Marriage In Folk Narratives: Time To Disarm Marriage Conflict through Folktales



Rabi’u Aliyu Rambo

Department of Nigerian Languages

Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto


Phone:08140736435, 08125507991


The concept of marriage has different meaning in different cultures and may mean different things to people living at the same time. Though, marriage can be perceived as a civil contract legalizing intercourse and the procreation of children. It is an institution that combines both worship and social relationship. In the other hand, conflict are found at every stage of life , individuals, groups, associations, clubs, societies, local, national and even the world community continue to experience conflict in one way or the other. Conflicts are permanent features of life which we have to live and cope with and resolve from time to time. Balarabe(2013:8) The aim of this paper is to reconcile the two (marriage and conflict) through the use of folktales. This paper therefore, focuses its attention on how to disarm marriage conflict through folktales. As such, some relevant folktales are analyzed to portray the massage.




Today in our marriage set up there is so many conflicts within the couples. This conflict may result to social disorder in to our society. It is in line with this, this paper aim at resolving this conflict trough employing our folktales to disarm the crisis in our society. It is certain, that folktale teaches us the good moral values in our society. Folktales save as a means for transmitting messages of does and don’t and teaching moral values. Ahamad,(2013).

Disarming conflict within the two couples enhances maintaining peace and security. This is the ability to control actual or impounding conflicts, while forces of peace settlement are strengthened. Junai, (1995:3) While Imobighe out line three strategies to which conflict can be disarm as: 1- Conflict prevention, 2- Conflict control, and 3- Conflict resolution. It is in line with the above strategies, the paper attempt to employ folktales as a means to disarm marriage conflict in our society, because marriage is the bed rock of any community, so no society can develop without disarming marriage conflict. It is when we have in the family, both the members of the family will go out for goods and services. However, the tales to be study under this paper include the following: The tale of Gizo and Koki, the tale of Mahogany tree (Madacci) , A story of an orphan, the tale of jouney of birds and the Tortoise for a festival in the sky, A tale of a lady who marry Dodo. Others under study include that of Dagaci da Malaminsa , Kiyoshi biyu, Auren Sarki da maharbi and Sarki mai sha’awar mata among others.

Definitions of term

The concept of marriage

The concept of marriage has no universal definition, marriage has different meaning in different cultures and may mean different things to people living at the same time. The definition of marriage depends on the socio-cultural and economic environment of a given society and may change from time to time. In view of the above, in Islamic law marriage is perceive as “ a civil contract legalizing intercourse and the procreation of children. It is an institution that combines both worship (ibadat) and social relations (mu’amulat). Rauf 19      :39 )

Westermark remarks that, there are three important things as regard to marriage. He says:

“ There are three essential element in every normal marriage,

The gratification of the sexual impulse, the relationship between

Husband and wife and apart from it the procreation of children”

Westermark, (1984:30)


Marriage forms the basis upon which a family is build. The family is primarily a mating relationship within the bounds of societal norm. Although cultural differences abound in the formation of the family, but the universal features are common and value. Burgess have define marriage as “ a socially sanctioned union of one or more men with one or more women in the relationship of husband and wife” . Burgess, (1953:6) Marriage is therefore a social affair which intails rituals and ceremony representing social approval. It also denotes the role- playing and reciprocal obligations as directed by the culture of the people.

Marriage involve choice of mate, which varied from one community to another, others are practicing exogamy (I.e marriage within the same blood group). While others marriage outside the same blood group (I.e endogamy) For example, among the Hausa and Fulani, in some areas people are not supposed to marry outside their clan, tribe, village or religious grouping. On the other hand contrary to this, the Kadara people of Zaria forbidden marriage between members of the same clan and between coursing up to the fourth generation. Smith, (1972:16).



