ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 03

Clever Turtle, Smart Monkey

Author | Autor: Ana Maria Machado

Translated by the author

If you look at a turtle, you may think it is a silly animal, so slow, so heavy. But it isn’t
so. Indians know it. That’s why they tell so many tales about how clever turtles
are. So many tales, really, that even people who are not Indians began telling
those tales, too. Even invented ones. Tales like this one you are about to hear.
Once upon a time, there was a very very clever turtle who lived in the forest, by
a stream. In that forest, there were bigger animals - such as the tapir. There were
stronger animals - such as the jaguar. There were more dangerous animals, that
could crush you with a hug - such as the ant-eater. There were animals that stank
much more - such as the skunk. But no animal was more clever than the turtle.
But as you surely know, there is something that always happens to those who
are not clever : they always think they are the most clever in the world. And that’s
exactly what happened in that forest.
Every animal thought himself to be the champion of all cleverness around
there. They thought that the turtle was just famous for his cleverness, but that he
was a fake.
So, they decided to hold a contest. A contest for all the animals, to find out
once for all who was the most clever in the whole forest. And they chose man to be
the referee. Not any man. The man they liked above all the other. A man cub called
Curumim ( Kooroomeen).
When Curumim arrived, he saw all the animals assembled. So, he began his
task of judging and asked every animal:
- How clever are you?
One by one, each animal began boasting. The squirrel made up a story to tell
how he had once made a fool of the deer. The rabbit remembered the day he had
saddled and ridden a jaguar. The fox told how he had once escaped his enemies by
spreading honey on his body and rolling on the forest ground, to pretend he was a
leaf-animal. The monkey bragged and bragged.
The turtle was the only one who didn’t say anything.
When Curumim asked him, he just said:
- Oh, no ! I’m not clever. By no means. I am a very silly and stupid animal.
Anyone can make a fool of me.
When he heard this, Curumim -- who was really very clever and needed no
contest to prove it -- realized that it was just a make-believe tale. He knew the turtle
was just pretending, because he was so clever that didn’t want to call attention to
himself. So, Curumim decided to judge the contest in a different way and said:
- Let’s do something. I’ll ask you a very difficult question. The one who gets
the correct answer will get the award, as the most clever animal in the forest.
- What will be the prize? - the animals asked.
Curumim thought for a while. What would be the best thing in the
- Fruit! - he answered. - The best fruit in the forest. The winner gets as much
fruit as he wishes.

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