My Life in the Bush of Ghosts Characters

Amos Tutuola

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The narrator of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is the subject of an elaborate ritual of initiation from childhood to adulthood, from the knowledge that “bad” is “hatred,” to the knowledge of the various forms that evil can take, and finally, to the knowledge of good. The Smelling Ghost represents evil as the tyranny of animal nature, and the Chief Ancestor of the River Ghosts represents it as the tyranny of magic and superstition. Both ghosts show how merciless these tyrannies can be. The tyranny of motherhood is represented by the Flash-eyed Mother, the queen of the thirteenth town of ghosts, for she shows how grotesquely symbiotic the relationship between a mother and her children, and how selfish and stunted the children in such a relationship, can be.

As the narrator learns, life may also be good. The function of the Super Lady ghostess is to allow him to experience not only the virtue of cleanliness but also the pleasure of sex and the comfort of love. From the Television-handed Ghostess he learns the usefulness of medicine and that some dilemmas have practical solutions, whereas the king of the fourth town of ghosts provides him with an opportunity to see that some dilemmas may be solved by irrational means (in this case, magic).

Of the major human characters in the story other than the narrator, the narrator’s brother and his dead cousin demonstrate what can be done to mitigate hatred in the world. His brother is a provider of food at the beginning of the story and a savior at the end in that he puts an end to the narrator’s suffering. The narrator’s cousin, as a Methodist bishop and a humanitarian, represents the civilizing influence of religious and civil power and education.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, a seven-year-old boy fleeing a slaver army. He takes refuge in the bush near a fruit tree, thus inadvertently entering the Bush of Ghosts. Driven deeper into this Otherworld by the sound of the slavers’ guns, he begins years of picaresque, shape-shifting adventures involving bizarre “ghosts” that are nonhuman beings, many of whom have magical attributes.

The Super Lady

The Super Lady, a shape-shifter from Nameless-town, where only women live. Her mother is the head of all earthly and ghostly witches, and her father is the head of all wizards. She appears first to the narrator as an antelope, then as a “ghostess” to whom the narrator is greatly attracted. She becomes his second, and only important, ghostly wife. After four years, affection fades, and she sends him on his way wearing only the animal skin that he had when he met her.

The Flash-eyed Mother

The Flash-eyed Mother, the huge-bodied cult leader of the Short Ghosts of the thirteenth town. The eyes in her one large head, as well as those in the millions of “baby-like” heads that appear all over her body, flash and shine constantly. She and her heads consume most of the meat brought into town by hunters.

The Invisible and Invincible Pawn

The Invisible and Invincible Pawn, the son of the Flash-eyed Mother. He aids her when she declares war on the River Ghosts, who demand the return of the narrator. When the narrator’s head is cut off, the Pawn replaces it with a ghost head, which causes mischief by betraying the narrator’s every thought.

The Television-handed Ghostess

The Television-handed Ghostess, who is covered by sores and is able to show the narrator in the palm of one hand what his mother and...

(The entire section is 752 words.)