What is friendship? Some say it is a bond shared between two beings - mutual trust that each must contribute to equally. But what happens if two friends stop being equals? What if one breaks the other’s trust, severing the bond between them? Such was the friendship of the tortoise and the eagle….
Their upbringing could not have been more different. The eagle chick lived high in a tree, in a nest with his mother and other chicks. The eagle chick witnessed his family’s slaughter at the claws of other birds. Flung from the nest, the eagle chick learned the brutal reality of hatred.
The tortoise came into the world peacefully, hatching alongside several others. He grew up in a nurturing family environment, playing with his siblings and their mother. A childhood that taught him the values of love and family. However, the tortoise’s life was not all fun and games. As he grew older, the odd pattern on his shell set him apart - a large “X”. ‘Stay away from him. X marks the spot! He’s nothing but a big target!’ one of the other tortoises called out, while some others pointed and laughed at the tortoise. He was different and soon his company was not welcomed among the other tortoises, and while they played, he found himself spending much of his time alone.
Unsurprisingly, the eagle’s early years were anything but idyllic. With no one to turn to, he taught himself to fly. And soon after spreading his wings, the eagle was quickly to learn the skill of the hunt. It was survival of the fittest, as life had taught him. Caring not for size or stature, the eagle was fearless in choosing his prey - from a mouse to an antelope.
When warm meat was scarce, the eagle often flew to the grasslands where there was prey of a different sort - tortoises. On this day, the playing tortoises look up, and seeing the eagle swoop down towards them, retreated into their shells. The eagle dropped down amongst the tortoises, he had to work a little harder for his meal - the tortoises never ran or put up much of a fight. But on this day, ‘Stop!’ the x-marked tortoise cries out, and the eagle goes wide-eyed, surprised. He turns around to see the tortoise walking towards him. ‘Please leave them be. There are easier ways for you to find your next meal’ the tortoise exclaims. The eagle announces that he prefers cold blood on such a hot day. ‘Then take me instead. I offer myself in exchange for their lives’ the tortoise announces. The eagle laughs, and asks the tortoise what kind of fool he is, sacrificing himself? ‘They were… they are my friends’ the tortoise responds. ‘As you wish’ the eagle declares, picking the x-marked tortoise up with his claws, carrying him through the air.
The eagle tells the tortoise that those cowards would not have saved his life had their positions been reversed. ‘Possibly. But I cannot forget the friendship we once shared…even if they have’ the tortoise replies, before remarking that the eagle has quite the view from up here. ‘You’re not scared?’ the eagle asks, before setting down on a large rock, high above the ground. ‘I might as well enjoy the scenery as it’s bound to be the last thing I see’ the tortoise points out. The eagle tells the tortoise that his outlook on life is an interesting one. ‘I have a feeling that you’re not going to kill me, eagle’ the tortoise responds. ‘Really? And how can you be so sure of that?’ the eagle asks. The tortoise tells the eagle that he has a sense about these things. ‘You’ve led a solitary and painful life, yet you still hold onto a spark of hope that you won’t be alone forever. That’s why you’ll spare my life’.
Furiously, the eagle shouts ‘How dare you? You know nothing of my life!’ but the tortoise tells the eagle that his eyes show everything he needs to know, as he sees the fire in the eagle’s eyes. The eagle turns from the tortoise and walks over to the edge of the rock, ‘The demons I carry are mine alone’ the eagle states. The tortoise offers to help the eagle keep them at bay. ‘After all I’ve done?’ the eagle asks. ‘You’re not the only one in need of a friend’ the tortoise points out.
As the days grew to months, so did the two grow to become friends. Other birds would look on, perplexed as they would see an eagle carrying a tortoise. And as the two friends played in the water, another tortoise would watch them, confused. The tortoise was able to see the hope inside the eagle and provide him with the comfort and companionship he had long desired. The eagle accepted the tortoise for who he was and looked past their differences, simply enjoying the fact that he finally had a friend - even sharing leaves with the tortoise, although he doesn’t look very happy eating them. Perched together in a tree watching the sunset, they found peace together.
