Thursday, March 7, 2024

Yoruba Tales by Moonlight, purpose and format


Yoruba Tales by Moonlight, purpose and format.

These are folk tales told by anyone with a story to share, from elders to people in position of great respect and even young children. At night, outside on the porch, the story teller sits in front or in the middle and the audience surrounds the story teller. The stories are told in the gloom of twilight and are thus “Tales by moonlight”.

The format in which the stories are told is also important. In African cultures, call and response is an integral part of civic participation. From religious rituals to music, children’s rhymes and everything in between.

In the modern world, the most well-known examples of call and response is in the diaspora, where enslaved Africans sang work songs to help them cope with the inhumanity and desperate suffering they went through in their daily lives (Songs, n.d.). These have now been adapted into modern African American religious music and church traditions. (Water, n.d.)

An example of call and response which everyone probably has heard before is “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King. The beginning of the song in which a male voice chants and several backing vocals respond is a call and response (Life, 1994)

For Yoruba tales by moonlight, the person telling the story starts with a call, and the audience responds. This is repeated a few times, possibly to get the full attention of the listeners. 

The traditional start of the story is marked by the chant below.

Story teller: Àlọ́ ọ́

Listeners:  Àlọ́

The word “Àlọ́” means “story”  and the chant can be loosely translated as the Yoruba version of “Once Upon a Time” in western folk tales

These tales usually feature anthropomorphic animals involved in human situations. The animal takes the roles of a human and are creatures familiar to the audience in their day to day lives.

They also feature supernatural beings, spirits and the nether realms as yoruba religion practics ancestral worship as well as a diverse pantheon of deities (See my previous pinned post on the yoruba mythological pantheon)

The aim of these stories is to teach the listeners life skills, cultural ideals and the philosophies of the culture.

As stated in the open journal of Modern Linguistics by Timothy Adeyemi Akanbi: (Akanbi, , 2014)

“All were entitled to tell a tale if they wished, even the youngest; and all were expected to support the others’ performances by supplying a chorus to the songs. The moral values which are the issue in these stories are correspondingly those which make for harmonious communal living. Good neighbours, loyal friends and faithful wives are contrasted with tricksters, betrayers and deceivers. The important point is not so much that the Àlọ́ are didactic, imparting values to the young… but that the ground and framework of every story are the values of everyday, ordinary human world”

Stories like how the tortoise lost its hair teach the listeners about the dangers of stealing and gluttony whilst sstories of how the tortoise got the cracks on its shell teach listeners about the dangers of greed.

As you can probably guess, tortoise stories are very common in Yoruba folk tales. There are other animals used, but tortoises hold a special distinction and are the fall guys in the animal kingdom, exhibiting vices the Yoruba culture frowns upon.

Through the misfortunes that plague the tortoise in these stories, we begin to understand what values and traits Yoruba culture deems acceptable and which it doesn’t.

The animals are always singular entities too, so in all the stories, there is dog, tortoise, lion, leopard, hyena etc. Them and immediate families are the only ones of their species present in the stories, however the misfortunes that befall them apply automatically to the rest of their kind.

With this background in place, I will be publishing my first tale, a very simple one most Yoruba children know; “How the Tortoise got his shell” tomorrow.


Akanbi, T. A., , 2014. The Moral Value of Yorùbá Moonlight Tales. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, Volume 4, pp. 481-486.

Life, D. T. C. o., 1994. Youtube. [Online]
Available at:

Songs, W., n.d. [Online]
Available at:

Water, W. i. t., n.d. Wikipedia. [Online]
Available at:

This Article is written by AJE NLA (whatsapp +2347031178647).For the following:::

IFA consultation and Divination

Egbe Orun initiation

Appeasement of Egbe Orun

Yes and No questions

Feeding of Ori (inner head)

Feeding of ORISA


Solutions to Problems



Author: verified_user

AJE NLA Spiritual Traveller | OLOBATALA | OMO OLOKUN, OMO ORISA | BABALAWO OMO ORUNMILA | CEO | +2347031178647 For IFA Consultation, Divination, Yes / No questions , spiritual guidance, Dream interpretation etc whatsapp

0 $type={blogger}: