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Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture lullaby Pastoral

Folklore: The Hippo and His Seven Wives

I heard the Wind tell this story

Storyteller: Ifochakpii!

Audience: Waa!!!

Gather my friends. It’s time to tell a story. It’s time also to hear a tale. Gather by the fireside, warm yourselves. Bring the little ones to the centre. Keep them warmer, for night and her cold hands is nigh. Sit under the branches of the mango tree. From there everyone can see streaks of moon light on the grassland. As you watch the fire lick those dry wood pay attention to this short tale of mine. I’ve heard the wind and sky tell it in different tongues, styles and climes. Listen, because there may be a lesson or two. If not, it might just be another lullaby waiting to help a good night sleep! A good day ends with a good story. Will you like to tell me the lessons you picked? Ifochakpii!! Waaaa!!!

The Hippo and his seven wives

Long time ago when things were not as it was today, there lived a proud Hippo chief. He had seven wives as was the tradition for wealthy animals then. He had a secret name known only to his wives. They knew to keep it unknown to anyone.

One day the Hippo hosted a party and when he made his speech, he put out a challenge to his village people. “I’m afraid my people, if you can’t reveal my name you have to go home hungry. The dishes here will only be available to all when you reveal my name!” The whole congregation was left aghast. All those mouth watering dishes will be left unattended to. Ah! Well some tried to guess his name but got it all wrong.

The animals dispersed hungry. And they say a hungry person is an angry person. Many weeks passed and he hosted another feast. No one was able to reveal his name. Many animals guessed and was wrong. Then the Tortoise rose to speak. “Sir,” he started. “Since you have shamed us severally, can I ask what we stand to gain apart from the feast you have here?” The chief replied him, “Well, I’ll give you my land and retire to live in the river!” It was a tough challenge. He really believed that no one could get his name right. The crowd dispersed hungry again.

Now the Hippo and his wives had a favourite bathing stream, just by the foot of the great baobab. It was a luxurious and private bathing spot acquired by the Hippo for his household.

One day the hippos went down to the stream for a dip. The Tortoise well aware of their movement dug and hid on the soft sand with his hard shell stuck out but disguised as stone. He waited and waited. At last the hippos started back to the village. The chief led the way and was followed by the eldest wife. They went in a single file thereby leaving the youngest wife behind.

When the last wife came to the soft sands the Tortoise raised his shell a little, so that she struck her foot on the hard shell and yelled: “Nnayi ukwu dim oma my husband, come and help me. I struck my foot on a stone!” When the hippos finally left the scene, Tortoise ran back with joy.

A few weeks later the hippos hosted another feast. They had fun mocking other animals. When it was time for name revealing the Hippo marched majestically to the podium to allow animals guess his name. All the animals tried but none could get it. The Tortoise was the last to try.

“Your name is Nnayi ukwu dim oma!”

There was complete silence. Which was broken by a round of applause and sudden feasting when the Hippo’s face dropped. Without words the hippos marched to the river with their belongings. To this day my friends they lived in water. Never to return to land again!

Retold by Oke Iroegbu

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Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture

Tradition: Storytelling

The African Storytelling Tradition

When I, the storyteller say: Ifochakpii! You the audience will reply: Waa!! (Pronounced as ‘War!’) This is Igbo people’s storytelling tradition. There are different ways of introducing a story to the audience. To the Igbo people it starts with a chant-like ranting that tries to capture the attention of all present. So the storyteller greets his audience in that manner as they reply him in excitement. The storytelling mood is a lively one and such introit may play a role in keeping the mood so.

Storytelling is a unique culture in Africa. Storytellers are revered across the land. We may compare them to the present day actors because they actually act. I can compare storytelling to the modern day stage drama. Storytelling is respected because it passes ancient knowledge and wisdom from one generation to another. It’s a time when everybody, young and old gather to listen and learn about the tradition of a place and life’s virtues through stories told by their ancestors. Though much of these stories have been lost or modified with time, the morals, which is the crux remain intact. Sometimes they act as bedtime stories meant to aid or lull people to sleep. All over the world storytelling precedes reading.

