Afiong Edem

The disobedient daughter of Effiong Edem, a native of Cobham Town in the Calabar province of Nigeria. She was very vain and refused all offers of marriage, saying she would only marry the most handsome man in the country. A skull who lived in the spirit land heard of this and desired her. He went about among his friends to borrow the best parts of their bodies, and assembled a new body for himself, making it the perfect specimen of manhood.

The skull traveled to the market of Cobham Town and went looking for her. When Afiong heard that a man had been seen who surpassed any of the locals, she went to the market immediately. When she saw the skull she fell in love with him and invited him to meet her parents. Within a few days he asked the parents for their consent to marry Afiong but although they were reluctant at first, they eventually agreed. He furthermore wanted her to come to his country, which was far away, and while the girl readily agreed, the parents were not so sure. Unable to persuade their daughter otherwise, the newlyweds soon left.

When the couple had been away for a few days, the father went to consult a local magician, a juju man. After casting lots he discovered that their new son-in-law belonged in the spirit land and that the girl would surely be killed. The parents mourned their daughter as if she had already died.

Meanwhile, the skull and his wife had reached the spirit land. As soon as they crossed the border, his friends approached and demanded back their various body parts, until only the hideous skull was left. The frightened girl wanted to return home but the skull would not allow this and ordered her to come with him to his house. Here, she met his mother, a very old woman who was incapable of doing any work and who could only creep about. Afiong helped her with her various chores and old woman soon became quite fond of the girl.

One day, the old woman warned Afiong that the land of the spirits was inhabited by cannibals, and that when they learned that a human being was in their territory they would surely come to kill and devour her. Feeling sorry for the girl, skull's mother hid her and promised to send her back to her own country, provided that this time she would obey her parents. The girl readily consented to do so.

The old woman sent for the spider, a clever hairdresser, who promptly dressed Afiong's hair in the latest fashion. She furthermore presented the girl with anklets and various other accessories. Then she called upon the wind to bring Afiong home. The first to come was a violent tornado but it was sent away as unsuitable. Next came a gentle breeze and, after saying their goodbyes, it carried the girl home.

The parents were very glad to see their daughter again whom they had given up as lost, and they celebrated her return for eight days and nights. When the village chief learned everything that had transpired, he passed a law that prevented parents from allowing their daughters to marry strangers from a far country. Some time later Afiong consented to marry a friend of her father's and they had many children and lived long and prosperous.



  • Dayrell, Elphinstone. (1910). Folk Stories From Southern Nigeria. London: Longmans, Green and Co.
  • Eliot, Alexander. (1976). Myths. New York: McGraw-Hill.