Amos Tutuola's Inherited Poverty and Palmwine Drinking in the Dark Jungle of Ghosts and Brave Hunter
Amos Tutuola''s PALM WINE DRINKARD was the first African novel to have achieved international recognition. The acclaimed English, poet, Dylan Thomas influenced its critical reception through a laudatory early review. The ensuing attention gave Tutuola''s book a cult- like status internationally. But at home Tutuola''s fellow Nigerians were at first embarrassed. Many educated Nigerians were simply horrified by the book. They deplored his crudities, his lack of inhibition and the folktale basis of his romances. They found this too common place for their sophisticated tastes.His stories mostly revolve around incredible and horrifying tales mostly set in the jungle and in the underworld of spirits and ghosts.Tutuola''s breakthrough and early reception:
Amos Tutuola''s Palm Wine Drinkard was the first African novel to have achieved international recognition. Dylan Thomas the acclaimed English poet it was who influenced its critical reception through a laudatory early review. The ensuing attention thus gave Tutuola''s book a cult-like status in the West
But at home Tutuola''s fellow Nigerians were at first embarrassed. Many educated Nigerians were simply horrified. They deplored his crudities, his lack of inhibition and the folktale basis of his romances which they found too common place for their sophisticated tastes. [Collins]
Tutuola''s limited social background itself is sufficient explanation for such a rejection from his country folks and the quaint rarity of his work itself.
Born in 1920 in Abeokuta in the Western Region of Nigeria to a peasant family, he grew up amidst a great store of traditional Yoruba culture. He was subjected to a regular diet of traditional stories. Tutuola along with Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka belongs to this over-4-million strong Yoruba tribe who are well noted for their vivacity, as well as creativity.
Two years later, after starting school, in 1930, his education and general welfare were entrusted to a guardian under whose watchful care he made rapid progress in school. However, the oppressiveness of his guardian''s wife soon forced him to return to his father who resumes supporting his education out of the proceeds of his cocoa farm.
But upon his death whilst Amos was in form one his 6 years education came to a grinding halt for no one else could finance it. His next resort was to serve as a blacksmith in the Royal Air Force in Lagos. This he did for a short while from 1942 to 1943 and then, after an unsuccessful attempt to open his own blacksmith shop he relapsed into virtual unemployment. He was relieved from this by being engaged as a messenger in the Department of Labor in Lagos. There he wrote his first novel, The Palmwine Drinkard.
He was stimulated to write it after reading an advertisement placed by a Christian Publisher that had printed collections of African Stories. In an interview Tutuola revealed that in writing that novel he was striving to call the attention of "our young men, our young sons and daughters" who did not pay much attention to our traditional ....culture...." to turn away from European culture to remember our customs, not to leave it to die..."
The first draft was written in two days and was brought out by a British publisher eight years later. Tutuola remembered when the Publishers contacted him:
(They) were wondering whether I had made it up or got it from somebody because it is very strange to them. They wondered because they were surprised to see such a story...they wanted to know whether I had made it up or got it from somebody else.
Most of his critics and reviewers concede his imaginative prowess:
Mr. Tutuola tells his story as if nothing like it had ever been written down before....One catches a glimpse of the very beginning of literature that moment when writing at last seizes and pins down the myths and legends of an analphabetic culture. [The New Yorker]
The narrative is imaginatively rich, with imagery drawn from both African legends and modern realities..... The Palm Wine Drinkard may not be, indeed a product of genius, but it is certainly that of an unusual talent....... [Larrabbee]
... Tutuola is not merely an original writer, but also an original; a wayward, fanciful, erratic creative artist..... whose fertile imagination works gaily. [Times Literary Supp.]
Tutuola has imagination.......He may not possess the genius of the most imaginative writers at work but he can hold his own for sheer invention. [Ekwensi]
Right from the start, the reader is drawn into a magical world in which events occur exactly as the subconscious mind would represent them in a dream. [Balogun]
(The Palm Wine Drinkard) is the brief, thronged, grisly and bewitching story, or series of stories, written in young English by a West African, about the journey of an expert and devoted palm wine drunkard through a nightmare of indescribable adventures, all simply and carefully described in the spirit-bristling bush........ The writing is nearly always terse and direct strong, wry, flat and savory, the big and often comic, terrors are as near and understandable as the numerous small details of price, size, and number, and nothing is too prodigious or too trivial to put down in this tall, devilish story (p. 8). [Dylan Thomas]
He is in a sense an epic poet who as a man belongs nowhere and this isolation is both his tragedy and his artistic-strength....... (Whatever) his sources, in his best work Tutuola makes something new from his material. He writes very much out of himself, and his writing stands alone, unrelated to any other Nigerian writing in English. There is a tremendous courage about the man, for he has been able to go on alone, remaining true to an inner sight which perceives both the dazzling multi colored areas of dream and the appalling forests of nightmare (Margaret Lawrence 1968)
[Tutuola] is the most moralistic of all Nigerian writers.... [He] has his two feet firmly planted in the hard soil of an ancient oral and moral tradition. Of course Tutuola''s art conceals-or rather clothes-his purpose, as good art often does. But anybody who asks what the story is about can hardly have read him. (Chinua Achebe)
To attempt to make a serious evaluation of Tutuola as a novelist is to apply to his works a body of assumptions to which they are incapable of rising and to do a grave disservice to his reputation. For Tutuola is not a novelist, but a brilliant teller of folk tales. In order to answer the objections of most African readers we have to concede that his language is not quite up to standard, and not just deliberately so; but we can then go on to suggest that within the genre of the folk tale this deficiency does not matter-in fact, it is, in a sense, a positive asset. Similarly, we have to agree with most African readers that Tutuola is not strikingly original, but we can then go on to assert that whereas realism and originality are expected of the formal novel, the teller of folk tales is expected to take his subject matter and the framework of his tales from the corpus of his people''s traditional lore.
