Tale – Nigerian


The subject relays a story she heard from her mother as a young girl: “Once upon a time there was a king who had two daughters. When his daughters got to the age of marriage many of the eligible bachelors of the kingdom came to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. But the king said he would only give his daughter’s hands in marriage if the bachelor could tell him their names. But no one except for the king and queen knew his daughter’s names. A local farmer was interested in marrying one of the princesses. The princesses pass through the farmers yard every morning and evening. So the farmer decided to try his luck. The farmer stuck two axes in the ground on the princesses daily path and put on a fake beard on the axes. He then hid in the bushes to watch the girls come and go. As the princesses were going about one day Oni (Today) saw the first axe and called out to her sister ‘Ola (Tomorrow)!, Ola (Tomorrow)! Run,! Hurry! Come and look at something! The axe has grown a beard!’ The two princesses marveled at the spectacle that was the axe and beard. They walked ahead one more yard and Ola saw the second axe so she yelled ‘Oni! Oni! Run! Hurry! Come look at something! The axe has grown a beard!’

So the farmer learned the princesses names. The farmer then went to the king and boldly asked for the princesses hands in marriage. The king scoffed and said ‘So many nobles have tried and failed, how can you, a lowly farmer, know their names?’ The farmer said ‘I know their names.’ He told the king their names and the king was startled! But the king had to hold up his end of the bargain so he told his two daughters, Oni and Ola, that they had to marry the farmer. And so there was a big party and the two princesses were given away to the farmer. The farmer became the richest farmer in the kingdom that only attended to the king’s farm and so the princesses and the farmer lived happily ever after.”

The subject also told me this story when I was a young child. The Yoruba song that accompanies this story had such a captivating syncopated rhythm that I would make my mom repeat it over and over again. Till this day, I still cannot sing it correctly. To me, the story of Today and Tomorrow is a classic rendition of the clever common man who outwits the more handsome, the more “technically” eligible bachelors. I don’t really know if this story has any real cultural meaning but it is definitely a commonly told Yoruba fairy tale.