While I was growing up, there were bulks of moon light stories that we children heard; about how the tortoise excessive greed rid him of his wings and he crashed on the hard earth from a high summit- this was how the tortoise got a hard shell; About how tortoise played a prank on the spirits to escape their wrath when he was caught stealing garden eggs in the land of the dead; About how the tortoise succeeded in marrying the beautiful daughter of the king by licking the whole content of a large pot of boiling pepper, cunningly. And many more. [Our folklore and fables are mostly dominated by the tortoise.] These stories succeeded in amusing us and provoking our minds to ponder on the ways of the animals around us which we have for long neglected with an attitude of indifference; and justifies our acquired conviction that the fauna have in them some properties of human substance. But these feelings were ephemeral. They were merely euphoric and short-lived. They only made us happy to go to bed, but they never even out-bid our night dreams for spaces of importance in our hearts; though they influenced them.
Fables and lore, though didactic, were mysteries to us. We will grow up to learn that humans alone have the capacity for speech and intelligence. So after all, the conversations between animals, their adventures and the causal effects of their actions in the lore and fables were concocted lies designed by faceless authors, probably our unattributed great grandfathers, to scam us of our curiosity about several phenomena they feel the substance of a child does not have the capacity to comprehend. If not so, why were these stories specifically relayed to us, the kids, and in moon lights when we could barely observe the deceits swimming on the wrinkled faces of our fathers. Moon light is the perfect disguise for such deceit. Fables and lore are the exquisite red herring.
The story of the 1967 civil war had more lasting impression on us, perhaps everlasting impression. I can still visualize papa prancing and pouncing on invisible enemies, probably dead, in dramatic exhibition of his war experience in one of the region’s conquest. As the drama went on, I could feel the perils of our people – yes, our people – starving toward submission as narrated by papa, who was himself a dauntless victim. The children, his audience, expected him to be dauntless, just as he claimed, for all the prancing and pouncing he displayed. Since I was born I have always known my father to be thin. A thin person is one whose slimness could acquire extra flesh if given more food. So sometimes, I guiltily imagine and agree within myself that papa must have been a pronounced victim during the war and granny, whom I never met, must had fed him the same meal of house rats and ants, which he frequently opined, with sarcastic emphasis, were the meals women and children fed on for survival whenever mama was around. The war is far gone and there is no feasible evidence that papa wasn’t dauntless in the struggle, just as my fleeting imaginations randomly suggests against papa’s claim. Being a survivor of the much celebrated war bears sufficient credence to his claim of dauntlessness, though a victim of the struggle. It is that every lasting story has hyperbole in its fibrous root. Our Fables and lore also aim at lasting objective. However, perhaps, the mark difference of the war stories from the traditional tales are that they are told at anytime of the day whenever papa or any other celebrant, mainly elders, feel the younger generation should learn from the past and quell the looming prospect of another war, unlike the fables and lore mainly told under moonlights – Moonlight stories.
The stories of the war papa told weren’t moon light stories. They might not be didactic, but they are not mysteries. And no deceit could be hidden in the clarity of the day. We could read the joy of our people’s moments dancing on his brow. We could also observe the pain when our people counted loses. The pulses of our hearts rose and fell in symmetry to the tides of the war we heard from our elderly people, not from father alone, who all seems to agree that though we recorded no victory, the story must be passed down to later generations with reverent narration. This is how our literature of the new world began; the literature of blood. It is already booming in other parts of the world for the world wars had been fought before this time and the loved ones of the deceased have grudges to pass down. Perhaps, we were late comers to this new world order [necessitated by greed and strife]. Yet, we must be grateful to the sacredness we attached to our fictions of war, for launching us into the mainstream. Nonetheless, as the stories of wars and of crude reality surpassed and usurped the tales of tortoise in the status of cultural relevance within my community, our literature of blood cracked out of its shell [beginning from the towns].
The Above is an extract from the author’s manuscript [still in progress], titled “Township Life”.