The most useful approach to Tutuola, then, is to regard him as working within the African oral tradition. The folk tale is common property belonging to the people as a whole; it is an expression of their culture and their social circumstances. The teller of folk tales knows that the framework of the story he is about to tell is already known to a majority of his hearers; but he knows equally that his reputation as a teller will depend on the inventiveness with which he modifies and adds to the basic framework of the tale. For within the basic framework the teller is allowed considerable room for manoeuvre. His audience, knowing the details of the tale already, will look forward, not to his accuracy, but to the extent and effectiveness of his improvisations and modifications, to the skill with which he makes use of facial expressions, gestures, pauses and rhetorical devices and creates suspense and excitement. While using the inherited framework, the brilliant teller of folk tales transforms them into something uniquely his own. (Eustace Palmer)
Amos Tutuola''s strangely poetic writing was quick to gain recognition in England and America, but in his own country it was at first widely criticised because of its bizarre use of English and because Tutuola was dealing with a past which many people were trying to forget, a past associated with the old gods and the spirits of forest and village, an ancestral past whose traditions for many of the present generation had lost their powers of reassurance while still retaining some powers of fear and threat. Nowadays Tutuola''s work is recognised and admired by a whole generation of more sophisticated Nigerian writers, who no longer feel the need to deny their roots, but Tutuola has little in common with these young intellectuals either. His writing does not belong to any mainstream. It is neither contemporary nor traditional. It is, really, quite timeless and quite individual, although Tutuola has been greatly influenced by his Yoruba background. (p. 126) (Margaret Laurence)
The structure of Tutuola''s tales
All of Tutuola''s works follow a definite structure. Though they are all heterogeneous and anecdotal in character, the episodes are all tied together, albeit loosely, by their involvement of the hero. The romances start off usually with a situation compelling the hero to embark on a quest. This quest leads him through various ordeals. At the end he returns to his original point, a better man
In The Palmwine Drinkard the preliminary pages prepare the ground for the impending quest. Its hero, the Palm Wine Drinkard himself is presented as having an inordinate appetite for choice Palm Wine. From the age of ten he drank 225 kegs a day and wished to do nothing else. He knew what was good for him and that was just what his witch doctor ordered. But when his regular supply was disrupted upon the death of his tapster his social standing suffered a heavy blow. Friends who once clamored after him deserted him. Then on being intimated of the possibility of redeeming his tapster he embarks on his quest for him in Deads Town. He himself and his wife were thus engulfed in numerous ordeals and adventures-mostly preternatural. Such beings as Death, the Skull, the crazy and cruel creatures of Unreturnable-Heaven''s Town, Faithful-Mother, the Red-People, the Prince-Killer, the hostile dead babies and the hungry creature struggle against him in such ordeals. He often came face to face with Death in such situations. Among the devilish creatures he encountered was a "beautiful complete gentleman" who, as he went through the forests returned the hired parts of his body to their owners whilst paying rentage and soon became a full-bodied gentleman reduced to skull. His newly found wife bore him a child from her thumb. But this child was abnormal, a pyromaniac, who smashes domestic animals to death and a bigger drinkard than its father. The drinkard was forced to burn it to ashes. And out of the ash appeared a half-bodied child talking with a "lower voice like a telephone". At the end of his quest the Drinkard is reconciled to the futility of bringing his tapster back to life, since he had lost all communication with the world of the Alives. But the quest earns him .the magical egg which provides him anything he desires such as palm wine and food. He is also enabled to relieve the town of famine. He is also enabled to correct the people''s greed. He thus emerges at the end as the people''s conscience.
