The Village Witch Doctor

by Amos Tutuola

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1212

Ajaiyi is Jaye's son and Aro's grandson. When Jaye becomes too ill and weary to work his own farm, Ajaiyi must work the farm himself in order to support the two of them. When Ajaiyi reaches thirty years of age 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," but when, several months later, his father dies, Ajaiyi again pawns his labor in order to pay for the funeral. 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. When this does not work, 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.

Ajaiyi's Wife
Ajaiyi's wife is described as "a beautiful lady." Ajaiyi pawns his labor in order to afford to marry her. Once they are married, it is she who advises Ajaiyi to go to the village witch doctor for advice on how to end his inherited poverty. When they can only afford six of the nine rams Osanyin has advised them to place on the dead father's grave, it is she who suggests they buy six rams as a first installment to the dead father. When this does not work, it is Ajaiyi’s wife who advises him to go again to the village witch doctor for advice. Ajaiyi carries out each of his wife’s wishes only with reluctance.

Aro is the father of Jaye and the grandfather of Ajaiyi. 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. 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. Osanyin then tells Aro that his gods had told him it was his 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 that, "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." From that point, Aro "started to live in poverty." Finally, "Aro died of poverty and he left poverty for his son Jaye." Nonetheless, Aro's curse of the person who stole his money, and his declaration that the money will be recovered, comes true in the end of the story when his grandson, Ajaiyi, recovers the fortune while terrifying Osanyin, who had stolen it from Aro years before.

Jaye is the son of Aro and the father of Ajaiyi. When, after his inherited fortune is stolen, Aro dies of poverty, Jaye inherits his father's poverty. 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. Several months after his son is married, 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. Thematically, the business of the funeral further indicates the burden of "inherited poverty" which grows with the passing of each generation of this family.

Jaye's Wife
Jaye's wife is referred to as "a very wretched lady, of whom no one could tell how or from where she had come to the village." Two years later, she and Jaye have a son, Ajaiyi. The family grows "poorer and poorer," and "at last Ajaiyi's mother died suddenly in poverty."

Osanyin is the village witch doctor of the story's title. He "was well known throughout the village and also all other surrounding villages because of his profession." His friend, Aro, invites him one night to help bury his inherited fortune in two large water pots out in the bush under a tree. 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 comes to Osanyin to report that his fortune has been stolen, the village witch doctor deceitfully tells his friend to go home while he asks his gods who took the money. Without asking the gods, Osanyin goes to Aro's home and tells him that the gods said his dead father had taken the money. Aro then goes to where the money had been buried and curses whoever stole it. 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." When Aro's grandson, Ajaiyi, comes to Osanyin years later for advice on how to end his "inherited poverty," Osanyin deceitfully advises him to place nine rams in nine sacks on his father's grave, as a trade for his family fortune. 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 comes to Osanyin for further advice, the witch doctor tells him to place the remaining three rams on his father's grave. Ajaiyi, however, tricks the witch doctor by hiding himself in one of the sacks supposedly containing a ram. When Osanyin brings the three bags home with his servants, Ajaiyi jumps out of the third and threatens Osanyin with a machete until he gives him the family fortune.

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