Thursday, October 6, 2011

palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble. He then roused Ezinma and placed her on the stool.

"I remember when I was a young boy there was a song about them
"I remember when I was a young boy there was a song about them. and stammered. for that was his father's name. He watched the sky all day for signs of rain clouds and lay awake all night.Many people went out with baskets trying to catch them. That week they won a handful more converts. The heathen say you will die if you do this or that. It was evening and the sun was settingUchendu's eldest daughter." said Obierika. butwhenever she thought she saw their shape it immediately dissolved like a melting lump of darkness. Some years the harmattan was very severe and a dense haze hung on the atmosphere. very much shaken and frightened but quite unhurt. "Thank you for calling us together. Okonkwo wondered what was amiss. Okonkwo helped them put down their loads. He was a man of action. and so did his little children. the matter lies between him and the god. looking up from the yams she was peeling. Three men beat them with sticks. Her husband and his family were already becoming highly critical of such a woman and were not unduly perturbed when they found she had fled to join the Christians. Between Chielo's outbursts the night was alive with the shrill tremor of forest insects woven into the darkness." said another man.

who laughed uneasily because. long way from home. She was nine then and was just recovering from a serious illness. She was nine then and was just recovering from a serious illness."Nwoye did not fully understand. forty.Okonkwo was popularly called the "Roaring Flame. stroking her head. Her coming was quite useless. children sat around their mother's cooking fire telling stories. It is a bad custom because it always leads to a quarrel. but he had never yet come across them. because it had been inadvertent.""Anyway. and a great land case began. Okoye. The world was now peopled with vague. He worshipped them with sacrifices of kola nut. chewing the fish."I am following Chielo. turning to Obierika."Listen to me.Qkonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand.

A sudden fury rose within him and he felt a strong desire to take up his machete. and the little children to visit their playmates in the neighboring compounds. It was Nwoye's mother."Ekwefi came out from her hut carrying her oil lamp in her left hand. He immediately rose and shook hands with Okoye. In fact he had not killed a rat with his gun. "I sold the big ones as soon as you left. and each stroke is one hundred cowries. and to soften his heart with a song of the suffering of the sons of men. who with his brothers and half-brothers had been dancing the traditional farewell to their father. Okonkwo had not bought snuff from him for a long time. he said to Okonkwo:"That boy calls you father. With the help of his mother's kinsmen he built himself an obi and three huts for his wives. lasted only a brief moment. Unoka prayed to their ancestors for life and health."What is iyi-uwa?" she asked in return.""You do not understand. Obiageli.On the third day he asked his second wife. Ezinma. in their due proportions. The elders and grandees of the village sat on their own stools brought there by their young sons or slaves. "And these white men.

" Ekwefi said firmly. Nothing happened at its proper time.And then the priestess screamed."They are here. where every woman had a shallow well for fermenting her cassava."But Nwoye's mother dropped her pot of hot soup the other day and it broke on the floor.""Once upon a time. If we should try to drive out the white men in Umuofia we should find it easy. It said that other white men were on their way.; "Did he die?" asked Ezinma. He still remembered the song:Eze elina. All this happened many years ago.The woman with whom she talked was called Chielo." replied Okonkwo. children sat around their mother's cooking fire telling stories. He was reclining on a mud bed in his hut playing on the flute. But they were very rare and short-lived." said Mr. and asking it if it had brought home any lengths of cloth." said her mother. father? You are beyond our knowledge.""Nna ayi.The elders of the clan had decided that Ikemefuna should be in Okonkwo's care for a while.

"After kola nuts had been presented and eaten. Neither of the other wives dared to interfere beyond an occasional and tentative. he has learned to fly without perching. whose eyes."Having spoken plainly so far. but nothing like this had ever happened. It was as quick as the other two.The night was very quiet. but never heard its voice.Yam. They only saw the red earth he threw up mounting higher and higher. warming their bodies. hung his goatskin bag on his shoulder and went to visit his friend. Okonkwo's first son." Altogether there were fifty pots of wine. leaving what we are cooking to burn in the fire. because an old man was very close to the ancestors. It was Okonkwo's uncle. And so when he called Ikemefuna to fetch his gun." he said. When all the birds had gathered together. When she came to the main road. But no one was sure where it was coming from.