In SIMBI AND THE SATYR, OF THE DARK JUNGLE, Tutuola introduces the heroine in the first few pages. This sociable and pleasure -loving girl is almost taken off her wits on learning of her two friends'' disappearance. This leads to her frustration with her affluent and comfortable background. She thus embarks on her quest to experience Poverty and Punishment even against the better judgment of her elders. In enslavement, she experiences all sorts of brutalities and degradation. When in defiance of the codes of conduct in the field, she plunges into a song which kills her master, she is nailed in a coffin and dumped in a river. On being rescued and taken to Sinner''s Town she discovers her long-lost friend. At the point of being executed, she wilefully snatches the King''s swords, behead him and, together with his friends, escapes. They kept wandering on the Path of Death to find their way home. Her apparently neurotic friend, Bako, now joins in inflicting punishment on Simbi: She is arrested for theft at the Town of the Multi Colored people where she is also joined and severely beaten. Bako''s exploits here lead them to flee the land. They now journey from forest to forest until their encountering the fearful monster, the satyr, whom she engages in an exhausting battle.
Terribly, sick, she is carried off by an eagle into a hollow tree where on being almost swallowed by a boa constrictor, she is rescued by a wood cutter who later marries her. At the land of Poverty her clothes turn into ashes and fruits transform into stones as soon as she reaches out to pick them. The Satyr then launches her second attack. She flies into his nose in the shape of a water insect and stings him to death. She releases her friends from the Satyr''s cage. They then return to their villages and have their toll on their captor, Dogo. The moral transformation in Simbi is summed up as follows:
Having rested for some days, she was going from house, to house...warning all the children that it was a great mistake to a girl who did not obey her parents [S.S.D.J.p134]
Ajaiyi, the narrator in the third selection AJAIYI AND HIS INHERITED POVERTY introduces himself his family and village. This takes us 200 years deep into the past when he first came to this world through another father and mother. Their desire to change their fortune after their parents'' death lead them into a kidnapper''s cap. This kidnapper sells them off to the idol-worshipper.
They escape into the forest where they fall into the grips of another evil being, The Spirit of Fire. The benevolent Queen of the River then helps them to make their way off.
Ajaiyi now has a bitter experience with Ade, the traitor, who through treachery beguiles him from his newly found wealth. One legged ghosts capture them on their way to the Creator. But they regain their freedom through a tough engagement with them in battle. Disappointed that fiscal matters cannot be dealt with at the creator''s abode, they move on to the God of Iron who almost put them to death. At the end the creator presents them with heavy lumps of iron under which they struggle through the rest of their journey. Even when abandoned, they pursue them onto the country of the Witches. There they are detained in preparation for their possible sacrifice. But with the transformation of the witch mother into the pupils of the eyes .they escape and arrive at a friend''s village. From there they are led to the Devil. He stands up heroically there against selling his soul away to the devil. Back at his village Ajaiyi starts making frantic moves to redeem himself from poverty. But on realizing that the witch doctor has been insincere, he assaults him and makes away with all his money. But as shown below, Ajaiyi''s series of grueling experiences have sharpened his moral responsiveness.
Although I had six thousand pounds from this witch doctor of my village with bravery which he had got from the various people by his satanic way. Of course this money could free me from my poverty. But I did not spend it at all because it came to my mind this midnight that" money was father of sins and insincerities". And I remember this midnight as well that Ojo, Alabi and I had been seriously warned in the town of the creator that we should keep ourselves away from sins when we returned to our village. Furthermore, when the Head of the drummers of the Creator took us to the place of the punishments in the town of the Creator. I saw uncountable of the Lords, millionaires, barristers, money lenders, judges, etc etc, who were in the greatest fire in respect of the sins which they had committed in order to get money before they died. So having remembered all this, instead to pay my debts out of this money, I simply kept it in a room [A.H.I.P.Pp233-4]
With this money he later builds churches rather than pay off his debtors. This and his dedication to the spread of the word of God, show his selfless devotion to the people''s welfare.
Tutuola''s world defies the logical order of reality:
Tutuola has created in his romances a world that defies the logical orders of the real world. In The Palmwine Drinkard the inordinate appetite the drinkard has for drinking palm wine prepares the reader''s mind for extraordinary feats. In SIMBI AND THE SATYR OF THE DARK JUNGLE this sort of expectation is created by Simbi''s visit to the soothsayer and her subsequent cult like sacrifice at the junction of three roads. The narrator''s idea in AJAIYI AND HIS INHERITED POVERTY of having lived a different life 200 years before, also prepares the reader to expect more such fantasies.
The Drinkard''s adventure is a journey into the sub-conscious and into the Spirit World. All sorts of strange figures, and extraordinary feats recur throughout that quest. In The Palmwine Drinkard , beings such as Death, the half-baby and the Hungry Creature all add horror to the scenes. The unnatural birth of a baby who within seconds makes the equivalence of years of normal natural development, the sojourn of the Drinkard and his wife in the Hungry Creature''s belly, the scenes of transformation they undergo in their quest through the various parts of the mythical world the use of an egg to alleviate the famine and its later use to teach the ungrateful people a lesson, all add to that effect.
