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About Aboriginal Dreamtime



Oban's Myths & Legends

How Terrapin's Shell Got Its Pattern (continued)
Native American - Cherokee story
retold by Oban

Oban the Knowledge Keeper

Soon the news went around that Terrapin had killed Wolf and was using his ears as spoons to steal gruel. Other wolves got together and followed Terrapin, and took her prisoner during the night.

“I didn’t kill Wolf,” cried Terrapin. “Yes you did,” said the wolves. “Everyone says you did – and you’ve got his ears.”

The wolves held a council meeting to decide what to do with Terrapin. They decided to boil her in a clay pot. Terrapin laughed and said, “my back feet are stronger than clay. I’ll smash any pot you put me into”.

The Wolves talked it over again. They decided to burn Terrapin in the fire. Again Terrapin laughed. “My shell will protect me. I’ll roll on the fire and put it out.”

The Wolves thought again. “We’ll take you to the river and throw you in at the deepest point, to drown you”, said their leader.

Terrapin pretended to tremble and rock in her shell. “No. Please don’t. The water is so deep and my shell is so heavy, I’ll sink!” she cried. The Wolves laughed.

They dragged her to the river and the two biggest Wolves threw her as far out over the water as they could. This was just what she wanted. Splash! She hit the water and dived down towards the weeds at the bottom. But the water was muddy and she couldn’t see clearly. She thumped into a jagged rock and her shell cracked in many places.

Stunned, she floated down into the weeds. Then she sang a healing song. “I will sew myself together, I will sew myself together.” The water washed around her and slowly the pieces of her shell came together again.

But the shell’s surface was no longer smooth. Scars formed ridges, which made a pattern. Terrapin carries this shell pattern to this day.

The End

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