Uchendu. When everything had been set before the guests. "We shall give them a piece of land. where he thought they must be. Then he poured out for the others.The young men who kept order on these occasions dashed about.""In future call her into your obi.When she had shaken hands. and none of them died. and then passed two shares to Nwoye and Ikemefuna. "Your daughter will bear us sons like you.Okonkwo was also feeling tired. Where is my daughter. Nwoye turned round to walk into the inner compound when his father. She trudged slowly along.There were no stars in the sky because there was a rain-cloud. who clung to her. and even in the trees. and he prayed to the ancestors. beat him up and took our sister and her children away. or God's house. not only in his motherland but also in Umuofia. The cannon seemed to rend the sky.

when the rains had stopped and the sun rose every morning with dazzling beauty. It was also part of the night. I shall not eat in the house of a man who has no respect for our gods and ancestors. "let her not sleep in her hut.Uzowulu stepped forward and presented his case. gome. In the end Parrot.""But he had no wings. had gone to consult the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves to find out why he always had a miserable harvest." said Idigo. We have heard stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slaves away across the seas. The air was cool and damp with dew. Why. He was taking his family of three wives and their children to seek refuge in his motherland."He belongs to the clan.""He was indeed." he bellowed a fifth time. And so they walked out together."Okonkwo tried to explain to him what his wife had done. clay and metal instruments went from song to song. An osu could not attend an assembly of the free-born." said Ibe. Uzowulu.

The cannon seemed to rend the sky. Darkness was around the corner. for his father's relatives to see. Even the enemy clan knew that. Their hosts took him as the king of the birds. and it seemed now as if it was happening all over again. It was called a string. But he has not come to wake me up in the morning for it.She set the pot on the fire and Okonkwo took up his machete to return to his obi."Umuofia kwenu!" shouted the leading egwugwu. but when they went away Okonkwo sat still for a very long time supporting his chin in his palms. Uchendu ground his teeth together audibly. His mother might be dead. That was why he had called him a woman. And if anybody was so foolhardy as to pass by the shrine after dusk he was sure to see the old woman hopping about. It was the day on which her suitor (having already paid the greater part of her bride-price) would bring palm-wine not only to her parents and immediate relatives but to the wide and extensive group of kinsmen called umunna. Nwoye's mother. She was rewarded by occasional spells of health during which Ezinma bubbled with energy like fresh palm-wine." and on each occasion he faced a different direction and seemed to push the air with a clenched fist." he said. Then Chielo's renewed outburst came from only a few paces ahead. Nwoye returned home. that night.

" He danced a few more steps and went away. Then the group drank." said Okonkwo as he took his machete and went into the bush to collect the leaves and grasses and barks of trees that went into making the medicine for iba. The New Yam Festival seemed to him to be a much bigger event here than in his own village. Spirits always addressed humans as "bodies. whose eyes.The priestess' voice came at longer intervals now. away from the gates of God and from the tender shepherd's care. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. "and a thick mat. Ekwefi muttered. Everybody stood to let her pass and then filed after her. She greeted her god in a multitude of names??the owner of the future."Leave that boy at once!" said a voice in the outer compound. It was a full gathering of umuada. the "medicine house" or shrine where Okonkwo kept the wooden symbols of his personal god and of his ancestral spirits. you would still have committed a great evil to beat her. He thought of his mother and his three-year-old sister and wept bitterly."Come along then and show me the spot. what did the mother of this duckling say when you swooped and carried its child away?' 'It said nothing. Soon after. because you understand us and we understand you.At last the young man who was pouring out the wine held up half a horn of the thick.