In SIMBI AND THE SATYR OF THE DARK JUNGLE the central experience is Simbi''s sojourn in the Dark Jungle. There she has "many bruising encounters with her terrible enemy, the Satyr"
His creation of an illusory hall of birds in the jungle adds to this dream - world''s extensiveness. The transformation of Bako to a cock, the compression of Simbi to a baby-size and her change to a diminutive water insect renders the story even more compulsive in its fantasy.
AJAIYI AND HIS INHERITED POVERTY is not short of its own stock of incredible creations. These include the spirit of Fire, the Queen of the River, the one legged ghosts, and the human-corpse-eating creature. It is also replete with superhuman feats. These include the rousing up of the dead, the transformation of the Witch Mother to the pupil of the eyes, the metamorphoses the witch-doctor undergoes during his conjuration of the Devil and the sudden affluence of Ojo and Alabi after their appeal to the Devil.
The World of the stories is almost akin to that of the traditional folk-tales within which intercourse between the living and the dead is common and where nature is humanized. Tutuola''s world conforms in all respects to Northrop Frye''s conception of the mythical world of quest romances where the hero moves in a world in which the ordinary laws of nature are slightly suspended: prodigies of courage and endurances, unnatural to us, are natural to him, and enchanted weapons, talking animals and talismans of miraculous power violate no rule of probabilities......
Even when human, Tutuola''s heroes demonstrate superhuman feats such as transforming themselves into varying objects such as dolls, flies and canoes in the manner of the Drinkard and Simbi. Drinkard calls himself ''father of Gods'' because he claims ability to ''do everything in this world". When hard pressed by his adversaries, he changes into something else. In similar situations, Simbi and the Witch Mother are forced to take the shape of other objects.
Confronted by the Satyr, Simbi changes into a water insect, flies into his nose and stings him to death. The witch mother pursued by the three spirits, changes herself into the pupil of the Blacksmith''s eyes.
Another common phenomenon in the romances is the intercourse between the living and the dead. The Drinkard''s meeting with his Tapster in Deads Town and Ajaiyi''s encountering a number of ghosts on his long and arduous journey to the creator are just a few examples. Nature itself is humanized. Death then becomes a person who cultivates a farm as an ordinary man would. Skulls and lumps of iron can now speak and act like humans. Creatures such as the Satyr, the Hungry Creature and the dead-body eater all speak and act just as humans. They encounter human figures such as the Drinkard, Simbi and Ajaiyi.
In the created world of the books, there are various units or territories. All of them have different norms and codes of conduct. These varying units or territories are only tied together by the heroes'' quest through them. To go through them the heroes face numerous obstacles. They penetrate thick forests and fight fearful spirits and odious creatures. So pervasive is this, that faced with countless adventures with monsters and marvel, Drinkard seems to forget his mission to find his dead tapster. Throughout her quest Simbi keeps searching for the right path to her village and Ajaiyi in his journey to the creator wanders for long without seeming to be getting anywhere. According to Ajaiyi himself:
We were going to travel in the jungles, bushes, forest, in the deep valleys, on high hills etc.,. for more than six months before probably, we could reach the town of the creator, because there was no road on which to travel at all.[AHPp89]
All these obstacles to be tackled show that one has to go through a great deal of ordeal to be qualified to enter the creator''s abode. As a result:
There was nobody who must go to the creator''s town twice. Even once a person had returned he would fear to go back because of the difficulties, hardships, punishments etc which he had met on the way for the first time he went there [AHPp89]
Tutuola''s world blends fantasy with conventional realism. Monetary transactions are in effect operated within magical contexts:
''for instance, when pressed for hard cash, the Drinkard uses his inherited magical powers to turn himself into a canoe which his wife uses to ferry people across a stream at the rate of 3d per adult and 11/2 d per child. A brisk business transaction is executed with somebody at the door just at the point when the Drinkard and his wife enter the Faithful-Mother''s abode at the White Tree. Their death is sold to him for 70. 18s. Od. When they finally leave the White Tree, they collect their capital (fear) and interest from the said "somebody at the door". [Obiechina]
Similar transactions in money could be found in AJAIYI AND HIS INHERITED POVERTY. During the preparation for the funeral ceremony of Ajaiyi''s dead parent, Ajaiyi negotiates for specified charges for various services.
The superimposition of modern phenomena on a magical world manifests itself in many other ways. In The Palmwine Drinkard time is conveyed in such normal ways as "......6:30 a.m. of the following morning.........,'' "By 8:0'' clock p.m. of that day, ''"....from morning till 12:00 ''O'' Clock a.m. and a host ''of others.
