Olurombi the talking tree

Narrated by Kemi Adebayo

Many many years ago in a village in the Yoruba land, none of the women could have children. There was a tree in the centre of the village called “Iroko” which had lots of spiritual powers. Iroko was the first of all trees.

The women then decided to appeal to the sacred ” Iroko” tree for help to give them children. Iroko promised to help them only on the condition that they offer in return whatever they value most.

One rainy day, the women decided to approach Iroko with their request and promises. They all lined up in front of the tree and made their different vows. Most of the women were married to farmers, so they promised Iroko goats, sheep, ram, lots of yams and plantain. In those days, all these things cost lots of cowries (Money used then).

When it came to the turn of “Olurombi”, who was married to a very poor woodcarver, she did not know what to offer the Iroko. She had been thinking very hard for days about what to promise. She could not come up with anything. She wanted a child desperately. She then decided that all she wanted was to experience the joy of having a child. In desperation, she promised to give Iroko her child after spending some time with the child. Iroko accepted this pledge.

Nine months later, there was a great celebration in the village when all the women gave birth to their long-awaited children. After a few months, they all went to offer the Iroko what they had promised. When it came to Olurombi’s turn. She did not want to give up her child. She was very sad because she loved her son very much and did not want to part with him.

Olurombi then pleaded with Iroko to give her more time. Iroko agreed and extended the period for her. When the time was up she asked for more time. This time Iroko refused. After the full moon, it was time for Olurombi to fulfil her promise. She took her son to the sacred Iroko tree. All the villagers came out weeping, and singing this song:

Onikaluku n jeje ewure,

Ewure, Ewure,

Onikaluku n jeje agutan,

Agutan bolojo,

Olurombi n jeje omo re,

Omo re aponbiepo,

Olurombi o,

Joiin-joiin iroko, joiin-joiin.

Everyone promised goats,

Goats, Goats,

Everyone promised sheep,

Well-fed sheep,

Olurombi promised her son,

Her dark-complexioned handsome son,

Olurombi oh,

Joiin-joiin iroko, joiin-joiin.

Iroko tree felt so sorry for Olurombi because the whole village rallied around her to support and plead on her behalf. Olurombi’s husband then promised to get a ram for the sacred tree after two full moons. Iroko agreed to release Olurombi from her pledge and accept this new promise and allowed Olurombi to take her son back home.

All the villagers took more gifts to Iroko to show their appreciation for being so kind to Olurombi. It has become an annual festival where gifts are left under the Iroko tree.

The lesson of the story is you should not make promises that you won’t be able to keep.

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