Bedtime Audio Stories - The Powerful Tortoise

 The Powerful Tortoise

The jungle slowly woke up to the touch of the tender rays of the rising sun. It soon resounded with a cacophony of different noises, soft and low, loud and shrill, crowing, chirping, cawing, squeaking, squealing, crackling, rattling, grunting, bellowing, roaring and trumpeting. It is true after Lion Shamba became King, law, and order prevailed in the domain. But the hubbub and hullabaloo of the forest always disturbed the quiet and peaceful life of the tortoise clan. The tortoise by nature is a peace-loving creature. That is the reason perhaps it carries over it a hut-like structure and when it chooses it can retire in it and meditate or think. Due to this practice, the tortoise has not only grown wise but also shrewd. One day as Oudo the tortoise chief sat basking in the afternoon sun, suddenly he heard the approach of rhythmic thunder. The ground under him shook and some loose earth slipped into his burrow.

Before he could even shake the sleep of his drowsy eyes, the jungle squadron of elephants, led by Okuno the tusker, tramped into his sight. Their feet stamped hard and trunks were folded upwards like trumpets. At a signal from their leader, the elephants dispersed and started frolicking in the pool nearby and enjoying the palatable fruits, berries, twigs, leaves that were there in abundance. But Okuno headed straight to the Tai Tai tree overlooking the burrow of the tortoise, to munch its juicy leaves. Oudo could no longer bear the pandemonium. Placing himself before Okuno he said in a stern tone, "May I have a word with you, Windsock?" The elephant's tiny, red-rimmed eyes blinked several times and looked skywards before his snuffing trunk detected Oudo. "Insolent upturned bowl! How dare you speak to me in this fashion?" thundered Okuno. "Calm down!" continued the tortoise, "It is high time that you wayward bulldozers behaved yourselves and left us in peace. A colossal grey pillar, that is one of the forelegs of the tusker, went up and came down with a tremendous thud. But Oudo had nimbly retreated in the nick of time. Instead of being crushed, he was merely tossed into the air. "Take care, little Nitwit! Think well before you act any further. Only a word from me to Weewee, the queen of the yonder anthill and you will see the light of the day no more. Those tiny friends of mine will devour your puny brain before you even have time to bat your eyelids," said the tortoise. He then suddenly paused and thought for a while and then continued in a more sober strain, "How can a noble being like myself do such mischief? And under the righteous reign of our dear king Shamba? Otherwise to finish you is a mere child's play. Though small I am in stature, as far as strength is concerned, I am far greater."

Okuno eyeing the tortoise with surprise answered in a measured tone, "You've surely lost your mind. How can you ever imagine being a match for me, an elephant, and that too the chieftain of the elephants." "Strength is not assessed by size or position," calmly replied the tortoise. "Why not we go for a trial to decide who amongst us is the stronger!" "Ah! That's a great idea! But what are the terms?" Okuno exclaimed as if he had already won the challenge. "With one end of a rope between my jaws, I shall dive into the pool, while you remain on the bank with the other end fastened around your neck. At a given signal you must tug me out of the water," explained the tortoise with a sly grin. Forty pairs of enormous ears could hardly believe what they heard, such a cheeky bet was far below for their chieftain's prestige. However, the trial was finalized for the following day at noon. Hoptyhop the hare, spread the news of the coming event at lightning speed. On the morrow, well before sunrise, the forest dwellers gathered around the pool. By late morning, the banks were packed and the trees sagged under the weight of the feathered creatures. Poor Weewee the ant queen had to crawl her way up the Giraffe's nose tip to have a good view of the proceedings. The lord of the jungle, King Shamba, was seated right in front along with his two donkey confidants. All was set for the tug to begin.

Oudo having dived into the pool had jerked the rope twice saying that he was ready. Okuno after flexing his body and legs, stood square with his knees half bent. The leopard held the rope. As his shadow shortened to the minimum, he knew that it was midday. Filling his lungs with air he growled, "Heave!" The rope tautened all of a sudden and sent the umpire somersaulting in the air. Hundreds and thousands of eyes watched the tussle with bated breath. Even the gibbering monkeys, perched on the lower tier of the branches, were unusually quiet. Okuno pulled with all his might, hind legs braced straight behind him. But alas, He was unable to advance even a hair's breadth. A look of wonderment dawned on everyone's face. How could a mere featherweight like the tortoise resist the mammoth's strength? At the bottom of the pool lay a sunken tree. Oudo having swum to it, had tied the rope around its great trunk. Then jerking the cord twice made himself comfortable on the slime. Okuno gave a final haul. The rope which was by now stretched to the utmost snapped and down went the great tusker, flat between his legs. 