In AJAIYI AND HIS INHERITED POVERTY and SIMBI AND THE SATYR OF THE DARK FOREST the conventional reference to time include. "When it was about five ''O'' clock in the evening he came back to us......" " after I traveled about twenty miles, I came to a town at about two "o" clock p.m., ".... they came to a jungle at one ''O'' clock of the day ........" and "...... they had traveled near to the town of the multi-colored people when it was about three ''O'' clock in the morning." Many other examples of the mixing of the modern world with the mythical world suggest themselves. In SIMBI AND THE SATYR OF THE DARK JUNGLE and The Palmwine Drinkard orchestras or dancers perform in halls. In the last romance treated here whilst traveling to the Creator''s town they came to "one mighty building which was the hotel for that area." Its description together with the services specified as offered are modernist. They hardly sat down "when various kinds of food and drinks were brought to us by the waiters"
Tutuola''s character presentation:
Turning now to characters, in spite of their simplicity, Tutuola''s principal characters are substantial and credible. Drinkard, is clearly established in the reader''s mind as a shrewd, witty, easygoing Yoruba. Because of his inordinate appetite for palm wine and his magical powers he looks like a larger than life figure. All along we follow his quest with interest and empathy for his struggling through .But his wife doesn''t as much as marginally come off. She makes no impact on the reader.
The little revealed of her is from the episode of the complete gentleman when she is described as: "... very beautiful as an angel but no man could convince her for marriage." Up to the Drinkard''s announcement of his marriage to her, little more about her was known. Not as much as a word was said to have come from her. Neither was any kind of regret expressed for her mistake. She has therefore failed to express neither a view nor an emotion to prove her existence. Simbi, who for Collins is "a more substantial and credible character," [P.29] comes off well because of the good deal of light shown on her throughout the romance. Many of her qualities are boldly outlined.
She is the daughter of a wealthy woman. She is an only child and has been brought up in luxury. She is also a lovely girl with a fine singing voice. But Simbi grows weary of her pleasant life and longs to experience. "....the Poverty and the "Punishment." She prays to know the meaning of poverty and punishment and her dangerous prayer is quickly answered. At first she is a fun-lover. Being the only issue of her wealthy mother who brought her up in luxury, she was not working at all, except to eat and to bathe and then to wear several kinds of the costliest garments. She spends most of her time singing in the village where she is reputed to be the most beautiful and the most merry making girl." with her fine singing voice to match. As she and her two friends Rali and Sala, are inseparably linked: "they would not be happy without seeing each other in a moment."[SSDJ P7] So on losing her friends, she is shattered emotionally. Now turned gloomy and pessimistic, she longs for a different life through which she will experience poverty and punishment. Her quest for these bring in her sobering changes. In the end she learns an important lesson - never to disobey her parents. She not only profits personally from the experience but also ensures that the message is spread out. She now goes from house to house "warning all the children that it was a great mistake to a girl who did not obey her parents" [S.S.D.J.p.136]
Of all Simbi''s friends only Bako has real individuality. She comes off as a comical and paranoid figure-living the experiences of her twin partner, however far off she may be. As she says: "If she steals something at home thus I too will steal something." [ S.S.D.J.p.48]
The Satyr, though apparently monstrous, emerges as a compelling figure. When seen in the darkness with his "goggling" eyes illuminating the area, and his great and horrible voice looming out, his victims are frightened out of their wits. Most of his statements such as this one portraying an unscrupulous and blood thirsty being could be seen in: "I believe that two ladies shall come back to this jungle and I shall kill both of them at all costs, at any day I meet them. It is certain they are my meat" [SSDJp80]
Ajaiyi in AJAIYI AND HIS INHERITED POVERTY comes off well simply because of his moral development. His original quest to annul his poverty by whatever means leads to his resolute stand at the devil''s abode against acquiring wealth through devilish intrigues such as sacrificing his sister and shortening his lifespan. One would have thought, regardless of his strong attachment to his sister, his original determination to acquire wealth could have led him to move towards that end without any scruples. When first introduced to him, we are given the impression that we are encountering yet another of Tutuola''s super-humans for he is said to have lived another life "about two hundred years ago when he first came to this world through another father and mother.
By that time I was a boy and not a girl, by that time I was the poorest farmer and not as a story teller, by that time I was the most wicked gentile and the strongest worshipper of all the false Gods and not a Christian, by that time I was the poorest among the people of my village and not the richest...... [A.H.I.P. p11]
Though portrayed as a "wicked gentile and the strongest worshipper of all the false god''s "Ajaiyi throughout the romance projects an image to the contrary. In his transactions with his pawn brokers and his relationship with his treacherous friend, Ade, he remains patient, benevolent and forgiving. Even when Ade proves treacherous, he still remains devoted by "trying all my best to see that he was released by the King", when detained, and even when dead he sits down near his body, driving away flies from it and "weeping bitterly for the death of my friend" [A.H.I.P. Pp65-6]
Unfortunately, so much could not be said for the development of Aina''s individuality. Only in the episode of the Kola Tree are we obliged just a cursory glimpse of her. She presents there the picture of an accommodating, merciful and tender-hearted person. Once she has shown her offender the dangers of her deeds she is content on having the matter resolved. She ends the conflict pleading:.
