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.

As we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, you can also support by donating today!

J is for Joyful Journeys—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 Hope & Healing…folktales around the world that beat back viruses. Each post highlights one or more balms to soothe and cure our struggles of today with oral tradition and lore of the past. At times, a post will make a connection to history. You can guess what inspired this theme. Yes, the COVID-19. What better time to delve into tales where things can and do turn out “happily ever after”?

Joyful Journeys-

From Portugal-

Princess Gilda journeyed from her home of Norway to marry Prince Ibn in Portugal. Now, a story is passed along of how this marriage brought about the almond trees that grow everywhere in the Algarve (used to be Al Gharb). When people travel to Portugal today in the spring, it will feel like winter with the millions of almond blossoms. Perhaps you will feel at peace.

50-word-or-less summary:

Princess from Norway thrilled to marry Prince from Portugal. Journeyed with joy. After marriage, Princess became ill/pale. Doctors sought. Homesick! Missed snow! One doctor said to plant thousands of almond trees. White almond blossoms looked like snow. Princess recovered. Mental journey to Norway.

Versions of Gilda and the Almond Trees story: https://www.aportugueseaffair.com/algarve-almond-trees/ as well as podcast https://www.theguardian.com/books/audio/2017/jun/09/the-legend-of-the-almond-trees-read-by-andrew-scott-travel-folktales-for-kids-podcast

Compare to History:

Usually homesickness is considered nothing to worry about. Yet, at one time, it was labeled “hypochondria of the heart.” From Swiss soldiers in the 17th century to Greek soldiers during the Trojan War, homesickness could have them waste away with some as serious as dying. Philosopher Tiffany Watt Smith reported that these soldiers experienced “lesions heart palpitations and from there a ‘stupidity of mind..’” We can take mental journeys when we are unable to physically journey. We can connect to those memories until we are sick of them…and can move forward.

More on the History: https://www.thecut.com/2016/02/homesickness-was-once-considered-a-medical-diagnosis.html

From India-

This is more a cautionary tale, yet the result brought over 7,000 years of wisdom. Thus, the humans fare better than the tortoise. This story is part of the Jataka Tales that involves previous births of Gautama Buddha. Now we can ponder the importance of home as well as the ability to move so anywhere could be home.

50-word-or-less summary:

Tortoise refused to leave lake for river despite drought. Declared lake as birthplace, where parents born. Sun dried tortoise’s spot until became clay. Bodhisatta hit tortoise’s with spade accidentally. Thought tortoise was lump of clay. Died. Bodhisatta showed tortoise to warn people of extreme fondness of home. Journey and do good.

Finding the Story: https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/traveltales.html#tortoiserefused

Compare to History:

No matter our feelings for home, many are staying at home during COVID-19 to protect others. We can still mentally journey and do good though online chats, telephone calls, or drop-off service. Meanwhile, there can be patients who refuse to leave the hospital. What then? Malingering is more commonly known for psychiatric patients than general hospital patients. Reasons are varied and countless though could be from attention of being sick; “secondary gain” or food, shelter; psychological stress, or seasonal depression. Let us reach out to each other so—whether at home or the hospital—we are free to go where we need to be and not where we think we must be.

More on the History: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3067985/

Please share in the comments…or anything on your mind.While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings in process of being adapted due to COVID-19. Our postponed Festival is now scheduled for May 12, 2021 with other plans that can be seen here: https://storycrossroads.org/contingency-plans-covid-19/ and http://www.storycrossroads.org/virtual.

We thank our funders such as National Endowment for the Arts, Utah Division of Arts and Museums, Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, Zoo, Arts & the Parks of Salt Lake County (ZAP), City of Murray, Salt Lake City Arts Council, and many other businesses and individuals. Join us in the support by donating today!