Tortoise: Main Villain & Hero
Growing up in West Africa I came to learn that Tortoise is the dominant character in most stories. He is called Mbo or Mbe in Igbo. Some clans gave him, his wife and children other names. His wife is called Alibo in Ovim. I can’t remember his son’s name but it may not matter for now. The Tortoise play funny and shrewd roles. He is generally perceived as a cheat who goes about causing mischief for others. Sometimes he gets to win, other times he is a loser and a lesson for the little ones. The Tortoise has been featured in many stories, few I can remember myself. He has duped the Boar in one story, deceived the host of birds that lent him a feather each, cursed the spider that saved him from the ghost town and dealt with spirits. In fact he is a star in the African folklore scenario.

Yet why he was chosen for these wonderful roles is what I have not been able to understand. We have bigger, faster, smarter and funnier animals but the Tortoise was picked to play lead roles in most of West Africa’s traditional folklore. Naturally the Tortoise is a slow, lazy and seemingly dumb animal but in tales he is a kingmaker, a genius or the wise one. Looks are truly deceptive in African folklore.

Why should we preserve stories?

Apart from the Tortoise that fell from the birds’ firmament party, no one in reality and fiction had the privilege of falling from the skies. What I mean is that nothing just happens. Every story serves a purpose, be it fact or fiction. And no society is complete without a history, a story. So stories are careful documentations, written or oral. We have histories and traditions to discuss today because people had kept accounts and details of them. I’ll write more on this topic in a separate blog post.

For now, can you tell me which African story is your favourite?

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral Series

Diaries of a Village Boy: The Leopard Spirit 8

That morning before the early hunters left their homes for the forest, Papa was already on his way to Ndi-Ikele to welcome the priest, newly arrived from Trinidad and Tobago. It was breezy and cloudy that morning, it seemed it would rain any moment. Trees, especially the palm took to joyful procession when I stepped out to look around. Heavy breeze shook the forest and the skies grew darker. Birds took flight, stray dogs barked. People took in laundry previously spread to dry. The wind blew dust and tree leaves about and I had to retreat back to my room. It was dark inside but I could hear Nene playing with her dog near the kitchen fire while Mama prepared breakfast. Mama knew well enough to get food ready before Papa’s return and while Papa may not bother about himself, he will definitely want to know if his first son has been fed. Men’s queer world, I shrugged.

I took a pen from my school box and started writing on an old wooden seat in my room:

I’m but a soul in a cold tumbler
I catch the wind with my palms, but my life is lived by another

I only wake to live another’s dream…

I was still scribbling and thinking of this strange rhyme when Nene walked into my room without knocking. She quickly scanned my room with her eyes and then delivered her message. I was wanted by Mama. Nene was the inspector in the house and always had something to report to our parents. She was talkative only when she wants something and had a bossy way of getting things done. She was the miniature version of my father.

“My son, your food is ready.” Mama recalled me back from my thought.

“Thank you, Mama.”

“Nene, take his bowl of water to his room.” Mama said to Nene. After a short protest and smirks she finally took the bowl to my room, mumbling and spilling some water on the way.

“Be careful Nene. Don’t spill water on my mats.” I said to her. She took a short look at me and disappeared from the door.

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***

Tinkom tinkom, tibaliba
Dadi nkem o, Dadi nkem o
I we hapu m oo, wee jewe Lagosi
Muna onye ga ebi…

Children sang and played outside our compound. The noise wouldn’t let me reason or rest. Nene and Kiri, our cousin from few compounds away were the leaders. The game was played by softly hitting the palms of your opponents in numerous styles to rhyme with the beat sang by members of the two teams. Both led a team of three followers. The game progressed peacefully for a while, and Nene’s team led in total score. Suddenly she mistakenly put out her left hand instead of the right one and lost a game. Kiri and her teammates shouted and rejoiced over their gain and Nene pained with the mistake bursted out angry.

