Nigerian Literature has gone through some growth in history, and that growth led to the emergence of writers like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka whose impact are still felt today.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe – described by Wikipedia as the most widely read book in modern literature. Achebe’s book came out in 1958 and gained world acclaim. So did Wole Soyinka’s works which got him the Nobel Prize in Literature and also making the first African to win it.
In more recent times, new writers like Chimamanda have emerged to carry the light and lead the way for Nigerian Literature; with their works portraying African struggles, myths and folklore. Unlike the old Nigerian literature, more universal books are out on the market.
During the old Nigerian literature days, books were so regional. Authors pointed out a certain region and only identified with it. Most of Achebe and Soyinka’s works delved into issues typical to only Igbo and Yoruba societies respectively.
But now, modern writers are doing amazing job uniting and putting out books that anyone from any part of the world can enjoy and still understand the main reason behind the book. One of those writers is Charles Umerie, the author Kingdom Tales.
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Kingdom Tales has sold more internationally, and that won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read Kingdom Tales. Charles Umerie gave it a little medieval and African feel, and he was conscious about identifying with a particular region; instead he identified with all regions. Anyone from anywhere reading Kingdom Tales can easily say, “Hey, that happens in my community too.” And no matter your age, you can read Kingdom Tales and totally understand it on your own mental level. Charles once said in an online interview that Kingdom Tales is deeper than most people think. It embodies love and hate, trust and betrayal, forgiveness and revenge, political injustice people face, and the spiritual tussle between good and evil.
Kingdom Tales is a dystopian allegory about a group animals fighting for supremacy and control over all the other animal kingdoms. Charles Umerie wrote the book as an allegory to the events that took place in Africa after the colonial rule has ended. That was a time Africa was plagued with wars, coups and genocides.
It started when the eagle king, Hasha, came home from a long battle against the bats, and found out he had missed his family so much. The birth of his new twins made him to give up fighting, and he appointed a new general, Uzza, to help him run the kingdom.
General Uzza had a secret plan of his own. Behind king Hasha’s back, he engineered the execution of king Hasha’s close friend, Kayel, who he thought would be an obstacle to his secret plan.
When general Uzza’s plan was ready, he stormed king Hasha’s palace with the help of rebels terrorizing king Hasha’s kingdom. General Uzza managed to turn the kingdom officials against king Hasha, and they exiled the king to a kingdom they thought he wouldn’t survive living there.
Luckily for Hasha, he survived. He stayed in the kingdom and made new friends. When the time came, he started planning of way to get back his kingdom, even at the expense of working with his old enemies, and giving up secrets no one ever knew about.
It was written in an elegantly simple style, and the author, Charles, used the animal kingdoms as a metaphor for the African nations. The story started when King Hasha (Eagles’ king), the ruler of Mountain Kingdom defeated the Cave Kingdom (the Bats) in their quest for a legendary Dark Staff. In real life, this Dark Staff can be a total freedom or independence; because in African folklores, staffs always signify independence or having authority.
Then in the Mountain Kingdom (Eagles’ home), Charles made us to understand that even though the kingdom is strong, it still received support from the ‘creepy’ Falcons who aren’t part of the kingdom. This can be analyzed as the support most African nations got from their colonial masters, which they didn’t believe were genuine supports, rather as a way their masters hoped to exploit them more.
Also while the Mountain Kingdom, Cave Kingdom, and the Forest Kingdom were all searching for the Dark Staff (total freedom), they were also plagued with internal issues. King Hasha lost his throne to one of his soldiers, and was exiled to another kingdom for some time. Something of that nature also happened to the Bats’ king. This could be the time African nations were plagued with coups, civil wars and genocides.
After reading Kingdom Tales, you don’t need an expert to understand what society and injustice Charles was talking about.
There are other new writers that seem to be the way for Nigerian literature, but they need more attention than they get now. Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe are the foundations of Nigerian literature, but not the measurement for today.