Why Dead People are Buried: A Efik Folktale

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

This Efik folktale tells explains how the creator’s gift of immortality was lost because of unreliable messengers.

In the beginning of the world when the Creator had made men and women and animals, they all lived together in the creation land. The Creator was a big chief, and being very kind hearted, was very sorry whenever anyone died.

One day he sent for the dog, his head messenger, and told him to go out into the world and give his word to all people that whenever anyone died the body was to be placed in the compound, and wood ashes were to be thrown over it. If the dead body was left on the ground, in twenty-four hours it would come back to life.

When the dog had travelled for half a day he began to get tired. As he was near an old woman’s house he looked inside, and seeing a bone with some meat on it he made a meal off it, and went to sleep, forgetting the message he was supposed to deliver.

After a time, when the dog did not return, the Creator called for a sheep, and sent him out with the same message. But the sheep was very foolish, and being hungry, began eating the sweet grasses by the wayside. After a time he remembered that he had a message to deliver, but forgot what it was exactly; so as he went among the people he told them that whenever anyone died they should be buried underneath the ground.

A little time afterwards the dog remembered his message, so he ran into the town and told the people that they were to place wood ashes on the dead bodies and leave them in the compound, and that they would come to life again after twenty-four hours.

But the people would not believe the dog, as they already received the word from the Creator from the sheep, that all dead bodies should be buried. As a result dead bodies are now always buried, and the dog is not trusted as a messenger, because if he had not found the bone in the old woman’s house, dead people might still be alive.

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