The folktales are usually stories telling which are done mostly on a moon light night in a compound or an open space adjoining a number of children together. Although some times the audience may consist of adult of both the sexes who will sit around in a relaxed atmosphere. Despite the development in formal education and increase in literacy rate, this traditional art still play a vital role in educating the younger generation to date. It is a powerful communicative medium that portray the people historical origins, social organization, religious beliefs and ancestral wisdom. Abarry, (1987:223) Folktales clarifies social attitudes and promotes national pride, group cohesion and cultural continuity. It also reflect the audience fears, hopes, and aspiration; because the session pent-up fears, hatred or aggression within the audience in the society.

The tale may be either fictitious or didactic and it involved entertainment and pleasure as their main objective. Some time their theme may include eternal conflict between good and bad forces, others tale promote some important episode in life circle of individual or society.

In line with this, therefore, our traditional folktale is an indisputable reservoir of knowledge from which we can draw a lot of positive values. As the trustee of our history and the vehicle for effective transmission of our cultural values and artistic expression, our tales are a veritable instrument of social re- construction and national integration. Okogun(1985:x)

In view of the above scholarly contribution, one may conclude by saying that, folktale is a medium through which cultural values, moral training social control among others are transmitted to our younger generation right from time immemorial.



Conflict is perceived as not just disagreement but differences arising from conflicting interest on some fundamental values affecting conflicting parties. Bachaka quoted Gurr,T . 1994 in (2010:269) who defines conflicting as an opponent centered episode or series of episodes base open incompatibility of goals, aims, or value. It involves direct and personal interaction in which the opposing party is perceived as controlling the desired goals. Bachaka, 2010:269. However, Muhammad, (2003) look at the conflict as the process which begins when one party perceives that others has frustrated or is about to frustrate him. Conflict usually involve the use of force or threat or cut of relation among individual in the society or nation at large in other to attain a particular objective, it range from disagreement to armed relation among the parties involve.

A conflict therefore, can be describe as a sharp disagreement or clash between divergent ideas, interest of people. Conflict is a universal, but distinct in every culture. It involves a situation in which two or more parties in an interaction process are involved in hostile activities towards each other or against one another. Balarabe, (2013:9)

Conflict becomes high not necessarily because of the importance attached to is being fought by the two conflicting party, but rather for the psychological value of loosing or winning the conflict. Despite the fact that conflict may be inevitable because of some individuals differences in terms of value, culture interest and belief , it does not mean that it cannot be obverted and resolve.

Marriage conflict in folktale

The oral traditions are perceived as oral literature, and oral literature are folktales of our ancient communities which were told to children orally. This oral tales shapes the mind and body of our young generation, it is found in every community and culture around the world right from the time unmemorable to present day. As these tales in cooperate all the sector of human endeavored, as such marriage conflict is not out of its scope.

Some tales comment on some importance things of human life which include birth, adolescence, courtship, marriage and death. Others tales relating to marriage shared with us the obstacles the man may face before marry to a woman he loves. Al these measures are used to test the sincerity of the suitors professed love, his courage and readiness for leadership of marital home. Abarry A (1985:22).

For instance, let us take an example of Gizo and Koki to represent husband and wife in our study. Binta quoted Babura (2007:5) where he stresses some common features of Gizo (Husband) in Hausa tales which include the following:

= Liar: This identity is found in almost all the tales were Gizo feature.

=Making tricks and cleverly related activities as in the story of Gizo and Namun daji were he wisely use tricks so as to get meat.

= As a betrayer, this can be found in many tales where Gizo will be endangered and rescued, at the end he will turn to be aggressor to his rescue.

= Wickedness: This is another feature of Gizo as husband, and this are commonly observe in his relationship with his wife Koki where in some instances he may asked his wife to fry a cow meat, and he will not allowed her to even smell the meat.

= Deception: Gizo as a husband is always features as a deceiver in the tales.

The above are the basic courses of conflict in the marriage folktales.

In some marriage related folktales, there exist some social conflict within the husband and wife. Some tales portray the habit of ungratefulness on the side of husband, where in some tales the husband will be maltreating and accusing his wife for just a minor issue which they can reconciled within themselves. Equally, sometime this social disorder may arise from the wife, where she accused her husband for just simple matter.

