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Sunday, March 5, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: Reader Views Kids Review of The Adventures of Nihu by Omoruyi Uwuigiaren


Reader Views Kids

This long book takes place in a jungle and is about a boy named Nihu that lived in a small village.  One day Nihu is out hunting, and his uncle was killed by an arrow that a robber took after Nihu shot it.  Everybody thought Nihu killed his uncle, so he was told not to come back to the village.  He went to the jungle to live, and met Old Phil.  They got to be friends, but Old Phil died. 

Nihu met many creatures when he was in the jungle.  Some were friendly, but some were mean and scary.  He finally tries to find his way out of the jungle and falls through a crack in the earth.  A very mean creature takes him and puts him inside a stone, with some other prisoners.  We don’t find out until the very end if he ever escapes.

This was a long book, and it was hard for me to read by myself.  There were a lot of big words, and some parts were hard for me to understand.  It was exciting, and sometimes scary.  The different creatures that Nihu met were very strange, and some wanted to kill him.  But some of the creatures that were the scariest turned out to be nice, so I liked that.  The ending was good, too. 

The words that the writer used made it feel like you were in the middle of the jungle with Nihu.  I could picture in my mind what the jungle looked like – very scary, and a place I would not like to visit.  I could understand how Nihu felt.  I kind of liked this book, because my mom helped me with the parts I didn’t understand.  It would be better for someone a few years older than me that could read it without help.  Boys and girls that like exciting books would like “The Adventures of Nihu.”


Reviewed by Reader Views Kids


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Saturday, March 4, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: The Adventures of Nihu by Omoruyi Uwuigiaren


I believe it was Stephen King who said something about writers holding the power of creating worlds in their hands. The Adventures of Nihu provides quintessential proof of that statement.

Not only has the author managed to tell a story that covers all the facets of human endeavor, he has very much birthed his own world. A world full of wonder, beauty and darkness, all blended together so effortlessly.

The author explores the human situation, exposing the very nature and disposition of man in relation to his predicament. The author explores man’s capacity for greed, love, temerity and cunning, while taking the reader on a literally multidimensional chase.

It is a story of bravery, a story of friendship and loyalty against staggering odds. The author has put his own spin on the eternal battle between good and evil, using a very lovable protagonist as Nihu is wrongly accused and faces a world of treachery and evil.

It is vital for a story to be able to capture the imagination of the reader, to leave an afterimage in the eyes of the reader after the pages are shut. The Adventures of Nihu does just that!

The reader is held spellbound every step of the way as the story weaves in and out, from tragedy to disaster, and from gory, bloody battle to glorious revelry. The author is not afraid to delve into the darker realms of reality, and of course, make-believe, stretching the boundary between both in a way which can only be described as “sinister ”.

The reader is immediately absorbed into this epic quest, as the author paints a beautiful landscape of adventure with probably the most eclectic group one could come across. The author has managed to create characters which, even by themselves, tell a story, each one as different and unique from the next as the human DNA. These characters embark on a perilous journey through worlds, while battling the evil forces intent on their destruction, with nothing other than skill and friendship as weapons.

A good read from top to bottom, The Adventures of Nihu is solid proof of the author’s mastery of storytelling. By virtue of this book, it can be said that the author has shown himself as a “creator of worlds”.



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Friday, January 27, 2023

Global book reading statistics for 2022 and 2023 (complete survey data)


What are the most popular books in the world? We asked 945 book readers in 56 countries what genre of books they read in 2022 and what they plan to read in 2023. Here are the world book reading statistics from the survey results.

We wanted to know what, how and how much people were reading. So, we asked 945 readers in 56 countries about their book reading habits. Here is what these book readers had to say.

Reading is alive and well. People around the world responded to our reading survey, and they shared the details of the books they read and how they read them. Here are some of the key findings of the global survey results.

Key findings from the book reading statistics

We captured the data. We captured the uncensored, anonymous comments. Here’s what we found.

Key finding 1: Most people read either a few books or a lot of books.

We asked people how many books they read in 2022. It turns out there are many light readers, and quite a few dedicated bookworms, but much fewer moderately-committed readers.

Survey says: according to the latest book reading statistics, 27% said they read over 20 books in 2022, whereas 32% said they read one to five books. Just 18% said they read six to 10 books, and 19% read 11 to 20 books in 2022.

