Background to the Study
Folklorists and literary critics have discussed the forms, topics, taxonomy, sociological, and literary importance of Yoruba folktales in modern culture (see Dasylva 1999, Ben-Amos 1976; Finnengan, 1970; Sekoni, 1983, Bamgbose, 1969; and Iwara1985). Folktales and oral storytelling precede European civilisation, as shown by Western researchers’ discoveries in anthropology and archaeology. Therefore, it is unfair to history to assert that before the rise of European civilisation, Africa lacked both art and literature.
In Africa, folklore has a long and thriving history. Folklore, myth, and storytelling serve as a way of passing down traditions and practices via folkism throughout this enormous continent.
Folkkism is the practice of basing literary plays on indigenous history and culture and performing them in a way that is in keeping with African folktale aesthetics in composition and performance. Narrator, storytelling, proverbs and adages, myth and superstition, historical beliefs, and cultural values are some characteristics of folkism.
African folktales are performed at ceremonies and other events in addition to moonlit tales. Griots and minstrels, who are numerous throughout the country, sing them. In his edited book, Isidore Okpewho studied many African oral performance styles, many of which include telling folktales. The Story of Two Wives and The Tortoise and the Iroko Tree are two stories that are discussed in Ropo Sekoni’s 1990 anthology. Okpewho also dealt with the Ozidi (1990). Because the folktale serves as the foundation for Sam Ukala’s literary theater form known as “Folkism,” I have gone to such lengths to discuss it. As we have defined it, the folktale is an oral tradition that draws on the experiences of the populace. They might be legends about ancestors, ghosts, animals, or inanimate things that serve to impart morals, values, and the community’s way of life. The actors’ memory of the stories from the community’s oral histories or their skill in creating new stories from the surroundings serve as the theater’s primary sources, not a written script.
One of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria is the Yoruba, who make up around 20 million people mostly in the southwest. The six southwestern states of Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, and Lagos are home to the majority of Yorùbá people. In the southern states of Edo and Delta as well as the north-central state of Kogi, there are other Yorùbá subgroups. In the West African sub-region, there are also Yorùbá ethnic sub-groups in Benin, Togo, and Sierra Leone. They communicate in an African language belonging to the Niger-Congo language family’s Benue-Congo branch. They influenced the cultures of nations including Brazil, Cuba, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
According to Idowu (1996), oral tradition offers two hypotheses about the origins of the Yorùbá people. The first, according to him, “says that their founding ancestors were immigrants from a northern source, specifically: Egypt, Meroe, Yemen, or Arabia. Second, according to one myth of Yoruba provenance, Ile-Ife in Nigeria’s Osun state was the planet’s first habitable region and the starting point for all subsequent creation. This is why Ile-Ife is known as the birthplace of the Yoruba people (p. 4).
According to Coker and Coker (2008), “culture is the unwritten structure of society” for the Yorùbá people. It serves as a model for interpersonal interactions as well as a morality manual. The Yorùbá tradition is mostly oral in nature. The process through which humans produce knowledge is nourished by folklore. Indigenous oral tradition is a by-product of its epistemology. Knowledge is what it is: a shared legacy handed down through centuries via oral tradition.
“Yorùbá employ oral literature to inculcate culture and ideals that influence everyday life,” claims Akinyemi (2003). To the Yorùbá people, a person’s personality is crucial in determining their social value. A Yorùbá notion called omoluwabi indicates that there is a line that divides and maybe distinguishes between the human being in a general sense and the human being in a particular meaning.
According to Akinyemi (2003), “traditional Yoruba education attempts to develop individuals to become omoluabi, meaning one with excellent character. The Yorùbá people believe that having good character entails having respect for elders, loyalty to one’s parents and community traditions, honesty in both public and private affairs, a commitment to duty, willingness to help the needy and the ill, compassion, sociability, courage, and a desire for work, among many other desirable traits. In essence, the goal of Yorùbá traditional education has always been to develop a person’s moral character and prepare them to contribute to their society.
The concept that the Yorùbá civilization places a strong emphasis on values and moral precepts like respect, honesty, and hard labor is mirrored in their folktales, which is how this thesis is expressed. This research offers various uses of Yorùbá folktales apart from the focus on moral teachings, which will later be shown by a few particular tales.