The name of a detective on the American television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is Odafin ‘Fin’ Tutuola. If you have read the Nigerian novel The Palm Wine Drinkard, the name sure rings a bell, Michael Thelwell writes that the author’s grandfather was an odafin, a spiritual leader, and Fin Tutuola was the given name of Amos Tutuola‘s father.
Amos Tutuola (20 June 1920 – 8 June 1997), aged 76 was a Nigerian writer famous for his books based in part on Yoruba folk-tales.
Tutuola was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, in 1920, where his parents Charles and Esther were Yoruba Christian cocoa farmers. When about seven years old, he became a servant for F. O. Monu, an Igbo man, who sent Tutuola to the Salvation Army primary school in lieu of wages. At age 12 he attended the Anglican Central School in Abeokuta. His brief education was limited to six years (from 1934 to 1939). When his father died in 1939, Tutuola left school to train as a blacksmith, which trade he practised from 1942 to 1945 for the Royal Air Force in Nigeria. He subsequently tried a number of other vocations, including selling bread and acting as messenger for the Nigerian Department of Labor. In 1946, Tutuola completed his first full-length book, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, within a few days. In 1947 he married Victoria Alake, with whom he had four sons and four daughters.
Despite his short formal education, Tutuola wrote his novels in English. After he had written his first three books and become internationally famous, he joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in 1956 as a storekeeper in Ibadan, Western Nigeria. Tutuola became also one of the founders of Mbari Club, the writers’ and publishers’ organization. In 1979, he held a visiting research fellowship at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) at Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and in 1983 he was an associate of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. In retirement he divided his time between residences at Ibadan and Ago-Odo. His works include:
The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1946, published 1952)
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954)
Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle (1955)
The Brave African Huntress (1958)
Feather Woman of the Jungle (1962)
Ajayi and his Inherited Poverty (1967)
The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town (1981)
The Wild Hunter in the Bush of the Ghosts (1982)
Yoruba Folktales (1986)
Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer (1987)
The Village Witch Doctor and Other Stories (1990)
The name of a detective on the television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is Odafin Tutuola. In the first pages of the introduction of The Palm Wine Drinkard, Michael Thelwell writes that the author’s grandfather was an odafin, a spiritual leader, and Tutuola was the given name of Amos Tutuola’s father.
Brian Eno and David Byrne took the title of the novel My Life in the Bush of Ghosts for their 1981 album.
One of the characters of the gamebook The Race Forever, from the Choose Your Own Adventure collection, is named after Amos Tutuola.
Tutuola died at the age of 77 on 8 June 1997 from hypertension and diabetes.
Many of his papers, letters, and holographic manuscripts have been collected at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin.