How a Giant Lost its Size – A Fairy Tale
By Emeka Uzoatu
The African continent is full of folklore. Passed on by word of mouth, they have survived countless centuries. So many are these often didactic stories that numerous studies about them have been established in these modern times. And as much as they have been regaled, they have proven inexhaustible.
Most interesting here is that quite a host of them are not even about human beings at all. While some are about visible and invisible spirits, others are about outright animals roaming in the wild. Not unlike the human beings in the benighted continent before the arrival of the Europeans. Or so they said in their texts and prayers when the invading waters of civilization yet corrugated our foreheads.
Majorly anthropomorphized, these animals are made to assume all kinds of powers in the uncelebrated harbinger to magical realism. While some can fly without wings, countless others are even imbued with clairvoyance, immortality and the like. Powers seldom possessed by even the most able men and women, as were, are thus heaped on these beings to make the stories as enigmatic as could be.
However, the major problem these stories have is that they are often targeted at explaining the unexplainable. Yes, you read me right – they end up unable to explain the explainable.
For instance, a popular one, made even more so by an exemplary author, laboured on end just to explain how the leopard got its spots. Imagine that? Much like one pop song asked on end in the recent past. Pity is that because the song was rendered in a language unintelligible to me, I’ve not been able to ascertain what it’s crooner is imagining to this day!
Anyway, back to these lores of yore. You see, one would have been tempted to heft more tasking jobs on them. Like instead of explaining just how all the leopards in the world earned their spots, methinks it’ would’ve been more worthwhile limning out how, perhaps, just one in the leap lost its marks.
And on this I’m not alone. O yes, because I happen to know that another better-established writer had somehow hinted at the anomaly before now. And none else than the irrepressible Salman Rushdie. Remember him? The one who single-handedly wrote himself to a fatwa. In his epic Midnight’s Children, he had his characters play a peculiar game of Snakes and Ladders where you climbed snakes and descended ladders.
Now that’s how stories should be told. Not having crawling animals like tortoises and spiders trading treachery upon unsuspecting fellows and humans alike. One even told how the inconsequential tortoise tricked the almighty elephant and dragged it to the king on a string. Imagine that!
Talking of imagination, having bored you enough already, I’m sure you’ll have jolly well started imagining it’s time I started telling you how a lonesome leopard in a leap lost its spots. But you know what? I’m yet very far away from commencement. Only that, like a certain troublemaker would say on social media, you have to stay with me.
Well, at this point I must confess that the animal in question wasn’t actually a leopard after all. You know, looking through a glass darkly, you don’t come to make things out like they really are that easily. O yes, because for all I’m worth, it might as well have been an elephant. Or why ever should they have been referring to it as the giant of its continent?
Aah, the cat is out of the bag! No doubt, you now know that we are writing about a country in that aforementioned continent of animal tales. And I can bet this keyboard of mine that by now you can pinpoint the selfsame nation from a map of the world even blindfolded.
Well, for that benefit often spared doubters, I can still fly some more clues in your general direction. For you see, this country used to be as tall as it was populous. Way back then, though abandoned in the third quarter of God’s creations here on earth, its people managed to remain the happiest people on Terra Firma for years.
Then, in just the turn of an electoral cycle, the bubble burst. In a span comparable to the twinkle of an eye, it transformed to the poverty capital of the world. It’s currency that used to batter the Dollar and Pound in the foreign exchange market has now turned to cannon fodder.
Appalled, its citizens cannot but sit and look. A people hitherto looking ahead imbued with hope now wallow in melancholy at a nostalgic past lost to a promise of change. Yes, hard as it is to swallow, their country that used to be touted as the giant of the continent has downsized to an infinitesimal dwarf in their subregion.
Emeka Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist and writer, is the editor of Nairaweb.ng. He writes the occasional column, Penny Wisdom