Ori & Olajumoke - Nigerian Folktale

Sesi Zamba
January 7, 2023

I remember being really fascinated when I heard this story as a child. I think I was around 9 - 11 so my recollection may not be great but I remember heavily associating it with the song 'Agolo' by Angelique Kidjo. There's a line in it where she sings:

Morio orio

Ola djou monké n'lo (Lyricfind)

That just sounded too much like 'Ori Ori O Olajumoke nlo' to pre teen me.

On to the story.....

A long time ago in Yoruba land, spirits & animals lived among humans and many told stories of other entities taking human form to visit villages and interact with people especially young women. One such story is that of Ori and Olajumoke.

Olajumoke was a beautiful but vain young lady who lived in the village with her parents. She wasn't interested in any of the local men as she felt they were beneath her (fair enough)

One day, she met the most handsome man in the village marketplace and immediately decided he was the one for her. She approached him and they began talking and he eventually proposed to her. Her parents were against the union because they knew nothing about the man or where he came from but Olajumoke was adamant. She would marry him and she would follow him home to his village.

Before they took off for the journey, her would be husband asked her 3 times if she was sure and each time, she said yes. So they set off.

On their way, they stopped in a forest where he said he wanted to drop something off. Suddenly, the man detached his legs and was floating with only his torso, arms and head. At this point, Olajumoke became petrified with fear but she carried on.

As they continued their journey, her husband continued to detach parts of his body until all that was left was his disembodied head. Olajumoke began wailing uncontrollably and tried to run away but her path was blocked by Ori.

He put some cowries around her neck and everytime she tried to run away, the cowries would loudly sing 'ori ori o, Olajumoke nlo' meaning 'head, head, Olajumoke is leaving' and her Ori would immediately arrive to prevent her.

A long time passed and Olajumoke was trapped in misery until one day she was rescued by a hunter.

There are many versions of this folktale, this is the one I know.

Drop your variations in the comments.

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