Tag Archives: folktale


In Yoruba folklore, the tortoise was a wily trickster. Lazy, always up to no good and especially fond of porridge, he often got himself into one  misadventure or the other. This is a story of one such misadventure.

A long, long time ago, when the world was young and animals walked on two feet, Ijapa the tortoise was terribly hungry. Really, really hungry.

He had severe hunger pangs. And this was entirely his fault. You see, during the farming period, while other animals went to the farms to plant crops, he lazed about, whistling tunes and chasing fireflies. He always had one excuse or the other for not working.

“The sun is too hot”

“The ground is as hard as iron.”

“My hands hurt, and handling farming implements are torture.”

Previously, he sold out portions of his farmland he inherited from his late parents, from time to time and from the proceeds, fed himself with food he purchased from the market. But eventually, the farmland was exhausted, leaving behind only a small, miserable plot that no one wanted to buy.

And these were the circumstances that led to the situation he found himself in. He had visited for a while, eating at friends’ places during mealtimes till they grew weary of him and began to avoid him.

He had run through his entire bag of tricks and come up dry. So he went wandering to the forest, perhaps he would be fortunate enough to discover some fruits and nuts to eat.

He walked the length and breadth of the forest and turned up just a few palm kernels and one ripe mango. He sat below a palm tree to eat them. As he was eating, he remembered a spell he had learnt during his travels ( he was well travelled and had gone to places on land and in the sea that no one else had) and decided to try it out. It was a spell to animate palm trees.

Weak with hunger, he began to sing-

“Dance, palm tree dance,

Round and round, let your trunk swirl,

Round and round, let your leaves go,

Dance, palm tree, dance.”

As he sang, the palm tree danced, moving from place to place, and when he stopped, it stood rooted in place, just another palm tree. 

Ijapa smiled. He had a plan. He got some leaves and branches, feathers and twigs, tied them around his palm tree to make it look scary and poured some chicken blood on it from the branches to the roots till it dripped. Satisfied with his craft, he hid himself among the topmost branches and sang the spell, leading it towards the marketplace. He was just in time for the evening market. 

Just as the market women settled down to begin to sell their wares, the palm tree came dancing into the market square. Everyone took to their heels. You must understand, it wasn’t like anything they had ever seen before. A palm tree twirling and spinning, dancing with its roots out of the soil, dripping blood and covered with feathers. 

It looked horrible. It was a sight to put fear into the hearts of even the bravest of men.

When the market square was clear, Ijapa stopped his spell, got down from the palm tree and ate to his heart’s content. Then he took some more food and hid it in the palm tree. Then he sang his spell and spun back to the forest.

He repeated this act, day after day, driving the villagers almost mad with fear and terrorising the the markets. Eventually, they ran to the palace to beg for help.

The king sent his bravest guards to stand by the entrance to the markets. Soon enough, the tortoise came spinning to the marketplace​. He saw the guards and let out a guttural roar that shook the earth and made straight for them. Their strength failed them, their courage shattered and they took to their heels. With the guards gone, the villagers followed quickly after and the tortoise was free to once again, plunder the marketplace.

Tired and desperate, the villagers went back to the king to tell the tale. And he dismissed them, promising to find a solution to the problem. He thought and thought and decided that since brute force had failed, perhaps it was time to try trickery. So he privately called for the best carver in the land and had him create a lifelike statute of a man seated and watching from the strongest iroko tree he could find. Then he made him cover it with sticky tape and set in the centre of the village square. This man he named ‘Sigidi’

Soon afterwards, the palm tree came dancing and everyone as usual, went running. Everyone except sigidi, who sat in the market square watching. The tortoise tried all he could but nothing scared sigidi. At this time, it was almost fully dark and he wanted to eat so he got down and accosted it.

“Why are you not afraid?” He roared. “Are you better than everyone else?”

Sigidi, of course, said nothing. Ijapa saw this as extremely arrogant and so landed it a huge slap. His hand stuck to it. 

“If you don’t release my hand, I’ll deal you an even heavier blow with the other hand.”

Sigidi said nothing.  So Ijapa made a fist with his other hand and struck. It also got stuck.

Now very angry, he kicked the statute. Again, he got stuck. Now beyond reason, he kicked with his other foot. It also got stuck.

“If you don’t let me go, I’ll headbutt you.” He threatened. “I’ll headbutt you so hard, you’d die.”

