Entry Of The Storyteller
Storyteller: Ah, it’s a monstrously cold evening. Hurry, take a seat closer to the fireside, warm your hands and wait for the night’s tale. I may tell stories of love, adventure, life’s lessons, and that of the animal world. Remember, these stories serve to teach the ways of life. It has been the schools we never had in times past. Some of the stories have been told and retold in different climes and by numerous tongues. They have survived wars and hard times. We are lucky to have them, hence the wisdom to walk this path called life.
Tonight we will discuss Africa’s chief folktale player – the Tortoise and ponder on why he is such a celebrated con artist! I greet you all.
Famous Con Artist
Storyteller: I know you are curious about the image above. I’m going to tell you what I know about it. That is the Tortoise, also known as mbe or mbo, in Igbo land. He is seen standing with a phantom, and this particular scene is when the Tortoise is trying to prank the ghosts. I’ll tell this tale later. The other thing I know about the Tortoise is that he has a wife named ‘Alibo‘. He also has kids, but I can’t remember their names for now. The names won’t matter much, anyway. The Tortoise, as you might have noticed in my tales, assumes most of the villains’ roles, and sometimes he acts as the protagonist, but that is unusual.
It would help if you noted that this had been this way since the times of our fathers and their father’s father. I know everyone is curious to know why; I’m yet to understand why our culture decided to pick a slow and lazy-looking animal, to take on these significant and obnoxious roles. Indeed, this goes beyond physical appearance as animals like the hare or rabbit can be chosen for fast roles, the specked hyena or honey badger for wise functions, and elephants or lions as strong guys. The Tortoise, through our myths and his wits, had taken some of the positions mentioned above! Now, looks can be deceptive, undoubtedly.
So my dear audience, when I say ‘ifochakpi.’ you may reply, ‘waa!’ Which is pronounced as war! This utterance gets the audience ready for tales and keeps the sleepyheads from their sleep while fastening everyone’s attention to the storyteller. It is Igbo tradition and thus part of the general African storytelling civilization. If you are prepared, then let me hear you respond: Ifochakpi!!
…dialogue to be continued