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Folklore as tool for parenting



“When I told my friend that folklores which we enjoyed as little children could still be told to children of these times, she laughed,” one woman remarked recently.

“Children do not believe in them anymore,” she stated, adding; “Whenever I tried to read a story from fabulous tales, my son would nudge the book aside with the declaration, ‘It is a lie joo.”

But we here are convinced that folklores, fabulous stories or those tales from long ago are still relevant in raising the young ones of today. They are entertaining and interesting; they are their cartoon flicks brought forward, animated-given more life by you. How fantastic, what fantasy!


Another friend, however, observed: “When I was a child in our home town, one of my great aunts was great in telling these type of stories. Even in those days, they sounded so way out and unbelievable, but you just were not sure if she fabricated them herself because you could actually visualise them happening at scenes close to you.

“She was godmother to one of my cousins and sometimes invited him to sleep over at her home. But all of us went because we looked forward to the visits, which part of the treats was fabulous stories told far into the night. You were ready to swear that Auntie witnessed the war stories she told about. She brought them to life again with the right feelings and vivid descriptions; she sang mournful songs to lay emphasis on events where a dear town’s person was carried away into slavery to a distant land.

“We children never had the chance to wonder about these happenings because she has given us so much to ponder over; her narratives always delivered her aim: children who learn to be attentive and be articulate, because, at other meetings, she would call upon one of us to tell a story or repeat the one she told in the past.

“This is one of the stories that have stayed with me for a very long time. I don’t remember the details of that inter-communal warfare but the effect remains magical until today.

“In the land of Idu,” Auntie would intone with bright eyes. Where was Idu in Nigeria, which Auntie fabled to be such great warriors? We did not know and asking her should spoil the magic. And then she would talk of Ojiso who she informed was a king who waged war far and beyond his domain, taking people away as slaves. But who could be taken away, children as the weak and helpless; it sank in.

“The Idu people plundered and pillaged neigbouring communities and villages with implements of war such as cutlasses and hoes. I don’t remember if Dane guns were ever used by those invaders.

“But was she there? None of us ever thought that she was; her straight face and what appeared to be a smile at the corner of her mouth made her dubious. And the stories always began with…Long, long ago. Sometimes she started with…when the world had not opened eye…

“But the pain, ecstasy or the joy with which she told them made them interesting. “Today, many years or centuries after, the said invasion is still alive in my mind because of the image of my conducive childhood home. It has helped to preserve-houses have taken over the place of the bushy back of the house where those people could have come through. At the time, the only way Idu people could have come was; she did not say that they came and there was no evidence they did. But to my mind, the way that led to Idu was the wide foot path-our route to the farm. It was where we passed to reach the garden at the back of the house. A pleasant place where you could play but that was where we raised poultry. Guavas, mangoes, cashews, walnut and kola nut trees were planted here as well as some rubber trees and vegetables.


“On the other side of the path is the ideal ‘virgin forest’ which was populated by bigger trees like Agbono, ugili and agbalumo, both the regular one and the velvety variety which we said was eaten by monkeys. On that side, too, grew the very sturdy and tall cotton tree, which shed cotton fluffy buds in dry season. My mother made use of these by twirling them into a spool before weaving the traditional white cloth on the loom she inherited from her mother; she did not allow her modern career to debar her from using the loom, although the process limited the number she could produce.

Honey was harvested from this part of the house, too. Auntie’s tale romanticized this part because fallen leaves have formed a thick carpet and the lush leaves a big canopy that makes the sun to come though rarely. Although it was a part of the house, but we children were afraid to pick fruits while it was still dark or quiet because those were the times Auntie’s spirits came to take naughty children away.”

Our note: Doubting Thomases were not born in this century. They have been in existence for all time. I don’t think anybody has ever believed such stories, so we say that you can fabricate or cook up your yarn. If it is difficult initially, weave them around real events; make them into stories that can guide and teach.

Folklores wake up imagination and when done right, they give a sense of right and wrong which is the sole purpose. They enhance creativity; imagine those unidentifiable creatures in their cartoons, where could they be found? When he says, ‘it is a lie joo’, ask him where he has encountered a bird with dry wooden stick for legs and which talks like a human being. You can then quote the saying ‘World without end,’ your own interpretation to him.

Storytellers often form tales around forests, they are meant to awaken the interest in adventure. The ideals of folklores are protective because they encourage us to try to be good to one another; goodness is a thick shield.

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