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D.O. Fagunwa: Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale (The Forest of a Thousand Daemons)

This is one of the first works in Yoruba to be published, translated by fellow Nigerian and Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka. The book is widely known in Nigeria and it is now easy to see why. It is simply full of myths and legends – strange creatures, magical forests, powerful kings, dangers galore and all sorts of adventures. The author is sitting in his favourite chair when an old man comes up and talks to him. This is Akara-Ogun, Compound-of-Spells, who proceeds to recount, to an ever-growing audience, his adventures.

There are three sets of adventures, with a prologue about how his mother became a witch, turned into an antelope and was killed by his father. The first tells of his Journey to the Forest of a Thousand Daemons, which involves a furious fight with Agbako, a Herculean figure, his marriage to Iwapele, whom he meets in the city of Filth, and her death. The second adventure has him returning to the Forest, where he goes to the city of the ghommids, sort of troll-like creatures. He befriends the King and helps him but the other ghommids are jealous and he is nearly killed, again only after many adventures. The final adventure has his own king asking him to go to Mount Langbodo, accessible only by going through the Forest of a Thousand Daemons, where there is a king who has something – it is not clear what – that will bring wealth and peace to whoever has it. The king instructs Akara-Ogun to go and get it. He agrees, reluctantly, to do so only if he is accompanied by other intrepid heroes. Naturally, with this group, there are even more adventures as fierce monsters are fought and beaten, including the King of the Birds, the sand-elves and the disgustingly filthy Egbin. But this journey ends differently for, at Mount Langbodo, they meet Iragbeje, who tells them a series of stories – we might call them parables – and, eventually, they return home laden with gifts. But the discussions with Iragbeje, the welcome reception from the king and the trials and tribulations of the return journey have Akara-Ogun retiring and telling his story as a moral to others.

Publishing history

First published 1938 by Church Missionary Society Bookshop, Lagos
First English translation Nelson 1968