Complete summary of Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard. eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of The Palm-Wine Drinkard. When Amos Tutuola’s first novel, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, appeared in , it aroused exceptional worldwide interest. Drawing on the West African Yoruba. The Palm-Wine Drinkard, in full The Palm-Wine Drinkard and His Dead Palm- Wine Tapster in the Dead’s Town, novel by Amos Tutuola, published in and .

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Yoruba African people — Folklore — Fiction.

The Palm-Wine Drinkard and His Dead Palm-Wine Tapster in the Deads’ Town

Folklore — Nigeria — Fiction. My life in the bush of ghosts.

Considerable interest was aroused by this unusual book, and inquiries have been made about Tutuola and the background of his ideas. It has been thought well to preface this second novel with a few words about the man and his work, in order that his importance may be appreciated in its proper setting. He is a member of the large Yoruba tribe, which numbers over four million people and is one of the most progressive elements in modern Africa. It is a medley of old mud huts and new concrete buildings, a mixture of cultures such as the subject- matter of the books would lead us to expect.

Alongside the modern mosques and churches are ancient pagan temples, and a cave under the most sacred rock is said to have witnessed a human sacrifice as recently as forty years ago. Twice in the present book the wanderer in the bush of ghosts is to drinkaard sacrificed to a god.

He became a coppersmith, and con- tinued this trade in the Royal Air Force in Nigeria for three years during the war. His direct style, made more vivid by his use of English as it is spoken in West Amoe, is not polished or sophis- ticated and gives his stories unusual energy. It is a beginning of a new type of Afro-English literature. Tutuola prefers to write in English, rather than Yoruba; it is perhaps fortunate that his schooling ended too early to force his story-telling into a foreign style.

His writing is distinct from the correct but ttutuola stiff essays that some more highly educated Africans produce. This story is truly African. It has a nightmarish quality of its own, and one feels pal,-wine bewilderment and fear, repugnance and despair, and also intoxication and exaltation, which one would expect to experience in the company of ghosts.

But the stories are genuine African myths, such as are told in countless villages round the fire or in the tropical moonlight. Amos Tutuola has taken over the traditional mythology 10 Foreword and fitted it into his own pattern. There is an over-riding theme: This is a familiar motif. Elsewhere we find witches meeting to devour a victim provided from the family of one of their company.

Yet all these ideas are moulded into the story and are lived over by the author. I realized how deeply he lived in his own narrative when I asked Tutuola the reason for the apparently haphazard order of the towns of the ghosts.

One goes with the author in his waking nightmare. Fear is present throughout. The unknown bush with its frightful spirits palm-winee out their tentacles, like trees in an Arthur Rackham drawing, is a dreadful place.

Fairy tales can scare, but this is more terrifying than Grimm as its matter is more serious and is believed in by millions of Africans today. Here, as every hunter and traveller knows, mortals venture at their peril.

Nobody dares enter there by day, let alone go near at night. In another manuscript Tutuola says that, in addition to the Reserved and Unreserved Bush specified by the government, there is Native Re- served Bush. If you enter into it you cannot know the way out again, and you cannot travel to the end of it for ever.

The ghosts in the present book are different from those deceased mortals. They are all types of beings who have never lived on earth and are dangerous and mischievous spirits. They are creatures of God but different from men 5 they never grow old or die.

Dead people can indeed live with them, and uttuola meet two such, but these are ones who have died before their time and so can live with the ageless spirits. At the same time as it relates old themes, the story reflects the situation of Africans under the impact of European ideas and government.

The ancient beliefs still prevail in this mythology, but amoa are impregnated by modern touches. Devil giving a baptism of fire and hot water in the 8th Town.

Later we have a Television-handed Ghostess, described by a man who has never seen television. Palm-qine also has scientific value. The anthropologist and the student of comparative religion will find here much of yhe unrecorded mythology of West Africa. There are themes running through the book, as to the nature of death, fear and disease. There are gutuola stages in the process of initiation into the mysteries of the ghost-world, which link up with the rites of secret societies and religious cults.


The wanderer in the bush, after his grim early sufferings, gradually learns the language of ghosts and marries two ghosts. He remains twenty-four years in the bush, until he has almost lost the desire to return. How far have Christian ideas penetrated? Have they changed or displaced ancient beliefs? This book goes some way to- wards providing an answer. The student is concerned with the African as he is today, as a human being, to understand whom is as important for an imperial people as it is to understand Russians or Americans.

We now know a great deal about African economy, social organiza- tion, political structure, and their modification in this century, but how hard it is to understand the thoughts of other races, even of those who resemble us superficially, and much more of those whose traditions have been so widely separated from our own.

Psychologists will find this book interesting, particu- larly those who follow the teaching of Jung on mythology and the archetypes of the unconscious. The morbid fascination of dirt, blood, snakes, insects, smell, ugliness, 15 Foreword deformity, size, and all that is grotesque is everywhere evident in the book.

The lost boy undergoes more trans- formations in size and form than Alice in Wonderland. But we are warned that he has premonitory dreams of attendance at the coming centenary of the Secret Society of Ghosts.

The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola

It is in no sense a sequel, but a completely new story. These abnormal beings remind one of the creations of Bunyan and Dante. But the original flavour of the style has been left to produce its own effect. My mother was the last married among the rest and she only bore two sons but the rest bore only daugh- ters. My brother was eleven years old then and I myself was seven. My mother was a petty trader who was going to various markets every day to sell her articles and returning home in the evening, or if the market is very far she would return next day in the evening as she was a hard worker.