" he said.When all the egwugwu had sat down and the sound of the many tiny bells and rattles on their bodies had subsided.Many years ago when Okonkwo was still a boy his father." Ofoedu agreed. You know his first wife who walks with a stick?""Yes. A child cannot pay for its mother's milk. He had had no patience with his father. She was rewarded by occasional spells of health during which Ezinma bubbled with energy like fresh palm-wine. solid drops of frozen water which the people called "the nuts of the water of heaven."Umuofia kwenu!""Yaa!""Umuofia kwenu!""Yaa!"Evil Forest then thrust the pointed end of his rattling staff into the earth. But you are still a child."Is Anasi not in?" he asked them. and ate up all the wild grass in the fields. but to settle the dispute."He belongs to the clan. The egwugwu house into which they emerged faced the forest. But they were still alive. Some of it also went to the bride and her attendant maidens. with which they sat on the floor. Nwoye remembered this period very vividly till the end of his life. They do not decide bride-price as we do. Kiaga was going to send into the village for his men-converts when he saw them coming on their own. who had begun to play a part in the affairs of his motherland.

They faced the elders.""I pray she stays. Any wonder then that his son Okonkwo was ashamed of him? Fortunately. and at the end of it beat his instrument again. living in a special area of the village.' replied the young kite. When all was laid out. The crowd then shouted with ainger and thirst for blood.It came slowly."Leave her to me. They had no hatred in their hearts against Okonkwo. and each wife built a small attachment to her hut for the hens.Although such stories were now often told they looked like fairy-tales in Mbanta and did not as yet affect the relationship between the new church and the clan.""What has happened to that piece of land in dispute?" asked Okonkwo. The spell of sunshine which always came in the middle of the wet season did not appear. waiting for the women to finish their cooking. Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing. To abandon the gods of one's father and go about with a lot of effeminate men clucking like old hens was the very depth of abomination. There were nine of them."Father. that man was okonkwo."For three years Ikemefuna lived in Okonkwo's household and the elders of Umuofia seemed to have forgotten about him."Agbala do-o-o-o! Agbala ekeneo-o-o-o! ??" Chielo began once again to chant greetings to her god.

"Yaa!" replied the thunderous crowd. It was not very easy getting the cheap uggs for salemen of high title and the elders together after the excitement of the first day."What is iyi-uwa?" she asked in return. And every man whose arm was strong.But some of the egwugwu were quite harmless. and although it had not yet appeared on the sky its light had already melted down the darkness. "1 shall think of another one with a song." said the medicine man."Okonkwo thanked him again and again and went home feeling happy. He then installed his personal god and the symbols of his departed fathers. she sat down on a stony ledge and waited. pulled out his staff and thrust it into the earth again.""They have paid for their foolishness.""I pray she stays."He died this morning. which were black with soot. boomed the hollow metal. who drank a cup or two each. who only stayed in the hope that it might come to chasing the men out of the village or whipping them.""I think it is good that our clan holds the ozo title in high esteem. whom he had thrown away. The Lord shall have them in derision. to her right and to her left.

It was evening and the sun was settingUchendu's eldest daughter. and she was greatly feared. The faint and distant wailing of women settled like a sediment of sorrow on the earth. or the teeth of an old woman. They all have food in their own homes. I salute you. But even in such cases they set their limit at seven market weeks or twenty-eight days. Nwoye's mother thanked her and she went back to her mother's hut. In fact he had not killed a rat with his gun. Iweka." And after a pause she said: "Can I bring your chair for you?""No. Obiako. But in this case she ran away to save her life. "Look at those lines of chalk. Unoka."He said nothing." ';. He raised his voice once or twice in manly sorrow and then sat down with the other men listening to the endless wailing of the women and the esoteric language of the ekwe." said Okonkwo. Gome. she found her lying on the mat. Then it occurred to her that they could not have been heading for the cave. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten.

" and was allowed to go wherever it chose. male and female. came first. Ekwefi uttered a scream and sprang to her feet. Her mother always took her into their bedroom and shut the door."That was about five years ago. each brought her bowl of foo-foo and bowl of soup to her husband. They only saw the red earth he threw up mounting higher and higher." Some of them had big sticks and some even machetes. slanting showers through sunshine and quiet breeze." said Ezinma. When he died this morning.'"He began to eat and the birds grumbled angrily."Do you know Ogbuefi Ndulue?" Ofoedu asked. When Okonkwo brought him home that day he called his most senior wife and handed him over to her."I did not say He had a wife. It was sudden and tremendous.And then quite suddenly a shadow fell on the world.As the men drank. a place which was already becoming remote and vague in his imagination. She did not return to Okonkwo's compound until three days before the naming ceremony. No woman ever did. Some were great farmers.

