Jealous Twins

Text analysis

This tale treats competition within the family and, in particular, betrayal among brothers. It explores the contradiction inherent in peer-relationships within the family: siblings from the same mother/parentage (here epitomized by twins) are expected to feel the strongest bond and to take care of each other and their family, but at the same time each brother has to assert himself individually. According to Denise Paulme’s model, this narrative has a mirror form, descending from lack to deterioration for the first twin brother (lack of a wife; he is killed by his own twin brother) and then from deterioration to amelioration (his murder is discovered and vindicated) and ascending from lack to amelioration for the second twin brother (lack of a wife; he obtains the wife) and then descending from amelioration to deterioration (he is punished for his betrayal). The final disparaging consequence of the betrayal between brothers is that the initial gap is not filled for either of the twins and the parents loose both children.

SNye dada Hudolo Atɔsu
I, Madam Hudolo Atɔsu
ye ŋutinya yia gblɔ ge
I am going to tell this story
ne ɖeviwo abe fefe fefe ene
to children as a play
Eye edzɔ kpɔ.
And it happened once

This presentation does not belong to the usual beginning formula, but it is determined by the situation of recording. It implicitly states that what is told should not be taken too seriously (‘it is a play for children’). Setting the story in the past offers a link with the more common formula following below.

Ee mise gli loo
Listen to a story
AEgli neva
Let the story come

Opening formula

SEglia tso υuu keke dze ŋutsu
aɖe kple srɔ dzi
The story moves and lands on a man and the wife
AWodze dzi
It falls on them
SMawu va xɔ
God received
Ao to, nyateƒe
No wait, speak the truth
Wole edzi υuu keke wova dzi eve nɔvi; Atsu kple Etse.
They lived long and have twins; Atsu and Etse

Standard formula that establishes and anticipates the characters that the public can expect as actors in the story (a man and a wife and their twin children).

Atsu kple Etse wo va le edzi υuu keke
Atsu and Etse lived and grew up
wo va kpɔ nyɔnu be ye woaɖe.
They saw a woman they wanted to marry
ame yia be nyɔnu yi ɖe ge yeala yi.
This one says that this is the woman he will marry
Ame yi hã be nyɔnu yi ɖe ge yeala yi.
This one says that this is the woman he will marry

The competition is established immediately, together with the twins’ aim (to marry the woman).

Nyɔnua be newo yi woa dzi flawasi nyuie aɖe
The woman said they should look for flowers
ne wokpɔ flawasi wonyoa, hafi yeaɖe wo
They would have to get flowers that were good, before she would marry them

The woman put Atsu and Etse to a test. The storyteller’s choice for ‘flowers’ is a narrative innovation (see also the Anglicism ‘flawasi’). A more usual task for the twins is to look for special herbs (for example ‘amma’, a leaf with medicinal properties) that would test the knowledge of the (future) man of the house to perform curative actions and rituals.

Wova yi υuu keke; Atsu va kpɔ flawasia, flawasia menyo
They went for a long time and Atsu saw the flowers, the flowers were not good
Etse tɔ nyo.
Etse’s were good.

The task is carried out and the competition between the brothers takes a definite form: Etse has the best flowers, Atso has lost the competition.

Wo va do go
They met
Atsu va tsɔ Etse wu tsɔ flawasia xɔ
Atsu killed Etse and took the flowers
tsɔ gbɔe va tsɔ ɖe nyɔnuae
and married the woman
Wole edzi υuu keke
They were on it for long

Betrayal. Atso kills his twin brother, breaking the pact underlying the test as well as the family bond, and obtains the wife.

Eva dzɔ be ŋutsu aɖe nye alẽkplɔla, alẽnyila,
Once there was a man who was a shepherd
ekplɔ alẽawo kɔ yi ɖe gbedzie,
He took the sheep to the field
Gbeadzi woyi koa, etsatsam gbea me koa
In the field, he was walking in the bush
Eƒe afɔ vadze eƒu aɖe dzi
His feet stepped on some bones
AOh ŋŋ..
Oh ...
SWomenya nuka ƒuie o
They did not know whose bone it was

Beginning of the betrayal’s unveiling (disclosure). The shepherd is a logical choice as actor, since he walks in the field for his activities. The storyteller does not need to say what ‘bones’ the shepherd walks upon: the public’s understanding and expectation is shown by the reaction “Oh...”

