Abiyoyo (Annotated)

“Once upon a time, there’s a little village and it’s in a valley with hills all around it…I’m not sure if I can remember the exact version from school…and just on the other side of the hills, was this giant named Abiyoyo (I’m supposed to say it in a scary voice)…and he would come and he would eat all the farm animals, and he would terrorize the villagers, and then he’d go back to his home, somewhere beyond the hills. And in this little town, there was a father and a son who nobody really liked, because they were just annoying. The son was always singing and dancing and bothering people when they were working, and the father was a magician who would make things disappear, and sometimes he would make things disappear when people needed them. So anyways, one day Abiyoyo is coming for some lunch, and for lunch he has sheep and cows and other things in the village. And, all of the villagers are running away as usual, and the father and the son decide that this is the last time that Abiyoyo is coming to town. So the son goes out to the field where Abiyoyo is eating some sheep, which is very sad, and the son starts singing and dancing, and he sings a song about the monster, Abiyoyo, and this makes Abiyoyo really happy, because he’s been alone his whole life, and he doesn’t think that anybody would ever be nice to him. He just thought people would run away whenever they came near him. But this little boy was singing to him. And so Abiyoyo started singing along and he had a really scary loud voice, but he was singing and dancing, and eventually he was dancing long enough that he had to lie down, and the second he lay down, the father brought out his magic wand, and made Abiyoyo disappear. All the villagers came running back, because the monster was gone, and all the villagers were safe, and they didn’t have to worry about all their farm animals being eaten, and they didn’t have to worry about Abiyoyo coming over the hills and terrorizing their village. And it was all thanks to the father and the son who nobody had ever liked, and now they were the village heroes.”

The informant heard this legend when she was in elementary school in Boston. She remembers the story being very scary as a child, but also a sweet tale of outsiders (the father and son) “proving themselves” and finally becoming part of the community. Primarily considered a South African lullaby, The Abiyoyo story is most well known as told and performed by Pete Seeger, a famous folk singer who introduces the story with a song:

“Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo

Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo,

Abiyoyo, Abi yo yo yo yo yo yo yo

Abi yo yo yo yo yo yo yo yo”

See Seeger’s Performance Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlDGHEk68XI

Seeger has an illustrated story book titled Abiyoyo as well. The story relies on the Abiyoyo song, which the young boy sings to the giant to coax him, and Pete Seeger weaves this into the story in his performances. The story is often used in school classrooms like it was the in the informant’s as part of “Africa Units” in Social Studies, but beyond learning about Africa, the story seems to fit neatly into the Children’s folklore category because it features a child hero, the young boy who coaxes the giant. Though him and his father are initially misfits, they are eventually accepted for their heroism.