The Tortoise with a Pretty Daughter
THERE was once a king who was very powerful. He had great influence over the
wild beasts and animals. Now the tortoise was looked upon as the wisest of all
beasts and men. This king had a son named Ekpenyon, to whom he gave fifty young
girls as wives, but the prince did not like any of them.
The king was very angry at this, and made a law that if any man had a daughter
who was finer than the prince's wives, and who found favour in his son's eyes,
the girl herself and her father and mother should be killed.
Now about this time the tortoise and his wife had a daughter who was very
beautiful. The mother thought it was not safe to keep such a fine child, as the
prince might fall in love with her, so she told her husband that her daughter
ought to be killed and thrown away into the bush.
The tortoise, however, was unwilling, and hid her until she was three years old.
One day, when both the tortoise and his wife were away on their farm, the king's
son happened to be hunting near their house, and saw a bird perched on the top
of the fence round the house.
The bird was watching the little girl, and was so entranced with her beauty that
he did not notice the prince coming. The prince shot the bird with his bow and
arrow, and it dropped inside the fence, so the prince sent his servant to gather
While the servant was looking for the bird he came across the little girl, and
was so struck with her form, that he immediately returned to his master and told
him what he had seen. The prince then broke down the fence and found the child,
and fell in love with her at once.
He stayed and talked with her for a long time, until at last she agreed to
become his wife. He then went home, but concealed from his father the fact that
he had fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of the tortoise.
But the next morning he sent for the treasurer, and got sixty pieces of cloth
and three hundred rods, and sent them to the tortoise. Then in the early
afternoon he went down to the tortoise's house, and told him that he wished to
marry his daughter.
The tortoise saw at once that what he had dreaded had come to pass, and that his
life was in danger, so he told the prince that if the king knew, he would kill
not only himself (the tortoise), but also his wife and daughter. The prince
replied that he would be killed himself before he allowed
 A piece of cloth is generally about 8 yards long by 1 yard broad, and is
valued at 5s. . A rod is made of brass, and is worth 3d. It is in the shape
of a narrow croquet hoop, about 16 inches long and 6 inches across. A rod is
native currency on the Cross River.
The tortoise and his wife and daughter to be killed. Eventually, after much
argument, the tortoise consented, and agreed to hand his daughter to the prince
as his wife when she arrived at the proper age.
Then the prince went home and told his mother what he had done. She was in great
distress at the thought that she would lose her son, of whom she was very proud,
as she knew that when the king heard of his son's disobedience he would kill
However, the queen, although she knew how angry her husband would be, wanted her
son to marry the girl he had fallen in love with, so she went to the tortoise
and gave him some money, clothes, yams, and palm-oil as further dowry on her
son's behalf in order that the tortoise should not give his daughter to another
For the next five years the prince was constantly with the tortoise's daughter,
whose name was Adet, and when she was about to be put in the fatting house,
the prince told his father that he was going to take Adet as his wife. On
hearing this the king was very angry, and sent word all round his kingdom that
all people should come on a certain day to the marketplace to hear the palaver.
When the appointed day arrived the market-place was quite full of people, and
the stones belonging to the king and queen were placed in the middle of the
When the king and queen arrived all the people stood up and greeted them, and
they then sat down on their stones. The king then told his attendants
 The fatting house is a room where a girl is kept for some weeks previous to
her marriage. She is given plenty of food, and made as fat as possible, as
fatness is looked upon as a great beauty by the Efik people.
to bring the girl Adet before him. When she arrived the king was quite
astonished at her beauty. He then told the people that he had sent for them to
tell them that he was angry with his son for disobeying him and taking Adet as
his wife without his knowledge, but that now he had seen her himself he had to
acknowledge that she was very beautiful, and that his son had made a good
choice. He would therefore forgive his son.
When the people saw the girl they agreed that she was very fine and quite worthy
of being the prince's wife, and begged the king to cancel the law he had made
altogether, and the king agreed and as the law had been made under the "Egbo"
law, he sent for eight Egbos, and told them that the order was cancelled
throughout his kingdom, and that for the future no one would be killed who had a
daughter more beautiful than the prince's wives, and gave the Egbos palm wine
and money to remove the law, and
 The Egbo Society has many branches, extending from Calabar up the Cross
River as far as the German Cameroons. Formerly this society used to levy
blackmail to a certain extent and collect debts for people. The head Ju Ju, or
fetish man, of each society is disguised, and frequently wears a hideous mask.
There is a bell tied round his waist, hanging behind and concealed by feathers;
this bell makes a noise as be runs.
When the Egbo is out no women are allowed outside their houses, and even at the
present time the women pretend to be very frightened. The Egbo very often
carries a whip in his hand, and hits out blindly at any one he comes across. He
runs round the town, followed by young men of his society beating drums and
firing off guns.
There is generally much drinking going on when the Egbo is playing. There is an
Egbo House in most towns, the end part of which is screened off for the Egbo to
change in. Inside the house are hung human skulls and the skulls of buffalo, or
bush cow, as they are called; also heads of the various antelopes, crocodiles,
apes, and other animals which have been killed by the members.
The skulls of cows and goats killed by the society are also hung up. A fire is
always kept in the Egbo House; and in the morning and late afternoon, the
members of the society frequently meet there to drink gin and palm wine.
sent them away. Then he declared that the tortoise's daughter, Adet, should
marry his son, and he made them marry the same day. A great feast was then given
which lasted for fifty days, and the king killed five cows and gave all the
people plenty of foo-foo and palm-oil chop, and placed a large number of pots
of palm wine in the streets for the people to drink as they liked.
The women brought a big play to the king's compound, and there was singing and
dancing kept up day and night during the whole time. The prince and his
companions also played in the market square.
When the feast was over the king gave half of his kingdom to the tortoise to
rule over, and three hundred slaves to work on his farm. The prince also gave
his father-in-law two hundred women and one hundred girls to work for him, so
the tortoise became one of the richest men in the kingdom.
The prince and his wife lived together for a good many years until the king
died, when the prince ruled in his place. And all this shows that the tortoise
is the wisest of all men and animals.
MORAL.--Always have pretty daughters, as no matter how poor they may be, there
is always the chance that the king's son may fall in love with them, and they
may thus become members of the royal house and obtain much wealth.
 Foo-foo =yams boiled and mashed up.