Fiction for Young Adults

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Achara, D. N.

Ala Bingo

The Land of Bingo

Lagos, Nigeria: Longman Nigeria, 1963. 38 p. Ages 10 and up.

Language: Igbo

Publisher: Longman Nigeria Plc.

King Eze Ogara Olu n’ afo lota n’ afo (The King Who Went to Work in a Year and Returned in a Year) was powerful and could do everything, including determining the seasons. He had two houses, one in the heavens and the other in the land of Bingo, where he lived every alternate year. Bingo is a fertile land where crops thrive, and the king guards the land jealously so that no one else knows about it. In spite of precautions, he discovers some footsteps on the way to Bingo River. He tries to locate the person, but each day he sees fresh footsteps and becomes extremely worried. When he returns to his abode in the heavens, he summons his slaves and promises riches to anyone who can discover the intruder. None can help except a sick slave, who has a vision that a powerful king who lives in the eastern part of the earth can solve the mystery. It turns out that the owner of the footsteps is this king’s beloved daughter, who was turned insane and banished to the Bingo River by a medicine man. The king also learns that the princess loves groundnuts, so he spreads some on the ground. When the princess comes to eat them, he falls hopelessly in love with her dazzling beauty. Since he can neither sleep nor eat, he decides to marry the girl. However, when he tries to hold or catch her, he discovers that her body is slippery, and she runs back into the river.

The king goes back to his house in the heavens and another slave, a leper who was banished to the forest, tells him that only a shepherd from the south can help him. The shepherd, a friend of the medicine man, tells the king that the princess will become normal only if he can make her fall on the ground. All ends well when the king spreads a slippery substance on the ground, and the princess falls down. They marry and have two sons: ogu (Fight) and Mgba (Wrestle). When the King is about to die, he tests his sons, and ogu, the elder son, excels and inherits the throne.

This highly entertaining story skilfully narrates the complex sequence of events and deftly interweaves folklore into the story. It teaches that human wants or desires are insatiable. In spite of the fact that the king has free access to the heavens and the earth, he is dissatisfied. It also teaches that nobody is an island, and that we all need the cooperation of others. The Igbo-English glossary at the end of the book is useful.


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