In a thick forest full of wildlife and fruit bearing plants, there was a turtle. This turtle was not like the other slow turtles. His name is Alfred and he was born without a shell. As Alfred grew up he thought it was great fun not being slow and hindered by a shell like the others were.
“I can run and dance and just have fun!” Alfred would say. “Why would I want to be slowed down by a shell? It doesn’t do anything except get in the way.”
Alfred was naturally the fastest turtle around. Running upright on his hind legs, he could outrun nearly all the speediest animals in the woods.
One day, a newcomer was rumored to have arrived in the forest. Inhabitants of the woods began noticing berries disappearing from the bushes but couldn’t figure out who was taking them all.
After another large bush of blackberries was picked clean overnight, Alfred stood up announcing, “I will get to the bottom of this.” And with that he sped off on two legs into the woods.
His first stop was to ask the Croaking Toads, but they knew nothing nor did they care about berries. He then visited the Fluttering Butterflies, but they were only concerned with the flowers and blossoms in the woods. He then spotted someone he thought looked clever and might know.
“Excuse me. Do you know the stranger everyone is talking about? We think he is taking all the berries and leaving nothing for anyone else.”
The fox turned his sly head and said coolly, “Why, yes. As a matter of fact I do. Let me take you to him, I know just where he is staying and keeping all those berries.” And with that the fox led Alfred deep into the woods.
“How much farther is it?” Alfred asked. “It feels like we have been walking forever.”
With a cocky grin, the fox replied, “It is just around the bend.” He held his head high as he let a small chuckle escape his lips.
“I haven’t been this deep into the woods before. Everyone says that food gets harder to find the deeper into the forest you go.”
A triumphant laugh came from the fox. “I find food very easily!” With that he lunged for Alfred. Alfred managed to dive out of the way and got to his feet and raced away. “Let’s see how fast you really are turtle.” Alfred had always enjoyed playful races. However, he had never raced for his life until now. The forest flew around Alfred with the fox gaining on him until he nipped at his heels.
What am I going to do? Alfred thought as he tried everything to shake the fox off his tail.
“Someone please help me!” Alfred yelled. At that moment, the fox dug in his heels, sliding to a stop. What is he doing? Alfred thought to himself before receiving his answer. He had unknowingly run towards the river that flowed through the woods. Unable to stop his momentum, he tumbled over the side of the embankment into the water. In the process of falling, he bumped his head, causing his vision to go black.
“Wake up. Wake up little friend.” A bell-like voice called Alfred from his deep sleep. “Don’t waste any more time, wake up.” Images of the fox’s toothy face flashed before his eyes as the young turtle sat upright.
“Where am I? What happened to the one chasing me?” He asked.
“Do not worry. You are safe here.” The voice rang with clarity and reassurance. On a smooth stone next to Alfred was a small ball of white light.
“Who are you?” Alfred asked.
“I am a forest fairy. I heard your call for help. What can I do for you?”
“Could you give me a way to defend myself from others that want to hurt me? The other turtles can retreat into their shells, but, I don’t have a shell.” Alfred pulled on his wrinkled skin, feeling the tenderness.
“Why do you not have a shell?” The fairy asked.
“I was born without one. I used to think that made me special. Now, I think it just makes me vulnerable to others.”
“If I gave you a shell, that would make you the same as all the other turtles. Why would you want to change who you are? You wouldn’t be special anymore.”
Alfred thought about it for a long time before saying, “I don’t think it would make me like anyone else because my shell would be unique. No one else would have a shell exactly like mine. In all the forest, there isn’t another turtle just like me. So I guess I would still be special.”
“Yes, you are special. You have spoken from your heart and I see you for who you really are. Close your eyes and rest now.” And with that, Alfred fell fast asleep.
The next morning Alfred woke up and stretched out his legs. He rarely slept on his stomach. As he looked around, he noticed nothing out the ordinary. It was when he tried to stand up that it occurred to him that he had been blessed with a shell. Happy tears streamed down his cheeks as he looked around for the fairy that gave him this gift. He was alone in his favorite meadow, surrounded by his favorite strawberries.
“Thank you.” Were the only words Alfred could speak.