The woman who looked down on her husband: African Folklore, a Story my Father Told me


  • Author Anselm Chibuike Anyoha
  • Published February 15, 2024
  • Word count 650

There lived a young woman who married a young man named Onwudiwe (death is angry). She did not particularly love him because he was short. The young woman swore she would never call the man by name to show her dislike. Instead, whenever she wanted his attention, she called him "Nwaa" (Hey! this fellow), a disparaging way of addressing anybody, much more a husband. In her heart, the woman felt that if only he were taller, all would have been perfect, and she would call him by his name.

Onwudiwe felt slighted, but as many men do, he internally absorbed the sneering way his wife treated him. Though short, his skills were comparable to none in the village. He farmed a great deal, easily hewn woods for fire, and was a sharpshooter who hunted for animals on land and birds of the sky. Anybody he wrestled went down on their back in no time. He was also a good swimmer.

One day, after Onwudiwe returned from hunting, and the wife made some soup using parts of the rabbit and hawk he had caught, they decided to swim in the small stream in their village. Both were thinking deeply but were not talking to each other as they walked the narrow part amid the shrubs and trees that led from their thatched house to the stream.

Initially, the couple swam closely together, but later, they swam on opposite sides of the stream, from where they could still hear but not see each other. Onwudiwe swam in and out of the stream freely. The young woman was a good swimmer too, but not nearly as good as her husband, and soon, she began to struggle, trying to hold on to the water. Suddenly, she began to sink and drown in the stream.

From the corner of her eyes, she saw a very handsome, tall man, the type of man she had dreamed of all these years. The handsome man swam with the smoothness of a swordfish and the attention of a sea creature. The woman reached out pleadingly to the creature in her struggle to stay afloat. But why does he have a fish head? The woman said to herself before the man went back into the depths of the stream. It wasn't a dream; she tried to admonish herself. Again, comes the tall creature. She could see his shiny triangle-shaped head, but not his eyes, his flapping limbs, but not any fingers, and as she tried with all her effort to say something to him, he went deep into the stream, leaving no trace.

Tormented, the woman began searching for Onwudiwe. "Where is Nwaa (this fellow)? She asked herself. Locating him at the other side of the stream, she yelled, Nwaaaa! I am drowning." Onwudiwe pretended he did not hear her. "She knows my name," he said to himself, "why doesn't she call me by my name?" Ignoring her call for help, Onwudiwe continued swimming and even increased his distance from his drowning wife.

"Nwaa! The stream is about to swallow me," the woman yelled repeatedly until her voice began to muffle, and her mouth, eyes, and a part of her head began to bobble in and out of the stream. She knew how good a swimmer her husband was, and how quickly he would come to rescue her, but she still despised him and would rather drown than call him by his name.

Death, which has been loitering, came and demanded that she give up her last breath, and that was when the woman screamed, "Dim! (my darling husband) Onwudiwe, the stream is about to swallow me!" Quickly, like a flash of lightning, Onwudiwe was by her side. He let her ride on his back until they both swam to safety shore. From that day onward, the young woman began appreciating her husband, calling him by his name, Onwudiwe.


Anselm Anyoha is a Pediatrician, with Ph.D in Infant Mental Health and Childhood Development.



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