Oral Literature Devices / Techniques


The writer has used some oral literature devices in “The River and the Source.” These include:


Akoko’s father said of her birth, “A home without daughters is like a spring without a source”(pg 11). This indicates the chief’s flexibility. He hears the baby cry and thinks it is a boy, “another rock for my sling.” The fact that the baby is a girl does not dampen his spirit whatsoever.

Akoko’s family spokesman, Oloo, convinces the audience about a woman’s worth to her husband during the dispute between Akoko and her mother-in-law and brother-in-law “……..who knows the goodness of a tree but he who sits under its shade and eats its fruits?” (pg 44)

Other examples of proverbs found in the story are-; “ Good manners is the fabric that holds the community together used in respect to the search parties to mean that even if they did not find Obura, it was a sign of respect to the search parties to mean that even if they did not find Obura, it was a sign of respect to go and report to the chief.

“Yesterday is not today and today is not tomorrow.” (pg 75) This proverb is used by Akoko to encourage her daughter Nyabera who had suffered greatly by losing her children.

“It was disquieting to have all one’s eggs in this one tiny frail basket.” (pg 74). This is in reference to Akoko’s family’s hopes of that long over the chiefdom which has now been placed in the hands of the little boy, her grandson.

“Bitterness is poison to the spirit for it breeds nothing but vipers some of which might consume your very self.” (pg 103) Akoko uses this proverb to encourage Nyabera to try new religion so that all bitterness in her can end.

“….Beggars cannot be choosers.” (pg 107) Nyabera had to make do with the place shown to her to put a house at Aluor mission.

“….you don’t have to be good, all you have to be is lucky.” (pg 281). Vera uses this saying in reference to his brother who is lucky to have a good girl like Wandia.

“Laziness opens the door for evil to rule one’s mind and body.” (pg 93). Akoko uses this proverb to chide her brother-in-law Otieno, who because of his laziness, ends up grabbing her wealth and inheritance.


The young men who come to escort Akoko from Yimbo to her husband’s home in Sakwa compose chants to praise certain qualities in themselves. The song also creates humour. It also breaks monotony of narration. (pg 26) (quote the song in page 26)

Akoko sings a dirge full of praise for her husband as she morns him (pg 69) .(quote the dirge in page 69) The song breaks monotony of narration, makes the story interesting and also indicates how the two; Akoko and Owuor Kembo loved each other.


A myth is story that talks about the origin of a group of people or a phenomenon. AKoko narrates the story of the origin of the Luo to her grandson twins, Opiyo and Odongo as they embark in their epic journey. “In the beginning, Were was alone in the world which was beautiful. Were is a spirit and a spirit is like a flame…..so he created Ramogi and his brothers who were men………(pg 81-82)

This myth highlights the role of elders in this community, which is to impact knowledge on the history of the tribe to all young ones. “…….How can you know where you are coming from?” (pg 81)


A legend is a story that talks about a heroic historical character. “Of the children of Ramogi many great brave men have arisen. They are called, “thuondi” the brave ones. These men of renown include Lwanda Magere. So strong and brave a warrior was he that it is rumoured that sharp spears of Lang’o warriors could not pierce his skin.

Then there was Gor Mahia, the wily one who could change his form into anything at all……. (pg 82)

NEXT: Humour

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4 years ago

what of dialogue and description

3 years ago

l believe,l personally and enture ASEMBO-KOKISE-BWAJA that no other story that might be compared with THE RIVER AND THE SOURCE in teachings.

3 years ago

hi, fjrst i appreciaye your great work. i love It alot.. secondly please help me out. ” what are the dramatic techniques used in the betrayal in the city”.

Emmaculate kendy
Emmaculate kendy
3 years ago

How according to you have East African creative writers benefited from oral literature

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