Literature / The Palm Wine Drinkard
The Palm-Wine Drinkard and His Dead Palm-Wine Tapster in the Deads' Town
is a work written by the Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola and is based on his homeland's folktales. The novel depicts the adventures of the Palm-Wine Drinkard who sets out on a long and dangerous journey to the spirit-occupied threshold world
where magic and reality mingle in order to save his Palm-Wine Tapster from the land of the dead
The novel is an interesting blend of mythic stories and Magic Realism
mixed with creeping modernism, and it deliberately uses Pidgin English to create a simulation of oral storytelling. Many of the spirits which the Drinkard encounters have become accustomed to western consumerism and embrace various commercial products, and yet their rules and customs defy western logic at the same time.
Tutuola received criticism from Nigerian scholars for portraying Nigerians as superstitious and for using Pidgin English. However, western critics embraced the work, delighting in its fascinating and thought-provoking depiction of Africa which is shown to be on the eve of transitioning from traditional culture towards modernity. Since then the novel has become a seminal work in post-colonial studies for its view of western consumerism and depiction of time and place which differ considerably from western standards.
Contains examples of:
- Anti-Hero: The Drinkard is a selfish demigod with a huge appetite whose sole motivation for rescuing the Tapster is because only the Tapster can make him enough wine to drink.
- Bigger on the Inside: The Faithful-Mother's tree looks like an ordinary tree on the outside but has a huge city inside it.
- Bizarrchitecture: The Faithful-Mother's tree contains examples of such.
- Magical Realism: The novel is a good example of such.
- Orphean Rescue: The plot revolves around this after the Tapster dies and the Drinkard decided to travel to the Bush to rescue him. However, in a twist it turns out the Tapster doesn't want to be rescued, which forces the Drinkard to return home mostly empty-handed (he did get some nifty items and a wife out of the ordeal, though).
- Spirit World: The Drinkard travels to the spirit world called the Bush to rescue the Tapster. The entrance to the world is through the jungle, and it coexists with the world of mortals.
- Undead Child: The Drinkard and his wife have a terrifying encounter with hostile spirits of undead children who chase after them.
- Unwanted Rescue: Once the Drinkard finds the Tapster in the Deads' Town, he finds out that the Tapster doesn't want to be rescued.
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: The story is full of these as the Drinkard encounters many friendly and hostile spirits and people during his quest. Justified because the story is woven around Yoruba folktales and aims to mimic oral storytelling. The encounters also help to flesh out the Bush and its bizarre denizens.