“I was fed up with my wife, I was not happy at all, because in the four years since I had married her she was not pregnant” (Tutuola, 1981: 21). Thus does the narrator of Amos Tutuola's The Witch Herbalist of the Remote Town express his distress at his wife's barrenness. The problem so pained him that he undertook a six-year quest in search of a cure, because to remain childless would be untenable. The issue of fertility and the need to perpetuate the family into future generations inspired Tutuola, whose story examines the singularly important issue of fertility as a social, cultural, and medical concern among the Yoruba of Nigeria and, by extrapolation, the peoples in transition in West Africa.
Amos Tutuola, a clerk in the Nigerian department of labor, has written several quest novels, all of which reflect various aspects of Yoruba culture. A native of Abeokuta in western Nigeria, Tutuola received the equivalent of a Western sixth-grade education. Raised as a Christian, he infuses his works with religious morality coupled with traditional perspectives.
Tutuola's writing career began as a relief from the boredom of his everyday job. He wrote his first novel in a two-day spurt of activity and sent it to what he thought was a publishing house, but which turned out to be a Methodist missionary group. The group forwarded the manuscript to the London publishers Faber and Faber and The Palm-Wine Drinhard was published in 1952 with little revision. Written in a distinct style of nonstandard English, the strange, fantastic story received praise from Western readers and critics, but derision from their African counterparts.