The Fat Woman who Melted Away: A Efik Folktale

Cross River State Nigeria - Folkli
General Location: Cross River State / Map data ©2018 Google

This Efik folktale tells the tale of a beautiful fat woman, and of the jealous woman who tried to get rid of her. 

There was once a very fat woman who was made of oil. She was very beautiful, and many young men applied to her parents for permission to marry their daughter, and offered dowry. But the mother always refused, as she said it was impossible for her daughter to work on a farm, as she would melt in the sun.

At last a stranger came from a far-distant country and fell in love with the fat woman. He promised her mother that, would she hand her to him, he would always keep her in the shade. At last the mother agreed, and the stranger took his wife away.

When he arrived at his house, his other wife immediately became very jealous, because when there was work to be done, firewood to be collected, or water to be carried, the fat woman stayed at home and never helped, as she was frightened of the heat.

One day when the husband was absent, the jealous wife abused the fat woman so much that she finally agreed to work on the farm, although her little sister, whom she had brought from home with her, implored her not to go, reminding her that she would melt away if she went into the sun.

All the way to the farm the fat woman managed to keep in the shade, and when they arrived at the farm she remained in the shade of a big tree. When the jealous wife saw this she again began abusing her, and asked her why she did not do her share of the work.

At last she could stand the nagging no longer, and although her little sister tried very hard to prevent her, the fat woman went out into the sun to work, and immediately began to melt away. There was very soon nothing left of her but one big toe, which had been covered by a leaf.

This her little sister observed, and with tears in her eyes she picked up the toe, which was all that remained of the fat woman, and having covered it carefully with leaves, placed it in the bottom of her basket. When she arrived at the house the little sister placed the toe in an earthen pot, filled it with water, and covered the top up with clay.

When the husband returned and asked where his fat wife was, the little sister, crying bitterly, told him that the jealous woman had made her go out into the sun, and that she had melted away. She then showed him the pot with the remains of her sister, and told him that her sister would return to life again after three months, but demanded he send away the jealous wife, so that there should be no more trouble; if he refused to do this, the little girl said she would take the pot back to their mother.

The husband then took the jealous wife back to her parents, who sold her as a slave and paid the dowry back to the husband, so that he could get another wife. When he received the money, the husband took it home and kept it until the three months had elapsed, when the little sister opened the pot and the fat woman emerged, quite as fat and beautiful as she had been before. The husband was so delighted that he gave a feast to all his friends and neighbours, and told them the whole story of the bad behaviour of his jealous wife.

Ever since that time, whenever a wife behaves very badly the husband returns her to the parents, who sell the woman as a slave, and out of the proceeds of the sale reimburse the husband the amount of dowry which he paid when he married the girl.

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