“It seemed that you’re happy for nothing. I still lead the total score… See your tummy like that of a pregnant frog.” She yelled at Kiri, hands akimbo.

“See this one, she is angry that she lost a game. You’re a loser!” Kiri retorted when she learned her rival was bitter.

“If you don’t close your mouth, I’ll help you deliver that foetus in your tummy.” Nene shouted again. Their team members were enjoying the scenario when Mama walked in from the back.

“Who are those children that won’t let us drink water and rest in this compound. Ssshussh children, run away!” She shouted and clapped her hands. The fighting parties disengaged and ran away from the compound to regroup somewhere else and continue with their game.

To be continued…

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Nature Pastoral Poetry

Another Tale of the WildWoods

image

There’s a land behind those hills
Hidden in the forest,
One mighty foliage; of brushes & roots
At all times, Cloud is blue
And King of the Forest
Do fall in love with it
When the Cloud blush
It rains softly; mildly
And little creatures
Which live in the land
Look up to the smiling Forest King
‘Oh, see how handsome his face is’
A little dark Cricket say
‘He is really in love with the Cloud
But we don’t understand
Why she always refuses
To love the Forest King back!’
A group of Pigeons answered
‘I tell you that she is possessed
Who should resist the Forest king?’
The Wolf added, as he looked up
‘The Forest King hadn’t said anything yet
All he does is to stare and smile
How savagely awful!’
Some Pine trees whined
‘If for nothing but admiration
Is the reason to love
I choose not to love’
The philosophical Woodpecker concluded.

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Categories
Africa culture/tradition education folklore lifestyle Nature Pastoral Poetry

Quiet Lakeside

Once upon a quiet lakeside,
Where blue clouds stay,
With very thick fog dwell,
And tall Figs hide in them
Like towers,
Over a host of colours,
Painting down the valley
When the sun rays fall
And the forest below
So all may turn to gold.
Clouds are not left behind
They shine in the sun’s glory
Her dew drop upon trees
Away from the waterfalls,
Washing white fine pebbles

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Even as the water rush
And solemn rocks wait
Upon green forests beside it
There’s a rainbow up the sky
With a host of Egrets surfing,
The white mountains stand
Patches of green here and there
As the wind blow sweet breezes
The bears may growl, cats sniff.
But all are beautiful and charming
Around a lonely and quiet lakeside
Where Nature offer a perfect sight

Categories
Africa culture/tradition folklore Nature Pastoral Poetry

Tale of The Musk Rat

Once upon a time
In a land far, far away
Where the forests were untamed
And animals had clans and kingdoms
There lived a young musk rat
Who loved his mother so much
And took good care of her
He would go hunting for fruits
And exotic vegetables from the forests
And brought them home to feed
The mother and himself

A particular day came
And he found a bed of vegetables
Growing by the side of a pool
He gathered them
And in all he brought home nine baskets
He was overjoyed that the vegetables would last
Longer than he expected
And so he handed it to his mother

But when the mother cooked the vegetables
The nine baskets shrunk to two baskets
When the musk rat discovered that he had only two baskets
Of warm vegetables he questioned
His mother and wasn’t satisfied with her answers
So he killed her out of his rage

Another day he went to the poolside
And lo, fresh vegetables blossomed
And he picked to his fill once again
Carrying the nine baskets home
He boiled the vegetables and it all shrunk again
To two baskets and it dawned on him
That vegetables are lighter when boiled
And that he had killed his mother in vain
And again out of anger
He killed himself too…

Anger and impatience are no man’s friend. We must learn to control them.

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral

Folktale: The Tortoise and His Broken Shell

Gather around friends, how was your day today? Good to know it was fine. Mine wasn’t bad either. I hope this breezy evening give us more than this wonderful folktale I’m about to tell. Remember to note the morals that accompany it. I have also italicized the proverb in the story.

Once upon a time all the birds were invited to a feast in the sky. They were very happy and began to prepare themselves for the great day. They painted their bodies with red cam wood and drew beautiful patterns on their bodies with uli*.

