What is the story of the tortoise their father told Sade and Femi?

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The story that Papa tells Sade and Femi through a letter is a story of sacrifice. A tortoise who has been cornered by a leopard asks a dying wish to be given five more minutes of life. In the time, he struggles desperately by scratching the ground, and says that his reasoning is for animals to know that there is virtue in communicating a more inspiring story to people in the future when faced with the certainty of violent death.

This is a parallel to Papa's very situation. Having been imprisoned for trying to enter England with a fake passport, and being under suspicion for his wife's murder, it seems that the corrupt government that that he fought against for so long is winning out. Like the brave tortoise in the story, Papa wants to leave an inspiring tale for those who come after and have to struggle against impossible odds.

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Sade and Femi's father writes them a letter with the story of Tortoise—a story that he and the children's mother used to tell Sade and Femi when they were very little. The story involves a hungry leopard who was hunting for something to eat. At nightfall, Leopard found a tortoise and pinned him down with his paw. Though Tortoise knew the end was near for him, he begged Leopard for five more minutes before he was killed, and Leopard granted him this wish. During this short time, Tortoise scratched furiously at the ground, using up every second of what little time remained to him. When Leopard asked Tortoise whey he had done that, Tortoise responded that when other creatures passed by that spot, he wanted them to see how one small creature had mounted a desperate struggle for his own life. In other words, like Papa, the Tortoise wanted to remembered not for his end but for the way he had struggled for freedom.

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