Story Story…Stoooorrry! Who remembers tales by moonlight? Remember how Aunty Nneka would gather children under the tree at 4pm and we will sit in front of our Television screens to listen to stories about how Tortoise betrayed all the other animals? Wait. Have you ever wondered why Tortoise was always the bad guy? Well, that is story for another day but today, I want us to talk about why Aunty Nneka always chose to tell her stories under a tree, by moonlight and nowhere else.
A now famous Igbo proverb, coined by late literature Icon Chinua Achebe says “…When we gather together in the moonlit village ground, it is not because of the moon, every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so”. While I agree with Chinua Achebe, I dare say that when Aunty Nneka and all our fore fathers gathered children under the trees in the moonlight to tell them stories, it had nothing to do with the moon but everything to do with the trees. It seemed like the folklores passed stronger messages when told under trees. These trees also seemed to have had some kind of special powers of fostering unity.
You can argue all you want, but before you do, answer me this- why is it that all our uncles in the village gather under trees to drink palm wine and play draught? Why were most childhood outdoor games played under the trees? This last question is posed to the millennial generation only, I don’t expect Generation Z to answer that (Lol).
On a more serious note, of all the knowledge in the world, of all the values upheld by humanity, it is the ones instilled in us during those cool evenings under the trees that have formed most of us Africans till date. It is the story of how the tortoise broke its shell that made us see the repercussion of greed and also made us wary of that vice.
Trees have always been an integral part of the human existence right from the creation story. No wonder God said man could eat of every tree except one. Little wonder too that trees produce the oxygen that we breathe.
Honestly, if I had a chance to make just a wish- it will be to have more tales under as many trees as possible in the cool moonlight breeze, maybe then we will be reminded of the very ideologies that made us our brothers’ keepers. Maybe then, we will realise just how dependent our lives are on trees.