Regionally, American and British readers tended to be high consumers of books (39% and 44% respectively reading more than 20 books), whereas Canadians tended to be lighter readers (23% reading more than 20 books).

Global statistics of THGM book reading trends survey 2022-2023 – how many books

Worth noting is that some people felt we limited the question too much by making “more than 20 books” the top category. “Over 100 books,” commented one Canadian reader. “Having 20+ as the highest category seems very low,” commented a British reader.

If people are reading so many books, what are those books about? You will find the answer in Key finding 3.

Key finding 2: People plan to read more in 2023.

Predictions that the end of books was nigh have proven to be premature. If books are to fade into obscurity one day, that day is not yet on the horizon. In fact, the data shows that people plan to read even more in 2023 than they did in 2022.

Survey says: 64% of readers plan to read more books in 2023 than they did in 2022. Just 3% plan to read fewer books. These results are fairly similar across all regions. One Kenyan reader summed up the mood of the survey: “I enjoyed all the reading this year. I’m looking forward to reading more.”

Whether people end up reading more in 2023 or simply aspire to do so, only a well-oiled crystal ball will tell. Nevertheless, the intention to read more shows that their love of books remains strong.

Reading is alive and well. In the words of one Australian reader: “I just love reading, it’s my favourite pastime.”

Global statistics of THGM book reading trends survey 2022-2023 –  read more

If people plan to read more, what are they planning to read? You will find the answer in Key finding 4.

Key finding 3: The top books people love reading are history, mystery and biography.

We asked people about the books they are reading. We wanted to know if they were reading fiction or non-fiction. And we wanted to know what genres were their books. Let’s see what the statistics show.

Survey says: according to the latest book reading statistics, the top three genres around the world in 2022 were:

  • History (34%)
  • Mystery (33%)
  • Biography/memoir (31%)

We noted some minor regional differences. Canadians were much less interested in history. Meanwhile, UK readers showed a strong interest in fantasy.

Global statistics of THGM book reading trends survey 2022-2023 – genres in 2022

Other well-read genres were fantasy, science fiction and self-help. Both other fiction and other non-fiction were selected by many readers (36% and 34% respectively), meaning that next year we will have to add more categories. And many respondents offered suggestions. Here are a few of them:

  • “I love reading poetry books, maybe that should be a category.” (Kenyan reader)
  • “Horror and cookbooks aren’t listed. I read a lot of those.” (US reader)
  • “I also read a lot of children’s books to my preschooler.” (Canadian reader)
  • “I also read a lot of spiritual and poetry.” (US reader)
  • “It isn’t specifically on your list, but I read a lot of horror and multi-genre.” (US reader)
  • “I normally love to read more spiritual books with lots of history and knowledge.” (Indian reader)
  • “I read a lot of plays and fanfiction.” (Canadian reader)
  • “I read little modern fiction, no mysteries or romances. Strongly prefer poetry, non-fiction, and older novels.” (US reader)
  • “You don’t have a category for poetry or one for short stories, so I had to lump both together under ‘Other Fiction.’“ (US reader)
  • “I read mostly non-genre fiction and philosophy.” (Canadian reader)
  • “I like reading freestyle poetry as well.” (Pakistani reader)
  • “I’m an adult who reads a lot of horror and non-fic, but I still read graphic novels, picture books, & chapter books, too.” (US reader)
  • “I read mainly 20th century paperback horror. there wasn’t a genre option for horror but I focused a lot on that.” (US reader)
  • “I read a lot of LGBTQAI leaning books.” (Irish reader)
  • “Love horror and true crime.” (US reader)
  • “Philosophy!” (Canadian reader)
  • “Popular science and literature.” (UK reader)
  • “Social justice, education, psychology.” (US reader)

So, it looks like next year, we will expand the categories. At very least, we’ll need to add  horror, poetry, children’s books, philosophy, spiritual and comics (like manga and graphic novels).

Key finding 4: Readers want to read more history, mystery and biography.

If people said they plan to read more in 2023, it should come as no surprise that more people plan to read each genre in 2023 than in 2022.

Survey says: the three top genres people around the world plan to read in 2023 are:

  • History (39%)
  • Mystery (35%)
  • Biography/memoir (34%)

Other in-demand genres were fantasy, science fiction and adventure. Both other fiction and other non-fiction were selected by many readers (38% and 35% respectively).