It will be a great pity if this daughter is killed with a vengeance in respect of my kola-nut tree which was cut down when her mother Babi insisted to take the head of her broken pitcher back ten years ago. Her mother did that so that I might not get the kola nuts to sell again. So now, I believe if we continue to pay bad for bad, bad shall never finish on earth! Therefore, I forgive Babi what she had done to my Kola-nut tree! [A.H.I.P. p82]
Yet another credible character is the Witch Mother. At first she appears pleasant and benevolent. Despite Ajaiyi and his friends'' breaking into her house uninvited and start running about pursued by the mysterious lumps of iron, she does not react irascibly. She rather helps in stopping them. But later on she is shown off for the vicious person she really is. She is, by her own confession, the most wicked witch. She takes the life of even her own prodigy to sacrifice to her fellow witches. In the end she escapes the Spirits'' intrigue through sheer cunning.
In Tutuola, man is at grips with hostile elements, the jungle, vicious monsters and supernatural beings. In these situations man always emerges as capable and able to confront or even circumvent the menaces of those inimical forces.
The Drinkard, Simbi and Ajaiyi all triumph over the wild monsters and spirits of the impenetrable jungle that their quests lead them to. These triumphs are marked off by noble deeds of moral dimension. The Drinkard settles the cosmic quarrel between the Sky God and the Earth Goddess, thus ending the famine which tormented his town. Simbi saves her town "from the ravages of Dogo" the heartless slave-raider and warns others from disobeying their parents'' advice; Ajaiyi, on running into wealth uses his money to build churches in his and his benefactors'' villages and dedicates himself to spreading virtue and the message of God abroad. All the heroes grow spiritually as well. In the end Drinkard understands the meaning of life and death. Simbi emerges with a vivid experience of the agony of poverty and punishment and the ills of defying parental advice, Ajaiyi comes off with a strong conviction that money is the root of all evils. These profound knowledge acquired equip them to live better lives thereafter. In effect the journey through all the varying territories are processes of spiritual purification.
Didactic values of Tutuola''s romances:
Tutuola''s romances show strong didactic values as well. Various episodes bear lessons for the reader. In The Palmwine Drinkard , the episode of the "Complete Gentleman" demonstrates the folly of disobeying parents, for it leads the lady to harrowing experiences with the skulls. The deceptiveness of appearances alluded to in "all that glitters is not gold" is vividly exemplified by the gradual degeneration of the beauty'' of the Complete Gentleman. How dangerous it is to disobey parental advice is discerned in SIMBI AND THE SATYR OF THE DARK JUNGLE.. This is because:"the dog which will lose will not pay heed to the call of its master"
Simbi, realizing her mistake in the course of the book, admits. "If I were not a silly person I should have obeyed my mother''s and other person''s warning"
. AjJAIYI AND HIS INHERITED POVERTY has the greater number of episodes bearing moral lessons. At the Creator''s abode the virtues of honesty are extolled through demonstrating the direful fate awaiting the dishonest after death. Ajaiyi also learns through his visit that the pursuit of wealth is the root of all evils in the world. He therefore avoids selling his soul to the devil though he has to be in the burden of this talking lump. Ajaiyi and his sister learn after their capture by the kidnapper how useful it is to ask questions whenever one is in doubt. Their trouble could have been avoided if only they had asked their father the meaning of "Remember the Day after Tomorrow." The reprehensibility of jealousy is shown when Babi''s jealously forcing Aina to cut her productive kola-nut-tree nearly led to the decapitation of her (Babi''s) daughter''s head. This is only forestalled by Aina''s realization that "if we continue to pay bad for bad, bad shall never finish on earth" and she thus forgives her.
Tutuola''s strange English usage or abusage:
Early Nigerian critics taking issue with Tutuola''s rather unorthodox use of English noted that his works were smeared with grammatical infringements ranging from wrong use of tenses to strange un-English words and structures. They even doubt his writing ability, pointing out his imitation of D.O. Fagunwa - the Yoruba chronicler of tales in the vernacular. Such imitations were softened with time as the work''s excellence radiated beyond its limitations. But it is uncertain whether these added interest to his work. To this a Canadian critic says: "certain features of Tutuola''s language, his conversion of adjectives into verbs ( I would jealous him) the strange time sense created by his adverbial uses of "there" and his special use of conjunctives are not so much inventive as they are natural forms to him. But that itself Arnason asserts contradictorily should not deny Tutuola his inventiveness. He then goes on to give some degree of credit to such infractions. For the verve and dynamism of Tutuola''s style to him is not drawn purely from the felicitous result of a marriage of Yoruba and English. Amazon further credits Tutuola''s work with a great deal of inventiveness and intuitive awareness of the possibilities of English, and approves him as an impressive stylist whose style gains power and dynamism from the same elements that energize conventional style: a terse economy of words means vivid and concrete language, sure and descriptive detail, and original and imaginative imagery.. (p 56 Amason) In spite of Anason''s ambivalence as to the merit of Tutuola''s blending of Yoruba sentence structure and English vocabulary thus producing strikingly powerful and original effects, I do feel that''s where lies much of his interest. For to my mind Tutuola at first form level should have been familiar with common English vocabulary items as "drunkards". So his choice of "drinkard" is certainly a deliberate coinage drawn from the English "drinker" and "drunkard" to create a new concept .suggestive of a man who drinks too much as distinct from the pejoratively connotative "drunkard".
