Once there was a terrible drought in the land of the animals. A kindly king
came from over the mountain and planted a special tree. He told them that
this tree would bear fruit all year round in any kind of weather. All they
had to do to get the fruit was to speak its name. The name of the tree was
The animals thanked the kind old king and he returned to his own
land, which was far over the mountain. The animals then sounded the Great Drum
to call everyone for miles around.
When all were gathered at the tree, the lion asked Anansi to speak
the name of the tree.
"I thought you were going to remember the name!" said
"I don't remember the name!" said the lion, "Someone must
They asked everyone who had been there when the old king planted
the tree, but not one of them could remember the name of the tree.
They decided to send someone to ask the king for the name. They were all
very hungry, so they decided to send someone fast. They sent the hare.
The hare ran as fast as he could through villages, across the river,
through the bush, over the mountain and straight to the court of the kindly
old king. The king told him, "The name of the tree is Oowungalema."
The hare ran back, repeating the name to himself as he went along.
On the way home, he stopped at the river to rest and take a drink. The water
was nice and cool. It felt good after all that running. The hare splashed
around for a while to cool himself off, then he got out of the water and started
back to the tree.
When he got back, the animals all cheered. "Now we can have the fruit!
" they shouted.
Hare went up to the tree to speak the name, "Oomagamoomoo,
no, oobapadoopa, Noomooogamooga"
Try as he might, the hare just couldn't remember the name.
"We have to send someone else." Lion said at last.
So the springbok was sent. She ran all the way to the king over
the mountain and tried to keep the name in her head all the way home, but coming
through the forest, she tripped over a root and bumped her head. The name
was lost again.
Next they sent Leopard, but on the way back he started chasing a
monkey who was teasing him. He forgot the name as well.
Many others tried and failed until finally, the tortoise asked if
she might go. Most of the animals laughed because the tortoise is so slow.
"Give her a chance!" Anansi said, "She may succeed
where the rest of us have failed."
The tortoise went to her mother and asked, "What do you do if you must
remember something very important?"
Her mother told her to keep repeating it no matter what happens.
So the tortoise set out on her journey. When she reached the king over the
mountain, he said, "The name of the tree is Oowungalema."
Tortoise kept repeating it over and over to herself all the way
home. When the monkeys teased her in the forest, she only said, "
When she passed by the river and the sound of the water made her
thirsty, she looked at the water and said, "Oowungalema."
And when she got near her house and her children came running to
her, she only said, "Oowungalema."
Finally, the tortoise came to the tree. All the other animals were
anxiously waiting. The lion spoke, "Tortoise, please speak the name of
Tortoise said, "Oowungalema."
At last, the animals were able to eat the fruit. Everyone was grateful
to the tortoise who kept to her purpose where every one else had failed.
NIA — Purpose