African Proverbs from Things Fall Apart

Culture

Things Fall Apart Book by Chinua Achebe

I recently read the book ‘Things Fall Apart’ by the celebrated late Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. The book was first published in 1958 but has since proved to be a priceless piece of fiction. ‘Things Fall Apart’ chronicles the life of Okonkwo, a prominent man in the village of Umuofia in Igbo land, Nigeria. The book is full of rich Igbo culture – community life, wrestling, dispute resolution, burials, marriages, etc. It’s a fascinating read and ends with the massive adjustment that the village faced when British missionaries turned their way of life upside down.

One of the most powerful aspects of the book is the number of Igbo proverbs in it. Like many Igbo villagers even now, conversations are not short and succinct, but rather, long-winded and accompanied with many sayings and word plays. It’s beautiful. Below are some of the proverbs from the book.

“Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.”

“A toad does not run in the day time for nothing.”

“An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.”

“The lizard that jumped from the high iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no one else did.”

“Ereke the bird says that since men have learnt to shoot without missing, he has learnt to fly without perching.”

Looking at a king’s mouth, one would think he never sucked at his mother’s breast.”

“When a man says ‘Yes’ his chi (personal god/spirit) says ‘Yes’ also.”

“A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches.”

“A child’s fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam which its mother puts into its palm.”

“When mother-cow is chewing grass its young ones watch its mouth.”

“If I fall down for you and you fall down for me, it is play.”

“A baby on its mother’s back does not know that the way is long.”

“If one finger brought oil, it soiled the others.”

“A man cannot rise beyond the destiny of his chi (personal god/spirit).”

“You cannot live on the bank of a river and wash your hands with spittle.”

“As a man danced, so the drums were beaten for him.”

“Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then you know something is after its life.”

Buy Things Fall Apart from Amazon. You can also view this infographic about Things Fall Apartinfographic about Things Fall Apart.

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