Can Anyone Help with a Poem with the Line, "As every boy and girl should know, tortoises are very slow"?

Margaret wrote to us recently asking for help with a poem.  Here’s her email:


I have been browsing through websites hoping to find someone who can help me with this poem that my brother and l have been trying for years to remember (we are both in our 70’s) and wondered if you have heard of it.  Unfortunately we can only remember the first 4 lines and a few bits.
It Starts…
As every boy and girl should know
Tortoises are very slow
Never would you see one running
One l knew was very cunning.
It then goes on about "bakers vans, all came under Chris’s plans".
We think it may have been called Cunning Chris but we are not overly sure.
Hopefully you may have heard it.
Many thanks,
If anyone knows this poem and can help out in any way, even with a couple of lines, please let us know in the comments below.


Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 at 2:38 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, England, English, Languages, Poems, Poems about Animals, Poetry, Questions, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

7 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with a Poem with the Line, "As every boy and girl should know, tortoises are very slow"?”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Margaret received this letter about the tortoise poem:

    “In reply to Margaret and her brother’s question to you of February 8th, the introduction to the poem about the cunning tortoise sounds very familiar to me and it’s possibly the story of Christopher. I recall it in a small, thin, glossy paperback booklet beautifully illustrated in bright full-colour showing Christopher and other characters who all walked upright, like the humans in the story, on their two back legs. I can only recall snippets of the poem, which I’Il try to incorporate here as well as I can remember them after so very long. The booklet was likely from the 1940s. I was a very small boy seeing it in the ’50s – and the book was already old when given to my older sister. Christopher was an idle tortoise and it relates his cunning idea of keeping one back leg tucked up inside his shell and hobbling with a little stick in order to gain sympathy and free lifts from anyone with wheeled transport. ‘Porters’ barrows, tradesmen’s vans, all come under Chris’s plans…’ went the poem. ‘So that everybody thought, Christopher was one leg short…’ All goes well and ‘Chris becomes a gadabout’; the illustrations showing him sitting in cars, lorries, wheelbarrows and all manner of transport, enjoying free lifts. But like most con artists, Christopher finally gets found out when, one evening, he meets a fair tortoise maiden and forgets to keep his leg tucked up inside his shell! The penultimate full-colour page shows them joyously dancing together, she wearing a fetching pot hat with a daisy hanging from the band …‘where Chris was seen, dancing on the village green’. The game was up for the tortoise spoofer and the final small illustration depicts a forlorn-looking Christopher, seen back on his own two back feet, trudging along, while all the passing vehicle drivers, angry at being duped, ignore the little fraud. I hope this is the poem Margaret remembers but even if not, it’s a great little book for a collector to find. About a year back, I searched the Internet trying to find out the author but with no luck. John”

  2. Lisa Says:

    I found mention of tales from Africa of a cunning tortoise… but so far nothing with that specific poem.

  3. Angelina Says:

    My mother has this full text if you are still interested – I see your post is from 2016.

    The poem is from a little 1 penny book bought in Woolworths around 1948. We don’t have the book sadly but happy to share the words.

  4. Lisa Says:

    That would be great Angelina! Thanks!

  5. David Lloyd Says:

    Hi Angelina. My father read this book to me and my younger brother hundred of times in the late 80s. I particularly liked the picture with Christopher with one leg tucked into his shell and also of Mother Goose pushing him home in Willie’s pram.

    I would be very grateful if you could let me have a copy of the words – I have been searching on and off for at least 20 years

    Best wishes


  6. Angelina Says:

    Hello everyone. I loved hearing my mother read this poem. Here are the full words. Hope they bring back good memories for you too.

    The Tale Of A Tortoise.
    Every little child must know
    Tortoises are very slow
    Never did you see one running,
    One I knew was very cunning
    When a passerby came near
    He would act so very queer
    Christopher, I’m sad to tell
    Kept one foot inside his shell
    Therefore everybody thought
    That Christopher was one leg short
    Mother Goose was caught that way
    In the village one wet day
    Falling for his artful sham,
    She pushed him home in Willie’s pram
    Everybody with a car
    Thinking he could not walk far
    Offered Christopher a ride,
    Cunning Chris was soon inside.
    Farm carts, barrows, tradesman’s vans
    All came under Chris’s plans
    Thus you see without a doubt
    Chris became a gad-a-bout.
    One day in the village street
    A charming maiden did he meet,
    Rashly hoping to impress
    He boasted of his cleverness
    Later Christopher was seen
    Dancing on the village green
    Soon the story got about
    Christopher was then found out
    Thus through being indiscreet
    Christopher must use his feet.

  7. allan Says:

    like you guys I too have been searching for the cunning chris tortoise storey – red over and over to me by my mother around 1946. It is great to have the full text. Has anyone any of the pictures?

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