The Giant Tortoise

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Giant Tortoise: A man living in the jungle saves the life of a giant tortoise. When the man falls deathly ill, it is up to the tortoise to carry him on its shell to the city to find the medicine that will cure him.

Submitted: August 27, 2012

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Submitted: August 27, 2012



The Giant Tortoise

Once upon a time there was a man that lived in Buenos Aires and he was very happy because he was a healthy and hard-working man.  But one day he became sick, and the doctors told him that only a trip to the country could cure him.  The man didn’t want to go, because he had younger siblings who relied on him for food and shelter; and so the man got sicker and sicker with each passing day.  Until one of his friends who was the manager of the zoo said to him:


“You are my friend, and you are a good, hard-working man.  As a favor to me I ask that you to go live in the wilderness and exercise often in the clean air so you will feel better.  Also, because you have good aim with shotguns, you can hunt small animals in order to bring me their hides and I will pay you in advance so that your little siblings can eat well.”


The sick man accepted the offer, and left home to live in the jungle far away – even farther than Misiones.* It was very hot and this made the man feel better.


He lived alone in the jungle and would cook for himself.  He would eat birds and small animals that he hunted with his shotgun and also wild fruits.  He slept under the trees, and when there was bad weather, in less then five minutes he would make a small shelter out of palm leaves where he would spend his time sitting and smoking, very happy to be in the middle of the forest while the wind and the rain howled just beyond his thin walls.


He had made a bundle of the animal hides and carried them on his shoulders.  He had also caught many living poisonous snakes and carried them in a large mate,** because there in the jungle there are mates as big a barrel of gasoline.


The color returned to the man’s face; he was strong again and had a good appetite.  One day, precisely on a day when he was very hungry because he had not hunted anything for over two days, the man saw on the banks of a hidden lagoon an enormous jaguar trying to eat a tortoise.  The jaguar had stood the tortoise up on its side and was trying to stick its paw into the shell so it could scratch out the meat with its claws.  When the jaguar saw the man, it let out a fierce roar and leapt toward him.  But the hunter, who had very good aim, pointed his gun at the jaguar and shot it right between the eyes. Afterward, he removed the jaguar’s fur, which was so large that it could be used as a rug that would cover an entire bedroom.


“Now,” said the man, “I am going to eat tortoise, one of the most delicious meats there is!”


But when he approached the tortoise, he saw that it was already badly hurt and that its head was almost separated from its neck and was hanging on by only two or three small strands of flesh.


In spite of how hungry he was, the man felt sorry for the poor tortoise, so he dragged it with a rope to the place where he had built his palm-leaf shelter and there he bandaged its head with strips of fabric that he tore from his only shirt because it was the only cloth that he had.  It was necessary to drag the tortoise by rope because of its immense size:  it was as tall as a dinner chair and as heavy as a grown man.


The tortoise slept in a corner of the shed where it spent many days without moving.


The man looked after the tortoise everyday and would lightly pat its shell to make it feel better.


The tortoise finally became healthy. But later, it was the man who became sick. He had a fever and hurt all over his body.


After a while he could not even stand up. The fever was always rising and his throat burned from thirst. It was not long before the man realized that he was gravely ill, and would speak out-loud even though he was alone because he was delirious from his high fever.


“I am going to die.”  said the man. “I am alone, I already cannot stand up and do not even have anyone to bring me water. I am going to die here from hunger and thirst”.


And, a little while later, the fever increased even more, and he lost consciousness.


But, the tortoise had heard him and understood what the hunter had said and it then thought to itself:


“The man did not eat me the other day even though he was very hungry and even saved me, now I am going to return the favor and save him.”


The tortoise then went to the pond to search for small turtle shells and, after cleaning it with sand and ash, it filled the shell with water and gave it to the man- who was laid out on his blanket dying of thirst – so that he may drink.  The turtle then started to look for delicious roots and fresh wild grass which it gave to the man to eat.  The man would eat without know who was bringing him the food because he was so delirious from the fever.


Every morning the tortoise would scour the forest looking for more and more delicious roots to give to the man and felt sorry that it could not climb the trees and bring the man the delicious fruits that grew there.


The hunter ate for days and days without knowing who was giving him the food, until one evening he recovered consciousness.  He looked around and saw that he was alone; there was nobody there but him and the tortoise, which was just an animal.  He said again out loud:


“I’m alone in the forest, my fever will return and I will die here because only in Buenos Aires is their medicine that can cure me.  But I’ll never be able to leave, I am going to die here!”


