Sunday, August 20, 2006

The folk tale of Oluronbi

Here's a story about Oluronbi, a young woman who makes a foolish promise. I remember the song pretty well but I'm a bit hazy about the story or where the song features in the story. I decided to go ahead and post it since everyone I ask about the story bursts out in the song but are less able to recall all of the story.

Based on the apparent popularity of the song and the number of people who claim to have seen theater or tv productions of Oluronbi (self not included), hopefully someone will help me out here or point me to book about Oluronbi so I can refine the story.

Edit:
Okay, a google search would have been useful. I did this a while ago but believe I searched for 'Olurombi'. A search for Oluronbi now yields this link to a 1929 book of Yoruba Legends by M.I. Ogunmefu where Oluronbi was turned into a bird by the Iroko tree which sang the song. She was later saved by her husband, a woodcarver who tricked the Iroko tree into accepting a wooden child in place of Oluronbi's child.
There's another link to a movie based on the Oluronbi story, but a different spin is given here - Oluronbi went to the Iroko tree to sacrifice her child in exchange for riches.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the story of Oluronbi my grandmother told me when i was young.
Oluronbi was a market woman who was not having luck with her sales. On the way to the market where she sells her wares is an iroko tree that people pray to when they want somehting. They promise to pay a price when he answers their prayers. People usually promise things like money, goats, rams, and other material things like that.
Oluronbi however, had been in a slump for a while so she decided tht she needed a big gift for the tree. She went to the Iroko and said "If you give me success and let me sell all my clothes today at the market, I will give to you my beautiful daughter." The girl was there when her mother made this promise and she got upset. Her mother told her not to worry that she would not be given. she said she was only lying to get good sales. They went to the market and Oluronbi did have a great sale. she sold everything in her shop and at the end of the day, she bought a sheep and took it to the Iroko tree. She said thank you and left the sheep there. she now told her daughter to come along but the girl was stuck there and couldn't move. She screamed to her mother and began to sink. As Oluronbi saw this, she screamed to other people to help her. People came from around and some pulled the girl by her arms while others pulled her by her long hair. Nobody succeeded and she ended up sinking into the ground to stay with the Iroko tree. The song is usually put in when the puling is going on. It goes like this
Olukaluku Jeje Ewure
Olukaluku Jeje Aguntan
Oluronbi Jeje Omo Re
Oluronbi o Join Join
Iroko Join Join
Translates to:
Some people promise goats
Some people promise rams
Oluronbi promise her child
O Oluronbi, O Iroko

folktaler said...

Thanks for the detailed story...it's quite interesting. In fact, it makes more sense than the version I posted (the one I remember). It makes more sense that Oluronbi promised her child for material gain instead of for the child itself. It's probably the original version.

Anonymous said...

in the version my grandma told me, oluronbi asks Iroko for a child because she cannot conceive. She os so desperate that in return she promises she will give the child to Iroko when it is born. In this version the child actually dies I think... but i'm no 100% sure!!!

I always remember the song, but as I don't actually speak Yoruba I never understood or remembered the words- now I know. thanks!

Anonymous said...

The version I was told was that oluronbi asked for a child and she promised to give the irokoman anything he asked for. When she got the child the daughter was so beautiful that the iroko tree asked for the daughter's hand in marriage. She tried to appease with goats and sheep which angered the tree and he turned her beloved daughter into a bird. It is the bird who kept singing the song. However I am ibo so the translation of the song may reveal the authentic story but then again it is oral tradition and it lends itself to active imagination

Anonymous said...

Oluronbi,a story that depict the life of a woman who was a barren...she went to the Iroko tree and promised that if she concieved,she would sacrifice anything the Iroko want.....She gave birth and the Iroko tree requested for the baby..she felt sad and reported the Issue to her husband...however,her husband was a herbalist.at the long run,he followed her to the Iroko trees,her husband begged the Iroko and the Iroko tree latered release her daughter,instead,they sacrificed sheep...furthermore,famous Actor(Yinka Quadri) has once shoot a film titled "OLURONBI" which gave more insight to the life Oluronbi

ayo, daniel said...

The story of a woman promising to return a child to the provider is from the Bible. Hannah prayed for a child and promised to dedicate the child to God. She got Samuel and returned him to Shiloh to serve God. Samuel later became a high priest! I guess over the years this influenced the narration of original story of Olurombi, where Olurombi promised to give the Iroko tree her fair complexioned (considered paragon of beauty)in return for good sales.

folktaler said...

@Ayo,
I agree the story does have some parallels with the story of Hannah, however not in every way (at least, depending on the version of the story we refer to). In the versions where Oluronbi begs the iroko tree for a child, she offers riches in exchange, not her child. But the iroko tree later demands the child. I have thought that it has parallels to the story of Moremi. There's also a Grimm's folktale that has some similarities to the version where Oluronbi begs for riches (as opposed to a child) - the story of Rumpelstiltskin.

And I was wondering where you got the fair complexioned, paragon of beauty from...then I got it...a pón bí epo.

Anonymous said...

I just thought to include a part of the song that I remember, that the earlier post does not include. It goes:

Olukaluku Jeje Ewure
Olukaluku Jeje Aguntan
Oluronbi Jeje Omo Re
(Ad-lib: Omo re, a pon bi epo)
Oluronbi o Join Join
Iroko Join Join

I thought you might want to know that. Plus it is my favourite part of the song.

folktaler said...

Thanks for sharing! The melody comes to mind as I read your words...I wish I could render it in audio for the site.