Tortoise saw all these preparations and soon discovered what was about happening. He was full of cunning and greedy. As soon as he heard of the great feast in the sky his throat began to itch at the very thought. There was a famine in those days and he had not eaten a good meal for two moons. So he began to plan how he would go to the sky. Tortoise had no wings, so he went to the birds and asked to be allowed to go with them.

“We know you too well,” said the birds when they heard him. “You are full of cunning and you are ungrateful. If we allow you to come with us, you will soon begin your mischief.”

“You do not know me,” said Tortoise. “I am a changed person. I have learned that a man who makes trouble for others is also making it for himself.”

Tortoise had a sweet tongue, and within a short time all the birds agreed that he was a changed person, and they each gave him a feather with which he made two wings.

At last the great day came and Tortoise was the first to arrive at the meeting place. When all the birds had gathered together, they set off in a body. Tortoise was very happy as he flew among the birds, and he was soon chosen as the person to speak for the party because he was a great orator.

“There is one important thing which we must not forget,” he said as they flew on their way. “When people are invited to a great feast like this, they take new names for the occasion. Our hosts in the sky will expect us to honor this age-old custom.”

None of the birds had heard of this custom but they knew that Tortoise, in spite of his failings in other directions, was a widely-traveled man who knew the customs of different peoples. And so they each took a new name. When they had all taken, Tortoise also took one. He was to be called “All of you.”

At last the party arrived in the sky and their hosts were very happy to see them. Tortoise stood up in his many-colored plumage and thanked them for their invitation. His speech was so eloquent that all the birds were glad they had brought him, and nodded their heads in approval of all he said. Their hosts took him as the King of the birds, especially as he looked somewhat different from the others.

After kola nuts were presented and eaten, the people of the sky set before their guests the sweetest dishes Tortoise had even seen or dreamed of. The soup was brought out hot from the fire and in the very pot in which it had been cooked. It was full of meat and fish. There were pounded yam and also yam pottage cooked with palm-oil and fresh fish. There were also pots of palm-wine. When everything had been set before the guests, one of the people of the sky came forward and tasted a little from each pot. He then invited the birds to eat. But Tortoise jumped to his feet and asked: “For whom have you prepared this feast?”

“For all of you,” replied the man.
Tortoise turned to the birds and said “You remember that my name is All of you. The custom here is to serve the spokesman first and the others later. They will serve you when I have eaten.”

He began to eat and the birds grumbled angrily. The people of the sky thought it must be their custom to leave all the food for their King. So Tortoise ate the best part of the food and drank two pots of palm-wine, so that he was full of food and drink and his body filled out in his shell.

The birds gathered round to eat what was left and to peck at the bones he had thrown all about the floor. Some of them were too angry to eat. They chose to fly home on an empty stomach. But before they left each took back the feather he had lent to Tortoise. And there he stood in his hard shell full of food and wine but without any wings to fly home. He asked the birds to take a message for his wife, but they all refused. In the end Parrot, who had felt more angry than the others, suddenly changed his mind and agreed to take the message.

“Tell my wife,” said Tortoise, “to bring out all the soft things in my house and cover the compound with them so that I can jump down from the sky without much danger.”

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Parrot promised to deliver the message, and then flew away with the others. But when he reached Tortoise’s house he told his wife to bring out all the hard things in the house. And so she brought out her husband’s hoes, machetes, spears, guns and even his cannon. Tortoise looked down from the sky and saw his wife bringing things out, but it was too far to see what they were. When all seemed ready he let himself go. He fell and fell and fell until he began to fear that he would never stop falling. And then like the sound of his cannon he crashed on the compound.

His shell broke into pieces. Luckily there was a great medicine man in the neighborhood. Tortoise’s wife sent for him and he gathered all the bits of shell and stuck them together. That is why Tortoise’s shell is not smooth.

