Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Friendship of the Tortoise and the Eagle

The Great Curve posted an image featuring art in the upcoming X-Men: Fairy Tales #2 that immediately reminded me of the two characters in the long running Johnny Hart daily strip B.C. (which was far more entertaining before he started becoming so heavy-handed with the Christianity messages).

Issue #2 is a retelling of the African folk-tale The Friendship of the Tortoise and the Eagle and unlike issue #1, I am looking forward to reading it. I was disappointed in the debut issue because I just figured this was just a cynical attempt by Marvel to grab Fables dollars from DC while continuing to spread the over-exposed X-Men taint like peanut-butter on the genitals of some perverse elderly dog owner. That is correct, I just equated liking the X-Men with a geriatric beastiality fetish. I'm willing to change my basic opinion of the book should Marvel get away from aping tired 1970's Manga and produce more work in the style of issue #2. I am glad to see that Kyle Baker was doing the art chores so I'll pick the issue up just for that.

For those not familiar with the tale that X-Men: Fairy Tales #2 is based upon here it is in it's entirety.

The Friendship of the Tortoise and the Eagle
A Central African Tale

It was not often that the tortoise and the eagle met, for the one spent his days in the clouds and the other in the under a bush. However, when the eagle heard what a warm-hearted little fellow the tortoise was, he went to pay a call on him.

The tortoise family showed such pleasure in his company and fed him so lavishly that the eagle returned again and again, while every time as he flew away he laughed, "Ha, ha! I can enjoy the hospitality of the tortoise on the ground but he can never reach my eyrie in the tree-top!"

The eagle's frequent visits, his selfishness and ingratitude became the talk of the forest animals.

The eagle and the frog were never on speaking terms, for the eagle was accustomed to swooping down to carry a frog home for supper.

So the frog called from the stream bank, "Friend tortoise, give me beans and I will give you wisdom." After enjoying the bowl of beans the frog said, "Friend tortoise, the eagle is abusing your kindness, for after every visit he flies away laughing, 'Ha ha! I can enjoy the hospitality of the tortoise on the ground but he can never enjoy mine, for my eyrie is in the tree-tops.' Next time the eagle visits you, say, 'Give me a gourd, and I will send food to your wife and children too'."

The eagle brought a gourd, enjoyed a feast, and as he left he called back, "I will call later for the present for my wife."

The eagle flew away laughing to himself as usual, "Ha ha! I have enjoyed the tortoise's food, but he can never come to my eyrie to taste of mine."

The frog arrived and said, "Now, tortoise, get into the gourd. Your wife will cover you over with fresh food and the eagle will carry you to his home in the treetops."

Presently the eagle returned. The tortoise's wife told him, "My husband is away but he left this gourd filled with food for your family."

The eagle flew away with the gourd, little suspecting that the tortoise was inside.

The tortoise could hear every word as he laughed, "Ha! ha! I share the tortoise's food but he can never visit my eyrie to share mine."

As the gourd was emptied out onto the eagle's eyrie, the tortoise crawled from it and said, "Friend eagle, you have so often visited my home that I thought it would be nice to enjoy the hospitality of yours."

The eagle was furious. "I will peck the flesh from your bones," he said. But he only hurt his beak against the tortoise's hard back.

"I see what sort of friendship you offer me," said the tortoise, "when you threaten to tear me limb from limb." He continued, "Under the circumstances, please take me home, for our pact of friendship is at an end."

"Take you home, indeed!" shrieked the eagle. "I will fling you to the ground and you will be smashed to bits in your fall." The tortoise bit hold of the eagle's leg.

"Let me go, let go of my leg, let go of my leg," groaned the great bird.

"I will gladly do so when you set me down at my own home," said the tortoise, and he tightened his hold on the eagle's leg.

The eagle flew high into the clouds and darted down with the speed of an arrow. He shook his leg. He turned and twirled, but it was to no purpose. He could not rid himself of the tortoise until he set him down safely in his own home.

As the eagle flew away the tortoise called after him, "Friendship requires the contribution of two parties. I welcome you and you welcome me. Since, however, you have chosen to make a mockery of it, laughing at me for my hospitality, you need not call again."

From The Magic Drum: Tales from Central Africa, by W. F. P. Burton. London: Methuen & Co., 1961.
While it is still too early to tell, as this series matures it could be a good tool to get people interested in reading. Comics are thought to increase an interest among people in reading and the folk tales origins of the title could be much more palatable to schools than the standard super-hero fare. I'd be interested to see select issues of this title made available to schools or reading programs over the life of its' run.


  1. excellent story. there r so selfish ppl on the earth to make use of friendship

  2. that story was awesome. it really shows you that people can and will take advantage of you and as long as they get what they want..they dont care who they step on.

  3. ELDERLY dog owner? Why elderly? It's just an odd detail to add.

    Hart crapped up "B.C." with treacly homilies and Hallmark sentiment on a pretty regular basis from the mid-Eighties on. About the same time Cute Chick stopped being smacked in the head with a club.

    I like to imagine that Hart cranked out such strips as self-imposed penance for some dastardly deed that he committed more and more often as the years went by. Did he covet his neighbor's Cadillac? Skip church to watch football? Harbor a secret wrath toward certain politicians? Dig up corpses and make stew from their genitalia? Whatever it was, I always got a little kick out of those awful strips, knowing why they were there. You go, Johnny.


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