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Things Fall




Things Fall Apart And Traditional Igbo Culture Run Hand In Hand


A lot of events in Things Fall Apart are


very close to folktales that are


traditionally told in Igbo culture. There


are three main stories that I could relate


to one another. They are called Obaledo,


The King's Drum, and Why The Hawk


Kills Chickens.

IObeledo, there was a young girl that had a mother, and she was

her father's only daughter. Her mother was also his only wife. The mother and father had to leave the clan to travel to another and left their daughter yams, and snails. They said to cook the yams first because the salt from the snail would burn the fire out and they do not have anymore wood. The daughteragreed but when her parents left, she wnanted the meat more than the yams. So she cooked the snails first and they did, in turn, cause the fire to go out. She sighed and decided to travel to her neighbor's house to ask for more wood. The girl set off, but someone was after her. A demon came and stole her beauty because she did not listen to her parents. She was ugly now, and her parents would know what she had done.

Folktales are stories that are told to teach a lesson. They are usually to explain a naturally occuring thing, but they could teach moral standards, or may simply be a story that people can enjoy.


In 'Things Fall Apart', folktales and stories are very significant, they represent life, death, and every struggle in between.


 Achebe seems like he wants to express his book and introduce Igbo culture to people using real folktales that he would have been told as a child.


In an Igbo tribe, there was a beautiful girl, who was the daughter of a man who had only one wife, and only one child. Her mother and father had to leave to travel to another clan for the night. They left their daughter with yams and snails; and they told her to cook the snails last because the salt would make the fire go out and they did not have any more wood. The daughter agreed, but as soon as her parents left, she decided she wanted meat more and cooked the snails. Of course they burned the fire out and the daughter was frantic. To hide that she did not listen to her parents, she decided she was going to go to her neighbor's house to ask for more wood. So she went on her way. But she was being watched by a demon. It went and stole her beauty because she disobeyed her parents.  In turn it left her with his ugliness and they would know of what she had done.




How 'Obaledo' Relates To 'Things Fall Apart'

In the story, someone was told by another person they trusted not to do something, or it would have consequences they do not want. In 'Things Fall Apart', the same thing happens. Okonkwo is told by his friend, his closest ally and probably his only friend for that fact, to stay out of Ikemefuna's death. Ikemefuna thought of him as a father and he said it would be wrong to take part. Okonkwo did not heed his warning and went with his clansmembers regardless. And like the girl in the story, his snails caused the fire to go out. Because he went with them to kill Ikemefuna, it caused him to be weaker and eventually kill him out of fear. Now, because he did not listen to his trusted friend, he killed a boy who looked up to him.

So the fire is out, because he cooked the snails.

The demon is on it's way now. Okonkwo is riddled with guilt, and anger because he is guilty. He is confused and certainly frustrated. It is similar to the daughter's walk to get wood. She was frustrated the fire went out, and scared she would get in trouble. The demon for Okonkwo was his gun exploding. He killed a boy and therefore had to leave the clan for seven years. Because of this he lost credibilty, his honor, and had to leave his land.


Just like the daughter lost her beauty. They are close parallels for certain and is only the beginning of Achebe's use of real folktales as events in his book.

The King's Drum

There was once a king who had many riches. He swam in gold, silver and every piece of jewelry imaginable. But his famed possession was a drum that whenever he hit it, more gold would pour out. And so that was how he got everything he had. One day a tortoise  managed to get ahold of the drum by blackmailing one of the king's wives. The tortoise was overjoyed and invited everyone to feast after feast. He was soon considered one of the richest men in the world and everyone loved him. But he was unaware of the fact that if he stepped over a stick in the road, the good ju-ju of the drum would be broken and he would only get punishment, not grandure. And one night the tortoise got drunk and on his way home, stepped over a stick in the middle of the road. He did not know this rule, nor was he informed in any way of the ju-ju being broken. So the next day he beat the drum once more, but instead Egbo came out of the drum, and beat him viciously. They chased him away to a thorny bush where they made him swear he would remain and never leave again.

The story of 'The King's Drum' truly sums up the entirity of Onkonwo's life. It sounds underestimated but it is almost everything about him. The tortoise was poor before the drum, and Okonkwo was not the best off and very ashamed of his father. His drum is his masculinity. He banged the drum throughout his life and it brought him honor, wives, yams, the basis for his entire life. The masculine attitude he carried brought him anything he could ever want and people loved him because of how noble he was. 

But in the end that would be the downfall of him. His stick was killing the boy during the funeral. This part of the scene is relavent to another story also, but this connects too. He stepped over the stick and ruined the drum. His masculinty would do nothing but plague him now that he had killed the boy and was exiled.

It brought him fights with his uncle, it brought his clan members almost not caring at all when he returned home, his son turned against him. How his masculinity held his life together was gone and now it only brings pain.



Every conflict he had that was caused by his aggression was him being attacked by the Egbo. He had broken the ju-ju with his murder.

They fall (Haha, get it?) into line with his life, even to the end. 


How 'The King's Drum' Relates


To 'Things Fall Apart'


One day there was a hawk who fell in love with a hen. He paid the price to keep her as his own and he waited while she went to the fattening house to fatten up to be his wife. He waited and waited and finally she arrived. The hawk was overjoyed and they were happy for a short time. But the hawk had to leave for a few days and the hen grew restless. While out and about, she came across a handsome cock and decided she wanted to be with him instead. So she ran away to be with him as his wife. When the hawk came home and saw that she had left him, he was furious. He went to the hen's family and demanded that they give him back his bride price but they had already spent it and could not give it back. He took his situation to the council and they declared that because the chickens were unable to give him the hen or the bride price, he was allowed to steal chicken eggs or chickens themselves any time that he wishes. 

Why A Hawk Kills


 This folktale does not line up perfectly with events in the book, but it is certainly reminiscent and could be taken as something that happens. In 'Things Fall Apart' there is a trial because there is a man who was a wife that was taken back to her family because he was accused of beating her every single day with no break. They stated their arguments and it was similar in the sense that the bride's family did no longer have the bride price that they were paid and could not return it when the husband came for it. But the difference is that because of his abuse against his wife, he had to give sacrifices and pay more cola nut and other foods, AND apologize and swear to never hurt her again in order to get her back.  

But the premise is still the same and is very close to the traditional Igbo story.

How 'Why A Hawk Kills Chickens' Relates To 'Things Fall Apart'

Achebe's Goals In 'Things Fall Apart'

'Things Fall Apart' is a book riddled with true folktales that are told in Igbo culture. Many events overlap with multiple tales and many could reach.


The story of the tortoise and the sky could show how Okonkwo abuses his power and treats the people who care and love him wrongly, so in the end they no longer care.


The tortoise with a pretty daughter relates to Okonkwo's loyalty to Enzima and prides her as a daughter, even wishing she was a son, but in the end she is still a girl.


Why the bat flies at night is extremely similar to the twisted actions of the white guards to abused the clan leaders and raised the decided price needed for their release.


Achebe tells not only a story that discusses the true side of Igbo culture and creates his own tale using accurate things that would happen; he uses real folktales for his events. Everything circles back to Igbo culture. He wants to teach people about his society and he figures out a way to use real culture to explain it.