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culture/tradition folklore lifestyle Nature Pastoral Poetry

Amuse: Singina likes my tales


“I remember your funny and lovely tales,” she yawned
“You complete my day with those poems of yours!”
At first I wasn’t sure of what I did right exactly,
But as a shepherd I find pleasure writing about life,
Telling of my travel, of my long days and how it ends
Now, tomorrow I shall tell you another tale
If seriously you love these tales I tell you,
Then you must pay attention, for it is not a lullaby
But some tales are ill: when I fought my fears;
To swim in the great river which flowed west,
And when I caught a forbidden crab from the river
I must tell you for you wished to hear of the Python
That took a traveler who was saved at the last point
Do not gasp, pay great attention, for some of my lyrics
Are not just songs, but words others say or teach me
So you must pay great attention to what I say, Singina

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Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral Series

Diaries of a Village boy: The Leopard spirit 7

Papa said I had to be strong to attend the next Tales by Moonlight night. He also promised I could play and hunt with other children if I got well fast. So I took my medication and exercise seriously. The moonlight night tales come once in a fortnight, sometimes it may be delayed especially during the rainy and farming season. It was every child’s wish to listen to those ancient tales sitting outside, under a tree and the feel of fresh air on their bare skin. The old women who told the tales were called mama and sometimes brought fresh coconut juice and pieces of dried bush meat for everyone. The moonlight nights were secret rendezvous for young lovers. In fact, this was the major reason many teens looked forward to the event. Before the tales are told, some older children organise quizzes, talkshows, debates and games like wrestling, hides and seek and nchokotoro, which was girls favourite game. The boys will gather, not to play but to cheer their crush. I can’t remember exactly what moral I learned in the past tales but I was determined not to miss the next.

But who knew what may happen to me next? All the dibia, Papa brought had failed to cage the spirit and each time I came under an attack I was left at the mercy of other people. So I couldn’t control it. Each day, I grew afraid of myself and wished I could live my life as a normal boy. Who says you are not normal? I felt a voice question. There were strange voices in my head. Mild, sometimes harsh but never sinister. I could connect to it somehow, but not for long. This was a mystery unknown even to Papa and he was not happy seeing his son suffer for nothing. Maybe I could find out what I could achieve with this power. Just maybe, only that a Leopard is not faint hearted like myself. I shrugged at the thought of comparing myself to Leopards. In character and thought, I was just the opposite of it.

My friends came that afternoon to check on me. I smiled at their goofy locally made fishing suits. Odo had made one for himself from a fishing net. He wore it to my room and was narrating how the villagers admired and watched him as he walked through the clan. I knew he was bragging, I saw nothing special in his new fishing net suit. The boys brought some Udala and mango. Ah! I knew my friends were not privileged like myself to attend school but I would never trade them for anything!

“Thanks guys!”

“Have you heard that the strange crocodile has resurfaced and is even digging again?” Obi asked, cutting my greeting off.

“That’s old news. The animal has turned our clean stream water into mud, we can’t even use the stream anymore.” Odo replied.

“Really?” I asked. “I thought it was captured when I was away?”

“No nah. The hunters caught a beaver. A beaver is not a crocodile.” Chimdi answered. She was the only girl friend in our midst. She seldom spoke and will always be the first to laugh when the boys come to mischief.

“Can you cook or bath with mud?” Odo ignored her.

“Well, the Igwe has summoned a hunting party at his palace. I knew because my father is a volunteer for the hunt.” Ekeledi added. He was handsome. But he was a stammerer and pronounced each word after striking his foot on the floor. He got angry easily and will hit anyone with any available object…

To be continued…

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culture/tradition folklore lifestyle Nature Pastoral Series

