Oban's Myths & Legends
How Terrapin's Shell Got Its Pattern
Native American - Cherokee story
retold by Oban
Terrapin and Possum were friends. They liked to gather persimmon fruit and eat it together in the sun. One day they found a tree with ripe fruit in its top branches. Possum climbed up, picked the persimmons and threw them down to Terrapin, who slowly rolled them into a pile with her front claws.
A wolf sauntered through the bushes and stopped to watch behind a tree. He liked persimmons too, and these were big and shiny orange. He licked his jaws with his long tongue, imagining how tasty the fruit would be and thinking how lucky it was that Possum had already thrown them down.
The wolf trotted over to Terrapin’s fruit pile, stretched out one of his front legs and rolled two of the persimmons towards him. Terrapin pulled her head and legs inside her shell, frightened, and huddled like a stone.
“Go away” shouted Possum, glaring down through the tree branches. “This is our fruit. Find another tree”. The Wolf ignored Possum and began to eat the fruit.
Possum jumped up and down on his branch angrily. “Hey, Wolf. It’s no fun taking fruit that’s already on the ground. Are you too tired to jump and catch fresh fruit?”
He started throwing persimmons down again and Wolf leaped in the air and caught them in his teeth. Then Possum broke off a sharp piece of twig and threw it down among the persimmons. Wolf, who was excitedly catching everything that fell, snapped his jaws around the twig and a persimmon. The twig stuck in his throat and he choked to death.
Terrapin waddled over and poked him to make sure he was dead. “I’ll take his ears to use as spoons”, she said. And she cut off his ears with her sharp claws. Then she waved goodbye to Possum, who settled himself on a branch and carried on eating persimmons.Terrapin walked into the village. Over the next two days she went from house to house, dipping the ears into the jars of gruel that the women always kept by their doors. “Yum”, she muttered. “I love gruel as much as I love persimmons”.