Les leçons de la tortue, d’Achebe à Adichie

Ugochukwu, Francoise (2013). Les leçons de la tortue, d’Achebe à Adichie. In: Baumgardt, Ursula and Derive, Jean eds. Littérature Africaine et Oralité. Paris: Karthala, pp. 55–75.

URL: http://www.karthala.com


The tortoise plays a central role in Igbo orality, in folktales in particular, whose didactic character has been adopted by Igbo written literature right from the start. Achebe included one of the most popular tortoise folktales, the one about the reason behind the shape of the tortoise’s shell, in his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958), placing it in the mouth of Ekwefi, Okonkwo’s wife, as she tells it to her daughter Ezimma. Adichie, widely considered as Achebe’s literary daughter, uses the same folktale in her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2004). In this novel, which contrasts Igbo traditional religion with Kambili’s father’s radical Catholicism, the tortoise folktale is told by ‘Papa Nnukwu’, the grand-father, in the children’s aunty’s home on the University Campus at Nsukka. Another Nigerian novelist, Nwapa, devotes a whole chapter of her Iduu (1970) to a story-telling evening session. Here, we consider the reasons behind the use of folktales and the importance of the tortoise in these three novels, which can be seen as representative of the Igbo contribution to Nigerian literature.

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