Folklore: The Straw, the Coal and the Bean from Gutenberg Project

In a village dwelt a poor old woman, who had gathered together a dish of beans and wanted to cook them. So she made a fire on her hearth and that it might burn the quicker, she lighted it with a handful of straw. When she was emptying the beans into the pan, one dropped without her observing it, and lay on the ground beside a straw, and soon afterwards a burning coal from the fire leapt down to the two. Then the straw began and said: ‘Dear friends, from whence do you come here?’ The coal replied: ‘I fortunately sprang out of the fire, and if I had not escaped by sheer force, my death would have been certain,–I should have been burnt to ashes.’ The bean said: ‘I too have escaped with a whole skin, but if the old woman had got me into the pan, I should have been made into broth without any mercy, like my comrades.’ ‘And would a better fate have fallen to my lot?’ said the straw. ‘The old woman has
destroyed all my brethren in fire and smoke; she seized sixty of them at once, and took their lives. I luckily slipped through her fingers.’

‘But what are we to do now?’ said the coal.

‘I think,’ answered the bean, ‘that as we have so fortunately escaped death, we should keep together like good companions, and lest a new mischance should overtake us here, we should go away together, and repair to a foreign country.’

The proposition pleased the two others, and they set out on their way together. Soon, however, they came to a little brook, and as there was no bridge or foot-plank, they did not know how they were to get over it. The straw hit on a good idea, and said: ‘I will lay myself straight across, and then you can walk over on me as on a bridge.’ The straw therefore stretched itself from one bank to the other, and the coal, who was of an impetuous disposition, tripped quite boldly on to the newly-built bridge. But when she had reached the middle, and heard the water rushing beneath her, she was after all, afraid, and stood still, and ventured no farther. The straw, however, began to burn, broke in two pieces, and fell into the stream. The coal slipped after her, hissed when she got into the water, and breathed her last. The bean, who had prudently stayed behind on the shore, could not but laugh at the event, was unable to stop, and laughed so heartily that she burst. It would have been all over with her, likewise, if, by good fortune, a tailor who was travelling in search of work, had not sat down to rest by the brook. As he had a compassionate heart he pulled out his needle and thread, and sewed her together. The bean thanked him most prettily, but as the tailor used black thread, all beans since then have a black seam.

Categories
Africa Nature Pastoral Poetry

Folktale: The Hen and Her Neighbors

It is breezy here and I have a tale for the evening. Gather around, sit with me under this mango tree, warm yourself by the fire and enjoy this poetaleIfochakpi! Waa!!

Once in the animal kingdom
There lived a Hen and a Cock and
Their neighbors, the Rat and the Lizard
One day the Hen wanted to clean
“I need to clean this compound
Who will help me sweep the floor?”
“Not me!” Said the Cock
“Not me!” Said the Rat
“Not me!” Said the Lizard
“Then I’ll do the cleaning myself”

The unhappy Hen said to herself
Noon came and it was time for lunch
“Who will help me buy vegetables for soup?”
“Not me!” Said the Cock
“Not me!” Said the Rat
“Not me!” Said the Lizard
“Then I must go to the market myself”

The unhappy Hen mumbled to herself
When evening came and the sun was setting
The Hen saw that she needs some fire
“Who will help me make some fire?”
“Not me!” Said the Cock
“Not me!” Said the Rat
“Not me!” Said the Lizard
“Then I must cook this meal myself”

The unhappy Hen said to herself
When the soup aroma went around the compound
Everyone asked where this wonderful smell came from
And lo, the Cock, Rat and Lizard gathered by the fire
“This soup is very sweet and needs someone to taste it,
Who will eat this vegetable soup?”
“Me!” Said the Cock
“Me!” Said the Rat
“Me!” Yelled the Lizard

So the Hen took a broom and started sweeping the kitchen and when she got close to the three, raised it and chased them away from her pot of soup!

****
Ifochakpi! Waa!! : An exclamation used whenever a tale is to be told in Igbo land. The story teller says Ifochakpi! while the audience replies Waa! pronounced as war!

