A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

How the Tortoise Won the Race
By Augustine Onunaku, Illustration By Chuma Oguagha
All week the weather could not have been more pleasant and this day in particular, the day of the big festival, promised to be filled with sunshine. The animals of the rain forest busied themselves with preparations. The harvest was in, and this New Years Festival was going to be the biggest one of all. No work, no worry, just time to eat, drink and be merry.

The Festival had been celebrated since the beginning of time, so the animals all knew what to do and how to celebrate! But today, the sun would shine on something different. The tortoise had challenged the dog to a race, and not just to a race, but that he would win. Now all the animals hated the tortoise. They hated his extravagant lifestyle. Although he was the laziest of all the animals, he still had all the wealth. How could he be so wealthy when everyone knew that wealth comes from strength? Some whispered that he was a thief, others that he was a con specialist. Either way, he had to be a rogue!

So, they took him at his challenge. The race was a chance to strike back, a chance to cripple the tortoises wealthy empire. The odds were against him: how could the tortoise outrace the dog?

All the animals bet against the tortoise, except for the monkey, who was his only friend outside his clan. The monkey bet heavily not because he loved him - but because he knew the tortoise never ever agreed to do something he couldnt.

The rules were set, and both the tortoise and the dog were pleased. The race would start at noon, take a three sixty degree shape trail through the rain forest and end at the same square where they started. What none of the animals knew was that the tortoise had contracted three others of his tortoise clan who, because they were of the same height with shells that looked so similar, no one could tell them apart.

The race began. The dog sped off amid cheers and fanfare from supporters; while the tortoise crawled behind and was booed by spectators. The tortoises constant scream of slow and steady wins was drowned out by all the booing. He continued deep into the forest track until he knew no-one could see him. The tortoise then turned off the trail, took a short-cut to a convenient hideout close to the finish line that he had staked out the day before. It was so close, that he could see the square.

Meanwhile, the dog was speeding through the first twenty-five percent of the trail. What a surprise for him to see the tortoise he had left behind crawling in front of him. Enraged, the dog increased his speed and overtook the tortoise. Halfway through now, the dog again saw the tortoise crawling in front: like a bolt of lightening, the dog again overtook the tortoise. Blazing through the last of the race trail, again, there was the tortoise in front crawling with comfort and at ease! This time, the dog rained abusive words on the tortoise as he sped on.

Having calculated that the dog would take an average time of four hours to complete the trail, three hours and thirty minutes into the race, the tortoise finally crawled out from his hideout. The animals noticed a figure from afar and started cheering for the dog, but found out twenty minutes later they were cheering for the tortoise. The tortoise won!