In the graph below, the numbers and the blue bars represent what people plan to read in 2023. They are superimposed over the yellow bars, which represent what people read in 2022. You can see that in almost every genre, the statistics show that people aspire to read more than in 2023.

Global statistics of THGM book reading trends survey 2022-2023 – genres 2023

Again, we noted some miner regional differences. Canadians were much less interested in history, and much more interested in science fiction. Meanwhile, American readers want to read a lot more “other fiction”. This strengthens our need to add more categories, such as poetry, horror and comics/manga, next year.

Key finding 5: People still love paper books.

The demise of books has been predicted – and disputed – for over a decade. Yet, people are still reading them.

wrote about the pros and cons of eBooks in 2017, citing more pros than cons. Yet, I still read paper. Am I the only one? That’s not what the book reading statistics in our survey say. We asked people to name the one format they read the most in 2022.

Survey says: 57% of people read paper (print books) most – 41% paperback and 16% hard cover. 32% of readers chose eBooks – 20% Kindle and 12% other eBooks. Another 8% listened to audio books and 3% chose “other” (which might include comic books, brail or some other format).

Global statistics of THGM book reading trends survey 2022-2023 – paper versus eBooks

That is a strong vote of confidence in paper around the world, but with some equally strong regional differences.

Americans are less interested in paper and somewhat more interested in all other formats. Striking is the 29% of American readers who love their Kindles. Canadians show the exact opposite inclination, with 67% reading mostly paper, including 53% paperbacks, and just 23% opting for eBooks.

Amercian book readers love Kindle, but Canadians are paperback print book fans

Key finding 6: People like the length of their books.

Writers sometimes struggle with their manuscripts. Have I included too much? Do I need more detail? Will people find my book too short or too long?

Writers: just keep doing what you are doing.

Survey says: according to the latest book reading statistics, 86% of readers think their books are just the right length. 11% think they are too long in this age of short attention spans, but 3% of dedicated can’t-get-enough readers think their books are too short.

Of course, not everyone agrees. One Italian reader said, “I love really long reads, something I can really dive into.” But an American reader countered, “Books over 600 pages really slow you down. No end in sight.”

Key finding 7: Readers come in all ages.

If you thought that the enduring popularity of books, and paper books in particular, was due to old-timers having difficulty adapting to new technology, this survey suggests otherwise.

Survey says: There are roughly equal number of readers 25-34, 35-44, 45-54 and 55-64.

Global statistics of THGM book reading trends survey 2022-2023 – age of readers

Key finding 8: More women see themselves as readers than men.

Who reads more, women or men?

Survey says: 56% of respondents were women, 42% were men and 1% identified as other. This divide was even more pronounced in the United States, where two-thirds of respondents were women. This is consistent with other research that shows girls and women around the world read more books.

Global statistics of THGM book reading trends survey 2022-2023 – gender of readers

Survey methodology and limitations

We surveyed 945 people about their reading habits in December 2022 to gather book reading data. Because this is an Internet poll, no margin of error is assigned to the results. The results have not been weighted by age, gender, location or any other factor.

This was not a random survey. Respondents tended to self-identify as “readers”. Most people who do not read books or have not read books in a while declined to participate. When citing this survey, it would be most accurate to refer to “world readers”.

The survey was disseminated primarily through social media. The accounts used to reach people were primarily on Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as on Facebook and some smaller networks. The bias on these accounts, based on the composition of their followers, skews towards:

  • writers, authors and self-identified book lovers
  • bloggers and online marketers
  • other artists (musicians, crafters, photographers, etc.)

The bias on these accounts, based on the composition of their followers, skews away from:

  • sports-themed accounts
  • religion-focused themes
  • scientists and healthcare accounts
  • fashion-focused accounts
  • food- and travel-themed accounts

In the global results, there is a massive bias towards English-speaking people, and therefore English-dominant countries. In particular, Canada is overrepresented for its size. We do not consider the UK sample size large enough for us to treat it as statistically definitive; it should be consumed for “entertainment value” only.

A HUGE “Thank you!” to all who completed the 2022-2023 reading survey and shared their book reading habits with us. You people rock!