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Uncategorized

Folklore: Old Sultan from project Gutenberg

A shepherd had a faithful dog, called Sultan, who was grown very old, and had lost all his teeth. And one day when the shepherd and his wife were standing together before the house the shepherd said, “I will shoot old Sultan tomorrow morning, for he is of no use now.” But his wife said, “Pray let the poor faithful creature live; he has served us well a great many years, and we ought to give him a livelihood for the rest of his days.” “But what can we do with him?” said the shepherd, “he has not a tooth in his head, and the thieves don’t care for him at all; to be sure he has served us, but then he did it to earn his livelihood; tomorrow shall be his last day, depend upon it.”

Poor Sultan, who was lying close by them, heard all that the shepherd and his wife said to one another, and was very much frightened to think tomorrow would be his last day; so in the evening he went to his good friend the wolf, who lived in the wood, and told him all his sorrows, and how his master meant to kill him in the morning. “Make yourself easy,” said the wolf, “I will give you some good advice. Your master, you know, goes out every morning very early with his wife into the field; and they take their little child with them, and lay it down
behind the hedge in the shade while they are at work. Now do you lie down close by the child, and pretend to be watching it, and I will come out of the wood and run away with it; you must run after me as fast as you can, and I will let it drop; then you may carry it back, and they will think you have saved their child, and will be so thankful to you that they will take care of you as long as you live.” The dog liked this plan very well; and accordingly so it was managed. The wolf ran with the child a little way; the shepherd and his wife screamed out; but Sultan soon overtook him, and carried the poor little thing back to his master and mistress. Then the shepherd patted him on the head, and said, “Old Sultan has saved our child from the wolf, and therefore he shall live and be well taken care of, and have plenty to eat. Wife, go home, and give him a good dinner, and let him have my old cushion to sleep on as long as he lives.” So from this time forward Sultan had all that he could wish for.

Soon afterwards the wolf came and wished him joy, and said, “Now, my good fellow, you must tell no tales, but turn your head the other way when I want to taste one of the old shepherd’s fine fat sheep.” “No,” said Sultan; “I will be true to my master.” However, the wolf thought he was in joke, and came one night to get a dainty morsel. But Sultan had told his master what the wolf meant to do; so he laid wait for him behind the barn door, and when the wolf was busy looking out for a good fat sheep, he had a stout cudgel laid about his back, that combed his locks for him finely. Then the wolf was very angry, and called Sultan “an old rogue,” and swore he would have his revenge. So the next morning the wolf sent the boar to challenge Sultan to come into the wood to fight the matter. Now Sultan had nobody he could ask to be his second but the shepherd’s old
three-legged cat; so he took her with him, and as the poor thing limped along with some trouble, she stuck up her tail straight in the air.

The wolf and the wild boar were first on the ground; and when they espied their enemies coming, and saw the cat’s long tail standing straight in the air, they thought she was carrying a sword for Sultan to fight with; and every time she limped, they thought she was picking up a stone to throw at them; so they said they should not like this way of fighting, and the boar lay down behind a bush, and the wolf jumped up into a tree. Sultan and the cat soon came up, and looked about and wondered that no one was there. The boar, however, had not quite hidden himself, for his ears stuck out of the bush; and when he shook one of them a little, the cat, seeing something move, and thinking it was a mouse, sprang upon it, and bit and scratched it, so that the boar jumped up and grunted, and ran away, roaring out, “Look up in the tree, there sits the one who is to blame.” So they looked up, and espied the wolf sitting amongst the branches; and they called him a cowardly rascal, and would not suffer him to come down till he was heartily ashamed of himself, and had promised to be good friends again with old Sultan.

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture Pastoral Uncategorized

African Folktale: the Crows and the Cuckoo

It is evening here and I feel like telling you a story. Bring your mat, come sit with me outside, by the fireside and let us enjoy the night breeze.

Once upon a time there lived a set of Crows which plundered farms. Each day the farmers try to catch the Crows to no avail, for the Crows moved in droves. In this same town lived a timid Cuckoo. The Cuckoo became friends with a Crow who introduced him to his group. Now the Cuckoo ate the groups food but whenever they went to plunder he seldom followed.

One day, a traveller arrived the town and during his stay, observed the Crows and offered to help the town. He got a big white net and with the help of farmers tied it on several tall trees which surrounded many farms. It was a trap.