And just like he had said, the fever returned that night, stronger than ever, and he once again lost consciousness.


But again, the tortoise had heard him and said to itself:


“If this man stays here in the wilderness he is going to die because there is no medicine.  It is up to me to take him to Buenos Aires.”



That said, the tortoise cut down some vines from a nearby tree with its teeth and, seeing that they that were as thick and strong as rope, it laid the man carefully on its shell and fastened him securely with the vines so that he would not fall off. The tortoise tried many different ways to arrange the shotgun, the furs, and the mate filled with snakes and finally achieved what it wanted, without bothering the hunter, and started its journey.


The tortoise, loaded up like this, walked, walked and walked by day and by night.  It trekked up among the hills and down through the valleys, swam across rivers two miles wide, trudged through swamps that almost swallowed it up whole, and all the while it would kept sure that the dying man was still fastened tightly to its shell.  After eight or ten hours of walking, it would stop, untie the knots in the vines, and then lay the man down very carefully on the ground where the grass was dry.


The tortoise would then look for water and fresh roots to give to the sick man for nourishment.  The tortoise ate some of the roots itself, even though it was so tired that it would have preferred to just sleep.


At times the tortoise had to walk in the sun, and, because it was summer and because the man was suffering from such a high fever, he would become very delusional and would cry out that he was dying of thirst.  He would scream, “Water!  Water!” at every free moment.  And each time the man would cry out, the tortoise would stop to give him something to drink.


The tortoise traveled like this day after day and week after week.  They were getting ever closer to Buenos Aires, but also each day the tortoise was becoming weaker, each day it had less strength, even though it never once complained.  Sometimes the tortoise would lie outstretched on the ground, completely powerless and the man would partly regain consciousness.  He would say out loud:


“I am going to die, I am getting sicker and sicker, and only in Buenos Aires can they cure me.  But I will die here, alone in this jungle.”


The man was so delirious that he believed he was still in his palm-leaf shelter.  The tortoise would then get back up and continue the journey.


But one day, during sunset, the poor tortoise realized that it could not continue anymore.  It had used all its energy and just couldn’t continue.  It had not eaten in a week so that it could arrive at Buenos Aires sooner. But this left the poor tortoise with no more strength.


When night fell, the tortoise saw a light far off on the horizon, a radiance that lit up the sky, but it didn’t know what the light was.  The tortoise felt weaker and weaker and then closed its eyes to die together with the hunter, feeling so sad that it could not save the man who had been so good to it.


But what the tortoise didn’t realize was that they had already reached Buenos Aires.  That light it saw in the sky was the glow of the city! The tortoise was going to give up and die while the goal of its heroic journey lay just within reach.


But a mouse from the city happened to be passing by and found the two dying travelers.


“What a turtle!” said the mouse.  “Never in my life have I seen a turtle so big.  And what’s that it’s carrying on its shell?  Is that firewood?”


“No,” said the tortoise sadly, “It is a man.”


“And where are you going with that man?” curiously asked the city mouse.


“I… I’m going..”  The poor tortoise responded with a voice so soft the mouse could barely hear.  “I was trying to go to Buenos Aires.  But we are going to die here because I will never be able to make it…”


“Ha! you aren’t just the biggest turtle I’ve seen, you’re also the thickest!” the mouse said with a great laugh. “Don’t you realize that you are already here!  That light you see on the horizon is Buenos Aires.”


Upon hearing this, the tortoise felt a great burst of strength at the thought that it could still save the hunter’s life and so it set forth for the very last time.


And, when it was still early morning, the director of the Buenos Aires zoo saw a muddy and extremely skinny tortoise coming towards him carrying on its shell and wrapped up with jungle vines, a very sick man that was on the verge of death.  To his amazement, the director realized that the sick man was his dear friend and so he rushed to find the medicine that cured the hunter in no time.


When he learned how the tortoise had saved his life, how it had traveled over 600 miles to get him the medicine he needed, the hunter never wanted to be separated from it again.  And because he could not keep such a giant tortoise in his house, which was very small, the zoo director promised to keep it in his zoo and guard it like it was his own child.


And that’s just what happened.  The tortoise, happy and healthy once more, would stroll at leisure all over the gardens of the Zoo, and it is this same great tortoise that is there today, eating the grass near the monkey cages.


The hunter goes to see the tortoise every afternoon, and it recognizes him from very far away just by the sound of his footsteps.  They spend many hours together and the tortoise never lets the man leave until he has given it a loving pat on the shell.

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