Koka and Kekee were two cranes who lived happily in a village pond
feeding on the fish, which were plentiful. Ibba the tortoise too
lived in the mud in the pond.One year, it did not rain at all. Little
by little, the pond began to dry up and get smaller. Fewer and fewer
fish were to be found. At last, all the water dried up completely.
There was no pond any longer and no fish for Koka and Kekee to feed
on. There was also no mud for Ibba the tortoise.
Koka told Kekee
“We have no more fish to feed on in the pond. Let us fly away
to look for another lake or pond with water and fish”. Kekee
agreed and they got ready to fly away. Poor Ibba heard them and
spoke up “Dear cranes! Please do not leave me behind in this
dry pond without water or mud! I am sure to die. Do take me with
The kind hearted
cranes agreed to take Ibba along. They found a long stick and told
Ibba “Friend, bite hard on this stick and hang on for dear
life. Each of us will hold on to one end and fly away with you till
we reach another pond. But you should remember never, never to open
your mouth”. Ibba the tortoise was very grateful for their
help. He bit hard on the stick as he was told and hung on while
the cranes took up the two ends of the stick and flew away.
As the cranes
flew along looking for another pond, Nariya a hungry jackal, looked
up and saw the strange sight of a tortoise flying through the sky
on a stick carried by cranes. He shouted up at the cranes “Where
are you flying with that troublesome Ibba?” Ibba got angry
when he heard this. He forgot the good advice given by the cranes
never to open his mouth. He wanted to shout back at the jackal “They
are flying with me to teach a cheeky Nariya a lesson”. But
when the silly tortoise opened his mouth to shout, he let go of
the stick and fell like a stone out of the sky. The cranes flew
hungry jackal was very happy. He was sure he could eat up the tortoise
that has fallen from the sky. The scared Ibba now recovered his
wits after his fall. As Nariya came up to him Ibba drew his head
and feet into his shell and lay as still as a stone.
They hungry Nariya turned Ibba in his shell this way and that way
and kept on trying to bite it. But he only hurt his teeth as the
shell was very hard.
Ibba the tortoise
then spoke up, in a quiet little voice from inside the shell “Brother
Nariya, I see that you are hungry and want to eat me up. Unfortunately
my flesh is as hard as a rock. If you want to eat me you should
soak me thoroughly in the river to soften my flesh”. The hungry
Nariya thought that this was a good idea. He picked up Ibba and
trotted with him till they reached a river.
carefully slipped the tortoise into the river, but kept his paw
on Ibba’s shell to prevent it escaping. The cunning Ibba spoke
up once again “Brother Nariya, I am now thoroughly soaked
and my flesh all over is very soft – except for the one dry
patch where you rest your paw”.
As the shell
yet felt hard, the foolish Nariya believed the tortoise and raised
his paw so that Ibba could soak better. As soon as he did so, the
cunning Ibba swam away down the river, as fast as he could. The
Nariya was left behind angry at Ibba’s escape, and hungrier
than ever before. A Sri Lankan folk story retold in English by Tissa
In ‘Princes Peasants and Clever Beasts’