The folktale of Ori and Olajumoke

Folktales pass down from generation to generation, carrying the collective wisdom of our ancestors.

Folktales are the tapestries of our cultural heritage, woven with threads of wisdom, imagination, and tradition.

One such enchanting tale from Yoruba folklore is the story of Ori and Olajumoke.

This narrative, like many others, transcends time and space, carrying valuable life lessons and the magic of storytelling.

It is also the inspiration behind the song, “Agolo” by Angelique Kidjo.

This article explores the story, its essence and the timeless wisdom it imparts.

Once upon a time in the heart of Yoruba land, where spirits and animals walked among humans, a captivating young woman named Olajumoke lived.

Blessed with breathtaking beauty, she had a spirit as radiant as her appearance, but her vanity veiled her heart.

Olajumoke’s family resided in a small village, and many young men in the community were eager to capture her heart. However, she dismissed them one by one, believing none were worthy of her attention. Her pride was apparent, and her standards soared high into the heavens.

One fateful day, while in the bustling marketplace, Olajumoke encountered a man who seemed to have been sculpted by the hands of the divine. His countenance was the epitome of handsomeness, and a strange allure enveloped him. In that moment, her heart fluttered, and she was convinced that she had found her destined partner.

Conversations flowed, laughter filled the air, and before the sun dipped below the horizon, the enchanting stranger, whose name remained unknown, knelt before Olajumoke, his eyes gleaming with an earnest proposal.

Her parents, ever watchful and protective, voiced their concerns. They knew nothing about this mysterious suitor, and they were wary of his intentions. But Olajumoke’s heart had spoken, and she was unwavering in her decision.

The charismatic stranger, prior to embarking on their journey, posed a question to Olajumoke three times: “Are you sure you want to do this?” Each time, her response remained unwavering – “Yes.”

With her resolute affirmation, they set forth on their journey. As they ventured further, they found themselves in the heart of a dense, ancient forest. The man, with a calm demeanour, expressed his need to leave something behind in the forest. However, the forest was no ordinary place, and his intentions were far from ordinary.

Before her eyes, the handsome stranger began to detach his legs, and Olajumoke’s heart raced in terror. Still, her determination propelled her forward, albeit with trepidation.

Their journey continued, and to Olajumoke’s astonishment and increasing fear, the man began to shed parts of his body.

First, his arms, then his torso, until only his disembodied head remained, suspended in mid-air. Yet, Olajumoke pressed on, a tapestry of terror and determination woven into her being.

In her darkest moment, Olajumoke could bear the strangeness no longer. She attempted to flee, her cries of fear echoing through the forest. Yet, each time she attempted to escape; Ori intervened.

Around her neck, Ori had fastened cowries, their presence foreboding. As she tried to run, the cowries would emit a distinct melody, a haunting chorus that sang, “Ori, Ori, Olajumoke nlo” meaning “Ori, Ori, Olajumoke is leaving”. Her very destiny was intertwined with these magical cowries and the mysterious Ori.

Time passed like a river, and Olajumoke remained trapped in her sorrowful plight. Until one day, her cries were heard by a kind-hearted hunter, a man of courage and determination.

With unwavering resolve, he faced the mystical challenge of the disembodied suitor and the enchantment that held Olajumoke captive. With an unyielding spirit, he freed her from the clutches of Ori.

This enchanting Yoruba folktale reminds us to value inner beauty, embrace humility, and find strength in our spirits when facing adversity. It underscores the significance of kindness and the perils of vanity.

Ultimately, the story teaches us that the true essence of a person goes beyond appearances, and the inner virtues and character are what truly matter.

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