Vitabubooks Blog | Frightful Halloween with Poe and Tutuola

Rain, snow and wind have kept me indoors most of the day. Except for a morning walk to the local shop, I've been on the couch. Not even the delightful Waverly Farmers' Market on Baltimore's 32nd could drag me out to eat or play. Bundled up, I channel zap aimlessly for a bit before walking over to the book case for inspiration.

My hands rested on an old Edgar Allan Poe. I thought of a friend who'd mentioned a Halloween fund raiser somewhere in Baltimore. Come to think of it, an arts program on TV had mentioned the city was having a few parties for Poe. One of them even promised an evening with him playing “Ghost Host With The Most at the most ghoulish event” billed to be “great fun for the living and the dead.” Sounded like fun (and I wish them pots of money) but with Baltimore's weather as frightful as it is, stepping out to celebrate Halloween isn't too appealing. A book or two might do the trick.

So I settle for one of Poe's horror-filled shorts and reach for a ghost story from, you guessed it, Amos Tutuola. Famous for his books based on Yoruba folk-tales, Tutuola began publishing his fantastic tales in the mid-1950s in Nigeria. The Palmwine Drinkard and His Dead Palmwine Tapster in the Dead's Town (1952) being one of his best known works. Another is My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Tutuola's second novel, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts [first published in 1954], recounts the fate of mortals who stray into the world of ghosts, the heart of the tropical forest. Here, as every hunter and traveler knows, mortals venture at great peril, and it is here that a small boy is left alone. (Book Description, 1993)

It's been a while since I read Bush of Ghosts for the first time but I'm thinking already that I might like to dress up as one of the characters: Television-handed Ghostess would be a dead ringer for this wintery Saturday night—might even have my very own "Tutuola's Frightful Halloween party"; I also could do Flash-eyed Mother for Sunday, and Super Lady on Monday. And in case one of those three "Bush of Ghosts" costumes is bewitching enough to get a few raised eyebrows the online summary below would explain it all away:

Abandoned during a slave raid, the young narrator flees into the bush, "a place of ghosts and spirits." He spends the next twenty-four years in an "underworld odyssey" wandering in a spirit world, longing to return to his earthly home." As the seven year old narrator passes through various towns, the Bush of Ghosts, which is based on his adventures in the world of the dead, incorporates many unrecorded African myths.

Rachel Adventure, an intrepid literary traveler, wrote on her blog that she found Bush of Ghosts the most entertaining of Tutuola's stories. "Fears of "the Bush" and the adventures our narrator goes through take us into the mind of a brilliant imagination, allowing us a taste of some of the rich nature of traditional stories," Rachel wrote.

I'm spoiled for choice this fright weekend. Will tell you all about my cross-cultural Halloween experience in a later blog.


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