Chielo, Priestess of Agbala in Things Fall Apart

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  • 0:00 Intro To 'Things Fall Apart'
  • 0:37 Who Is Chielo?
  • 1:37 The Oracle
  • 2:33 Chielo's Midnight Walk
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Liz Breazeale
The novel ''Things Fall Apart'' has been translated into dozens of languages and studied around the world. Learn about one of the important characters of this book, Chielo, and test yourself with a quiz.

Intro to Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart was written by famous Nigerian author Chinua Achebe and published in 1958. As the foremost example of African post-modern work, it addresses the struggle between colonialism and the native beliefs in Nigeria. The novel follows the life of its protagonist, an Igbo man named Okonkwo, a leader of the village of Umuofia. Okonkwo is a violent, temperamental man who has many wives and children and is famed for his wrestling prowess as a young man. At the time of the novel, Okonkwo is older, not much wiser, and quite wealthy.

Who Is Chielo?

Chielo is the priestess of Agbala and is another well-known, important resident of Umuofia. When Chielo is not possessed by the goddess Agbala acting as the Oracle, she's a normal woman. She has two kids and is a widow. She's suffered some hardship throughout her life - obviously, becoming a widow isn't exactly a cakewalk - but on top of that, Chielo has lost as child as well.

Chielo is close friends with Ekwefi, Okonkwo's second wife, and is especially fond of Ekwefi's daughter Ezinma, a precocious and intelligent child. In fact, she's so fond of Ezinma that at times she refers to her as 'my daughter,' even though this is not true. Like the rest of the village, Chielo believes that Ezinma is an ogbanje, or the malicious spirit of a dead child that comes back in other bodies. It's insinuated that Chielo may even believe Ezinma is the ogbanje of her own dead child. Chielo's attachment to Ezinma plays a huge role in the novel.

The Oracle

So we've discussed Chielo when she isn't possessed - but there's a whole other side of her personality that comes through when she's been possessed by the goddess Agbala and is acting as her Oracle, the Oracle of the Hills and Caves. Apparently this happens quite frequently, and the villagers don't see it as a source of alarm. That's just how Agbala chooses to communicate with them: through Chielo. Just like our own modern-day priests, she expresses the wisdom of a higher power.

Chielo's entire countenance changes when she's possessed; instead of a regular, lovable, hardworking woman, she becomes a fierce, deep-voiced communicator of Agbala's desires. No one dares challenge or argue with her, lest they face the wrath of the goddess. The villagers respect her all the more for this fearsome gift, and she plays a large role within the community because of it, offering wisdom, communicating orders from Agbala, and basically telling people what to do.

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