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1001 Stories Collection

Awongalema Tree

Added on 25th June 2020

Oral tradition African Folktale

A folktale from Africa about how taking your time can be the key to success.


A long time ago it didn’t rain for a year, and all the animals were very hungry. One day, four animal friends – Monkey, Buffalo, Lion and Tortoise – remembered there was a magic tree that produced delicious fruit if its name was said underneath it. Each animal took turns to ask the mountain spirit to remind them of the tree’s name, but in the end only slow, reliable Tortoise could find a way to remember.

Why we chose it

The Awongalema Tree was one of the stories included in The Story Museum original audio stories collection. It’s a great story for children to adapt to create their own story.

Where it came from

The Awongalema Tree (sometimes called The Tree of Life) is thought to have originated in Zanzibar. It was passed from one generation to the next long before it was translated and written down in English.

Where it went next

In 2012, the tale was adapted by author Lari Don in The Tortoise’s Gift: A Story from Zambia (Barefoot Books). The storyteller and children’s author Adam Guillain learnt the story while living in Zanzibar and told it to Chris Smith, who included it in his collection 147 Traditional Tales for Primary School Children to Retell (Hawthorn Press, 2014). The tale has been adapted into a short play and performed up and down the country.

Associated stories

Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare also uses a tortoise to teach the moral that it is better to be slow and steady than fast and careless.

Added on 25th June 2020

Oral tradition African Folktale