H is for Hoodwinking Hippos – A to Z Blog Challenge

We are pleased to participate in the A to Z Blog Challenge (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/). The Story Crossroads theme for this year is Beating the Odds…Lucky Folktales Around the World to Brighten Your Day. Each post highlights that the stars aligned and what would have normally been…bad…turned out after all. Considering what we – as humankind – have experienced the past year, how nice is it to remember that all of us can “beat the odds” to some level in our lives.

And we’ll admit now…some are actually myths, legends, or epics rather than only limited to folktales. So is that a type of “loading the dice”? Ah, but the stories were too wonderful to pass by.


From Nigeria

Not as many hippos are in Nigeria as there used to be. We are lucky to have at least 100. Hippos love to be in the water though have you ever wondered why they are ALWAYS near water? Yet, when there are floods, you can find a hippos (and crocodiles) in your house! Then you will want to get out as fast as you can. This story explains a little of why we see hippos where we do. On October 19, 2020, it was reported that 155 people died and 25,000 people were displaced during flooding that started in September.

What makes hippos dangerous?

The hippo is aggressive and can kill on average about 500 people per year. This does not compare to 1,000,000 killed by the mosquito or of the dog at 25,000. Several bugs are part of this “top” list but the hippo is always towards the top 10-13 range. They can open their jaws at 180 degrees and then bring it down at 2,000 pounds per square inch. While Tortoise wanted to solve Hippo’s riddle, he had good reason to believe that Hippo could kill him for getting the right answer.

50-words-or-less summary:

King Hippo gave feast. Guests could eat if said Hippo’s name. Only Hippo’s 7 wives knew name. Tortoise asked if could share name at next feast. Agreed! Tortoise dug hole on path that Hippo and wives took. Wife tripped. Revealed “Isantim.” Tortoise shared name. Hippo and family exiled themselves.

That Tortoise was lucky that King Hippo truly abdicated the throne and exiled he and his kind without vengeance. Considering the power and unpredictability of King Hippo, I am guessing that the next ruler was more generous…hopefully. If nothing else, it’s the luck of staying alive. Do you know someone who can be a little dangerous to be around? That they tend to insist on being the leader and you are always walking on eggshells? Then perhaps you can understand what was going through Tortoise’s mind.

Finding “The Hippopotamus and the Tortoise”:

https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/hippo.html – thanks to D. L. Ashliman for sharing many stories from around the world

Originally found in “Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria, West Africa” by Elphinstone DayrellSource: Elphinstone Dayrell back in 1910: https://www.amazon.com/Folk-Stories-Southern-Nigeria-Africa/dp/1981136738/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1617995853&sr=8-1

Please share in the comments…or anything on your mind. While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings with virtual as well as proper-distanced/masked/outdoors.

We are excited for the monthly All Things Story virtual workshop series as well as the hybrid Story Crossroads Festival on May 10-13, 2021 (then viewing beyond the event to June 15, 2021). Interested in deeper articles and e-workbooks plus stories, activities, and recipes? Then pursue Story Crossroads Memberships.

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