Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in September 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Why has the tortoise a round back?

The Story of the Tortoise, St. Peter and God.

WHEN God and St. Peter were walking on the earth, one day they made a very long journey, and grew very hungry. Coming to a little hut, they found the woman in, and they asked her for something to eat. "Well," she said, "I have very little flour in the house, but I am going to bake two loaves, and when you come back in half an hour they will be ready and you will be welcome to one." Taking the flour, she kneaded it in the trough and made two loaves, one for herself and one for the travellers. Meanwhile they went to church, but they said before going that they would come back at the end of the service.

               The woman covered over the dough, and to her great astonishment, when she lifted the cover, the dough of the loaf for the strangers had risen much higher than the other. Then she put both loaves in the oven. How great was her surprise, on taking out the loaves from the oven, when she found that the one for the travellers had been baked nicely and was a very big loaf, whilst the one for herself was half burned and almost shrivelled to a pancake. When she saw the miracle her greed overtook her, and she forgot the promise which she had made to the travellers. She said to herself: "Why should I give my best bread to strangers whom I do not know? Let them go elsewhere to richer people than I am."

               So she took the pasteboard and put it on the floor, and crouching on it, covered herself over with the trough. She told her little girl to stand in front of the door, and if two old people should come and ask for her she was to say that her mother had gone away and that she did not know where she was. The travellers then, of course, would not come in, and she would be able to enjoy the loaf.

               After a while God and St. Peter came back from church, and asked the little girl where her mother was, to which the child replied as she had been told. God said, "Where she is there shall she remain"; and went away. The child came in and tried to lift the trough off the back of her mother, who was lying hidden underneath, but try as hard as she could the trough would not come off. It had grown on to the back of her mother, and the pasteboard had grown underneath on to her. The woman was only able to put out her little head with the glistening, greedy eyes, and her tiny little hands and feet, and the handle of the pasteboard had turned into a waggling tail.

               And that is how the tortoise was made, when the old woman became the tortoise always carrying the trough and the pasteboard with her.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why has the tortoise a round back?
Tale Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Book Title: Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Book Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1915
Country of Origin: Romania
Classification: unclassified

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