Amos Tutuola Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Excerpts from the novels of Amos Tutuola (tew-tew-OH-lah) have appeared in numerous anthologies of African literature, but only a handful of short stories have been published. Most of these stories were, until the 1980’s, either earlier or later versions of tales included in the novels. These stories include “The Elephant Woman” (in The Chicago Review, 1956), “Ajaiyi and the Witchdoctor” (The Atlantic Monthly, 1959), “The Duckling Brothers and Their Disobedient Sister” (Présence africaine, 1961), “Akanke and the Jealous Pawnbroker” (Afriscope, 1974), and “The Pupils of the Eyes” (Confrontation: A Journal of Third World Literature, 1974). In 1984, two new stories about a character called Tort, the Shell Man, were published in a popular fantasy anthology in the United States, indicating the possibility of an entirely new audience in the 1980’s. Those stories, “The Strange Fellows Palm-Wine Tapster” and “Tort and the Dancing Market Woman,” published in Elsewhere in 1984, reprise themes found in Tutuola’s earliest writings.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Amos Tutuola, who was unknown to both African and Western readers at the time of the publication of The Palm-Wine Drinkard, occupies a unique place in the literary world. While his novels have been praised by serious writers and literary critics, he is, quite literally, one of a kind. Despite a limited command of Standard English (which, coupled with his depictions of a “backward” and “superstitious” Africa, has drawn the wrath of many educated Africans), he produced a body of work that stands at the very beginning of the increasingly impressive body of anglophone African literature. Combining the rich folkloric traditions of his Yoruba people with a powerful imagination, his stories supply the Nigerian Bushman with heroes and heroines who face television-handed ghosts, half-bodied babies, bloodthirsty satyrs, and witch-mothers.

Few writers have achieved such serious attention while remaining as unsophisticated in their literary style as did Tutuola. There is no question that Tutuola is, in the truest sense of the word, a “natural,” yet he is more than a literary curiosity. In a number of ways, he is a crossroads figure. He succeeded as a writer not by imitating the West but by depending on local sources (mixed with a number of influences from the West but never overwhelmed by them). This helped create a climate in which other Africans could write about the African experience and be accepted both in their own nations and abroad. His...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Achebe, Chinua. “Work and Play in Tutuola: The Palm-Wine Drinkard.” Okike 14 (1978): 25-33. A perceptive article by one of Tutuola’s fellow countrymen and one of Africa’s greatest novelists.

Armstrong, Robert G. “Amos Tutuola and Kola Ogunmola: A Comparison of Two Versions of The Palm-Wine Drinkard.” Callaloo 3 (1980): 165-174. A useful source study and comparison.

Collins, Harold R. Amos Tutuola. Boston: Twayne, 1969. A standard introductory study, with chronology, notes, and bibliography.

Heywood, Christopher, ed. Perspectives on African Literature. New York: African Publishing Corporation, 1971. See the essay by A. Afolayan, “Language and Sources of Amos Tutuola,” which assesses the writer’s contribution to Yoruba literature from a Yoruba perspective.

Irele, Abiola. “Tradition and the Yoruba Writer: Daniel O. Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola, and Wole Soyinka.” In The African Experience in Literature and Ideology. London: Heineman, 1981. Irele’s chapter should be compared to Afolayan’s essay in Perspectives on African Literature (above).

Langford, Michele, ed. Contours of the Fantastic in Two West African Novels. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990. Contains Joyce Watford’s essay, “Techniques of the Fantastic in Two West African Novels.”

Lindfors, Bernth, ed. Critical Perspectives on Amos Tutuola. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, 1975. An excellent source of discussions providing critical insights into Tutuola’s individual novels.

Onyeberechi, Sydney E. “Myth, Magic, and Appetite in Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard.” MAWA Review 4 (1989): 22-26. Often cited as one of the best studies of Tutuola’s masterpiece.

Owomoyela, Oyekan. Amos Tutuola Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1999. An excellent introduction to Tutuola’s life and works. Good for the beginning student.

Palmer, Eustace. “Twenty-five Years of Amos Tutuola.” International Fiction Review 5 (1978): 15-24. A good overview of the novelist’s career and his reputation.

Quayson, Ato. “Treasures of an Opulent Fancy: Amos Tutuola and the Folktale Narrative.” In Strategic Transformation in Nigerian Writing. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997. A sound treatment of an important element in the writer’s fiction.