Things Fall Apart Chapter 11 Summary

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

In chapter eleven of Chinua Achebe's novel ''Things Fall Apart,'' Ekwefi's daughter Ezinma goes on a nighttime adventure courtesy of Chielo and the Oracle of the Hills and Caves. Read on for a short summary of the chapter.

Summary of Chapter Eleven

Bedtime Stories

On a very dark, moonless night, Ezinma and Ekwefi, Okonkwo's daughter and wife respectively, are sitting up right before bedtime. Okonkwo, in his hut, smokes tobacco and listens as in each of his wives' huts, the women and children sing or tell stories. Ekwefi begins a story for Ezinma.

The story tells of a feast in the sky held for all of the birds. Tortoise finds out about the feast and begins to figure out how to attend it since there is a famine going on and he is very hungry. He asks the birds to help him attend the feast, but the birds are reluctant because Tortoise is a trickster and is often scheming and ungrateful. However, Tortoise says that he has changed and convinces the birds to help him.

In order to help Tortoise to fly to the feast, each bird gives him a feather. From these feathers, Tortoise fashions two wings. After making the wings, Tortoise flies to the feast with all of the birds. Tortoise is so clever and happy that the birds decide that he would be the best one to speak for all of the birds.

Tortoises; in chapter eleven of the novel, Ekwefi tells Ezinma a story to explain why Tortoises have cracked shells.

As Tortoise flies along, he explains that it is custom when visiting their hosts to take a new name for the occasion. Since the birds believe Tortoise to be well-informed on different customs, they all take a new name. Tortoise also takes a new name: All of you.

When they reach the feast, Tortoise gives a great speech and makes the birds happy for bringing him. The hosts believe him to be the king of the birds since he is the one speaking for them. The feast is filled with fresh yam dishes and hot soups. However, before the birds can eat, Tortoise asks the hosts who the meal is for; they reply that it is for all of you. Tortoise tells the birds that this means that the food is only for him and eats almost all of it, leaving the birds hungry.

Angry, the birds take their feathers back from Tortoise and fly home. Tortoise asks Parrot to tell Tortoise's wife to bring out the blankets and pillows from the home so that Tortoise can safely jump down. However, Parrot flies down to Tortoise's house and tells Tortoise's wife to bring out the hard things in the house. Tortoise sees his wife bring the objects out, but jumps because he cannot tell that they are hard, and he cracks his shell when he lands. This story explains why tortoises have cracked, patterned shells.

Ezinma prepares to tell a story of her own, but she is interrupted by a loud voice crying out in the night.

Chielo, Priestess of Agbala

The voice belongs to Chielo. She is usually a normal, everyday woman, but on this night, she is the priestess for Agbala, the oracle of the village. She calls out for Okonkwo first and then Ezinma second as she approaches their home. Okonkwo tries to turn her away, but Chielo walks right past him and tells Ekwefi that Agbala wants to see her. Ekwefi tries to go along, but Chielo angrily refuses her and then carries a frightened Ezinma into the hills outside of the village.

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