Thursday, October 25, 2012

Turtle Tales

Turtle fables abound. A turtle represents creation, endurance, strength, cunning, longevity, and stability. Turtles provide happiness, protection and good fortune.

The turtle’s shell figures in many tales. Zeus invited a turtle to a party. When she declined the invitation and said, "There's no place like home," he put her house on her back. In China a turtle shell formed the vault of the heavens. Vishnu, the Hindu god, changed into a turtle's shape to carry the world on his back. For many Native Americans the world rides on the back of a giant sea turtle.

An African legend tells of the leopard who built a drum that everyone can hear. He will not permit anyone to try the drum, not even the Sky-God. Angered at this behavior, the Sky-God announces that anyone who can bring leopard's drum to him will receive a reward for teaching the leopard a lesson about his greedy, disrespectful ways. Then the Sky-God waits.

The elephant, monkey and tiger try to get the drum but the leopard scares them away. Finally, the tortoise steps up. The animals laugh and tease her because of her size and soft shell.

She proceeds anyway and tricks leopard by telling him his drum looks only middle-sized, but nice. She says that the Sky-God can climb inside his drum and not be seen at all.

The leopard brags that he can climb into his drum and not be seen, too. When he squeezes himself completely into the drum, the tortoise seals it with a cooking pot. She drags the drum to the place where the Sky-God waits. He laughs at the lesson that the little tortoise has taught a big, bragging leopard.

As a reward the Sky-God presents her with the strong, hard shell that the tortoise wears to this day.

In reality, sea turtles have poor eyesight and cannot use visual clues to find their way. Experiments have shown some turtles can detect differences in the angle and intensity of the earth’s magnetic fields. Scientists theorize they follow each region’s magnetic pull to find their way back to birth beaches. They have a built in global positioning system.

The first turtles swam more than 150 million years ago. Seven species of sea turtle survive today: loggerhead, leatherback, hawksbill, green, olive ridley, Kemp's ridley, and flatback.

Five of the six species that live in the United States appear on the endangered species list.  The sixth, the loggerhead, is listed as threatened. The last species, the flatback sea turtle of Australia, is considered "vulnerable" to extinction. 

Celebrate a turtle in words today!

Creative Write:  Write a fable or poem about a turtle and its qualities. Or, choose a legendary animal to research and write about. 

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