The Wicked Stepmother: African Folktale, Nigerian Folktale, Malice, Free Short Story, Fabling, Pam
ONCE UPON A TIME!
“The title of my story is……..”
THE WICKED STEPMOTHER
Once upon a time, in the land of Umuofia there lived a very wealthy man. He had the largest farm in the land, so large that even the King’s family members used to farm on his land for a fair rent, he also had a happy family; a beautiful wife and a well-behaved daughter (Obioma) who he loved so dearly.
One day his wife died, she had fallen to an unknown but not taboo sickness and she died while her daughter was still five years old. The man mourned his wife for years, but after five years of mourning his community convinced him to marry another wife since he still had no heir and Obioma would need a mother figure in her life. One day while working on his farm, a beautiful woman (Adanma) with her daughter (Egodi) walked up to him to ask if he could accommodate them for a while since they were from a faraway land “I am a widow who was cast out of her husband’s house because I bore him no son” she explained. Being entranced by her beauty and taking pity on her he invited her to his house and after a year of her displaying her good side, they became man and wife.
The man tried to treat his stepdaughter as well as he treated his own daughter but it was obvious that he loved Obioma more, even more than Adanma, and this made Adanma very jealous. Though Obioma would always try to please her new mother, she would always end up on her bad side
Three years later Adanma had had enough of the marriage, she wanted the man out of the picture and she wanted to have his wealth. She began to poison his meal daily to weaken him so that she could sell his farmlands with the disguise that it was to help him because she knew the Igbo tradition too well; that since she had not borne him any child, not to talk of a male heir she had no claim to his property, in fact, after his death she would be married off to one of his brothers as they inherit his wealth.
When she was done selling his lands and gaining the favour of his kinsmen as a caring wife, she gave him the final dose of poison and he died. Now the only properties the man had were his wife and two daughters as she had also sold his house. She then left the land saying “Now that my husband is gone I will return to my father’s house though I have no relative there because they were all killed in an inter-tribal war, it was our tradition that when a woman’s husband dies she is to return to her father’s compound” this, of course, was to avoid being acquired by his brothers.
Adanma and her daughter moved to a neighbouring village taking Obioma with them to make her look like a saint. After introducing herself to the king as a widow who had fled from a faraway land with a gruesome tradition where both the wife and her unmarried daughters were buried with the deceased, the King had mercy on her and permitted her to live in his land.
While they lived in the land, the Adanma maltreated Obioma to her heart’s content. She could not stand her and she tried her best to work her to death while maintaining a saintly appearance to the public. Obioma was made to sleep on the hard ground in the sitting room, she was also made to wake up by 3.a.m in the morning to clean the house, and her stepmother and step sister’s rooms, then she would wash the dishes, then make breakfast which she was only allowed to taste to ensure that she had not put poison in it, she would then run to the stream to fetch water to fill up ten huge calabash of which were always emptied before the next day, then run to the farm to harvest enough crops for Egodi to sell at the market; which she also carried to the market for her step-sister, then she would make lunch; the only meal she was allowed to eat, then she would do their laundry, make their dinner which she was only allowed to taste, and when she finished all her chores on time, Adanma would create new chores just to keep her busy till 12.a.m.
Obioma did all these chores cheerfully without complaining which infuriated her stepmother. She decided that she owed her stepmother this much for taking her in instead of selling her as a slave and not once did it cross her mind to run away or harm the two devils in her life.
One day, Obioma went to the stream to fetch water, while she was fetching water she heard the sound of a flute playing, she loved the music that came from it so she fetched her water and went to find out where the sound had come from. She did not have to search for long, she saw an old woman sitting under an oak tree playing the flute with a heavy-looking sac beside her. She had gotten so engulfed in the music that she did not know when she dropped her small calabash and began to dance, the music made her feel the love of her parents and she could hear her mother singing to her.
The Old Woman noticed her and when he was done playing, she called the attention of Obioma who as still dancing to her mother’s voice “My daughter I see you like the music from my flute” The Old Woman said laughing and Obioma nodded shyly. The Old Woman then asked her to help her carry her sac home. At first, Obioma was reluctant but she could not imagine The Old Woman carrying such a heavy load, so she left her calabash under the tree to keep it safe then she helped her.
