The Glorious Tortoise

One day the Wyile, Scrumpy, was walking through the woods and saw something sparkle in the brush near an old log. Being curious, as all Wileys tend to be, Scrumpy had to investigate. As he got closer it looked like a jeweled rock among the leaves. As he reached out to pick up the rock it moved and said, “You can look, but please don’t touch”. With that Scrumpy jumped back in shock and said, “Who said that? Rocks can’t talk”.  “It was me”, came the answer, “and I am not a rock. I am the most beautiful tortoise in the world, and what you are admiring is my most magnificent shell”, said the tortoise as she poked her head out from under her finely polished shell and crawled slowly onto the trail so the sunlight could show off her beauty. As the sunlight bounced off each of her many shell sections it scattered rays of colored light through the air and into the trees, brush and rocks. 

As she twisted and turned in the sunlight the rays created a moving kaleidoscope of brilliant colors that danced through the forest. It was so beautiful that it took the breath away from Scrumpy. He had never seen anything so wonderful and so magical.  Soon his curiosity got the best of him again and he had to ask the tortoise what her name was and how she happened to have such a beautiful shell. She said her name was Glorious and that she had not always had such a fine shell.

When asked what had happened, Glorious was more than eager to tell her story.

“It took me many years of hard work to perfect each section of my shell to reflect just the right color of light. One shell section at a time I worked and worked rubbing them against rocks, logs, and anything else I could find to get each section just right then I polished them one-at-a-time with fine sand and finally with the young supple leaves of the apple tree to get them finely polished. Once they were polished I coated them each with the sap of different trees from maple sap, oak sap, and even pinesap. “The whole process took many long hard years, but now I feel special and important because I have made myself into something of beauty. It was hard work but worth every minute of it.” Glorious said with a proud little smile.

“That is a great story”, Scrumpy said, “but what made you start on such a long project to perfect your shell into such beauty”?

“Well”, said Glorious, “that is a different story and it began when I was a young girl.  I loved beautiful things but my shell was dark, drab and boring like most all tortoise shells. I so envied the peacock with their magnificent plumage and the eagle with their beautiful flight, or the rainbow trout that glistened as it gracefully sashayed through the mountain streams.


One spring day I studied the beautiful plumage of the peacock and saw that it just naturally grew on his back. So I decided that I would pick some beautiful spring flowers and plant them on my shell and they would grow there too just like the peacock and I would be beautiful too. I went into the forest and picked the most beautiful wildflowers I could find. I had some trilliums, some lady slippers, some fire pink, some daisies, and some bachelor buttons and made a beautiful bouquet on my back.



Then when it was all finished and I walked among the animals in the forest they thought it was a beautiful bouquet, but they also thought I was a bit silly and later as the flowers began to wilt, my dingy, drab shell was now dirty too. It was a very sad and humiliating day because I could not be as beautiful as the peacock.

But not to be deterred, I decided I could be as beautiful as the rainbow trout if I could just paint my shell like a rainbow. So I gathered up some green leaves, red roses, blue irises, and yellow daisies, mixed them with water and crushed them into vibrant colored paints.

Then I sat by the stream and watched the rainbow trout swim by and copied their glistening colors and painted them on my shell.  My shell was so beautiful that bears, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, and animals of all sorts came just to see my magnificent multi-colored shell.  I was so proud that I wanted to show how pretty it would be as I swam through the water like the trout.

But I am a tortoise, not a turtle, and as soon as I jumped into the water I sank to the bottom. I don’t have webbed feet like a turtle so I could not swim. The bear had to reach into the water and pull me to dry land.  And if that wasn’t bad enough my beautiful painted shell was washing away from the water. I was so embarrassed as I saw my friends walk back into the forest shaking their heads. But being a tortoise I am nothing if not determined. This time I thought I would try to be graceful and soar like the eagles. So I found some feathers, pasted them on to my shell like wings and climbed to the top of Foxfire Mountain. On the top of the mountain I found the perfect rock bluff from which to jump so my new wings would catch the wind and I would sail through the air like the graceful eagles. Then I would also be special and beautiful like the eagles. Just as I was about to jump the high rock bluff I heard a raspy old voice ask, “What are you doing”? But as I looked around I could see no one, just some green cedar trees and a single gnarly old apple tree. “Who’s there”, I said looking around. Then I saw a gnarly old face in the trunk of the gnarly old tree, and the face of the tree said, “I am the Tree of Wisdom and I don’t think what you are about to do is very wise.

What are you doing on the top of Foxfire Mountain with those silly wings pasted on your shell?” So I told the wise ole tree how I wanted to be beautiful and not dingy and boring. I told the apple tree how I had tried to grow flowers on my shell so I would be beautiful like peacock and that it did not work and I told the tree how I tried to shimmer beautiful colors like the rainbow trout but that did not work either. “So,” I said to the wise ole tree, “now, with my new feathers I am going to fly off of Foxfire Mountain and be graceful like the soaring eagle.

The wise ole apple tree smiled and said that I could not fly like eagles any more than I could have feathers like the peacock or swim like the trout and that if I tried to fly like an eagle I would fail again and probably get hurt from falling.  But just as I was about to start to cry from desperation, he smiled and told me that I was already beautiful and that under my drab, dingy and boring shell was something very very special. He said I should find the special beauty that was already in me, work hard to perfect the beauty, and I would shine and glisten like the rainbow trout, sparkle like the peacock, and even be as graceful as the eagle.  He told me that to be a thing of beauty is something all animals have and it is up to each one of us to look beneath the surface to find our own beauty and then work hard every day to make that beauty show through. So I did what the wise ole tree said and I found my own beauty and I worked hard to make my beauty show through and now I am a very special and beautiful tortoise”.

With that, Glorious began to walk out of the sunlight and back into the forest. As she left she said to Scrumpy, “Scrumpy, you have a beautiful singing voice and you should sing more.” Scrumpy looked very puzzled as he knew that Glorious had never heard him sing before. “What makes you say that,” Scrumpy said, “I hardly ever sing and never for you?”

“Well,” Glorious said, “Once you find the beauty in yourself it is much easier to see the beauty in others too.”

“You are truly glorious ” Scrumpy said as she left.

And she replied, “Thank you, but I haven’t always been Glorious and I have to work on it every day.”

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