Fulani folklore enumerates the murderous conquests of the Fulani Jihadists. Jewish folklore describes how the Jews pacified Palestine by brute force. European folklore chronicles the conquest of the world by intrepid European adventurers.

Igbo folklore is all about a slow, ugly, shelled tortoise that outmaneuvers humans, animals, and supernatural spirits through guile, greed, and subterfuge, for his/her own selfish ends. In other tribes/races folklores, the community is the winner. In Igbo folklore the hero/villain/winner is the lowly tortoise who despite all its handicaps always outfoxes rivals. None of his exploits elevates his community. What lessons are we imparting to Igbo Youngsters?

Do not work or study hard. You can always achieve your goals by playing the tortoise. When all animals went on a hunting trip, the tortoise could only bag a sickly goat with diarrhea. He offered the ear of this goat to the glutinous dog who had bagged a big healthy goat. After several refusals, the glutinous dog ate the ear. The cunning tortoise turns around to demand his goat’s ear. Unable to regurgitate the ear, the dog had to forgo his healthy catch to the tortoise, who was too eager to exchange his sickly goat for a healthy one. Every listening child smiled and marveled at the antics of the wise tortoise and wants to grow up a tortoise.

Is the tortoise wise or is the story flawed? You cannot offer something to someone voluntarily and turn around to demand your item back. If the dog without invitation, bite off and ate the ear, without being offered the ear, the story would have made sense. There are similar stories involving the tortoise and birds, tortoise and spirits, tortoise and elephant, tortoise and humans, and tortoise and lion. The tortoise never loses.

Is there any wonder, that Igbos always put self before community? This may explain why Igbos have a price for everything and will do anything possible to achieve success, whatever that means, in life. Just like the tortoise, the end justifies the means for the average Igbo.

Africastallestman urges Igbo story tellers to replace the tortoise stories with stories that are more community oriented, where good is rewarded and evil punished.


  1. `Igbo shoe traders in Northern Nigeria sale one shoe to Hausas, and tell them to come back the next day to buy other things and receive the other shoe to make up a pair, they come back as instructed. The story of how the tortoise got his shell, also manifests greed and utter selfishness at best, though he paid the cost by his broken shell. YOU ARE RIGHT MOST ARE BASED ON DOG EAT DOG.

    1. The Hausas now beat the Igbos at this. My Nigerian friend narrated how he was duped at “Bank of the North” by HausaFulani money changers who inserted lesser denominations of the Naira into a bundle of 1000 Naira notes.
      “What goes around comes around.”

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