Sigidi again, gave no response, and so Ijapa headbutted the statute. He was stuck. At this point he realized he was entirely in his opponent’s hands and so he began to plead. He begged and begged, but nothing happened, he was still stuck and that was how he was when the next day arrived and the villagers found him. They went to report to the king who had Ijapa make a full confession. The remaining food items were recovered and returned to their rightful owners.

But Ijapa was left  in the marketplace day after day after day, till the rains began to fall, and eventually the tar softened enough for him to wriggle free.



It was a hot, dry afternoon. Grandpa was sitting outside, on the verandah, wearing  a white singlet and locally made shorts. It was printed of beautiful, brightly colored fabric with twisting patterns. With a newspaper folded neatly in half, spectacles on top of the newspapers, on a small stool bedside him, and an half empty glass cup containing a small amount of palmwine ’emu’ Grandpa was the very picture of contentment as he sat in the shade of the mango tree. He whistled a catchy tune, from the late Christy Essien Igbokwe, the song ‘Omo mi seun rere’ and pushed back the locally made adjustable chair so he could lie down for a while.

Meanwhile I kept sitting and wriggling and moving, were I sat on the rough cement floor, made restless by the heat. After much fuss and stress, I still wasn’t getting anywhere and had only succeeded in rubbing my buttocks raw through the thin fabric of my khaki shorts.
He sat up, looked at me and smiled. And with a crook of a finger, beckoned to me. Quickly I stood up, dusted my short bottoms and walked to him, where he lay in the fragrant shade of the mango tree.

“Ahmed, why are you restless?”

“It is hot, Grandpa. The heat is far too much for me.”

“Yes, it’s hot, but soon it will rain. It’s always hot just before it rains.”

“I wish it rained everyday so it wouldn’t have to be so hot. When will it rain Grandpa?”

“Soon child, soon. In the meantime, how would you like a story? Perhaps, it might make time pass faster. Plus it’s a story about a rainmaker.”

“What’s a rainmaker?”

“A person with the power to call down rain from the heavens.”

“Okay Grandpa, I’m all ears.”

And this is the story he told…

“Once upon a time, there was a prosperous little village surrounded by hills. It was a slow sleepy place, with farmland that was very arable and yielded fat crops. The people were happy and content- maybe too content? One cannot say just yet.

On a particular day, a day that started quite unremarkably, similar in its arrival and existence to the days that came before it, and the days to come after it had passed, an elderly woman made her way to the village square. She wore clothes that were tattered at the edges from long travelling, and had a small satchel of clothes and food. She didn’t look like anybody important.
She hoped to find a place to rest for she was making a long, ardous trek, she just wanted to rest. After looking around, she was unable to get a place to stay. People shut their doors in her face, some were particularly mean, insulting her before sending her away.

And so she went back to the village square and prepared to pass the night on the ground, in the open.

Just as she settled down to sleep, someone tapped her. She opened her eyes. There was a woman standing before her.
“Hello stranger,” she said “do you not have a place to sleep?”

“No,” replied the elderly woman “no one would let me into their house.”

“If that’s the case,then come with me. My hut is not so big, but surely it can contain both of us.”

And so the stranger found a place to stay for the night. The woman who rescued her was a widow named Abeke, a kind soul, and she prepared a meal of porridge with vegetables and smoked fish. The stranger ate till she was full. Then she was given a clean mat and several wrappers, and a corner of the hut was properly swept for her to lie down and sleep.
The widow lived alone, she had no children. The following morning, Abeke prepared breakfast for them to eat, and after they had eaten, she took her hoe and cutlass, ready to go to the farm. But the stranger asked her to pack up everything that was important to her instead and come with her. After much persuading, Abeke agreed. And together they left the hut. The stranger led Abeke to one of the hills and they began to climb. It was afternoon before they got to the summit. There Abeke set down the load she had been carrying and stretched her legs.
“I want to thank you for providing me with comfort, for having mercy on a stranger.”

 “It’s nothing,” said Abeke “I also could be a stranger in need of help someday.”

“True,” the elderly woman replied “and this act of kindness will prevent you from sharing in their fate.”

And she began to sing, softly, barely above a whisper.

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again,

Let the people give their thanks, let the rain fall down in sheets,

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again.”


As she sang, rain began to fall, on the village down below. But she kept on singing, and the rain kept on falling, and soon the words to the song took a different turn-

“Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again,

Let the rain flood all the streets, let the people cry for help,

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again, 

Let the sheep and cattle drown,

Let the crops in farms be ruined.”

