Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Chapter Eleven

By Chinua Achebe

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Chapter Eleven

  • Ezinma survived her fever!
  • Ekwefi and Ezinma take turns telling folktales during a moonless night.
  • Ekwefi tells a story about crafty Tortoise and his wily maneuverings and sweet-talking to get to a feast in heaven.
  • Ezinma is unhappy with her mother’s tale because “there is no song in the story.” The girl begins to tell her own tale.
  • She is interrupted by the high-pitched cries of Chielo, the priestess of Agbala, screaming prophecies.
  • Chielo comes to Okonkwo and demands to see Ezinma. Ekwefi, overhearing, feels a stab of fear.
  • Okonkwo tries to get Chielo to come back in the morning, but apparently Agbala wants to see “his daughter” (Chielo implies Ezinma is Agbala's daughter, not Okonkwo's), and Okonkwo should watch out because he’s exchanging words with a god (Agbala) through Chielo.
  • Okonkwo’s wives come out of their huts to meet Chielo while the children watch from the sidelines.
  • Chielo insists that Agbala wants to see Ezinma in his cave in the hills. When Ekwefi says she wants to come too, Chielo curses her.
  • Chielo, clearly in a strange state, tells Ezinma to climb on her back. Ezinma, crying from fear, obeys while her distraught parents watch, helpless to oppose the will of the god.
  • Chielo spirits Ezinma away without any explanation.
  • Ekwefi, in a show of strength, steels herself and follows them. Okonkwo does nothing to stop her.
  • Ekwefi becomes more and more afraid as she pursues the priestess and her abducted daughter.
  • While following the priestess’s path, Ekwefi takes some time to consider what she will do when they reach their final destination. Ekwefi feels too frightened to follow them into Agbala’s cave and begins thinking of terrifying “evil essences” that are loose in the woods.
  • The moonless night frightens Ekwefi, and Chielo seems to have supernatural strength and speed, moving rapidly and tirelessly through the underbrush. The priestess also knows that she is being followed and threatens the pursuer with the wrath of the god Agbala. Yet Ekwefi persists.
  • Chielo keeps up her steady pace and leads her pursuer through a village and then back into the eerie woods, continuing her strange, possessed chanting.
  • To Ekwefi, Chielo no longer seems to be the kind woman who is her friend. Right now, Chielo is rather inhumane – the frightening priestess of Agbala.
  • Late into the night, after the moon has risen, Chielo finally reaches her destination, the shrine of Agbala and disappears into a small entrance in the ground, with Ezinma still on her back. Ekwefi, sick with fear, vows that she will defend her daughter to the death. And she waits outside the entrance for them to return.
  • As she waits, Okonkwo shows up with a machete in hand. At the sight of him, Ekwefi knows Ezinma will be safe. He sits down to wait with her.
  • The chapter ends with Ekwefi recalling the day she ran away to elope with Okonkwo. She had been married to another man, Anene, for two years but walked right up to Okonkwo’s door. He carried her inside, started to take off her clothes, and the rest is history…or private.

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