“The Calabash of Wisdom” and Outwitting Oneself: Igbo Tortoise Trickster Image in Nigerian Cyber Financial Crime Narratives.


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


English and Literary Studies


In the Calabash of Wisdom and other popular Igbo folktales, Tortoise (Mbe), the folkloric witty trickster outlives the mere comic tag of the schemer and wise one to be a socio-cultural character that outwits itself. Tortoise is often laced with demeaning traits of misdirected wisdom, self-acclaimed superiority over a victim and uncontrolled selfishness. These traits not only negatively portray Igbo ideologies of independency, individualism and entrepreneurship, but are connected to organised Nigerian modern-day cyber crime tricks. This study comparatively examines the deployment of tortoise’s traits in five-selected foremost and popular Mbediogu’s collections and a corpus of media reports on the Nigerian 419 scams to reveal how the character of the tortoise transcends to the ‘wise’ deception and self-wrecking features in the internet fraud. Using literary (Archetypal) criticism and New Historicism, this study shows how distinctive, phishing, BEC schemes, spoofed e-mails, reflected in everyday Nigerian cyber crimes are semblances of Tortoise’s one-outwitting-self motif.