Evil Forest Things Fall Apart
What are the egwugwu? What is the evil forest? What do they represent in Things Fall Apart?
The egwugwu are the judges of the village, who decide sentences in cases brought before them. The eguwugwu are prominent citizens of the village who wear masks when hearing the cases. The masks represent the ancestral spirits of the village, who pass judgment upon the accused. Each person who brings a suit to the egwugwu gains a trial, during which both sides plead their cases, much like prosecutors and defenders in contemporary legal courts. After hearing the case, the judges will confer together, then decide the best course of action. Often, if the case warrants punishment, it will be a very public one, usually carried out by all members of the village.
The Evil Forest is land beyond the village considered desecrated by the Ibo. People who contract infectious diseases or the bloating disease (like Okonkwo's father), are considered unclean and cursed by the village. Thus, they are taken to the Evil Forest and left to die. It is same for twins who are born in Umuofia. Twins are seen as a sign of evil as well, and thus are taken to the forest and left to die of exposure when they are born. This practice is one of the traditions that turns Okonkwo's son, Nwoye, away from from the Ibo and into the arms of the newly established Christian church.
The egwugwu are the masked ancestral spirits of Umuofia, who are comprised of the clan's most revered men. The nine masked egwugwu act as the village judges and preside over disputes throughout the community. They represent the knowledge of their ancestors, which gives them the authority to make important decisions. Achebe illustrates the function of the egwugwu in chapter 10 of the novel.
The Evil Forest is the enigmatic, dark wilderness beyond the village. The Evil Forest is where social outcasts and diseased villagers are left to die. Evil spirits are believed to inhabit the area, and the villagers decide to give the Christian missionaries a plot of land in the Evil Forest. The most menacing of the nine egwugwu is also given the name Evil Forest. He represents the terrifying, malevolent nature of the wilderness and presides over the cases. In chapter 10, Evil Forest continually silences the crowd, strikes fear in the villagers, and decides on the outcome of the case.