And as she sang, her voice rose to a higher volume, becoming louder with every line and so the rain intensified, lightning striking different huts in the village along with a few unfortunates who were unlucky to have been outside for one reason or the other, wind blowing off thatched roofs and the rainfall so heavy that the streets were soon flooded, the water coming up inch by inch until even the biggest huts were covered up. 

Abeke watched in horror as some little figures tried desperately to stay above the water, but eventually failed, slipping in and drowning. The rainmaker continued to sing until there was nothing left were the village once stood, but a large expanse of water, up to three quarters of the hills that surrounded the village. There were no survivors, except Abeke.

She turned and touched Abeke on the forehead. She felt like someone took  a hot branding iron to her forehead and as quickly as she felt it, she felt cold all over, and then all was as it was before.

“I have given you the power to also make rain. With it you can become a very important person. I wish you good luck in your travels, for you must find a new place to stay. But if you ever pass by Shomekun village, ask for the hut of old Ewatomi the rainmaker. You are always welcome in my house.”

And so she left. Abeke found her way to a neighboring village were she found out that the old woman had spoken true, and with her powers of rainmaking, soon became rich. 

She eventually remarried and bore children, and in all her prosperity she never forgot Ewatomi, the old rainmaker.

As Grandpa finished the story, I sang the first song, softly, the song for rain. And suddenly the sky was dark, and I felt something wet splash against my nose. A raindrop. It was followed by another and yet another and we quickly packed everything and moved inside the house. Grandpa pinched me on my cheek and said merrily

“Looks like we have our own little rainmaker after all.”


Once while we were watching a Nollywood movie, about a particularly wicked yet successful man who derived pleasure from torturing his family and seemed to have no one to confront him, a question came up in my mind.

Sixteen years of age and as inquisitive as they come, I squirmed and shuffled in my seat until I got my Grandpa’s attention.

Dropping the newspaper he was reading into his lap, he adjusted his glasses, cleared his throat and asked.

“What’s bothering you Ahmed?”

“Well grandpa, I have a question.”

“Go ahead.”

“Why do evil people get away with everything?”

“Get away?” He sounded amused. 

“Yes. They just keep being bad and they’re always rich and nobody can tell them anything and-”

“Oh Ahmed, they don’t. They always get what they deserve in the end.”


“Yes. You see, if you’re wicked, you might think you are not going to ever be made to Pat for your wickedness. But you will. Because every evil man must pay the price of evil.”

“Hmmmmmm. Grandpa, what is the price of evil?”

“Truly child, what is the price of evil? It varies, depending on the crime. Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a man who had a beautiful daughter. I say he had a beautiful daughter because that was all he had in terms of family. His wife, her mother, died several years ago in the course of childbirth, trying to bring a little sibling into the world for her daughter to play with. Complications arose during the delivery and both mother and child were lost.”

“Eeya. That’s sad.”

“I know. Life isn’t always fair. But back to our story. The man was a business man who always have to travel for his business trips. At first, he tried taking her along. But she was too young.

Then he tried getting nannies. But he didn’t trust them. He felt what she needed was a stable, sweet family. So he married a widow in that town who already had a son. To him it was the lottery in marriage. A wife for him, a mother for his daughter, and a son who would also be her playmate.

At first things were nice and cheerful. But after a few years, things changed. The step-mother became cruel to the girl. She got it into her head that one day the man would die and will off all the inheritance to his daughter. This was compounded by the fact that she was unable to bear the man a child of his own. She had become sterile.

Desperate to not be kicked out with nothing, she sought for means to ensure that her son got the lion’s share of the man’s property, but how was she to go about it? Now listen carefully child, wicked people often have a ‘good reason’ for behaving the way they do. But that’s no excuse.”

“Okay sir.”

“Her first idea was to be cruel to the girl, hoping she wouldn’t be able to take it anymore and she would run away. That way she would be rid of her and her son’s future would be ‘secure’ so anytime the man travelled, she would beat her, order her around and generally make life uncomfortable for her.

But the girl, sweet and mild mannered, persevered. She took the beatings and harshness without complaint. If course when her father returned from his trips, her step-mother was automatically nice to her again. There was no way her father would believe if she reported the true state of things to him, so content in the belief that ‘nothing lasts forever’ she kept quiet and endured it all.
Her only respite was school, and the church.

