The Village Witch Doctor

by Amos Tutuola

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Themes

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Justice
This story contains the classic theme, or moral, that, in the end, everyone gets what he deserves. In other words, evil is punished and good is rewarded. Furthermore, suffering inflicted by one man upon another is vindicated in the end. The witch doctor, although he successfully deceives three generations of men out of their family fortune, is ultimately punished for his evil deeds. In the world of this story, it seems that fate is at work, to the extent that Osanyin, the witch doctor, becomes the agent of his own undoing. When Aro curses whoever has stolen his buried fortune, Osanyin is compelled to assert that the curse will come true in order to protect his secret. Osanyin is unsettled by the curse, and by having to echo the curse, because he has in effect been cursed, and cursed himself, as a result of this deception. All of Osanyin's lies come back to haunt him in the end. He deceives Ajaiyi, Aro's grandson, by claiming that the gods have told him his "inherited poverty" is due to his dead father having stolen his rightful inheritance from him. Osanyin tells Ajaiyi that he must place nine rams in nine sacks on his father's grave, as a trade for the return of the family fortune. Osanyin then sneaks out to the grave and takes the rams home to be butchered for his food. However, Ajaiyi ultimately tricks Osanyin into returning the fortune when he hides in one of the sacks with a machete and jumps out of the sack once Osanyin has brought it home. Ajaiyi punishes Osanyin for his deceit by terrifying him with the machete. It is Osanyin's lie which comes back to haunt him because Ajaiyi pretends that he believes Osanyin is in fact his dead father who has supposedly stolen the money from him. Thus, Ajaiyi turns Osanyin's own lie against him in order to punish him for the theft. In the end, therefore, the wicked are punished and the good are rewarded with their rightful inherited wealth.

Family and Inheritance
This story follows three generations of men and their wives through the inheritance, theft, and recovery of the family fortune. Family is thus a central theme of the story. In addition, the inheritance of both wealth and poverty are carried down through a patrilineal line of descent; each man inherits the financial status of his father. The continuation of the line of descent is indicated by Aro's curse upon the person who stole his buried fortune. Aro, standing on his father's grave, declares, "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!" This projection of revenge by future generations is carried out when Aro's grandson, Ajaiyi, does in fact recover the family fortune from the man who had stolen it. The theme of family is also tied to concerns about pride and status within the village community. Ajaiyi, Jaye's son, must procure the money necessary to obtain a wife, because his father cannot afford to do so; this circumstance is a measure of the family's poverty, as Jaye explains: "According to our tradition, it is a father's duty to make a marriage for his son." And again, when Jaye dies, Ajaiyi must obtain the money for a proper funeral ceremony in order to avoid the "shame" of not being able to afford to bury his own father. Thus, family in this story is central to both the financial and social status of the individual.

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