Readers rock

Permission is granted to republish the graphics on this page and cite the book reading statistics. Attribution is required, and a link back would be appreciated (and useful for readers) but not required.

We’ll leave the final word to a participant from Algeria: “I love books. Everyone should read a book.”

About David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, a published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

Read more about David Leonhardt

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Sunday, January 22, 2023

New Books to Read Right Now: Billy the Goat, Tunde's Red Hen, The Adventures of Nihu and Why Always Me?


Our part in life is to persevere and learn as quickly as we can, for our victory depends upon our perception of the world

Kids - Bedtime and Dreams, 

Kids - Illustrated Stories

eBook: Tunde's Red Hen

Tunde’s Red Hen

Author: Omoruyi Uwuigiaren

Publisher: Fiction4All

Imprint: Dragon Claw Books



Tunde did not know his loyalty to his red hen would be tested. The boy wanted the best for the hen, but an intruder wanted the hen and everything for itself. For the hen to survive, the boy must be brave.




Chapter Three


Later on the day, Tunde’s father had arrived from work. The man sunk into his favourite chair when Tunde ran to him. “Welcome, Daddy!”

“Tunde, how are you today?” he smiled. He began to untie his shoelaces. Once the laces were undone, he took his shoes and socks off.

The boy wore a frown and hissed. “I am not fine,” he managed to reply and lowered his head.

“What is the problem?” The man sat up and turned to his troubled son. He began to unbutton his shirt.

“My hen refused to lay eggs!”

Tunde’s father chuckled. He adjusted his huge frame and stroked the boy on the head. “Someone is stealing the eggs! Did anyone fry eggs in this house last week?”

“No. Except for the ones that mummy fried last night. And I was the person that bought them!

The man sat back. He paused with hand to chin as his mind began to work. “Something must be wrong,” he finally broke his silence. “Did you inspect the cage?” He took off his shirt.

“Inspect the cage for what?”

“Your hen ought to have laid many eggs by now. If the eggs are not stolen, there could only be one reason why we don’t see eggs!”

“What is it?” Tunde glanced up at his father.

“As you know, we live near the bush. A snake could crawl into the compound through any little opening on our walls to swallow the eggs!” his father answered.

“So snakes swallow eggs?” Tunde beats his chest and gasps.

“Of course, some do. When I was a boy, we had a similar concern. My father thought his children were stealing his eggs. So, each time his eggs went missing, the whole family suffered.”

“How? Did he flog all you?”

“Yes! My father valued his eggs like gold. Sometimes he punishes us by asking us to skip meals. Yet, that did not solve the problem. One day, my elder brother decided to find out who was behind this. He suspected that it must be a snake but no one believed.

“A friend gave my brother an idea. He told him to buy some boiled eggs and put them in the cage. My brother did without us knowing. Once it was evening, he sneak to the cage and replaced the fresh eggs with the seven boiled eggs. The device worked. We woke up the next day to see a big black snake near the cage.

“The snake had swallowed several boiled eggs and could not move. The eggs choked the creature. Only God could have made my father believe that it was not his children that were stealing his eggs. He called us thieves! As you know, society does not like thieves!

“The next day, my brother ran into the house to inform us that he found the thief. I thought the thief was a human being. As soon as we heard the news, we rushed out of the house and followed him to the backyard. Only to find a snake that had made our lives a nightmare. We were very angry at the sight of the creature. The morning was our day!

“The snake was like the still waters because it could not move. It had swallowed over five boiled eggs. My father grabbed a club near the house and laid it eight or more times on the animal. The snake writhed from one end to another until it expired.

“We burnt it and buried its remains in the nearby bush. My elder brother had saved us from punishment and hunger. Ashamed of himself, my father regretted treating his children as thieves. That same day, he called a family meeting and apologized for his mistakes and we forgave him.”

After the long speech, Tunde’s father sat back. He breathed. “Tunde, we can solve this problem with some boiled eggs!” he said. He placed his hand in his pocket and brought out some money. “Take. Go and buy some boiled eggs from the grocer!”

Tunde took the money and ran very fast out of the house. Moments later, he was back with the eggs. Tunde and his father went to the cage near the fence and put the four boiled eggs there. They locked the cage and moved away.