For instance in one of the tales where Gizo married another wife (second wife) Tururuwa, he then divorce his first wife (koki). For the first time the second wife pretend to be good, but latter she treated him badly. As the tales goes on, later Gizo realized his mistake of sending his first wife away and regret it later. From the tale, Gizo’s wife Koki is feature as a good wife, very obedient and loyal to her husband decision.

Another social disorder can be tress in the tale title “Grasshopper ‘ in the tale of mahogany Tree (madacci). The tales begins as: Once open a time, their was a pregnant woman who was about to give birth. Her husband was very poor. One day he hunted a male grasshopper and gave it to his wife to look after, but suddenly it skipped out of her hand and flew away into the bush. The husband told his wife to go and look for it where she should. The woman went into the bush, and fell sick, and she later gave Barth to a baby girl under a mahogany tree. She later left the girl under a tree and went ahead to look for the skipping grasshopper. ,

The girl grew up under tree, and she was very beautiful. When the king hard about her he order his gauds to bring her to his palace, after several attempt the guards were killed, and the king became angry and order the tree to be cut- down. After the girl was taking to the king , he took the girl as his new wife. But the senior wife was angry jealous and protested. She insisted that the bride most come out to work. The king refuses her request and she insisted. The senior wife was promise to be kill if what she alleged was not true ……  In her dream, the bride saw angels in human form, they brought an arm and fixed it on her. In her dream the angels told her that it was a reward for her trust in God. That morning, she informed the king about the dream and what happened when she awoke. The two gave their thanks to God. At the end, in the morning the bride came out with her two arms, and the senior wife was ashamed. The king ordered for the execution of his senior wife, and continuered to live happily with his bride.

From the above tale, one can understand some moral disorder in the tale, it emphasizes how husband and wife should live together and respect each other. The value of promise was also stress out, and the effect of jealous was noted, as we can see what happened to the king senior wife. Importantly, at the end of the conflict a girl to a poor was married to a king.

A story about an orphan, showing that ‘ he who saws evil, it comes fourth in his own garden

The story is about orphan who his father died and left two sons and their mothers two women. Among the mothers one fell sick and died later. The other woman was left to take care of the son. But she was maltreating the death woman son in many occasion from the tale. For example in the tale she said:

“ put down your hoe (and) push in your hand, so he put in (his)

hand and drew out a bracelet’ He said, there it is, she said

‘ that is not it. A rat I said, was there ; so he put in his hand

again and drew out a golden bangle……….’Rottery, 1969:230-240

She get angry and called her own son and asked him to put his hand into the hole. On putting in his hand a snake bite his hand. At the end , on their way to home, he died and three days later his mother died. The orphan boy inherited the house property.

From the above tale, we can carefully saw the conflict that usually experienced by an orphan in the hand of his stepmother. And eventually the orphan became the master of the house. If the teaching of this tale can be employed the crisis of orphan can be minimized in our society.

As in the case of the tale “ Journey of birds and the Tortoise for a festival in the sky.

After each birds gave tortoise a feather which he made up two wings to which he uses to fly to the sky, the tortoise says:

“ Tell my wife “ said tortoise, to bring out all solf things

in my house and cover the compound with them so

that I can jump down from the sky without very great

danger…..” Banki,2013:5

Parrot promise to deliver the message to the tortoise’s wife, but intentionally parrot told the tortoise wife to bring out all the hard things in the house. And the wife brought out spears, guns, and hoes among others. At the end, he jumped on the compound, and his shell broke into pieces, out of sympathy the tortoise wife sent for medicine man, and he gathered all the broken shell and stuck them together.

From the tale above, we can see how bird (parrot) causes conflict between tortoise and his wife for misinforming her the massage. We can equally notice that, the act of sympathy was showed on the side of the wife were she took her husband for medicine man who take care of him.

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