place soft materials for him to land on as he falls from heaven, each person brought a hard object. Some brought pebbles, stones, broken bottles, rough metals, etc. They lined the area where Mbe would land with these objects. When he asked if they were ready, they echoed in unison that everything was ready. Mbe trusting their words, jumped down from heaven and landed on the rough pile. On landing, his shell shattered. The animals went away, leaving him there.


Mbe cried in pain but did not know what to do. He lay there all night and could not move. Early in the morning, he saw the snail going about her business and pleaded with her to help him fix his shell. “You know how important a shell is,” he begged. The snail accepted to help and glued the broken pieces together with its slime.


The snail’s effort got Mbe a shell to live in, but it was not as smooth and decorated as it used to be. Mbe – the tortoise, therefore, goes about with a patched shell.


Themes: friendship, family, collaboration, greed, revenge, anger, consequences, betrayal

Owners of the story: Akaeze in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. Nigeria.

Culture: Igbo




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