Tutuola''s imaginative and verbal dexterity: Tutuola''s syncretic imagination reconciles opposites and creates syntheses. His eclectic method drawing from all sources and merging wildly disparate elements into a wholly believable unity .with his syncretic imagination functions at every level of his art. It is first of all apparent in the style through which he combines with ease imagery drawn from a pre-industrial, animistic and magic-based cultural sensibility with imagery drawn from an industrial, monotheistic and scientific cultural sensibility.
This syncretic imagination functions at the level of the narrative as well. Dozens of dualities are reconciled in the sweep of the story. The spiritual world and the human world merged, the hero of the book becomes a mortal, who is also" Father of Gods" (p 57) Through his "syncretic monotheism" at the deepest Level he has monsters, spirits and gods of the bush operating without apparent conflict in a universe in which the Christian God is also apparently present and operative, though not supreme to any of the other gods,
Tutuola''s claim to genius is his ability to synthetize all elements of the African experience into a cohesive form. There is also his way of combining the macabre and the beautiful the horrifying and the humorous, the familiar and the mysterious. But it''s the vitality of his writing and the completely unstudied and casual way in which he makes his dramatic effect that is most impressive. (p 146Margaret Laurence)
Tutoula''s romances, with the exception of SIMBI AND THE SATYR are told by first- person- hero -narrators Drinkard and Ajaiyi. Simbi is told by a third-person authorial voice always "magnificently composed, compellingly assured, like some oracle in its heyday sounding like the passionate speech of one speaking from deeply held lifetime convictions. This is most evident in his opening passages:
I was a palm wine drinkard since I was a boy of ten years of age. I had no other work more than to drink palm-wine in my life. In those days we did not know other money, except COWRIES, so that everything was very cheap, and my father was the richest man in our town. My father got eight children and I was the eldest among them, all of the rest were hard workers, but I myself was an expert palm-wine drinkard. I was drinking palm-wine from morning till night and from night till morning .[P.W.D.]
Simbi was the daughter of a wealthy woman, and she was an only issue of her mother. She was not working at all, except to eat and after that to bathe and then to wear several kinds of the costliest garments. Although she was a wonderful singer whose beautiful voice could wake deads and she was only the most beautiful girl in the village. Having eaten the rice food, bathed and dressed in the morning, the next thing that which she was doing was to be singing about in the village..
Simbi was the most merry making girl in the village and in respect of that almost the whole people of her village liked to see her every time. Especially for her singing and amusing sayings. [S.S.D.J.]
And I, as Ajaiyi by name, was fifteen years of age, my junior sister Aina by name was twelve, both of us were born by the same father and mother, in a very small village. This village contained only about one thousand houses. The walls of these houses were mud and the roofs were thatched with the broad leaves and spear.-grasses. The whole of the inhabitants of the village were not more than four thousand, [A.H.P.]
Reading like oral tales being told in the village square, his tales seem as if he were entertaining a group of friends with his fantasies on a moonlit night. Delving into the story directly, he sets the stage for the succeeding adventures with brief insights into the heroes and their situation. In graphic, forceful and straight forward language, he introduces the concern of his romances. The reader''s interest is maintained throughout by the urgently and rapidly paced narratives. Clear and lively descriptions give the reader at least "momentary belief in his magical world" .Vivid imageries mostly similes describe his characters and their environment. To describe the sound emitted by the half bodied baby, he writes" he was whistling as if he was forty persons. The red fish''s head is "like a tortoise''s head, but it was as big as an elephant''s head." The complete gentleman''s portrait is brought alive by comparisons. If the narrator were a lady, he confesses he would have followed him as the lady did. His beauty is such, he states, that even bombs would refuse to explode in his presence. In AJAIYI AND HIS INHERITED POVERTY ample comparison is made in describing the Spirit of Fire:
His neck was very thick with uncountable of thick veins which were surrounded it like that of a big tree.....But each of her arms was as flat as a flat hand fan but it was thicker than a plank of two inches. The spirit''s chest is as thin as string'' and each thigh is so long like a stilt" that" it seemed as if there was no flesh but bone" on it.
