A Dance of the Forests

A Dance of the Forests Quotes and Analysis

"Trouble me no further. The fooleries of beings whom I have fashioned closer to me weary and distress me. Yet I must persist, knowing that nothing is ever altered. My secret is my eternal burden—to pierce the encrustations of soul-deadening habit, and bare the mirror of original nakedness—knowing full well, it is all futility."

Forest Head

Forest Head says this is the final scene of the play (from the 1960 production). His statement reveals his desire for human beings to improve themselves, as well as his knowledge that this hope is futile. It represents the ways that the spirits of nature have little faith in the abilities of human beings to improve themselves.

"Don't try your oily words with me, liar!"


The Physician says this to the Slave-Dealer in Mata Kharibu's court, who is attempting to take the Soldier and his men on his boat, a vessel the Physician knows is in poor condition. The Slave-Dealer is attempting to convince the court that his boat is a fine place for passengers, but the Physician knows better.

"Now what am I thinking of? I must be getting tired. No sensible man burns the house to cook a little yam."

Old Man

The Old Man wants to pour petrol on the forest in order to find his son, Demoke, but he then decides that rather than burning down the forest, he will instead smoke it out.

"When your business men ruin the lesser ones, do you go crying to them? I also have no pity for the one who invested foolishly. Investors, that is all they ever were—to me."


When the mortals convene in the forest, Adenebi realizes that Rola is in fact the once-infamous prostitute and queen, Madame Tortoise. He confronts her about the fact that her seductive powers and beauty have the potential to drive men mad and ruin lives. In response, she tells him this, a defense for the fact that her "crimes" are no worse than a businessman's, as she sees her sexual wiles as transactional and businesslike.

"No one to meet me. I know this is the place."

Dead Woman

This is one of the first lines uttered in the play. The Dead Woman says it when she and the Dead Man first emerge from the ground. They call out to the people passing by, unsure of where they are or why they are there. Even as the Dead Woman realizes there is no one to meet them, she feels confident they are in the right place, that this is how death works.

"What are you? Men have killed for me. Men have died for me. Have you flints in your eye? Fool, have you never lived?"

Madame Tortoise

In Mata Kharibu's court, Madame Tortoise says this to the Soldier when he denies her seductions. Not used to getting rejected, she becomes spiteful and confused as to why he is resisting her, insulting him and informing that she is never refused.

"Envy, but not from prowess of his adze."


When his fellow mortals question him about the death of his apprentice, Demoke admits that he pushed him out of the tree from envy. He clarifies, in a monologue that follows this quote, that it was not envy of the apprentice's blade or skill that angered him, but the fact that his apprentice climbed up higher than him and wanted to carve the head of a totem.

"I am going to drink millet wine at the feast of the living."


When Aroni invites the tree spirit, Murete, to the welcoming of the dead, Murete declines, saying he will be at the feast of the living. Murete, in spite of being a spirit, delights in doing human things, like getting drunk, and is characterized by his laziness and appetites, which makes him hard to pin down, but easy to persuade.

"The totem, my final insult. The final taunt from the human pigs."


Eshuoro, an easily angered cult spirit, says this to Murete in part two of the play. The totem from which Demoke threw his apprentice is not to Eshuoro's liking, as the head has been hacked off. Eshuoro does not like Demoke, and makes it very clear to Murete that he believes that the totem that is now standing is an insult to him.

"I'll be born dead."


The child of the Dead Woman, who was never allowed to live, as his mother was killed before he was born, exists in an indeterminate middle space between the dead and the living. He mourns his liminal position, saying that he will be born dead when he does pass into the world of the living.