There were two little blackbirds
Sitting on the wall
One named Peter; One named Paul,
Fly away Peter; Fly away Paul
Come back Peter; Come back Paul,
Come back two little blackbirds
And sit on the wall.
Who else remembers this poem from nursery school?
After reading Teeth of a Snail, I became sure that it is no coincidence that the poem ends when the birds are told to come back, and twice for that matter. No one knows if they ever do return. We just know there were two birds sitting on the wall who flew away.
Have you ever wondered where Peter and Paul flew to?
Birds must fly right?
If birds may fly when they will, why then should we fault Nkasiobi and Udechukwu for choosing to go on a stroll on a day when everyone else was clearly warned to stay home?
Why then do we label them as rascals for breaking Umuezike’s rules?
Nkasiobi and Udechukwu’s story is a rather heart-rending one. The boys go out on an expedition to find only-God-knows-what, and end up with an *insert Omawunmi’s voice* if-you-ask-me-na-who-I-go-ask experience. As much as it would feel good to use this book to teach moral lessons to rascally boys, I insist that fate was unfair to them. For me, these explorers deserve to be celebrated, for daring to take a risk, to explore Amama, at the expense of offending both the gods and their community, regardless of the consequences. I do not in anyway endorse rebellion but…
What if they had returned with a bounty?
Would they have been reprimanded for disobedience to communal dogma or celebrated as daring explorers?
What if they had returned home unscathed?
Would they not have been celebrated for demystifying Amama and the Ezugolo deity?
Although there are entirely different endings, Teeth of a Snail reminds me of the lepers in the Bible who at desperation point decided to visit the enemy camp, and in the process ended a terrible famine. (2 Kings 7)
Udechukwu may never speak again; Ayaka may go about boasting that the gods vindicated him after so long; Mazi Ichoku may seize the opportunity to marry Uremma, but Udene and Nkuri will always be remembered as the only lads who ever dared to venture into Amama during mgbachi when spirits and wilderness beings rambled about.
Life is just about risks as it is unfair. The author scores a major point by maintaining objectivity throughout his narration. Yet, I cannot help but ask: “Who will console Nwoji?”
Indeed, “it is with its tongue that the snail sails through thorny stocks. Yet, when snails inhabit a farm slowly, indeed unhurriedly, the farmer would soon come to reckon the ravages of its teeth.”
The important questions would then be:
How does the farmer prevent the snail from entering his farm?
Does he use pesticides and risk rendering his farm infertile?
How does one restrain birds from flying?
How does one stop boys from being boys?
Teeth of a Snail is available for sale at the following bookshops in Lagos:
Patabah Bookshop, Shop B20, Adeniran Ogunsanya Shopping Mall, (Surulere Shoprite) Surulere
TerraKulture, Tiamiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island.
OR visit http://www.konga.com/rectoverso to order and have a copy delivered to you anywhere else in Nigeria