The Village Witch Doctor

by Amos Tutuola

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As the story opens, Aro is a middle-aged man from a rich family. When his father died, he "inherited a large sum of money, farms, and other valuable property." One night, Aro invites his friend Osanyin, the village witch doctor, to help him bury his fortune in two large water pots out in the bush, in order to protect it from theft. Osanyin returns to the spot one midnight a few months later and digs up Aro's fortune, then buries it "in front of his gods which were in the shrine." When Aro goes, a few months later, to retrieve some of the money, he finds that it is gone. He goes to Osanyin for help. Osanyin tells him to go home, and that he, Osanyin, will ask his gods to tell him who took the money. Without actually asking the gods, Osanyin then tells Aro that his gods told him it was Osanyin's dead father who had stolen the inherited money from him. Aro goes with Osanyin to the site where the money had been buried and curses whoever stole it. He swears, "My money will be recovered in the near or far future from whomsoever has stolen it, by my son, or my son's son, or one of my generation." Although maintaining his secret of having stolen the fortune from his friend, Osanyin goes home "worriedly. . .as if it had been revealed to Aro that Osanyin was the person who stole the money." From that point, Aro "started to live in poverty." Finally, "Aro died of poverty and he left poverty for his son Jaye."

Jaye marries "a very wretched lady," and two years later they have a son, Ajaiyi. After his wife dies, and after "several years' hard work," Jaye "became so poor and weary that he could not go and work on the farm any more," and so his son works the farm to support himself and his father. When Ajaiyi turns thirty and wishes to marry, his father cannot afford the marriage, and so Ajaiyi pawns his labor for the money to marry. He marries "a beautiful lady." Several months later, Jaye "fell seriously ill and died within a few days." Upon his death, Jaye's son cannot afford to pay for his funeral, and so must pawn his labor in order to afford the funeral expenses.

Pawned out to two different pawnbrokers, Ajaiyi's entire day is devoted to working for others, and he has only a few hours in the evenings to work his own farm. As a result, "his inherited poverty became even more severe." When he goes to Osanyin, the village witch doctor, for advice, Osanyin advises him to place nine rams in nine sacks on top of his father's grave, in order to trade with his dead father in exchange for the family fortune. Ajaiyi pawns his labor a third time, but can still only afford to buy six rams. He and his wife decide that they will leave the six rams as a first installment to his dead father, and then buy the other three rams with the money which the dead father will supposedly give them in trade. Osanyin then sneaks out to the father's grave at night with his servants and takes the six rams which Ajaiyi has placed there as a first installment. Osanyin takes the rams home and butchers them for food.

When Ajaiyi and his wife learn that placing the six rams on the grave has not brought them wealth, Osanyin advises Ajaiyi to place the remaining three rams on his father's grave. Ajaiyi then hides himself with a machete in one of the three sacks, and, when Osanyin and his servants bring the sacks home, Ajaiyi jumps out of the third and threatens Osanyin, behaving as if he believes Osanyin is his dead father and demanding the family fortune. Terrified, Osanyin eventually returns the fortune to Ajaiyi.

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