Hello folks, Thanks for joining us again on #FolktalesWednesdays. For today’s edition of #FolktalesWednesday, I have a special feature from one of the Pioneer Nigerian storytellers, today’s story is a special one from the archives as told by Amos Tutuola, of The Palmwine Drinkard, and A Hunter in The Bush of Ghosts fame. The title of the story is Ajantala, and it is told the exact way Tutuola himself penned it down.
A long time ago there lived in a town a woman trader. She was a trader of petty articles. She used to go from one forest to another when going to the markets. Her town was also in the heart of the forest. Her going from one market to the other every day did not prevent her from becoming pregnant. But to the surprise of the people of the town, she was unable to deliver her pregnancy for twenty-six years. This was not only a burden for her but also a great grief to her.
One morning, as she was on her way to the market, something knocked in her womb heavily several times. She was shocked in fear and then she slowed down her movement. She heard a strange voice coming out from her womb: “My mother! My mother! My mother!” Her pregnancy shouted from her womb. “I am not an ordinary child at all!” The pregnancy cried to the woman, Adedoja, with a sharp voice.
“What kind of a child are you then?” Adedoja asked with fright.
“I am a noxious* guest who is not going to stay with you, and my real name is AJANTALA!”
“Ajantala，the Noxious Guest? ” Adedoja screamed in fear as she repeated the name.
“Yes, you are right. You shall call me Ajantala as soon as you have born me!”
Adedoja begged earnestly with fear. ‘‘Oh, let the time come quickly because you have kept yourself too long in my womb and that has been a terrible burden.”
“l have been too long in your womb? How many years now have l been staying in your womb? Tell me now!” the pregnancy asked, shouting horribly from Adedoja’s womb.
“You have spent twenty-six years in my womb already, and the people of the town mock me and never sympathise with me!” Adedoja explained painfully to her talking pregnancy.
“And what kind of burden have l been to you? ” wondered the pregnancy.
“It is too great and strange for me to express!”
“You are a fool to tell me that l have been a terrible burden! You have not even experienced what are called burdens. Just wait and see how troublesome a child l am when you have borne me!”
At this time, Adedoja did not know that an old woman was following her and that the old woman had heard the exchange of hot words between Adedoja and her pregnancy. This old woman asked with great surprise: “But with whom are you talking hotly like that? ” Adedoja squirmed with fear when she looked behind her and saw the old woman.
“You — you — you see, my pregnancy is talking to me from my womb and I am really confused about the kind of preg — !”
The pregnancy hastily stopped Adedoja and warned her, “Shut up your mouth there and don’t tell my secret to anyone! This old woman is a treacherous person. A villain she is. Don’t tell her the truth!”
Adedoja declined to tell the truth to the old woman. “Oh, thank you, my mother. But l am talking to myself! ” She feared her pregnancy’s warning.
“What are you telling me? Are you in your dotage?* l have heard clearly that you were talking with somebody!” the old woman said in anger.
“Hmm. Well, l am talking to … !” Adedoja stammered.
Adedoja’s pregnancy cautioned her once more, “Beware of yourself. Otherwise, l shall show you the kind of a noxious child that l am. l have been lenient with you!”
Having heard the voice of this talking pregnancy again, the old woman was so afraid that she stopped immediately asking questions of Adedoja.
Adedoja and the old woman went on to the market. As soon as Adedoja had sold her wares and bought new ones, she returned to the town.
Adedoja had hardly walked heavily to the doorway of her house when her talking pregnancy shouted to the people of the house: “Eh, you people of the house, come and help my mother put her wares down!”
The people ran to Adedoja. They looked here and there with surprise and fear, but they did not see the person who had shouted to them. However, they helped Adedoja put her wares down.
“The voice that we heard was that of a man and not of a woman!” the people remarked with surprise as they craned their necks and fastened their eyes on Adedoja in confusion.
“Can a pregnancy talk?” one of the people asked.
“I have not yet heard in my life that a pregnancy talks like a person,” another one of the people said, hoping to clarify the confusion. But it did not help because Ajantala, the Noxious Guest, continued to threaten Adedoja every day.
One morning, at the very moment that Adedoja’s pregnancy was exactly twenty-six years old in her womb, she was delivered of a strange male child before the people of the house.
“Ah, what a strange child is this? He has teeth in his mouth, bushy hair on his chin, and his moustache is full of bushy long hair. His eyes are as sharp and big as those of an old man, his head is full of plenty and strong hair and his chest is hairy!” The people of the house clapped with panic and shouted.
The people were still looking at him confusedly when he stood and shouted suddenly:
“Eh, my mother, tell the people that my name is Ajantala and that my nickname is Noxious Guest“. Willing or not, Adedoja announced his name and nickname to the people.
“Ah, Ajantala, the Noxious Guest, welcome to the world!”. However, the people showed that they despised his strange name by repeating it in derision.
Then in the presence of the people, Ajantala stood up again by himself and shouted: ‘Eh, my mother, give me the sponge. l am going to wash my body. It is too dirty!” Then after washing, he asked for clothes and Adedoja, who was supposed to be his mother, hastily gave him the clothes. And he wore all as the people folded their arms and looked at him in fear and confusion.
Then, he went to the sitting room. He sat on a chair and then he shouted: “Eh, give me food and cold water. l am hungry badly!” After he had swallowed the food and drunk the water, he shouted, “Show me the way out!” The people hastily parted to the left and right and he passed between them to the doorway. But as he peeped outside, he shouted: “Ha — ah! Look! the dung of the domestic animals is everywhere on the ground. Of course, l am not going to stay even a night in this dirty town! No! Not l!” As Ajantala was still shouting, hundreds of people heard his fearful voice and they ran to him. They stood in front of him and fastened their eyes on him. Everyone began to shout: “Ah, no doubt, this is not a human being. He must be an evil spirit!
These people were right; Ajantala was one of the evil spirits. He lived inside the lroko tree which was at the roadside on which Adedoja used to travel to the market. Unfortunately, one morning, as Adedoja was going to the market, she trekked by the lroko tree, Ajantala, the Noxious Guest, came out from the tree and entered her womb. He lurked there just to rest for twenty-six minutes. In fact, Ajantala spent twenty-six years in Adedoja’s womb. But twenty-six years for the human beings were twenty-six minutes for the evil spirits.
Ajantala had hardly walked to the front of the house when he saw a group of red people who were playing ‘ayo’* He ran to them and he took the ‘ayo’ board suddenly and flung it far away. Then he abused them: “You hopeless old people, sitting down and playing ‘ayo’ in this dirty ground”.
The old people stood up at once and shouted angrily:
“You are a stupid fool! You, an ugly small boy like you, are insulting us like that! ”
Ajantala without hesitation, slapped one of the old people on the face. Having seen him do so, the other people who surrounded the players of ‘ayo’ and were looking at them, started at once to beat him and he started to beat them in return.
But it was not easy at all to defeat Ajantala for he was as strong as iron. And within a few minutes, news had spread to every part of the town that a small strange man was beating a group of people. And thousands of people ran to the scene of the fight.
They joined the other people and all were beating him. Yet, they could not overpower him. When Ajantala had beaten more than one hundred people to death, all of the ‘Babalawo’*of the town came with their different kinds of magic spells to the scene of the tussle. With great anger, they drove Ajantala away from the town by means of their magic spells which were mainly prepared for driving away the evil spirits like Ajantala.
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