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The Turtle Who Couldn't Stop Talking

A Story From India

Long, long ago, a turtle lived in a pond with two swans. The turtle loved to talk. She always had something to say, and she liked to hear herself say it.

After they had lived in the pond happily for many years, a dry spell came. There was no rain for weeks and weeks. At last the pond dried up completely. The two swans realized they would have to leave their home and fly to another pond with water. They went to say good-bye to their friend, the turtle. But she begged them, “Don’t leave me behind! I too have nothing to eat and no water to live on. I will surely die if I am left here.”

“But you can’t fly!” said the swans. “How can we take you with us?”
“Take me with you! Please take me with you!” pleaded the turtle.

The swans felt so sorry for their friend that at last they came up with a plan. They said to the turtle, “We have thought of a way to take you with us. We will each take hold of one end of a long stick. You must hold onto the middle of it with your beak and never let go. You must not talk as long as we are carrying you! If you open your mouth, you’ll fall to the ground.”

The turtle promised not to say a word. Away the swans flew into the air carrying the turtle on the stick between them. As they rose above the treetops, the turtle wanted to say, “Goodness, look how high we are!” but she remembered the swans’ warning.

Turtle and SwansSoon they passed over a small town, and a few people looked up and shouted, “Look at the swans carrying a turtle! What a silly sight!”

The turtle thought to herself, “Why don’t they mind their own business?” but she remembered not to say anything out loud.

Soon more villagers came to see the sight. They cried, “How strange! A flying turtle! Look, everybody!”

The turtle could stand it no longer. She opened her mouth to call out, “Hush, you foolish people!” But as she did, she let go of the stick and fell to the ground. She landed on her back, and her shell cracked into a thousand pieces.

Turtle’s shell has remained that way to this day. Her cracked shell reminds us of what can happen if we talk too much.

About the Story

When we watch turtles crawl over rocks they easily could have gone around, we may assume they’re not very smart. But turtles actually are quite intelligent. They appear in folklore of many countries, and in most stories are thought to be very wise. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule: the turtle in this story doesn’t seem to be wise at all!

Tips for Telling

When the swans are warning the turtle not to talk, look right at the audience. You may want to point with your finger as if you’re scolding. When you say, “Goodness, look how high we are!” pretend to be the turtle looking down. Show by the expression in your voice and on your face that the turtle is amazed. When the people say, “Look at the swans carrying a turtle!” look up as if you’re peering in to the sky and pretend to see them. Have the turtle grow angrier and angrier throughout the story until she finally says, “Hush, you foolish people!”

For more storytelling ideas, visit August House, the award-winning publishers of storytelling guides and folktale anthologies.

© 2000, How and Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read and Tell

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