The Tortoise and the Monkey

"Animal tales are stories in which animals take on human qualities. They usually show how an animal outwits another animal through clever or deceptive tricks. A very ancient and well-known animal tale is "The Tortoise and the Monkey" made fan by Dr. dose Rizal. It is about a tortoise and a monkey who plant halves of a banana tree. Thinking that the upper part with leaves would bear fruit soon, the greedy monkey plants the upper half but it withers. The tortoise, on the other hand, gets the ugly-looking lower portion with the roots, but it flourishes and soon is laden with fruits. The tortoise, however, cannot climb the tree to gather the fruits, so the monkey volunteers to pick them. But he eats all the bananas while he is up on the tree, throwing the skin down on the tortoise. Angry, the tortoise plants some pointed snails around the tree and hides under a coconut shell. The monkey comes down and gets his just desserts. Wounded and bleeding, he searches and finds the tortoise. As punishment he gives the tortoise two choices: to be pounded with a mortar or be thrown into the water. The clever tortoise chooses the mortar and deceives the monkey into thinking that he is afraid of drowning. The monkey throws the tortoise in the water, where the latter soon surfaces laughing. (Eugenio 1989:7-9)." (Sources:
Hornedo, Florentino H. : PANTIKAN. An Essay on Philippine 'Ethnic Literature. Manila, Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1992.
Eugenio, Damiana L.: Comp. Philippine Folk Literature: An Anthology. Quezon City: the UP Folklorists, Inc., 1982.

Mable Cook Cole gives published a more detailed version. According to her this folk tale is of Ilocano origin:

The Monkey and the Turtle

A monkey, looking very sad and dejected, was walking along the bank of the river one day when he met a turtle.
"How are you?" asked the turtle, noticing that he looked sad.
The monkey replied, "Oh, my friend, I am very hungry. The squash of Mr. Farmer were all taken by the other monkeys, and now I am about to die from want of food."
"Do not be discouraged," said the turtle; "take a bolo and follow me and we will steal some banana plants."
So they walked along together until they found some nice plants which they dug up, and then they looked for a place to set them. Finally the monkey climbed a tree and planted his in it, but as the turtle could not climb he dug a hole in the ground and set his there.
When their work was finished they went away, planning what they should do with their crop. The monkey said :
"When my tree bears fruit, I shall sell it and have a great deal of money."
And the turtle said: "When my tree bears fruit, I shall sell it and buy three varas of cloth to wear in place of this cracked shell."
A few weeks later they went back to the place to see their plants and found that that of the monkey was dead, for its roots had had no soil in the tree, but that of the turtle was tall and bearing fruit.
"I will climb to the top so that we can get the fruit," said the monkey. And he sprang up the tree, leaving the poor turtle on the ground alone.
"Please give me some to eat," called the turtle, but the monkey threw him only a green one and ate all the ripe ones himself.
When he had eaten all the good bananas, the monkey stretched his arms around the tree and went to sleep.
The turtle, seeing this, was very angry and considered how he might punish the thief. Having decided on a scheme, he gathered some sharp bamboo which he stuck all around under the tree, and then he exclaimed:
"Crocodile is coming! Crocodile is coming!"
The monkey was so startled at the cry that he fell upon the sharp bamboo and was killed.
Then the turtle cut the dead monkey into pieces, put salt on it, and dried it in the sun. The next day, he went to the mountains and sold his meat to other monkeys who gladly gave him squash in return. As he was leaving them he called back:
"Lazy fellows, you are now eating your own body; you are now eating your own body."
Then the monkeys ran and caught him and carried him to their own home.
"Let us take a hatchet," said one old monkey, "and cut him into very small pieces."
But the turtle laughed and said: "That is just what I like. I have been struck with a hatchet many times. Do you not see the black scars on my shell ?"
Then one of the other monkeys said: "Let us throw him into the water."
At this the turtle cried and begged them to spare his life, but they paid no heed to his pleadings and threw him into the water. He sank to the bottom, but very soon came up with a lobster. The monkeys were greatly surprised at this and begged him to tell them how to eatch lobsters.
"I tied one end of a string around my waist," said the turtle. "To the other end of the string I tied a stone so that I would sink."
The monkeys immediately tied strings around themselves as the turtle said, and when all was ready they plunged into the water never to tome up again.
And to this day monkeys do not like to eat meat, because they remember the ancient story.


"This tale told by the Ilocano is well known among both the Christianized and the wild tribes of the Philippines, and also in Borneo and Java. However, the Ilocano is the only version, so far as known, which has the explanatory element: the reason is given here why monkeys do not eat meat. The turtle is accredited with extraordinary sagacity and cunning. It is another example of the type of tale showing the victory of the weak and cunning over the strong but stupid."
Cook Cole, Mabel: Philippine Folk Tales. Chicago, A. C. McClurg & Co, 1916.


[Culture and History] [Rizal-Blumentritt Friendship]
created: January 10, 1997
updated: January 10, 1997
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger