Two Eastern Fables

by Dr. José Rizal

(London, 1889)

English version

There are two fables, the one in Japan and the other in the Philippine Islands, which have many traits in common, and the intercomparison of which may perhaps be of some interest to Ethnologists.

The Philippine children, in their earliest years, learn the Tale of the Tortoise and the Monkey; or, as it is called in Tagal Language, Ang buhay ni pagong at ni matsing.  There is scarsely in Tagal literature another tale more popular and better known than this, although there are many prettier and more interesting.

To it are traceable many sayings, phrases, maxims, and comparisons, which have received currency in reference to various conditions of common daily life.  This tale runs as follows:

The tortoise and the monkey found once a banana tree floating amidst the waves of a river.  It was a very fine tree, with large green leaves, and with roots, just as if it had been pulled off by a storm.  They took it ashore.  Let us divide it, said the tortoise, and plant each its portion.  They cut it in the middle, and the monkey, as the stronger, took for himself the upper part of the tree, thinking that it would grow quicker, for it had leaves.  The tortoise, as the weaker, had the lower part, that looked ugly, although it had roots.

After some days they met.

Hello, Mr. Monkey, said the tortoise, how are you getting on with your banana tree?

Alas, answered the monkeyit has been dead a long time! And yours Miss Tortoise?

Very nice, indeed; with leaves and fruits.  Only I cannot climb up, to gather them.

Never mind, said the malicious monkeyI will climb and pick them for you.

Do, Mr. Monkey, replied the tortoise gratefully.


Learn this Filipino word:

nasirang amá