Olumba and Wago the leopard-killer dramatize in The Great Ponds the pride of the warrior temperament and the lengths to which it can go. Both behave as though not only the progress of the war but also the welfare of their villages depend on their personal efforts. Olumba assumes the entire burden of Chiolu’s claim to Wagaba Pond by making himself the target of divine intervention for six months. Wago, on the other hand, defies the divine and spoils the moral integrity of his village by forcing its dibia to perform a spell against Olumba’s life. Olumba, at least, as his strength ebbs and his household crumbles, learns humility and a compassion for his wives that he did not have before. Moreover, his bravery is tested and deepened in a new way, for he must battle mental illness— a “voice” that is in him but seems apart from him that continually tells him that his efforts to survive are in vain. Wago, it appears, succumbs to such a “voice,” for his open attack on Olumba and his subsequent suicide in Wagaba Pond suggest that he has lost his mind completely.
Like Olumba, Ikechi, the young Chiolu warrior, learns through adversity to temper his pride. He also learns, by helping to represent his village in diplomatic missions and by traveling to locate the missing women, the frustration and complexity engendered by the war. When Chisa, the chief’s daughter, finally returns, Ikechi has matured. Though his father is on the point of death, he is able to comfort Chisa, accepting the fact that she has been raped and that her high spirits have been broken.
Eze Diali and Eze Okehi, the chiefs of Chiolu and Aliakoro, respectively, are a study in the inability of tribal...
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