AGbemagbe má mele eteƒe
On that day I was present
Neva mise
Let it come for us to hear

The narration is also interspersed with songs from the public. A well-known formula allows the audience to intervene by taking witness of the events narrated (“I was present”) and shifting in time from the past (“on that day”) to the present (“let it come for us to hear”).

Musical interlude with dancing
Tototo ƒui ta
(The sound made in soup preparation)
Anchovy stew

The song concerns tasty food (anchovy stew) as children’s songs often do.

Kpɔ aɖe
Look your tongue (it’s your turn)
SYoo gbemagbe má, amekae yae nyɔnua ɖe ge?
On that day, who will be the woman
ŋutsuwo le mia dome fifia?
Do you have men among you now?
AEe … miawoe nye si
Yes.. we are here
SKe wo tututue nye Atsua ewu Etsea
Then you are Atsu who killed Etse

The storyteller addresses the girl who interpolated the song and assigns her a role. She also makes the story shift back in time again (“on that day”). Here, the storyteller interrogates the children (“do you have men among you?), then she assigns the male children the bad character, a choice intended to caution the children to be respectful.

Yewo gbɔ; koa eƒua alẽkplɔla tsɔ afɔ ɖo edzi
then again; the shepherd stepped on it
yiko eƒua be:
then the bone said

The storyteller takes up the narration.

A song by the story teller...
E! Alekplɔla
E! Alekplɔla
E! shepherd (2 times)
Ewoe wum le mɔga yia dzi
It is he who killed me on the broad way
tsɔ flawa kɔ yi aƒee
take the flowers home
Oh alekplɔla…
Oh shepherd…

Disclosure of the betrayal by means of supernatural manifestation (speaking bones).

Alekplɔla be nya kae nye ma
The shepherd said what news is that
Woga da afɔ ɖe dzi
He stepped on it again
E ! Alekplɔla
E ! Alekplɔla
E! shepherd (2 times)
A song by the storyteller...
Atsue wum le mɔga la dzi
It is Atsu who killed me on the broad way
tsɔ flawa kɔ yi aƒee
take the flowers home

Repetition and reduplication of sequences. The repetition has an important stylistic and narrative function since it creates expectation and dramatic effect before the resolution.

Alẽkplɔla tsɔ eƒua vae na dadaa kple fofoa…
The shepherd brought the bone to the mother and father
Fofoa tsɔ afɔ da ɖe edzi wobe…
the father stepped on it and it said…

The shepherd addresses the father first as the conventional gendered manners recommend. The misdeed’s disclosure in the family raises expectation of punishment.

E! tatanye
E! tatanye
Oh! my father (2 times)
Atsue wum le mɔga la dzi
It is Atsu who killed me on the broad way
tsɔ flawa kɔ yi aƒee
take the flowers home
E! tatanye
Oh! my father
Fofoa tsɔ afɔ gada ɖe dzi ake
The father put his foot on it again
E! tatanye
E! tatanye
Oh! my father (2 times)
Atsue wum le mɔga la dzi
It is Atsu who killed me on the broad way
tsɔ flawa kɔ yi aƒee
take the flowers home
E! tatanye
Oh! my father

Repetition of misdeed unveiling.

Woyɔ dadaa be neva.
He called the mother that she should come
Dada va wobe mie ŋutsuwo miele afiyia go dzi
The mother said you men are here
da ƒu ɖe afiyia ko miebe ye neda afɔ ɖe dzi haa…
you place a bone here that I should step on it
Wobe neya neda afɔ ɖe edzi kpɔ ko
They said she should step on it
Eƒua kɔseti aɖe ɖem,
The bone is giving us a concert
dadaa tsɔ afɔ da ɖa edzi
The mother stepped on it
Afɔ wo da ɖe dzi haa….
The foot she placed on it


E ! Enɔ nye
E ! Enɔ nye
Oh my mother (2 times)
Atsue wum le mɔga yia dzi
It is Atsu who killed me on the broad way
tsɔ flawa kɔ yi aƒee
take the flowers home
E! Enɔ nye
Oh! my mother

Repetition of misdeed unveiling.

