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The Principles of Folktale in Igbo Society

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1 The Principles of Folktale in Igbo Society
Otu Mgbe: The Principles of Folktale in Igbo Society

2 Questions to consider:
Why did folk tales serve such an integral role in Igbo society throughout adulthood? What (if any) corresponding tradition to the oral tale do we have in modern American society?

3 Purpose of story in Igbo life
Story-telling served 3 goals in Igbo society: Entertainment Moral and societal tradition Artistic genre J.O.J. Nwachuckwu-Agbada, “The Igbo Folktale: Performance Conditions and Internal Characteristics”

4 entertainment Similar to theater
Performer was expected to know “role” of storyteller Audience participation and judgment Performances preserved “order and balance” of society on smaller scale

5 morality and tradition
Tales repeated throughout villages, families Archetypal themes easy to remember Unite mythical, spiritual, and concrete realms Serve as educational tools for children Pass along rules of order

6 artistry in folk tales Tales included songs as part of ritual
Storytellers respected ritual of tales Stories told after dark during dry season Standard openings and group responses

7 stories from “things fall apart”
13 different animal tales referenced, using 11 different titular characters The Tortoise (chapter 11) is the Master Trickster in Igbo tales Stories illustrate male/female values, moral codes

8 Some Examples: “Let kite perch and eagle, too. If one says no to the other, let his wing break.” --ch.3 Extending hospitality is essential to one’s success and well-being. “The little bird nza who so far forgot himself… that he challenged his chi.” --ch. 4 Do not think so highly of oneself that one forgets his proper place. “Eneke-nti-oba challenged the whole world to wrestle and was bested by a cat.” --ch 7. Grace and skill are more formidable than strength and bravado. Mosquitoes buzz by ears as a reminder of their love and devotion. --ch 9 Explanation of how things work in the world.

9 And: Snake-lizard killed his mother, then killed himself.
--ch 9 None are above the rules of society. Tortoise names himself “All of You” to eat all the food at the feast. Later, parrot delivers the wrong message to Tortoise’s wife. --ch 11 Be wary of false friends; Don’t make enemies, they will retaliate! (After exile in Mbanta) Mother Kite teaches her daughter how/what to hunt. --ch 15 When a situation is odd, beware.

10 The final tale: Eneke the bird was asked why he was always on the wing and he replied: “Men have learned to shoot without missing their mark and I have learned to fly without perching on a twig.” How can this be interpreted in respect to Ogonkwo? The villages? The future?

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