Demons were laid to rest and a trust was formed between them. As they relaxed one day on their rock under the sun, they learn that trust is easily shattered as several eagles flew over them. ‘What -?’ the tortoise exclaims. ‘No!’ the eagle shouts. Trust is often shattered by tragedy. The eagle attacks the others to defend his friend, and feathers fly in a flurry - until all of the other eagles lie motionless in a pile under the eagle. The tortoise looks over at his friend, bewildered. Their eyes are locked on each other, until the eagle turns away. ‘Don’t… don’t worry. It will be all right’ thetortoise calls out. But the eagle exclaims that it won’t. ‘Do you see what I mean about demons? Mine will always haunt me! They’ll never be laid to rest!’ he declares, covering his face with his wings. ‘Don’t think that way. Together we can -’ the tortoise begins, but the eagle tells him that it is not safe and that he is a danger to him, to all those around him. ‘Stay away!’ he shouts, and taking flight, the eagle bids farewell to the tortoise, assuring him that he has enjoyed the time they have spent together. ‘But I must spend the rest of my days… alone’ he announces. ‘No! Wait!’ the tortoise cries out, yet his call goes unanswered.
Despite the eagle’s actions and warnings, the tortoise refused to give up on his friend. He crawls down off the rock in search of the eagle, and with the help of a few newfound friends - insect, crocodile and frog, the tortoise was able to locate the eagle’s lair - a fact that did not escape the notice of the sharp-eyed eagle. The eagle drops down out of the nest and as he hovers in the air tells the tortoise that he wishes he could say it was good to see him again, but instead, he is disappointed that the tortoise did not respect his wishes. ‘Tortoises are just as hard of head as we are of shell’ the tortoise responds.
The eagle tells the tortoise that the years have not been kind, and there is no telling what he would do when hungry. ‘I don’t want to hurt you’ the eagle warns. ‘I don’t think you will’ the tortoise replies. ‘I’m not the same eagle you once knew. Leave me be’ the eagle responds. ‘I didn’t come all this way to turn back so quickly. I’m staying right here’ the tortoise announces as he starts to climb the tree. ‘Then you place your life in peril’ the eagle calls back.
The tortoise remains true to his word and stays at the base of the tree, hoping to eventually speak with the eagle. But as the days pass with no luck, the tortoise decides he has to take matters into his own “hands”. When he spied the eagle leaving his next, he makes arrangements to pay a visit, and with the help of the bat, who drops the tortoise into the eagle’s nest, hopes he can talk some sense into his long-lost friend.
But, inside the nest, the tortoise is shocked to see it littered with bones - and tortoise shells. ‘NO!’ the tortoise shouts. ‘Killing has become all I know. Now do you see the monster I am?’ the eagle asks as he sets back down into the nest. ‘I warned you for your own good! But it’s clear now you’ll never listen!’ the eagle exclaims as he stretches his claws out to grab tortoise, picking tortoise up, he flies through the air. ‘Please, don’t do this! Don’t let your demons consume you once and for all!’ the tortoise pleads. Eagle tells him that it was only a matter of time, that there is nothing he could have done. ‘But thank you for trying. Goodbye…forever this time’ and with that, the eagle drops the tortoise from a great height. ‘NOOOOO!’ the tortoise screams as he plummets to certain doom.
The tortoise retreats into his shell, which cracks upon impact. ‘Arrrggh! My legs…’ the tortoise screams, unable to move, and his shell cracked in the form of a “X”. The eagle hovers in the air and watches: ‘You survived? Unbelievable…’. ‘I live… and I have you to thank for that’ the tortoise announces. ‘What?’ the eagle asks as he drops to the ground. ‘You could have dropped me from a greater height, somewhere other than over this soft, grassy plain. You chose not to. Your actions…your nature…allowed me to live’ the tortoise points out. ‘After all I’ve done? How can you say such things? Won’t you just accept the truth?’ the eagle replies. The tortoise tells the eagle that there is still good in his heart, and that he will make him see that. ‘You’ve only served to strengthen my belief in you’. The eagle turns away from the tortoise and tells him that he is a fool and that he will never see the error of his ways. ‘I’ll go where you’ll never find me, to places you can’t possibly now travel’. The tortoise tells the eagle to do what he wishes, but that he will never give up on him. The eagle takes flight, leaving tortoise on the ground. The trust they once shared was eroded. Their bond was all but broken. But the friendship of the tortoise and the eagle would never end… as long as there was hope.