Then out of the water and into the sunshine scrambled Oudo. His end of the rope gripped tightly between his teeth. At once a storm of applause welcomed him. The elephant, quivering with shame, slowly straightened himself up and stood in silence, trunk hanging down, ears drooping and eyes moist. The following day as Oudo and family were trooping out of their home for the usual morning walk, a mouth-watering sight met their sleepy eyes. Under the Tai Tai tree, there was a pile of delicious yams, fresh, green vegetables. And beside it stood the vanquished elephant. "Brother Oudo, I've come to congratulate you for your extraordinary strength. Please accept these as a token of my appreciation," said Okuno in a friendly tone. Several days passed. Now Obuki the hippopotamus and the elephant were the best of friends. In fact, they were distant relations, though one tribe lived on the land and the other in the water. On a hot afternoon, as Obuki was having a siesta, a group of monkeys gamboled onto the branches overhanging the pool. They began relishing the ripe berries. At first, the hippopotamus did not react as the seeds were thrown at him. But when the mischief continued, opening just one eye he shouted angrily, "Why can't you leave me in peace, chattering nuts?" "Ha! Ha!" laughed the monkey sitting on the branch. "Strange things are happening in the jungle, but you laze around all day long!" The hippo learned from them about the surprising incident and that Oudo the tortoise was now boasting that he could even outmatch any hippopotamus in the jungle. 

And one fine day as the hippo was floating joyfully in his favorite haunt in the river, the tortoise appeared and greeted him. "Good morning floating Pig. Eat, drink, and sleep is your only motto eh! No doubt you're growing fatter and sluggish every day." "Ho! Ho! Ho!" laughed Obuki, his vast ping mouth wide open. "Dear Bandy Legs, your words are amusing indeed. Your snail-like pace is a mere crawl compared with mine." "Come let's have a race then," replied the tortoise jauntily. "Though I cannot swim very fast, I'm sure to beat you with ease." Obuki laughed half-heartedly for the tortoise seemed rather confident. "Now I've to hurry home," continued the insolent reptile, "my folks must be waiting for lunch. But I'm going to return by sundown and we'll swim across to the other end of the creek. But let this be a very quiet affair. I cannot bear to see you humiliated in public." "That's perfectly well," said the pachyderm in a faint voice, "I'll be ready." Oudo had a brother called Doudo. When seen together one would fail to identify them for they looked the same.

Oudo explained to Doudo what he should do. Nodding in approval Doudo let out a shout of joy. "Restrain yourself brother," said Oudo hastily. "Reserve your mirth for the forthcoming triumph. Now i give you a couple of hours' start, off you go and remember to keep undercover." Oudo went to meet Obuki the hippo, who was wallowing in the mud. "Let's begin," said the tortoise. "Here are the conditions. The first to swim across to that palm tree wins. Once in the water, neither of us should rise above the surface until the race is over. Mind you, one who does lose." "That's fine. But who'll be the starter?" asked Obuki. "Why, since you've larger lungs than mine, you can as well give the orders," said the tortoise slyly. Obuki, a little flattered, took several deep breaths and then thundering out the signal, plunged straight into the blue water. Oudo retreated into a thick bush and lay securely hidden. Obuki made a great splash, sped faster than any other hippopotamus, careful all the while to swim deep underwater. As he lurched ashore on the opposite bank, gasping for air, his eyes rolled in surprise in their bulging sockets. For under the palm stood the tortoise. "Ah! I'm glad you're here at last!" the tortoise exclaimed with a deep sigh of relief. "In fact, I had begun to fear some mishap might have befallen you." So shaken and stunned was Obuki that he only glared at the victor. "Nevertheless, let's get back quickly to the other side before nightfall. You may take it easy now and float across leisurely. You'll find me waiting to welcome you there," said the tortoise feigning courtesy. 

Then he disappeared into the gleaming water. Obuki sadly paddled back. As he climbed to the shore he saw the tortoise smilingly sitting in the faint light. "I hope you're convinced now," said Oudo with a twinkle in his eyes. "How could you ever imagine beating me, little boy?" You must be exhausted. Good night, dear friend, and sweet dreams to you. The hippopotamus retired to his lair by the river. Alas! The only dreams he had were those in which he saw and heard all the animals of the forest laughing at him. Oudo continued to drowse in the soft green woods. Not before long, another tortoise was seen shuffling towards him through the dusky gloom. "Very well done, brother Doudo," he said. "You played your part tactfully indeed. You certainly deserve a sumptuous dinner." Days passed. One pleasant evening as Oudo was waddling on the sandy stretch, he saw both Okuno and Obuki approaching him. They asked the tortoise to be their close associate and adviser. At first, he was reluctant but as they insisted, he finally yielded and said, "Since I cannot be in water and land at the same time, my brother Doudo will live with Obuki and I shall give company to Okuno." From then on it was not rare to see Oudo riding the elephant and Doudo perched on the hippo's nose while he glided through the water. 

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