When they got to The Old Woman’s house, she offered to pay Obioma for the lift but Obioma refused so she showed Obioma a collection of flutes; one made of gold, another of fine wood, one of silver, another of cowries and one carved from the stem of a pawpaw leaf like that of The Old Woman. Obioma was amazed at the sight and even more amazed when The Old Woman told her that they had each had magic in them just like her flute. Obioma remembered the feeling she got when The Old Woman played and picked the pawpaw stem flute. The Old Woman then told her that when she played that flute it would read her heart and grant her wish, but though it could grant her wealth and comfort it can not bring back the dead, it can only be played by her alone and she could not use it to cast spells and curses and most importantly she was the only one who could use it and that the day she dies the flute will stop working.” Obioma was so happy that after she thanked The Old Woman she ran home to show the flute to her stepmother who beat her into a pulp on seeing that she had returned without her calabash and for taking all day at the stream.
After Obioma had recovered from the beating she apologized to her stepmother, told her about The Old Woman then begged her to see the flute. She then played it and immediately, the bruises on her body were gone. Seeing that her stepmother was not impressed she played it again and this time a sack of cowries appeared. Seeing this Adanma asked her to give her the flute, she tried to play it but the flute made no sound, then in annoyance, she tried to break it but the flute would not break so she threw it outside the house and condemned it as evil and forbade Obioma from using it again then she took the sac of cowries to her room. But Obioma remembered the warm feeling she got from the music of the flute, she went to pick it and ran to the palace to show it to the king who immediately had her marry The Prince for the riches that the flute could bring to his land.
When Adanma heard of this she was so angry that she condemned her daughter and sent her to the stream to fetch water saying “Do not return until you see an old hag playing the flute, and she gives you one.”
Egodi went to the stream to fetch water for several days and stayed till nightfall waiting for The Old Woman and when she was finally losing hope with her mother threatening to sell her to a rich old man if she did not find The Old ‘hag’; she heard the sound of a flute being played and went to see who had been playing it and to her greatest joy it was The Old Woman.
Without waiting for The Old Woman to finish playing she interrupted her and offered to help her carry her load home. On their way to The Old Woman’s house; she complained bitterly of how heavy The Old Woman’s sac was. When they finally got to her house, The Old Woman asked her to pick a flute and as expected she picked the golden flute. The Old Woman then said to her “This flute will give whoever plays it and the owner of the flute what they deserve and it will only stop working when the flute player is humbled” But Egodi was too excited to listen to her she ran home and showed it to her mother who hugged her and told her how much she loved her then she took it from her daughter and played it.
But instead of wealth which was in her greedy heart when she played it. Mmou (spirits) in the form of masquerades appeared and began to flog her along with her daughter. Every time a spirit flogged them it will command “CONFESS!”
When they could no longer take the beating they ran out into the street but the masquerades followed them flogging and commanding that they confessed, Egodi confessed all her sins that she could remember and the masquerades praised her for confessing but they did not stop beating her and reminded her of the flute’s rule that The Old Woman had told her about when she was not listening. They continued to flog them shouting “CONFESS” as they ran down the market place, then to the king’s palace where the guards prevented them from moving close to the King, Queen, Prince and Obioma who were sitting in the royal court discoursing the state of the kingdom which had flourished greatly since Obioma’s marriage.
Finally, Adanma shouted when she thought that the flogging was about to kill her “I will confess! I will confess o! Chai chai! I will confess” The beating stopped but the masquerades did not disappear, just in case she lied. By now the villagers had gathered into the royal court to see what was happening; the guards could not keep them out (even the guards wanted to see what was happening).
Seeing the crowd that had gathered Adanma thought twice about confessing but after a few more painful wipes from the Masquerades, she spilt the beans. She confessed that her first husband had been poisoned by her to acquire his wealth but it was a plan gone wrong since the tradition was that his brothers would inherit his properties because he had no male heirs, she then ran away with her daughter and when she heard of a widower who was so rich that even the King’s family farmed on his land, she warmed her way into house and heart and became his wife, then this time she poisoned him to death slowly until she had collected and hidden all his wealth then she killed him. She then confessed to maltreating Obioma hoping that she would die from stress someday. When she was done confessing the masquerades vanished leaving her alone to face the angry towns’s people who wanted justice for their new princess, the royal family who would decide her fate and Obioma who was tearing up in shock and anger. She begged for forgiveness but the people offered to stone her to death. Obioma also wanted her dead as she remembered how she had suffered but The Prince reminded her that if not for Adanma she would not have gotten the flute, so Obioma forgave them. But the king still had to serve justice.
The king ordered that Adanma should be buried alive and left to die in the evil forest and that words should be sent to Obioma’s father’s family explaining what had happened. As for Egodi, Obioma had mercy on her and made her one of the palace’s maids where she was maltreated by her senior maids behind Obioma’s back.
What’s the moral of the story?
Have you heard of the adventures of Anansi and Mba