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Paperback review: Forest of a Thousand Daemons, By D O Fagunwa (Trs by Wole soyinka)


First published in Nigeria in 1939,  D O Fagunwa’s Forest of a Thousand Daemons is a treasure of world literature: it was one of the first African novels, and the first to be written in the Yoruba language. It tells of Akara-ogun, a legendary hunter; he battles shape-shifting “ghommids”, marries an enchantress and carries out “gory assignments” at the behest of a giant ostrich.

The ageing hero confides these picaresque tales to an unnamed narrator, who pens them for posterity. This framing device dramatises the shift from oral to written literature in Yoruba culture, and lends Akara-ogun’s adventures an air of poignancy; they seem to belong to an already vanishing world of magic and myth.