In those days of unknown year, because I was too young to keep the number of the year in my mind till this time, so there were many kinds of African wars and some of them are as follows: But as my mother was a petty trader who was going here and there, so one morning she went to a market which was about three miles away from our town, she left two slices of cooked yam for us my brother and my- self as she was usually doing.

But as these enemies were more approaching the town the lofty noises of their guns became fearful for us be- cause every place was shaking at that moment.

All these animals were running and crying bitterly up and down in the town in searching for their keepers. Immediately we saw that there was nobody in the town again we stepped down from the door to turuola outside as ail the while we stood at the door looking at every part of the town with fearful and doubtful mind. So first of all we travelled to the north of the town as there was a road which led to the town of our grand- mother which was not far away from ours.

But as these animals were giving us much trouble, fear, and disturbing us so at last we left to run to the north and then to the south where there was a large river which thhe the road on which we should travel to some protective place to hide ourselves.

But as he himself was too young to lift or carry such weight like me, so by that he was unable to lift me to a distance of about ten feet before he would fall down four times or more.

But as I was telling him these sorrowful words both his eyes were shedding tears repeatedly, of course I did not shed tears at all on my eyes as I put hope that no doubt I would be easily captured or killed.

And it was that day I believed that if fear is overmuch, a person would not fear for anything again. After that he started to run as fast as he could along this road towards the enemies unnoticed and he was still looking at me as he was running away. So after I saw him no more on the road I put both fruits into my pocket and then got back to that fruit tree under which we picked them and I stood there only to shelter myself from the sun.

Now it remained me alone in the bush, because no brother, mother, father or other defender could save me or direct me if and whenever any danger is imminent. But as these enemies had tbe us closely before my brother left because of me he was captured within fifteen minutes that he left me, but he was only captured as a slave and not killed, because I heard his voice when he shouted louder for help.

After I ate it then I started to wander about in this bush both day and night until I reached a rising ground which drknkard almost covered with thick bush and weeds which made the place very dark both day and night.

Every part of this small hill was pa,m-wine clean as if somebody was sweeping it. But as I was very tired of roaming about 22 In the Palm-wwine of Ghosts before I reached there, so I bent down to see the hill clearly, because my aim was to sleep there. Yet I could not see it clearly as I bent down, but when I had lain down flatly then I saw clearly that it had an entrance with which to enter into it.


The entrance resembled the door of a house drinkadr it had a portico which was sparkling as if it was polished with brasso at all moments. The portico was also made of golden plate. One of these rooms had golden surroundings, the second had silverish surroundings and the third had copperish.

The Palm-wine Drinkard and His Dead Palm-wine Tapster in the Dead’s Town Summary & Study Guide

But as I stood at the junction of these passages with con- fusion three kinds of sweet smells were rushing out to me from each of these three rooms, but as I was hungry and also starving before I entered into this hole, so I began to sniff the best smell so that I might enter the right room at once from which the best sweet tutuoola was rushing out.

But I thought in my 23 In the Bush of Ghosts mind to go direct to the room from which the smell of the African food was rushing out to me, as I prefer my native food most. These ghosts were so old and weary that it is hard to believe that they were living creatures. Palmm-wine I stood at this junction with my right foot which I dangled with fear and looking plm-wine them.

But as I was looking at each of them surprisingly I noticed that the inhabitant of the room which had golden surroundings was a golden ghost in appearance, then the second room which had copperish surroundings was a copperish ghost and also the third was a silverish hutuola. So as he lighted the flood of golden light on my body and when I looked at myself I thought 24 In the Bush pa,m-wine Ghosts that I became gold as it was shining on my body, so at this time I preferred most to go to him because of his golden light.

But as I moved forward a little bit to go to him then drunkard copperish-ghost lighted the flood of his own copperish light on my body too, which persuaded me again to go to the golden-ghost as my body was changing to every colour that copper has, and my body was then so bright so that I was unable to touch it.

The Palm-Wine Drinkard and His Dead Palm-Wine Tapster in the Deads’ Town |

And again as I preferred this copperish light more than the golden- light then I started to go drnkard him, but at this stage I was prevented again to go to him by the silverish-light which shone on to my body at that moment unexpectedly. This silverish-light was as bright as snow so that it trans- parented every part of my body and it was this day I knew the number of the bones of my body. But immedi- ately I started to count them these three ghosts shone the three kinds of their lights on my body at the same time in such a way that I could not move to and fro because of these lights.

But as these three old ghosts shone their lights on me at the same time so I began to move round as a wheel at this junction, as I appreciated these lights as the same. But as I was staggering about on this junction for about half an hour because of these lights, the copperish- ghost was wiser than the rest, he quenched his own copperish-light from my body, so at this time I had a little chance to go to the rest.

Of course, when the golden- ghost saw that I yhe not run two races at a blow success- fully, so xmos quenched his own light too from my body, and at this time I had chance to run a single race to the silverish-ghost.

But when I nearly reached his room then 25 In the Bush of Ghosts the copperish-ghost and the golden-ghost were lighting their lights on me as signals and at the same moment the silverish-ghost joined them to use his own light as signal to me as well, because I was disturbed by the other two ghosts.

Although I appreciated or recognized these lights as the same, but I appreciated one thing more which is food, and this food is my native food which was cooked by the copperish-ghost, but as I was very hungry so I entered into his room, and when he saw that it was his room I entered he was drinkqrd glad so that he gave me the food which was the same colour with copper.

But as every one of these three old ghosts wanted me to be his servant, so that the other two ghosts who were the golden-ghost and the silverish-ghost did not like me to be servant for the copperish-ghost who gave me the food that I preferred most, and both entered into the room of the copperish-ghost, all of them started to argue.