Humans and Hollow Backs | Moonlight Tales

in hive-114105 •  3 months ago 

I figured I could bring back my folktales. It's been way too long. Here, they are stories told by an older person to children especially on a night when the moon is high and bright in the sky. The children would gather and sit at the foot of the elderly man or woman, listening to the story. Sometimes, they make fire and sit around it. The story could also be told in the safety of their homes by their parents.

For this tale, the original narrator is unknown. Most follktales have songs sang by the narrator and the children in-between the story. This one, however has none. It is familiar to the Igbo tribe of Eastern Nigeria. I combined the folktale with my own story. I manipulated the plot to suit my fancy but the original tale is still very much intact.

It is a work of fiction. Any similarities in names and characters are pure coincidence.



The child murmured in her sleep, then opened her eyes, awakened by the shouts and songs of other children coming from the next compound. She was lying on a mat, made of raffia, in front of a small hut. There were two huts in the compound. The biggest stood at the center, partially flanking the other. She turned onto her stomach and propped her right arm under her chin. At the far right of the smaller hut, fire burned slowly under a small pot, held steady by three large stones. A woman stirred the content of the pot, then placed a wooden spoon on top to prevent the boiling water from spilling over.

The child caught the strong fragrant and wrinkled her nose. She stared with longing at the full moon, listening to the full moon songs which were now higher and more intense. Slowly, she dragged herself up and sat. Her head felt a little woozy.

“Mama,” she said softly.

The woman turned. She dropped the small wooden bowl she was holding and walked towards the child, tying her loose wrapper over her breasts.

“You are awake,” the woman said, smiling.

“Can I go?” the child asked, pointing to the direction of the noise.

“Not tonight,” she touched the child’s forehead. “Your fever has broken but you’re not strong enough. I’ll get your medicine.”

The medicine was the content of the pot. The child watched the woman pour some into a cup and set it down to cool. She closed her eyes and began to sing along with the children.

“Drink,” the woman said. The child opened her eyes and stared at the brown liquid in front of her, prepared from herbs she hardly remember their names. She brought the cup to her lips, closed her eyes again and gulped all of it down.

The moon was now higher and fuller. The child glanced at it and got a chuckle out of the woman as she rinsed the cup. She dropped it faced down on top of a small clay water pot, then pick the stool she had sat with beside the fire, dropped it on top of the mat and lowered herself on it.

“Would you like a story?” she asked softly.

“Yes, Mama. Tell me about the tortoise.”

“No, no tortoise stories tonight. I have another story to tell you.”

The child nodded and placed her head on the woman’s laps, anticipating the opening line.

Onwere akuko m ga akoro gi
I have a tale to tell you

Koro m ka obi dim mma
Tell me so as to make me happy

“Long ago,” the woman began, “there lived a very beautiful girl. Her name was Olaedo. She was the most beautiful person in her village. Every eligible young man wanted her as his bride. Men from far and wide came to marry her, but she refused all of them. She began to feel proud of her beauty. Nobody was her match anymore. Her father tried everything in his power to make her choose one of the suitors but failed. The tale about her beauty was so great that an evil demon who lived in a distant land, away from people, heard about it. He was fascinated and vowed to make her his bride. He changed himself into a very handsome man and set out for her village. When he got to her father’s compound, Olaedo saw him and smiled. She had finally found who she would like to marry. Her father refused to give her hand in marriage but she insisted. No one knew who the young man was. Her family begged her not to marry him but she refused. In the end, her father decided to let her be. He gave the young man her daughter’s hand.”

“What happened next?” the child asked.

“After the ceremony, it was time for the groom to take his bride home. They left for his village. The demon had crossed seven mountains and seven rivers to get to her. When they got to the fourth river, Olaedo began to get scared. Her charming husband wasn’t talking to her anymore and the journey had not ended. She was tired and confused. Finally they got to his village. The first living thing they encountered was a demon with three heads. He moved around Olaedo, sniffing at her and snickering, his long teeth moving up and down. By then, she was so cold. When they got to a hut at the center of the village, her handsome husband changed back into a demon, his five heads were disjointed and looked like they would fall off from his body. He called the other demons to come and celebrate his new bride with him. She watched them coming towards her with sticks and knives. That was when she realised what she had gotten herself into. She turned on her heels and ran.”

“Did they catch her?” the child asked again, sleepily.

“She ran and ran. They pursued her. She ran with all the strength she had left. When she got to the last river before her village, she began to shout for help but no one listened to her. No one came out to help her. With all her strength she ran to her father’s house, but before she could open the door, one of the demons caught up with her. In his attempt to snatch her back, he left a long and deep wound at the center of her back. She was able to escape but after the would healed, the deep mark remained. Her skin didn't regrow because it was a wound from a powerful demon. That is why there is a hollow at the back of everyone today, as a reminder that greediness and disobedience is wrong.”

The woman looked down at the child. “That is the end of the story.”


She touched the child’s limp arm. It slipped off her laps. Smiling, the woman stood and carried the sleeping child inside, then walked to the biggest hut to meet her waiting husband.

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