Folklore are tales, legends, superstitions of a particular ethnic population. In Igbo culture and other African societies, story telling is unique, such that it is a passage to transmit the tradition of a place from one generation to another. These tales convey the history, ancient messages and old knowledge. They teach morals and virtues to younger people. I’m privileged to remember some tales I was told by Grandma. I was very close to the older folk in the community and it seemed I learned a lot fast. I loved and still adore rural life. During school holidays, I travel with my aunt to stay with my Grandma (God rest their souls). I learned rodent hunting, swimming, wrestling and other kinds of play from boys of my age. Countryside life was one of simplicity and I enjoyed every moment.
On one occasion, I recall traveling with my aunt and in the hurry forgot all my shorts save from the one I went on. As my Grandma had no boy and so couldn’t provide shorts I was made to wear skirts. It amuses me till this day when I remember this. I played with other kids in a red skirt! I was very little then, but coming from town I knew playing naked wasn’t my thing. So I went with skirts. My family still tease me. They call me Mr Piper, after the kilt-wearing Scottish wrestler and we laugh over it.
Most times, tales are told in the evening, after dinner. In extended and nuclear families, tales are normally told near a charcoal fire outside, preferably under the shed of a tree, on a moon light night. If the tale was to be heard by all, then it will be somewhere more open, like the village square. The story teller most times will be an elderly person. The little ones will sit still, listen and watch them. I guess this was the origin of my interest in story telling.
The Tortoise is the primary actor or villain in Igbo tales. He is portrayed as a shrewd person who cunningly gets what he wants and sometimes fails. According to my Grandma and my aunt, Alibo is the name of the Tortoise wife. I can’t remember the son’s name but this will not matter. There are other notable characters in African folklore. There is the dog, snake, boar, elephant, lion, crocodile, cricket, leopard and the rest. Mind you, the names one ethnic group give their characters may differ from another. I hope you enjoy my tales.
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