Time passed and the girl grew into an exceedingly beautiful lady. Then her father decided it was time to partition his property. He had always been away on one trip or the other, he knew the risks and wanted to ensure that if perchance he did not return from any of them, his family would be well-catered for. He told his idea to his wife and after warning her to tell no one, went on another trip. When he returned, he would share his property and settle down. He was wealthy enough, he reasoned and it was finally time to spend some quality time with his family.

As soon as he left, the step-mother became frantic. Despite all her efforts, she was about to lose out on everything!
She thought and thought and thought and lost sleep and weight over the issue.

Finally she made up her mind. She would poison the girl. If she was not alive she couldn’t inherit, could she?

Fixed on this, early the next morning, after breakfast, she sent both kids out to the next street to visit with their friends. Then she made a sumptuous meal and served it out. First she served a big plate of food and put a sizeable chunk of meat on it. She then sprinkled the powdered poison liberally on it, mixed it till there was no sign, and covering it, put it on the dining table with the girl’s name on a little tag beside it. The poison was odorless, tasteless and virtually untraceable. It was to be the perfect crime.

Then she served her son’s food and her food too. Just as she prepared to call the children back for their lunch, she got a phone call from her friend who was heading of to another state, but decided to drop in and check on her briefly before going.

He gave her the details of his hotel, the room he was staying in and warned her that he had only an hour to spend before leavin his journey was still long and he intended to get there before nightfall.
Wanting to see him, she rushed off, trusting that her plan would work even in her absence.

Tired of playing, it was hot and dry, and they wanted to be back home in time for a particular program, the children left their friends to return home.

Meanwhile, the business deal had closed early, so the father rushed off. He had missed his family and didn’t want to miss another hour he could otherwise spend with them. He started driving home. With a little luck, who knows? He could be home in time for lunch! His stomach rumbled and he chuckled to himself.

The children soon got home. When they saw the meals, they were surprised. Normally the girl was to be given the smaller meal. The boy, who had grown arrogant and fat declared it to be a mistake, and decided the meal with her name on it was actually his.

She protested but being physically stronger, he wrestled the plate from her before she could even have a spoon and wolfed it all down.

Since there was another meal, and it wasn’t little to begin with, she took it and ate it. Then they settled to watch their favorite TV show.

Meanwhile the step-mother was detained unduly where she went. She had liked her friend a lot and alone with him in a hotel room, one thing led to another and she slept with him. Severally. Because of this, she was unable to get home on time.

With an exchange of contact info and a promise to keep in touch, she left, three hours later.

The father got home and met the kids watching TV. He found some food left in the pot and helped himself to it.

Then he joined them in the parlor to watch TV.
When she got home, she was shocked to find her husband around. She asked the children if they had eaten their meals and they replied in the affirmative. She then asked if they are their own meals, and just as the girl was about to reply that they hadn’t, the boy pinched her on the bottom. She yelped and he quickly said that they had.
Content that it had gone smoothly, she went to her room and flushed the antidote to the poison down the drain. Then she threw the bottles away. She didn’t want any thing to link her to what had happened.

Later that night, she heard one of the children moaning softly. Thinking it was the girl, she smiled to herself in the darkness. Come daylight, she would have left the world for her and her son. The path would be clear! Finally!
The next morning, a loud wail woke wife and husband. They rushed to the children’s room and found the girl crying and trying to wake her stepbrother. He was not responding. She cried even harder, screaming his name over and over again.

Shocked at what happened, the step-mother asked the girl again

“Did you eat your own meal yesterday? I mean the meal with your name on it?”

Admist bitter tears, the girl managed to choke out no, that she had been bullied by-

The wicked step-mother put things together in her head- her sin had eaten the poisoned meal!

She made a mad dash for the room before remembering she had flushed the antidote away. From there to the drain to see if there was anything to be salvaged but alas. There was nothing.

Like a zombie she made her way to the children’s room. Her husband who had been watching her with suspicion asked what was wrong. Without thinking, she mumbled.

“He ate the poison. Her poison.”

Shocked, he sent hee ouvof the house and made arrangements to have the body disposed of. He then called the police. The policemen arrived at the same rine the ambulance came in to carry the corpse. She offered no resistance, numb and still in shock. As the medics carried her son out on a stretcher however, with a sheet covering his face it dawned on her that he was dead. Dead and gone. Something in her snapped and she slumped.

Later that day, she gave up the ghost. You see Ahmed, she paid evil’s price.”

Sooner or later, everyone who does evil, pays the price.”

Content with that explanation, I turned to watch the movie with satisfaction. And truly before the movie on the television was over, the wicked man also paid evil’s price.