Author’s note: Inspiration taken from Aesop’s fable “The Tortoise and The Eagle”. Variations of it can be found here

A Tortoise declared to all the small animals around him, many of which would regularly gather in crowds at the Jungle square, “O’ you without shells or carapace, how do you protect yourselves?” He jeered with feigned concern, “Behold my shell. By it, I thrive in conditions you’d dare not venture, finding security where you’d tremble. I carry a fortress, and since you are regrettably without, you carry naught but a target.” There were murmurs among the smaller animals, mostly in agreement and deference to this Tortoise. Indeed he was large and great, evidenced by the fact that he’d lived many years. Certainly in comparison they were small and inconsequential.

Having watched this spectacle from above, an Eagle swooped down and alighted on a nearby branch. She cocked her head in the peculiar way eagles do, “’Lo Brother Tortoise,” interrupting the Tortoise’s lampoon, “shouldn’t we all embrace humility?”

“Who is it? Is that Sister Eagle?” said the Tortoise, for he couldn’t be certain—as we know, Tortoises can only raise their necks and heads to the sky with tremendous strain; the Creator found it humorous to establish among all the animals some variety in their ability to look about; that is, to look ahead, just below, behind, at the sky, or inwards. Even man, said to be the favorite of the Creator, could not do it all. (The Creator’s favors were dolled out in a manner inscrutable to all but him.)

The Eagle dropped down to be within view of the Tortoise. She continued, her voice thoughtful and wise, “The Creator endowed us with particular strengths, but in finite measure. You, graced with age, possess strengths as numerous as the many rings in your venerable shell.” The Tortoise grinned upon hearing this. “Yet, should I task you with tallying those many rings, you’d take hours, maybe a day or so, but eventually you’d reach an end, the task fulfilled. Reflect deeply on this, Brother Tortoise, for perhaps in that end will you discover failings and shortcomings aplenty.”

Unyielding in his pride, the Tortoise boasted, “My back is both home and armor, a blessing from the Creator.” He was indeed an arrogant Tortoise, having weathered many years, some good, and some bad. Moreover, he wasn’t a thinking Tortoise; in his view, only those without shells needed to rely on anything else for their security, he especially loathed that craven cleverness that compelled others to flee rather than confront danger.

To convey her lesson through demonstration, the Eagle seized a nearby Snail in her talons. Ascending to a great height, she released it, letting it plummet to the rocks below upon which it shattered into fragments just a few feet away from the onlookers below.

Witnessing this, the Tortoise’s expression darkened, “Poor Brother Snail, frailer than I. Alas, this is the destiny of those without shells and feeble shells alike.” Although a haughty Tortoise, he was not without some empathy. He recalled his youth, when a gust of wind once tipped him over, exposing his soft underbelly to the beaks of Sea Birds. It was painful as his plastron had yet to harden. They pecked unsuccessfully until they grew tired and flew away in search of an easier meal. He faced defiantly to remonstrate with the Eagle, “Sister Eagle, should you drop me from your highest height—which I must add, is limited given my great weight—my shell may chip, but it is a shell that can endure many chips. Such is my pride and confidence in it–” You could almost hear the Eagle’s sigh.

“But, you are nearer to the heavens than I, privy to the Creator’s whispers, surely, you know things I do not!” he conceded to the surprise and delight of the Eagle. But this surprise at his newfound enlightenment and humility was to be brief, for just as the Eagle prepared to commend him, he declared, “Of course I understand the essence of your lesson! I shall anchor myself so that neither you nor anything else could ever dislodge me. I shall transform this fortress into an immovable mountain, rooted deeply into the Earth!”

Before all, the Tortoise bolted himself to the ground, enlisting the very animals he’d just derided. The Eagle waited patiently until the last manacle was shackled and the last bolt hammered deep into the ground before she chided the Tortoise. “Truly, you are a fool. I have shown you but one way your shell acts against you. Instead of insuring yourself against its eventual failure, you have foolishly traded for more of the same. By your own doing, you’ve made the hard harder and turned what was once just plodding now thoroughly immobile. O’ you foolish Tortoise, you have prematurely fired the clay. It is vitrified and cannot be made plastic again, little else can be done now but to ground it back to powder and start anew.” The Eagle, no longer tilting her head, took to the skies in disappointment, leaving behind a beaming, misguided, and foolish Tortoise.

Once he could no longer hear the flapping wings of the Eagle, the Tortoise again requested the help of the animals in the square. He would have them remove the bolts as he was growing hungry and was chafing from the manacles. It is in that moment, as if the Creator set out to teach the Tortoise the ultimate lesson (for he is the ultimate comedian), that a deep rumble emerged from far away in the distance. All the smaller animals scattered, fleeing in all sorts of directions into the nearby bush, and trees, and river. Left alone at the square’s center was the Tortoise. Brother Elephant, startled by the voices of Man, thundered through the jungle. In his stampede and lack of attention, not hearing the meek cries below, he crushed the Tortoise. It was as it were, that an ostensibly immovable object was caught tragically beneath an unstoppable force.

High in the sky, rather than the whispers she’d usually hear, the Eagle instead heard a wild laughter.