Things Fall Apart
[In Ekwefi’s story] “The birds gathered round to eat what was left and to peck at the bones he had thrown all about the floor. Some of them were too angry to eat. They chose to fly home on an empty stomach. But before they left each took back the feather he had lent to Tortoise. And there he stood in his hard shell full of food and wine but without any wings to fly home. He asked the birds to take a message for his wife, but they all refused. In the end Parrot, who had felt more angry than the others; suddenly changed his mind and agreed to take the message.
‘Tell my wife,’ said Tortoise, ‘to bring out all the soft things in my house and cover and compound with them so that I can jump down from the sky without very great danger.’
Parrot promised to deliver the message, and then flew away. But when he reached Tortoise’s house he told his wife to bring out all the hard things in the house. And so she brought out her husband’s hoes, machetes, spears, guns and even his cannon. Tortoise looked down from the sky and saw his wife bringing things out, but it was too far to see what they were. When all seemed ready he let himself go. He fell and fell and fell until he began to fear that he would never stop falling. And then like the sound of his cannon he crashed on the compound.”
“Did he die?” asked Ezinma.
“No,” replied Ekwefi. “His shell broke into pieces. But there was a great medicine man in the neighborhood. Tortoise’s wife sent for him and he gathered all the bits of shell and stuck them together. That is why Tortoise’s shell is not smooth.” (11.20-24)
“Ekwefi,” she said, “is it true that when people are grown up, fire does not burn them?” Ezinma, unlike most children, called her mother by her name. (5.16)
And after a pause she said: “Can I bring your chair for you?”
“No, that is a boy’s job.” Okonkwo was specially fond of Ezinma. (5.59-60)