Jataka Tales: The Turtle Who Couldn't Stop Talking

This is probably one of the most famous of all the Jataka tales. To read different versions of the story, see Dan Ashliman's collection: The Tortoise That Wanted to Fly.

This type of negative exemplum, so that we are supposed to learn a lesson by observing someone else's foolish mistake, makes this story very similar to Aesop's fables, so it is no surprise that the French poet La Fontaine chose to include this story in his collection of Aesop's fables in verse. You can read La Fontaine's version here: The Tortoise and the Two Ducks (the story is part of the La Fontaine unit for this class).

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Jataka Tales unit. Story source: Jataka Tales by Ellen C. Babbitt, illustrated by Ellsworth Young (1912).

The Turtle Who Couldn't Stop Talking

A TURTLE lived in a pond at the foot of a hill. Two young wild Geese, looking for food, saw the Turtle, and talked with him. The next day the Geese came again to visit the Turtle and they became very well acquainted. Soon they were great friends.

"Friend Turtle," the Geese said one day, "we have a beautiful home far away. We are going to fly back to it to-morrow. It will be a long but pleasant journey. Will you go with us?"

"How could I? I have no wings," said the Turtle.

"Oh, we will take you, if only you can keep your mouth shut, and say not a word to anybody," they said.

"I can do that," said the Turtle. "Do take me with you. I will do exactly as you wish."

So the next day the Geese brought a stick and they held the ends of it. "Now take the middle of this in your mouth, and don't say a word until we reach home," they said.

The Geese then sprang into the air, with the Turtle between them, holding fast to the stick.

The village children saw the two Geese flying along with the Turtle and cried out: "Oh, see the Turtle up in the air! Look at the Geese carrying a Turtle by a stick! Did you ever see anything more ridiculous in your life!"

The Turtle looked down and began to say, "Well, and if my friends carry me, what business is that of yours?" when he let go, and fell dead at the feet of the children.

As the two Geese flew on, they heard the people say, when they came to see the poor Turtle, "That fellow could not keep his mouth shut. He had to talk, and so lost his life."

(300 words)

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