A Dance of the Forests

A Dance of the Forests Summary and Analysis of Part 2


Obaneji says that the man who took the bribe for the lorry is just a small-time criminal and he will put his name in fine print, when Rola exclaims, "He deserves to be hanged." Demoke talks about the fact that he works with fire as a carver, that he is not afraid of it, but that he would never want to die by being burned. When his companions question him about how he would prefer to die, he says that he would rather fall from a great height and alludes to his apprentice. He rationalizes that, "If I can pull my body up, further than it will go, I would willingly fall to my death after."

Rola speaks up and says that Demoke's reasoning does not make any sense. Obaneji then asks Adenebi how he would want to die, and Adenebi turns the question back towards Obaneji. Rola chides him, "Why don't you confess it? You are the type who would rather die in your bed." Obaneji is indignant, wondering why that is something to be ashamed of.

He asks Rola how she would like to die and she tries to kiss him abruptly. He throws her off him and Adenebi scolds him for being so violent. He apologizes for being violent, but adds, "I have a particular aversion to being mauled by women." Rola curses him for not having more sexual experience and says that he will die in his bed, but alone. He tells them, "Recognition is the curse I carry with me."

When he asks for silence, Rola insists that she has never been responsible for any crimes like the overturned lorry. She tells Obaneji that if he wants silence he should go to the graveyard, and he retorts that many of her ex-lovers must be buried there. "Doesn't she look like the type that would drive men to madness and self-destruction?" he says. Rola becomes furious, when suddenly Demoke realizes that she is Madame Tortoise, an infamous prostitute.

As Rola sobs at the revelation of her identity, Adenebi expresses his repulsion at her. Demoke reveals that the totem he carved was for Madame Tortoise, as Adenebi continues to belittle the prostitute. "I regret nothing," Rola continues to say, alluding to a man who killed another in competition for her affections and considers herself no worse than a businessman. "When your business men ruin the lesser ones, do you go crying to them?" she says.

Demoke tells Rola that she does not look like her other face, and asks her to look at his totem. Adenebi becomes impatient with the proceedings and leaves in a huff. As he leaves, the Dead Man and Dead Woman enter, and Demoke asks the Dead Man if he is his former apprentice, who fell from the tree. Rola insists that he is not, but Demoke is impatient to know if he is considered guilty for killing the apprentice.

Suddenly, Demoke admits that he pushed his apprentice from the tree out of envy, then launches into a long monologue, in verse, about how he wanted to carve the top of the tree and so killed his assistant. After sending the apprentice plummeting to his death, Demoke was overcome with creative inspiration.

Suddenly, a voice, Demoke's father, calls his name. Demoke leads his fellow mortals away as Ogun enters. Ogun reveals that he altered his voice to sound like Demoke's father and that he is desperately trying to find the mortal. He takes responsibility for Demoke's murder of his apprentice, Oremole, saying that Oremole was proud and did not give enough respect to Demoke.

Ogun exits as two Councillors and an Old Man—Demoke's father—enter. Adenebi comes in and asks if the Old Man and the Councillors are trying to catch some "shady characters." The Old Man tells him that they are simply trying to drive some people away.

The Old Man tells Adenebi that they are trying to drive away the very people who are their guests, and says that this is madness. When the Old Man insists that Adenebi was in favor of this action before, and Adenebi recounts that they had a conversation about bringing back "the descendants of our great forebears...let them symbolize all that is noble in our nation."

The Old Man remembers this conversation but clarifies that "the guests we were sent are slaves and lackeys. They have only come to undermine our strength. To preach to us how ignoble we are."

Adenebi tries to convince the Old Man that the pageantry of welcoming their guests would have been beautiful, before criticizing Demoke's totem as "pagan." The Councillor enters and complains about the dead couple.


While death is a major theme from the start as the central plot concerns the Dead Man and the Dead Woman, the play also explores the subject of death from the perspective of the living. First, Obaneji talks about death as a consequence of political corruption, discussing the overturned lorry. Then, Demoke chimes in and talks about how in his job he has to climb very high, and if he were to choose his death, he would choose to fall from a great height. The mortals discuss death in the abstract, all in violent terms: falling, burning, being killed.

The mortals in the play are petty and childish, fighting and squabbling about how they would die and pointing fingers about who is responsible for what violence. In this way, Wole Soyinka makes a parody of existence, and shows that life on earth is a series of fights and petty accusations. The mortals reveal their secrets and, in the process, become angry and impatient with one another.

A momentous revelation occurs in this section when Obaneji reveals the identity of Rola—in her former life, she was an infamous prostitute named Madame Tortoise. This revelation has a variety of effects. In Adenebi it inspires complete revulsion, as he remembers that Madame Tortoise drove men to fight with one another. In Demoke it inspires awe and admiration, as he once carved a totem in her honor. Rola herself is for a moment horrified to be found out, and then completely indignant and unrepentant about her former self.

Demoke also makes a revelation in this section when he tells the story of killing his apprentice, Oremole, and the creative inspiration that the violent act gave him. He launches into the longest bit of text in the play thus far, a feverish narration of his murdering, and then his immediate flight of ecstatic creative energy. In this monologue, we see the contrast between Demoke's negative impulse, his desire to kill, and his desire to create, a more positive impulse. His narration of his experience is also filled with allusions to various gods and demons, representations of the non-mortal world.

The play builds up a lot of suspense around the identities of the Dead Woman and Dead Man. While they hardly communicate, they are shunned by the mortals, and are deemed unsuitable for the roles they are meant to fill at the "gathering of the tribes." Instead of representing the nobility of the mortals' ancestors and background, they are lower-class individuals who were wronged by the four mortals assembled. It's clear that they are there to administer a "reckoning" of sorts.