General - A reptile with a hard carapace which moves very slowly. This beast is used to symbolise slowness of movement in many stories. (1) The African Bulu tribe regard the tortoise as a quick-thinking trickster-deity rather than a plodder in the European tradition. In one tale, he responded to a demand to bring water in a basket by asking for a strap on which to carry it - the strap to be made of smoke. (2) The Chinese regard the tortoise as the animal on which the world is supported. It is said that this animal can live for 3,000 years without food or air. There are said to be ten types including a celestial tortoise which is described as having the head of a snake on a dragon's neck and its skeleton on the outside of the flesh. Its four feet represent the four corners of the world. It is regarded as the ruler of the north and the winter season and is known as Black Tortoise, Kuei Shen or Sombre Warrior. It is sometimes envisaged as the Great Triad, its body representing the earth with the upper and lower shells as the sky and oceans respectively. (3) In Greek myths the tortoise is the symbol of Aphrodite, Hermes and Pan. (4) In Hindu lore, the tortoise is said to be the form in which Vishnu appeared in his second incarnation, as Kurma. The tortoise Chukwa supports on its back the elephant Maha-pudwa which in turn supports the earth. (5) In Japan this animal is said to support the Cosmic Mountain, home of the sennin. (6) In North America, some tribes believe that the world is supported by a turtle (or by four such animals) while others say that the world itself is a huge tortoise floating in the prim-ordial, waters. The Delaware tribe say that the tree of life grows on the back of a tortoise. (7) Some Siberian tribes say that Mandishire the supporter of the earth, is a huge tortoise which carries the world on its back. Sometimes known as tortoise.

Nearby Myths