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IN a certain village no children had been born for many years, and the people were greatly distressed.
At last all the women of the village went together into the forest, to the magic tree, the Iroko, and implored the spirit of the tree to help them.
The Iroko-man asked what gifts they would bring if he consented to help them, and the women eagerly promised him corn, yams, fruit, goats, and sheep; but Oluronbi, the young wife of a wood-carver, promised to bring her first child.
In due course children came to the village, and the most beautiful of all the children was the one born to Oluronbi. She and her husband so greatly loved their child that they could not consent to give it up to the Iroko-man.
The other women took their promised gifts of corn, yams, fruit, goats, and sheep; but Oluronbi took nothing to propitiate. the tree.
Alas! one day as Oluronbi passed through the forest, the Iroko-man seized her and changed her into a small brown bird, which sat on the branches of the tree and plaintively sang:
|“One promised a sheep,|
One promised a goat,
One promised fruit,
But Oluronbi promised her child.”
When the wood-carver heard the bird’s song, he realized what had happened, and tried to find some means of regaining his wife.
After thinking for many days, he began to carve a large wooden doll, like a real child in size and appearance, and with a small gold chain round its neck. Covering it with a beautiful native cloth, he laid it at the foot of the tree. The Iroko-man thought that this was Oluronbi’s child, so he transformed the little bird once more into a woman and snatched up the child into the branches.
Oluronbi joyfully returned home, and was careful never to stray into the forest again.