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The King's Wife, The River Spirit, And The Woman With Two Skins

There lived a king in the Eso Kingdom. He was rich and powerful. He married three hundred wives. None of his wives was able to bore him a son.

As he was aging, he became troubled about his inability to have a son who would succeed him. Even though he had one thousand daughters, he felt as if he was childless, for none of his daughters will succeed him as a king when he eventually joins his ancestors.

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The king's kinsmen were aware of his plight. They knew King Irochi wouldn't rest in peace had he died without a son. So, they met the king in his palace to proffer solutions to his problem.

After much deliberation, they concluded that King Irochi should marry from Oro, a village whose inhabitants were known to be reproducing quadruplets.

Oro was the town of the ugly. Due to their ugliness, neighbouring towns avoided their company. Though, nobody knew that Oro had the most beautiful women on earth, until King Irochi got married to Ife.

Oros were born of two skins - the ugly and the beautiful skins. During the day, they would put on the ugly skin, while at the night, they put on the beautiful skin.

When King Irochi brought Ife home, and his head wife understood that she was from Oro, she became angry for she knew that Oros were not ugly, but rather beautiful.

Due to her ugliness, all the three hundred wives of the king rejected living with her in the palace, which made the king build a separate house for Ife.

The head wife, being afraid that the king might fall in love with Ife had he found out that she was beautiful, decided to consult Nweri, the native doctor.

She persuaded and enticed him with a lot of gifts. Nweri prepared a charm which the head wife fed the king with. The efficacy of the charm made king Irochi forget Ife, his new wife.

For over a year, the king did not visit Ife. Ife later went home, thinking that the king was not interested in her, but when Ube, Ife's father consulted a native doctor, he was made to understand what the king's head wife did.

He pleaded with the native doctor who prepared another charm and gave it to Ife. When Ife went back, she cooked food and inserted the charm into the food, which she served the king.

Having eaten the food, King Irochi's eyes opened. He recognized Ife, and promised to visit her. When the king visited, Ife pulled off her ugly skin and the king saw how beautiful she was.

Ife became pregnant and later gave birth to a male child. The head wife became jealous again. She went back to Nweri, the native doctor. As she normally did, she enticed him with gifts of money, jewelry, and food, to prepare a charm for her.

She told Nweri to give her poison that would make the king sick. That if the king comes to him (the native doctor) for a solution, he should tell him that the son whom Ife bore for him wants to reign instead of the king.

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She also told Nweri to tell the king that if he would recover, he must throw his son into the river.

Nweri was a well-known native doctor in the Eso Kingdom. He works for the king as a spiritual adviser. He interprets the king's dreams and proffers solutions to them. The king trusted him so much. He believed Nweri was a god and never doubted his words.

Though Nweri was uncomfortable with the king's head wife's demand, he would not risk contending with her, hence he did as the head wife rightly said.

When the king became sick as a result of the poison, he sent for Nweri who came and fed him with lies. "Your Highness," he said to the king, "May your wrath not rekindle against your obedient servant for saying what I saw. The male child in your palms is devilish.

"He wants to reign instead of the king. He wants to take over the throne even as a suckling. He is the cause of your ailment. He afflicted you with this deadly disease to get rid of you, though your Highness will continue to reign should he first get rid of this evil child by throwing him in the river," he ended.

At first, the king wasn't ready to throw his son into the river, but his kinsmen persuaded him to comply with the native doctor's directive. He was made to believe that he would get another son.

King Irochi concurred and threw Ife's son into the river. Ife mourned her son for twelve months, after which she returned to her father.

There was a river spirit who had seized the child and kept him safe when he was thrown into the river. When the child had grown, the river spirit sent him to Ife, his mother whom he told the story of his life and how he was saved by the river spirit. Ife was very happy to see her son whom she had mourned alive.

There was an ongoing annual wrestling competition in which the king was the chief host. In the wrestling competition, there were lots of gifts from the king for the winners.

Though Ofu, son of Ife, was not counted among the heavyweight wrestlers, the river spirit fortified him. She equipped him with many supper native powers, that no man could defeat him.

Ofu attended the wrestling competition with Ife, his mother. She arrived at the venue in her beautiful skin. She was sparkling and dazzling, that people wondered whose daughter she could be, for they have never seen her beautiful skin. Not even the king was able to recognize her, because the head wife had charmed him.

When the competition began, Ofu came out to challenge the warriors and able-bodied men of the Eso Kingdom. He was mocked, for he was very small, both in size and age. They said that he would be crushed like an ant.

To the greatest surprise of the king and the people of Eso Kingdom, none of the warriors was able to stand Ofu for a minute. He defeated all of them. This made King Irochi enquire about his person. Some said he was from Eso, while others said he was from a neighbouring town.

When Ofu heard this, he said, "king of Eso Kingdom, I have heard your subjects argue about my identity. Some said that I am from the Eso Kingdom, while others said that I am from a neighbouring town.

"My king, I will tell you about myself and the trouble that brought me to your kingdom, if only you will do justice to my complaint.

King Irochi accepted and told him to go on and tell his story.

He looked around, for he was surrounded by people, and said, "Am I not worthy to be king's son?" And the people responded, "Yes, you are worthy to be king's son." Ofu turned to his right and pointed at his mother and said, "Is the woman sitting over there not pretty enough to be the king's wife?" And the people echoed in unison, "She is pretty enough to be the king's wife."

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Ofu turned to the king's head wife who was sitting beside the king and said, "This woman had been the unknown archenemy of king Irochi."

Ofu went on to tell the story about how the head wife met the native doctor whom she enticed with gifts of money to deceive the king to throw him into the river, and how the water spirit saved and nursed him.

When the king heard this, and understood that Ofu was his son, he instructed that the head wife and Nweri be tied up and thrown into the crocodile river.

The head wife and Nweri pleaded for mercy, but the king never listened. They were thrown into the river and crocodiles ate their flesh.

By this, Ofu and his mother were reunited with the king's family.

© 2022 Chigbo Douglas Chiedozie

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