As the Crows planned the next attack, they convinced the Cuckoo to join them. Off they all flew. When they settled to eat, the hidden farmers dropped the nets and it came crashing down on the birds. None could escape!

As the farmers caught the Crows they saw a Cuckoo among them. ‘How come?’ They asked in surprise. But all the Cuckoo could do was cry and beg for mercy. The angry farmers won’t even listen. They destroyed the Crows with the Cuckoo.

Morals : It is wise to know who we call a friend. If a thief is your friend, you might be mistaken as one. So being cautious and careful of our company is important.

Categories
culture/tradition folklore Pastoral Poetry

African tales by Moonlight

Living in the countyside was fun. I can’t forget the numerous activities/events I participated in. I remember the rodent hunting, farm work, fruit catching, swimming in the streams, wrestling fights and the night tales. My favorite was the night tales which was something else. How I love to sit in the warmth of other kids, out in the open space, under the tree shed and moon light. Ah! Words can’t describe the feeling. Don’t take my word for it. Come to Africa and try to find yourself a story telling community. There’s so much to learn from the tales. Much morals and old world wisdom are lost because most of the youth nurture other dreams. The modern youth think the countryside is not a nice place to settle in. So country life is not meant for them. I really think otherwise. I was born and brought up in the town, but I feel more attached to the countryside. I feel lost in the crowd and towns are places of pollution and noise, right?

Moon light tales are told in the late evening or nights. I call it ‘the African theater’. Major spectators are children, sometimes stray adults join. Usually the tales finish off as moral lessons and other times just a fun story, which may act as a lullaby for the night. We need to encourage and revive this culture of story telling.

So if you love folktales and happen to visit rural Africa. From Safari to Palm wine to melon cakes and weird but nice food, be rest assured you will have a great time.

Categories
Uncategorized

Introducing the African Folklore

Folklore are tales, legends, superstitions of a particular ethnic population. In Igbo and other African societies, story telling is unique, such that it is a passage to transmit the culture and tradition from one generation to another. These tales generally convey the history, messages and old knowledge. They are meant to teach morals and virtues to younger people. I have been privileged to remember some tales. I was very close to the older folk in the community. I love the rural life and always traveled with my aunt during school holidays to my hometown to stay with my Grandma. On one occasion, I recall traveling with my aunt and in the hurry forgot all my shorts save from the one I traveled on. As my Grandma had no boy and so couldn’t provide shorts I was made to wear skirts. It amuses me when I remember that; running around with other kids in my red skirt! I was very little and prefered the skirt to going naked. They still call me Mr Piper, after the famous Scottish wrestler and we all laugh over it.

Most times, tales are told in the evening, after dinner and when everyone was back from work. 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 near the village square. The story teller mostly will be an elderly person. We the younger ones had tried our hands in story telling. I guess this was the origin of my interest in story telling.

Learn Igbo language here.

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 sons’ name but it will not matter, he can always bear the son of the Tortoise. There are other notable characters in African folk; 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 the tales.

Categories
Poetry

Three musings:  Evening, wet Earth and Love

One: The evening tide

Fast falls the evening tide

So gather around the fireside,

Let us savor this taste of Nature; 

Her soft songs, breezes and lecture
Two: The wet Earth

The sun set before our eyes

The wet earth is left to dry

For the days heavy rain has left

And with her, all benevolent escorts
Three: Love

Now the night fast approaches

Let us pride on humble speeches

Exhalting the need to love more

And welcoming all to our doors

Categories
Poetry

Once upon a time… 


Once upon a time you preferred the silence to my love
Then trees leaves fell, they fall quietly and so you went

Once I held your hands in deep love and we walked the paths, 

And you told of our future but now you will not see me anymore

We played together, you were my favorite and I was your cherish

But where are you now, where are we dear? 

Old memories is all that lay on my paper 

Once I knew you, once I loved you and once we had all

But that was once upon a time…