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The priestess screamed. “Beware, Okonkwo!” she warned. Beware of exchanging words with Agbala. Does a man speak when a god speaks? Beware!” (11.32)
Speaking here is equated with having authority; thus it is considered disrespectful and insolent for a lowly man to speak when a god speaks.
[Tortoise in Ekwefi’s story]: “’There is one important thing which we must not forget,’ he said as they flew on their way. ‘When people are invited to a great feast like this, they take new names for the occasion. Our hosts in the sky will expect us to honor this age-old custom.’
‘None of the birds had heard of this custom but they knew that Tortoise…was a widely-traveled man who knew the customs of different peoples. And so they each took a new name. When they had all taken, Tortoise also took one. He was to be called All of you.’” (11.13-14)
The act of changing one’s name is essentially changing one’s identity. In this case, the act of renaming changes Tortoise and the birds into new beings, ridding themselves of old sins, and making them worthy to sit among the heavenly people of the sky. This is the argument Tortoise uses to convince the birds to take new names, but in reality, he is using language for a much more devious purpose.
The priestess’ voice was already growing faint in the distance. Ekwefi hurried to the main footpath and turned left in the direction of the voice. Her eyes were useless to her in the darkness. But she picked her way easily on the sandy footpath hedged on either side by branches and damp leaves. She began to run, holding her breasts with her hands to stop them flapping noisily against her body. She hit her left foot against an outcropped root, and terror seized her. It was an ill omen. She ran faster…Although the night was cool, Ekwefi was beginning to feel hot from her running. She continually ran into the luxuriant weeds and creepers that walled in the path. Once she tripped up and fell. (11.52)
The wilderness seems to be working against Ekwefi, keeping her from reaching her abducted daughter, blinding her to the path, and inspiring fear in her.