Myth-Folklore Unit: Nigerian Folk Stories

Overview. The stories in Folk Stories From Southern Nigeria were collected during the early years of the 20th century by Elphinstone Dayrell, a British colonial official in Ikom, near the Niger River delta. It is a marvelous collection of stories filled with dramatic human adventures, often involving the "kings of Calabar," along with many stories from the world of nature, including origin stories such as why worms live underground, why the elephant's eyes are so small, and why the bat flies only at night. You will read about how fish used to live on the land until a certain fish fell in love with the leopard's wife, and how the sun and the moon used to live here on the earth, too, until a hospitality crisis caused them to move up into the sky. There are stories about familiar animals here, like dogs and cats and chickens, along with distinctively African animals like the elephant and the hippopotamus. So, if you would like to know at least one folktale about a hippo, this is the unit for you!

Language. These stories are told in modern English prose, so the language used should pose no difficulties.

Story Length. These are all single-page stories.

Navigation. You will find the table of contents below, and you can also use this link to see the story posts displayed on two pages total: Nigerian Folk Stories. Click "Older Posts" at the bottom of that page to see the second page.

  1. Of the Pretty Stranger Who Killed the King
  2. Why the Bat Flies by Night
  3. The Disobedient Daughter Who Married a Skull
  4. The King Who Married the Cock's Daughter
  5. The Woman, the Ape, and the Child
  6. The Fish and the Leopard's Wife
  7. Why the Worms Live Underneath the Ground
  8. The Elephant and the Tortoise
  9. Why a Hawk Kills Chickens
  10. Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky
  11. Why the Cat Kills Rats
  1. The Story of the Lightning and the Thunder
  2. The Bush Cow and the Elephant
  3. The Cock Who Caused a Fight Between Two Towns
  4. The Affair of the Hippopotamus and the Tortoise
  5. Why Dead People are Buried
  6. Of the Fat Woman Who Melted Away
  7. Why the Moon Waxes and Wanes
  8. How the Tortoise Overcame the Elephant and the Hippopotamus
  9. The King and the 'Nsiat Bird
  10. Concerning the Hawk and the Owl
  11. The 'Nsasak Bird and the Odudu Bird
  12. The Election of the King Bird