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African Folklore

Listen, do you hear the evening wind howl and the lazy crickets call? It’s almost that special time – it’s storytime!

Folklores are tales, legends, superstitions of a particular ethnic population. In Igbo culture and other African societies, storytelling is unique, such that it is a passage to transmit the tradition of a place from one generation to another. These tales convey history, ancient messages, and old knowledge. They teach morals and virtues to younger people. I’m privileged to remember some stories Grandma told me. 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 of packing, forgot all my shorts save from the one I went on. As my Grandma had no boy and couldn’t provide shorts, I was made to wear skirts. It amuses me to this day when I remember this. I played around the hamlet with other kids in a red skirt! I was small then, but coming from a town, I preferred wearing a skirt to playing naked. My family still tease me when we remember the story. They call me Mr. Piper, after the kilt-wearing Scottish wrestler, and we laugh over it.

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Most times, tales are told in the evening, after dinner. In extended and nuclear families, tales are typically told near a charcoal fire outside, preferably under the shed of a tree, on a moonlight night. If the story was to be heard by all, then it will be somewhere more open, like the village square. The storyteller most times is an older adult. The little ones will sit still, listen and watch him. I guess this was the origin of my interest in storytelling and African folklore.

Learn more about Igbo culture here.

The Tortoise is the primary actor or villain in Igbo tales. He is portrayed as an intelligent 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. Each bears a unique name. Mind you, the names one ethnic group give their characters may differ from another. I hope you enjoy these nostalgic tales. Welcome again.

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