Tell-It Tuesday: How Mushrooms Came to Be

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Tell-It Tuesday

How Mushrooms Came to Be

A retelling of a West African tale

In a small town lived two brothers. They were constantly in trouble and spent all their money on bad habits.

“We owe so many people money,” said the one brother. “And they won’t stop bothering us until we pay them. But we don’t have the money. What are we going to do?”

The brothers came up with a plan. They hid along the side of the road and when people would go by, they robbed them of their money and possessions.


This went on for quite some time. But one day, one of the brothers changed his mind about what they were doing.

“I’m starting to get bothered by what we are doing,” he said. “I don’t like robbing people to pay for our bad deeds. We need to do something different.”

The two brothers came up with another plan. They went back to their home town and bought a huge farm. They worked hard and the farm became a very successful corn farm.


“Now we can pay off our debts in an honorable way,” they said as they looked over their magnificent field of corn.

That night, however, a giant bird flew over the corn field. She was very hungry from her long flight, and the corn looked wonderful. So, she stopped and ate and ate and ate.


The next morning the two brothers were shocked when they saw their beautiful, valuable field of corn. It was trampled and eaten.

“Who did this to our corn? All our hard work-ruined!” said the one brother.

“We’ll trap the culprit,” said the other brother, and they built a trap in the middle of the field.

The next morning, the two brothers found the giant bird in the trap.

“You have eaten and destroyed all our corn that we were going to use to pay our debts,” they told the bird. “Now you must pay our debts!”

“How can I pay this debt?” thought the poor bird. “The only thing I can do is lay eggs.”


So, the bird built a nest under a cotton tree. She laid many eggs, as many as she could sit on, in order to hatch them out and sell the birds to pay the debt.


But that night, the wind howled and the rain fell in giant sheets. A massive hurricane tore across the land. The tree above the nest could not withstand the wind, and a giant branch fell down onto the nest, crushing all the eggs.

“You’ve broken all my eggs that I was going to use to pay off the debt. Because of that, you must now pay the debt,” said the distraught bird to the tree.

The tree panicked. How can I pay off this debt? he thought. The only thing I can do is make silk cotton to sell. So, the tree began to make as much cotton as it could.


An elephant walking by saw all the cotton on the tree. Being a hungry elephant, he ate all of it.


“You’ve eaten all my cotton that I was going to use to pay off the debt. Now you must pay it,” said the tree.

The dismayed elephant lumbered away, wondering how he could possibly pay off this debt. He could think of nothing that he could do to make money. He stood quietly, thinking.

In the bushes nearby a hunter sat, waiting. When the elephant been still for a few minutes, the hunter shot him.

“Now you must pay the debt I owe,” whispered the elephant as he lay wounded and dying.

The hunter knew he was so poor he could never pay the debt. He walked and walked, trying to come up with a way to make money. It grew dark outside, and the hunter, so deep in thought that he paid no attention to where he was walking, tripped over a tree stump.


“My leg is broken because of you,” he said to the stump. “Now I can’t work and you must pay the debt.”

“How does a tree stump pay off a debt?” said the tree stump.

An army of hungry ants swarmed over the tree stump, eating it up.


“Now you will owe the debt,” said the tree stump as the ants devoured it.

The ants were very smart. They held a meeting.

“We can weave linen and sell it,” said the leader. “Each of us will give as much as we can to get started.”

Several of the ants went to town and bought the linen thread they needed. The ants all began to weave. They are still weaving today.

When you walk in the woods, you will see their linen spread out in the sunshine to keep it dry and clean. People call this linen “mushrooms”.


I hope you enjoyed today’s tale. Make up your own story about how mushrooms came into being. Have fun and be creative!


Nature Mamaw

First illustration is my original. All others are courtesy of


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