The Tortoise and The King’s Daughter

The Tortoise and the crocodile princess

The Tortoise and The King’s Daughter

“The Tortoise and The King’s Daughter” is a folktale told to encourage people to think outside the box and not be easily discouraged.

The Tortoise and the crocodile princess

The Tortoise and The King’s Daughter

by Daramfon Etim & Chinyere Nwosu


It was the rainy season, and the king of all animals, Crocodile, wanted to give out his daughter’s hand in marriage. For this reason, he called a meeting with his family members to discuss the qualities of the animal who would marry his daughter. They agreed that the animal would have to be able to live both in water and on land and should wear a hard-thick jacket to prevent rain from touching his skin.

The king was aware that a hard-thick jacket did not exist, but he wanted the animal that would marry his daughter to be creative. So it was decided that on the day of the ceremony, the rainmaker would bring down heavy rainfall, and any animal that came to the palace with wet skin would not qualify to marry the princess.

After the meeting, the council sent the Pigeon, the village town crier, to deliver the news around the kingdom. They stressed that he should ensure that all the animals were made aware of the conditions the groom must fulfill.

The princess was so pretty that every unmarried male animal wanted her to be his wife. The Tortoise, in particular, was very much interested in her, but the condition that the king gave was a tough nut to crack. He had no idea what a hard-thick jacket looked like; nobody in the entire kingdom knew. Soon, every animal concluded that such a condition was impossible to meet and that the king would change his mind soon enough.

While the other animals relaxed with the mindset that the king would change his mind about the condition, Tortoise worked day and night, trying to create the hard-thick jacket. 

He started by asking himself, “what must I do?”. This question helped him to think deeply, soon recalled the well-known tailor that lived in their kingdom. His name was Spider. Spider specialized in fashion design and sewed stylish attires for people of different classes, so Tortoise rushed to see him.

Immediately Tortoise arrived, he asked Spider to sew a hard-thick jacket for him to wear. He explained that the coat should prevent rain from touching his skin if it falls on him. Spider laughed at him and told him that his request was impossible and that nothing of such existed and would never exist.

Tortoise tried to describe how he imagined the jacket would be to help the Spider sew the cloth. But to his persistence, Spider replied,

“Tortoise, my dear. What you are saying, what you are describing, what you are demonstrating, what you are assuming, and what you are imagining does not exist”. 

“It is impossible to sew a Jacket that will prevent rain from touching your skin. You are trying to square a circle, friend. Listen to me”.

“I have been a tailor since I was born. I have sewn so many clothes and created so many different designs. I have worked for many animals both within and outside this kingdom. I have both existing and imaginative designs”.

“Yet in all my life, I have never heard nor even imagined a hard-thick-jacket. So my dear friend, stop making impossible demands”.

Tortoise went back home disappointed, but he didn’t give up. He kept looking for a way to solve the challenge. His disappointment lasted four days at which time it was fourteen days to the king’s ceremony. He had to get a new idea, snd that he had to do it fast. A thought flashed into his mind, “Termite holds the key.”

Immediately he rushed to meet Termite. 

He paid a large sum of money to the Termite and asked him to go deep into the earth and bring him clay – the smoothest and thickest clay. Termite did the job wittily in two days. 

Using the clay, Tortoise designed a jacket that would fit him. He smoothed and dried it. Afterward, he tested it with water, and the water slipped off the jacket. “Eureka!”

Finally, I have got it right; Tortoise thought to himself, and with a broad smile, he slipped into the jacket. Once he wore his design, he realised that as soon as anything or anyone touched him, the coat slide off his body. The second problem was that it was very difficult to walk wearing the coat.

To solve the first problem, Tortoise went to the rubber tree and tapped its sap. He used the rubber sap to glue the inner part of the jacket to his skin. 


However, he still had to solve the second problem – walking fast. This proved more difficult than he had expected. He knew that because of the second problem, he might arrive late for the ceremony if he started his journey the same day. So, on the eve of the special day, he set out by 6:30 p.m. and began his journey. 

He arrived at the palace as early as 5:30 a.m. the following day, which also was the day of the ceremony. Tortoise remembered that the Pigeon had said that the ceremony would start at ten o’clock that morning. So he hid himself a few metres away from the location, and at 9 a.m., he came out of his hiding place and began walking towards the marriage ground. He was the first to arrive there.

When it was time, the Crocodile ordered the rainmaker, Hawk, to send down heavy rain from Heaven. Hawk communicated with the Heavens, and the Heavens obeyed him and sent down the rain. It rained heavily.

After the rain started, the king ordered every animal who wanted to marry his daughter to come out; they lined up under the heavy rain and moved into the palace one after the other. The Tortoise was the first, followed by Toad, Snake, Frog, and Salamander, but because of how heavy Tortoise’s jacket was, he could not move fast.

The other animals soon started to complain because the rain was beating hard on them. To their complaints, Tortoise replied, “My people and prospective bridegrooms of the king’s daughter. Let us not rush. After all, this is a marriage ceremony. We have to move slowly and stylishly. We are about to become royalty; we must learn to move majestically”.

The audience watched in awe and appreciation as Tortoise took slow and steady steps toward the throne. When they had all settled down, the Bee Band lowered the volume of the music.

The king sat majestically on his throne and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, you are all welcome to the marriage feast of my daughter. Now, everyone that wants to have my daughter’s hand in marriage, stand up and come forward to show if you are qualified!”

Tortoise looked around, hoping to see if any other animal would go out, but none did. They had all failed because their skins were dripping wet from the heavy rain. None of them had a hard-thick jacket on.

The king again made the announcement, and slowly, Tortoise walked toward the king. The audience clapped excitedly, save the aspirants that failed the contest. The king was satisfied with Tortoise and gave him his daughter as his wife. 

Tortoise went home happily with his new wife by his side.



Moral Lesson

  • Always be skillful, innovative, and imaginative.
  • Do not give up easily.

Owner of the story: The Yoruba tribe, Nigeria.


Read more folktales

Read also:


No Comments

Post A Comment