The heaviness of the lump iron that Ajaiyi is given at the creator''s abode is so big "that twenty strong men could not even lift it up to one inch. But when the God of iron lifted it he held it with left hand as if it was a small feather."
Proverbs also help to emphasize and summarize ideas. The proverbs "the dog which will lose will not pay heed to the call of its master'' and "one who has done what one has never done, shall see what one has never seen," emphasize the ordeal defiance could lead one to. AJAIYI AND HIS INHERITED POVERTY is replete with them. "Where there is a quarrel the song becomes an allusion," "excessive jealousy makes a woman to become a witch'' and "it is the end that shows the winner'' showing the danger of rifts between people and teaching that all such disputes are best resolved amicably. The virtue of behaving well, and talking politely to everyone however lowly in appearance, is conveyed in "hard words draw out the club or gun, but soft words bring the kola out from the pocket."
The conveyance of dialogue through indirect quotations in The Palmwine Drinkard cheats the language of its vividness and immediacy. But scenes in SIMBI AND THE SATYR OF THE DARK JUNGLE are spiced with lively conversations conveyed through dialogue ensuring that they are better developed. For it''s through direct speech that the developed scenes in which Dogo the kidnapper and Simbi berate each other, those scenes in which Simbi and the Satyr trade battle boasts, and the chattering of Simbi and her refugee friends are spirited and effective though some of the speech tags might seem a little quaint.
Tutuola demonstrates appreciable improvement in his use of dialogue in AJAIYI AND HIS INHERITED POVERTY as well. Dialogue brings alive scenes involving the kidnapper and Ajaiyi, the spirit of fire''s encounter with the Queen of the River, Ajaiyi''s experiences with the Witch Mother. Even the apparently inanimate objects, the lumps of heavy iron, are animated and their pursuit of Ajaiyi made terribly credible by their continuous monologue.
The tale''s warmth is enhanced by its humour. For as Obiechina himself says "Tutuola''s humour and a sensitive nose for the kind of detail which gives beauty, power and immediacy to writing is illustrated in almost every page of his books"
Tutuola''s largely episodic plots following the classical lines of the sagas could not be clearly discerned as novels by Margaret Laurence, but she concedes that:
He writes best when most intuitively. and most intensely inward. His forests are certainly and in detail the outer ones but they are, as well, the forests of the mind, where the individual meets and grapples with the creatures of his own imagination. These creatures are aspects of himself, , aspects of his response to the world into which he was born, the world to which he must continue to return if he is to live as a man. (pp146-47 Margaret Laurence, "A Twofold Forest Amos. Tutuola "in her Long Drums and Cannons, Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists, Macmillan, London 1968 PP 126-47
In conclusion Tutuola''s chief interest lay in his creation of a compulsive mythical world through which moral lessons and profound truths are imputed and a unique, audacious and vivacious language enabling him in spite of his limited education to express himself without inhibition and to record his experiences in an authentic and credible manner.
The titles of Tutuola''s books are abbreviated thus:
The Palm Wine Drinkard PWD Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle - SSDJ Ajaiyi and His Inherited Poverty AHIP My Life in the Bush of Ghosts MLBG The Brave African Hunters TBAH Feather Woman of the Jungle FWJ
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Collins, Harold R. Amos Tutuola New York, Twayne Publishers Inc., 1969
Frye, Northrop, Anatomy of Criticism
Larson, Charles R. The Emergence of African Fiction , Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1972
Lawrence, Margaret Long Drums and Cannons
Moore, Gerald Amos Tutuola
Palmer, Eustace The Growth of the African Novel
Balogun,Ola Presence Africaine,65 (1968) in
PERSPECTIVES ON AMOS TUTUOLA (ED)
Larrabee, Eric, ''Palmwine Drunkard searched for a Tapster'' in CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON AMOS TUTUOLA (ed) Bernth Lindfors Washington D.C. Three Continents Press.1975
Ekwensi, Cyprian, from ''West Africa Review'' January 1956 in PERSPECTIVES ON AMOS TUTUOLA
''The Times Literary Supplement'' October 21'' 1955 in PERSPECTIVES ON AMOS TUTUOLA
Arthur E Smith is Senior Lecturer of English at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. His articles, stories and essays have appeared in many venues. He was born and grew up in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He holds a Masters in African Literature from Fourah Bay College. He has taught English at Prince of Wales, Milton Margai College of Education & Technology. Mr. Smith is widely published both locally as well as internationally. He was one of 17 international scholars who participated in a seminar on contemporary American Literature sponsored by the U.S. State Department in 2006. His thoughts and reflections on this trip could be read at www.lisnews.org and ezinearticles.com His other publications include: Folktales From Freetown, Langston Hughes: Life and Works Celebrating Black Dignity, and ''The Struggle of the Book in Sierra Leone''