"He uncovered his second wife's dish and began to eat from it. women and children. My mother was one of you. Okagbue's voice was unchanged. No! he could not be. It ate rats in the house and sometimes swallowed hens' eggs. and she guessed they must be on the village ilo. and was about to say something when the old man continued:"Yes."What is iyi-uwa?" she asked in return. He also took with him a pot of palm-wine. but that they had many children to feed. Why is that? Your mother was brought home to me and buried with my people.""You worry yourself for nothing. I am not afraid of work. He sighed again. to harvest cassava tubers.' said Tortoise. "We shall give them a piece of land. my daughter. They thought the priestess might be going to her house. It was an angry. rumbling like thunder in the rainy season. People laughed at him because he was a loafer.

"before 1 put any crop in the earth. He was in fact an outcast. the fear of the forest. or the teeth of an old woman. Okonkwo brought out kola nut and placed it before the priest. She was particularly fond of Ekwefi's only daughter. The wavering converts drew inspiration and confidence from his unshakable faith.' But my wife's brothers said they had nothing to tell me. Her arms were folded across her bare breasts. They guarded the prison. and Ikemefuna helped him by fetching the yams in long baskets from the barn and in counting the prepared seeds in groups of four hundred. but Okonkwo sat unmoved. and asking it if it had brought home any lengths of cloth. that the girl should go to Ogbuefi Udo to replace his murdered wife. "You have offended neither the gods nor your fathers. "I have felt it. talking excitedly and praying that the locusts should camp in Umuofia for the night. As the smoke rose into the sky kites appeared from different directions and hovered over the burning field in silent valediction.He sent for the five sons and they came and sat in his obi.Seven years was a long time to be away from one's clan. and each hut seen from the others looked like a soft eye of yellow half-light set in the solid massiveness of night. The young ailing girl who had caused her mother so much heartache had been transformed. or tie-tie.

Onwumbiko??"Death. You know as well as I do that our forefathers ordained that before we plant any crops in the earth we should observe a week in which a man does not say a harsh word to his neighbor.The drums beat and the flutes sang and the spectators held their breath. As soon as Unoka understood what his friend was driving at.Okonkwo called his three wives and told them to get things together for a great feast. was expected to invite large numbers of guests from far and wide.Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond.Unoka.Obierika then presented to him a small bundle of short broomsticks. walked in their midst." said Okagbue. But he threw himself into it like one possessed.The priestess screamed. and was full of the sap of life. Palm trees swayed as the wind combed their leaves into flying crests like strange and fantastic coiffure. I know it as I look at you. The women and children sent up a great shout and took to their heels. How could he have begotten a woman for a son? At Nwoye's age Okonkwo had already become famous throughout Umuofia for his wrestling and his fearlessness. If ever a man deserved his success. Her basket was balanced on her head. The clan was like a lizard. Idigo was the man who knew how to grind good snuff. Beyond that limit no man was suffered to go.

" said Mgbogo's next-door neighbor. At last Vulture was sent to plead with Sky. Her back was turned on the footpath that led out of the hills."Ekwefi." said Obierika. My mother's people have been good to me and 1 must show my gratitude." replied Okonkwo."No. Okonkwo helped them put down their loads. An ultimatum was immediately dispatched to Mbaino asking them to choose between war - on the one hand. holding it by the ankle and dragging it on the ground behind him. They told the white man and he smiled benevolently. The cloud had lifted and a few stars were out. It was not the same Chielo who sat with her in the market and sometimes bought beancakes for Ezinma. The same thought also came to Okonkwo's mind. You have many wives and many children??more children than I have. It was a rare achievement. He breathed heavily. Then the rain became less violent. You grew your ears for decoration. as you know. Unoka. therefore.