Dadaa ga li sẽe ko be enya vivi
The mother after a while said the words are so interesting
Wo ga tsɔ afɔ da ɖe edzi ake;
She stepped on it again
wo ga dzi nɛ...
It sang for her again
E ! Enɔ nye
E ! Enɔ nye
E! my mother (2 times)
Atsue wum le mɔga yiaa dzi
It is Atsu who killed me on the broad way
tsɔ flawa kɔ yi aƒee
take the flowers home
E! Enɔ nye
Oh! my mother

The repetitions anticipate the resolution.

Koa ye woli sẽe koa
Then after they stayed for a while
wobe wone yɔ Atsua ɖa…
They said they should call Atsu

Start of final sequence.

AGbemagbe ma mele eteƒe.
On that day I was present
SNeva mise.
I should come for us to hear

The narration is interspersed with another child’s intervention. (see before)

Musical interlude with dancing
Glinya toto
Story telling
Glinya alakpa gli…
It is a make believe…

The song emphasizes the belonging of the story to a different world’s perception.

AKpɔ aɖe
Look your tongue (It's your turn)
SGbe magbe ma tututua,
On the exact day,
woe nyɔnua nye ge
You are going to be the woman

The storyteller addresses the girl who interpolated the song and assigns her a role.

Ke afiya wo be wo ne yɔ Atsua ɖa.
Then this place they asked that they should call Atsu
Atsua va. Wobe ne da afɔ ɖe eƒua dzi
Atsu came. They asked him to step on the bone
ne nya yi gblɔm eƒua lea ne ye wɔa see.
so that the words the bone was saying they all hear

The storyteller resumes the narration just a little before she paused, a device to start from a convenient point. The confrontation between the culprit Atsu and his brother’s bones takes start.

Yiko wo be: ‘tso miawo ya eƒu le miagbɔ,
Then he said: You, you have a bone with you
Afikae miekpɔ eƒua le
Where have you got the bone from?
hafi be mada afɔ ɖe edzi?
then you want me to step on it?
Nye mele afɔ da ge ɖe edzi o.
I am not going to step on it

Atsu tries to avoid the confrontation. The storytelling is imitating daily conversation starting by ‘tso’ (how, you), a form indicating that the speaker does not agree with or does not like that what is preceding.

Wo kuku ɖem nɛ υuu keke
They pleaded with him for a long time
hafi wova da afɔ ɖe ƒua dzi.
before he came and stepped on the bone
Yiko afɔ woda ɖe edzi ko wo be:
Then as he stepped on the bone it said:

The family imposes the confrontation. Stress of tone on ‘long’ to indicate the stretch of time.

“Kuku”= hat. The literal expression is “They removed their hats” (pleaded with), indicating that “they are sorry”.

Ɖe afɔ le dzi nye
Ɖe afɔ le dzi nye
remove your foot from me
Woe wum le mɔ ga ya dzi
you killed me on the broad way
tsɔ flawa yi aƒee..
and took the flowers home
O, ɖe afɔ le dzi nye
O, ɖe afɔ le dzi nye
O, remove your foot from me
Wo le edzia, wo be ne ga dae ɖe ake,
they continued, they said he should step on it again,
wo ga dae ɖe edzi ake.
he stepped on it again

Final revelation of misdeed and why Atsu killed his twin brother (marriage). The bone has a sharp reaction and does not sing because it recognizes his killer.

Wole edzi; nukae va dzɔ?
They were on it; what happened?
Ewu Etse; woa ne kpɔ agbe le,
You killed Etse; you are alive
tsɔ nyɔnua he ɖe.
and married the woman

The storyteller asks a rhetorical question. She indeed does not answer, but starts moralizing by addressing the public since it was Atsu.

Wo va tso kufia na Atsu.
They sentenced Atsu to death
Wowu Atsua.
They killed him


Ke numatae wobe
That is why it is said that
ne ebe ye nɔvitɔ meganyo oa,
If you say that your friend’s should not be good
wo hã tɔwò menyonyo ge o.
yours will also not be good

The moral teaching on the consequences of jealousy and betrayal is disclosed and generalized.

Eye meto afima tsɔ ble mie loo.
and I brought it from that place to deceive you

Formal ending.

Adzo ɖu mie mi
This is the end of the story
STo gobuie mi
You have cupped ears for stories

Closing formula that highlights the children’s capability to keep and tell stories (‘you have cupped ears’). The public’s answer ‘Yoo’ marks agreements, but other standardized expressions can illustrate a fuller appreciation.