Why Hippos Stay in Water

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Long long ago, a male hippo had seven hippo wives.

With lots to eat and lots to drink, they led such happy lives.

They’d food to share and more to spare, so put on, when they could,

a feast for all the animals within the neighbourhood.

From all around, from far and near, to Hippo’s feast they streamed,

but Hippo’s generosity was not quite as it seemed.

He called them to attention and then loudly he did claim,

“You each are here to eat my food, but you don’t know my name.

Without my name you cannot eat, so you will have to go.

Only my seven wives can stay because my name they know.”


Once a tortoise as he left, said, “Now, Hippo tell me true,

If I know your name by your next feast, then what will you do?”

The hippo said, “There’s little chance that you will know my name,

but if you do, my wives and I will leave this place in shame.

This family of hippos, we will travel far away.

 We’ll find another river, where forever we will stay.”


Early one morning, Tortoise stood by Hippo’s river.

Sunshine on its surface, did shimmer, glint and quiver.

Tortoise waited patiently. He knew soon the hippos would

be coming there to have a drink and wallow in the mud.

The male hippo was first to come. But then, in single file

along came Hippo’s seven wives and this made tortoise smile.


He hid himself among the bush and watched the hippos drink,

then watched the hippos, round and fat, into the river sink.

 Hippo eyes and hippo ears on the surface he could see.

And still, the tortoise waited and he waited, patiently.

 The hippo wives began to chat – and so nearer Tortoise came.

He listened and he listened but not one said Hippo’s name.

The hippos all set off for home. It wasn’t looking good.

But two hippo wives were left behind, stuck in shallow mud.


Tortoise crept in front of them, dug a hole into the grass,

There he waited patiently, where the hippo’s wives must pass.

Just the top of a tortoise shell , stuck up a little way.

So like a rock the tortoise seemed; so still that tortoise lay.

The hippos rushed. They must be quick or they’d get left behind.

The others would not wait for them; they really were unkind.

The first wife stubbed her biggest toe upon the tortoise shell.

“Ishantin! Help! I’ve hurt my foot!” quite loudly she did yell.

Now Tortoise grinned as to his home he crawled along the track.

He heard her call the name again, “Ishantin! Please come back!”


Just as you thought, at his next feast, the hippo did exclaim,

“You each are here to eat my food, but you don’t know my name.

Without my name you cannot eat, so you will have to go.

Only my seven wives can stay because my name they know.”

Brave and courageous, Tortoise said, “ I know the secret deep –

I know your name, so you must leave. Your promise you must keep.”

But Hippo laughed at him and said, “You’ll be the one to leave.”

 “Ishantin,” Tortoise shouted, “ You’re Ishantin, I  believe.”

Well what a feast the tortoise and his friends did have that day!

The hippos kept their promise, and they wandered far away.

Now hippos stay in water, where no rocks can hurt their feet

When everyone else is sleeping, they come inland to eat.

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- Total nr. of readings: 6,245 Copyright © The author [2020] All Rights Reserved. This story may not be reproduced without the express written permission of the author except for personal use.

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