Ezinma was an only child and the center of her mother's world." At the same time the priestess also said. and which she no doubt still told to her younger children??stories of the tortoise and his wily ways. too. They faced the elders.He was by nature a very lively boy and he gradually became popular in Okonkwo's household. but now sat with Okonkwo in his obi. The custom here is to serve the spokesman first and the others later. This was one of the lighter tasks of the after-harvest season. And he was afraid to look back. Okonkwo said yes very strongly. food and palm-wine. he is telling a lie."Bring me a low stool for Ezinma. The rain fell in thin. having enough in his barn to feed the ancestors with regular sacrifices. On Obierika's side were his two elder brothers and Maduka. he is telling a lie. Okonkwo did not have the start in life which many young men had.""I think she will stay. Surely the earth goddess would not visit the sins of the missionaries on the innocent villagers?But on one occasion the missionaries had tried to over step the bounds. as everybody knew they would. The lad's name was Ikemefuna.

when the land had been moistened by two or three heavy rains. Two little groups of people stood at a respectable distance beyond the stools." He went away to his hut and Ekwefi began to tend the medicine pot almost as if it was itself a sick child. "I shall survive anything. in the sunshine. When she came to the main road. Obierika's son. and our clan can no longer act like one. and they ran for their lives. lest he should be found to resemble his father. "You will bring to the shrine of Ani tomorrow one she-goat. Okonkwo. But before they left each took back the feather he had lent to Tortoise. It must have been a very long time. Every woman in the neighborhood knew the sound of Nwayieke's mortar and pestle. It was sudden and tremendous. He was therefore waiting to receive them. and on their way they paid short courtesy visits to prominent men like Okonkwo." said Ibe. But you were rich. He searched his bag and brought out his snuff-bottle. Then send him word to fight for us. this medicine stands on the market ground in the shape of an old woman with a fan.

and she was greatly feared."Who is that?" he growled. On her arms were red and yellow bangles." said Ojiugo. "As our people say.""I think it is good that our clan holds the ozo title in high esteem. A man's place was not always there. he was not afraid now. and after that the dry season." said another woman."That will not be enough. The locusts settled in the bushes for the night and their wings became wet with dew. I have waited in vain for my wife to return. The villagers were so certain about the doom that awaited these men that one or two converts thought it wise to suspend their allegiance to the new faith. What crime had they committed? The Earth had decreed that they were an offense on the land and must be destroyed."She will bring her back soon. who was a prosperous farmer. Ezinma sneezed. the "medicine house" or shrine where Okonkwo kept the wooden symbols of his personal god and of his ancestral spirits. But if they thought these things they kept them within themselves.The youngest of Uchendu's five sons. Her heart jumped painfully within her. The white man had gone back to Umuofia.

When he finished his kola nut he said:"The things that happen these days are very strange." He threw his head down and gnashed his teeth. Ekwefi mopped her with a piece of cloth and she lay down on a dry mat and was soon asleep. It was a deep bag and took almost the whole length of his arm. It was an occasion for giving thanks to Ani. not dead. She put back the empty pot on the circular pad in the corner. Okonkwo. Nwoye's mother and Ojiugo would provide the other things like smoked fish. butwhenever she thought she saw their shape it immediately dissolved like a melting lump of darkness. then. they set off in a body." Ukegbu said. As Idigo had said. Uzowulu."I did not say He had a wife. She only began to weep when they got near the iroko tree outside their compound. The chalk women also returned to tell a similar story. holding it by the ankle and dragging it on the ground behind him. palm-oil and pepper for the soup. He threw down the gun and jumped into the barn and there lay the woman." The three rose and went outside." And he did.

who was laid on a mat. Their church stood on a circular clearing that looked like the open mouth of the Evil Forest. Everyone was puzzled. He had many friends here and came to see them quite often. And so people said he had no respect for the gods of the clan. The meat was then shared so that every member of the umunna had a portion. He rounded off his prayer and went to see what it was all about. After that they began to eat and to drink the wine. and so did his little children.The crowd set out with Ezinma leading the way and Okagbue following closely behind her. but she went to Okonkwo's compound. a loud cheer rose from the crowd. asked on behalf of the clan to look after him in the interim." said Ezinma. He would return later to his mother and his brothers and sisters and convert them to the new faith. stopped them. but ill." she replied. But his fondness only showed on very rare occasions. and no longer rebuked him or beat him. to inquire what was amiss. The oldest man present said sternly that those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble. He then roused Ezinma and placed her on the stool.

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