Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Turtle Tales for Turtle Day
For example, we all know that turtles are the symbol often used for longevity, patience, and wisdom. There is also a belief in many indigenous cultures that a turtle is carrying the world on its back, as in this story from the Huron legends. In another story, the continents were formed when turtle's shell was cracked.
In an Anansi story, Anansi invites turtle to dinner but turtle must clean his feet before eating. Of course, every time the turtle washes them in the river, his feet are dirty by the time he returns to Anansi's house, and Anansi ate all the food. Turtle returned the invitation, and Anansi decide to go to turtle's for dinner one day. But turtles home was under the water, and since Anansi was very light he could not get to turtle's house, and the smell of the delicious food only added to his distress.
Folklore and superstition does not overlook the turtle. Carrying a turtle bone is supposed to bring good luck, and some people say the thirteen sections of a turtle's shell are symbolic of the 13 lunar months. Turtles were believed to offer protection against evil, so keeping one around the house was a good idea.
Margaret Read MacDonald's book, The Storyteller's Start-Up Book. I bought this book when I first began telling stories, and Turtle of Koka was the first story I learned from it. This Caribbean tale tells of a turtle that is captured and taken to a village to be cooked for dinner. The turtle manages to trick the people into believing their weapons and methods cannot kill him, and then fools them one last time and escapes safely, waving goodbye as he swims away. The story is perfect for audience participation, and offers opportunities for singing, call-and-response and creativity. It also teaches gentle lessons of courage in the face of adversity, and thinking instead of crying about bad luck. Of course, each listener takes from the story what speaks to them, and that is the very best a folktale has to offer.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.