The Tortoise and the Baboon (A Malawi Folk Tale)
by: Wheeler, Les
Ae nicht fan Tortoise wis crawlin slowly hame, he met in wi Baboon on his road.
“Weel, noo, aul man,” said Baboon, “Hiv ye foond onything tae ait the day?”
“Na,” said Tortoise,” verra little. Jist pucklies o gey dry girss.” Baboon loupit up an doon lauchin tae himsel aboot a thocht that hid jist cam tae him.
“Follow efter me, then, aul Tortoise,” he said, “An fan ye get tae my hame I’ll hae a gran supper aa ready for ye.”
“Weel, that’s richt gweed o ye,” said a gratefu Tortoise as Baboon turnt roon an loupit aff doon the road that led tae his bit biggin.
Tortoise followed at his ain speed, an that wis gie slow, an eence or twice he hid tae stop tae rest. I wis a gey tchaave for Tortoise but the thocht o a gweed denner kept him gyan.
Efter a gey time he cam tae baboon’s hoose an there wis Baboon loupin up an doon an lauchin awa tae himsel.
“Gweed bless my tail! Fit a lang time yiv teen. It must be near haun the morn already!”
Tortoise wis pechan awa an hid jist eneuch breath tae say, “Weel, I’ve gey wee leggies an yiv hin mair time tae get the maet ready.”
“Och, aye!” said baboon, “Supper is aa ready. Aa ye hiv tae dee is clim up an get it. Look!” he said, pintin tae the tap o a tree, “Three potties o millet beer, brewed specially for ye!”
Peer Tortoise lookit up at the pots Baboon hid stuck in the trees hich abeen his heid. He kent he’d nivver get up there an Baboon kent that tee.
“C’wa, min, an fetch een doon for me,” said Tortoise, but Baboon jist climmed up the tree an shouted doon till him, “Na, na, min. Onybody that wints tae ait wi me his tae clim up an get it.”
Sae peer Tortoise could only stert the lang trail hame wi a verra teem wime an gey sorra he wis that he couldna clim trees. It wis a gey trachle gyan hame but as he dottert his wye hame he workit oot a gran ploy tae get his ain back on coorse baboon.
A puckle days efter he’d played his trick Baboon got an invitation tae gyang an dine wi Tortoise. Baboon wis a bit pit oot but kennin fu slow an easy-gyan Tortoise wis he thocht, “Ach, he kin see that I wis haein a joke wi him. I’ll gyang alang an see fit I kin get oot o him.”
Sae Baboon set oot for Tortoise’s hame. Noo it wis the time o year fan nae rain fell, a richt drooth, an fires wid affen stert up an leave the grun aa brunt an bleck. Fan he got ower the river Baboon cam tae a wide streetch o brunt an bleck girss, an he ran ower it till he cam tae Tortoise’s hoose far Tortoise wis busy steerin a gran-smellin pottie o maet.
“Weel, weel, Baboon,” said Tortoise, “Fu are ye? I’m fair pleased tae see ye, but did yir mither nivver tell ye tae waash yir hauns afore ye sat doon tae yir maet. Michty! Look at the state o them! Thir as bleck’s a lum! Jist fair yirdit!”
Baboon lookit an his hauns wir yirdit, fae haein crossed the brunt an bleck girss.
“Jist you awa doon tae the river an gie them a waash,” said Tortoise, “an fin they’re clean he can hae some maet.”
Sae Baboon loupit awa across the bleck girss an waasht himsel, but fan he cam back he wis jist as barkit as afore – he’d hin tae cross the brunt girss again.
“That’ll nae dee! I tellt ye that ye could only ait wi me if yir hauns wir clean. Awa back again an waash them! An ye’d better be gey smert aboot it for I’ve sterted my supper already!” said Tortoise, wi his mou fu o maet.
Weel, peer gypit Baboon gaed back an forrit tae the river time efter time but ilka time he cam back his hauns wir as bleck as iver. An ilka time Tortoise refused him maet an syne thir wis nae maet left. Baboon eventually cam tae see that he’d bin swickit an he wis in a richt bin. He crosst the brunt girss for the hinmaist time an ran aa the wye hame.
“That’ll teach ye a lesson ye winna forget, my freen,” said Tortoise, haein a wee lauch tae himsel as, wi a ful wime, he drew intae his shell for a lang nicht’s sleep.