Add to Cart

Billy The Goat

Author: Omoruyi Uwuigiaren

Publisher: Fiction4All

Imprint: Dragon Claw Books



It was the rainy season. Billy's house was under the water. Fleeing to the mountain won't save the goat from trouble. If Billy decides to stay and fix everything, there could be consequences.




Chapter Two


The rainy season had begun. Billy was hungry. The white goat bounds off to the field to eat some grasses, weeds and tree bark. The goat did not worry about his safety.

It had rained for two days. Parts of the forest near the river were under water and it was cold. As the goat ate in a nearby bush, it began to rain again. Billy didn’t like it.

Each time it rains, it is hard for forest animals to enjoy meal time. “Oh my house,” Billy cried. He raised his head. He looked at the sky and to the corner of the forest he called home. “I forgot to lock my windows! If I do not go back  and lock them, the rain will mess things up. I have not eaten to my fill. What should I do?” Billy paused and tried to think. “I can always come back to the field,” he frowned. “If I don’t act fast, I won’t be safe. The river could overflow its bank. That could put me in danger.”

For his own safety, Billy had to go back home. As the poor goat bounds off, the river continues to rise. Rain water started creeping into the low lands. This slowed him down. As soon as Billy got to the corner of the forest he called home, he locked the door and windows. Safe and happy, he sank into his favorite chair.

Billy tried to read a book. After turning a few pages, he dozed off. Not long after, the goat was snoring hard on the chair.

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Why Always Me by
Omoruyi Uwuigiaren

Why Always Me?

Author: Omoruyi Uwuigiaren

Publisher: Fiction4All

Imprint: Dragon Claw Books


There was trouble. Tom was at the heart of everything. When it involved the police, things did start to spiral out of control. You don't need to know everything. You only need to know enough. He had to work late again even though it was Christmas Eve. But now, at last, the hammer had fallen on him! As soon as he was indoors, Tom sank into his favorite chair. After a time, he sat up and drew his rickety table. The little man lit up the room and his face looked pale in the lamplight. He took the letter out of his pocket. He lowered his bifocals. He glanced above them at the letter and a deep melancholy settled over his spirit. The company had sacked Tom and it was a bitter pill to swallow. "WHY ALWAYS ME?" he banged the table.




Chapter One - Hard Times


Tom wore a long face and trudged on. His trousers had faded and clothed with dust. Reaching the threshold, he inserted the key into the lock and embraced his house. He hissed and slammed the door behind him, for the evening was the worst day of his life. He had to work late again even though it was Christmas Eve. But now, at last, the hammer had fallen on him! As soon as he was indoors, Tom sank into his favorite chair. After a time, he sat up and drew his rickety table. The little man lit up the room and his face looked pale in the lamplight. He took the letter out of his pocket. He lowered his bifocals. He glanced above them at the letter and a deep melancholy settled over his spirit. The company had sacked Tom and it was a bitter pill to swallow. “WHY ALWAYS ME?” he banged the table.

Tom had disposed of the letter when he heard a faint knock on the door. “Who’s there?”

“It’s I, Priscilla,” her voice was as soft as the morning breeze.

Tom masked his anger with an exaggerated smile and opened the door. He said a friendly good evening to her. “I am sure you came to inquire why I did not attend the church service. My employer asked me to work extra hours…”

“Oh, I understand,” the lady smiled as Tom led her into his humble home. Priscilla sat on a chair with her back to the wall. She placed her hands on her thighs and glanced at the little man. “I have good news for you.” She revealed, “God told me that you have lost your job. But He will use this setback to turn your life around.”

A ray of hope flushed over Tom’s suntanned face as he sat up and muttered, “Amen!”

She closed her eyes and faced the ceiling. Priscilla brought her hands together, making recitations as if she was praying to a powerful god. Then she paused and turned to Tom. She swallowed hard and said, “The Company downsized to reduce cost…”

“Yes. The manager told me they will downsize. But I never saw this coming,” Tom nodded almost a million times. “I didn’t plan for it. I am confused!”

“I understand,” the prophetess said. "You can bounce back. I have a secret that will make you rich. Do you want to hear?”

“Yes, oh yes!” the little man answered. He straightened his chin and looked at her face.

“You have an eighteen carat diamond ring you inherited from your father. It’s wrapped up in a handkerchief in the right-hand corner of the third drawer. God said you are to get it and give it to me!”

Tom gasped and beat his chest. “Ah, my heirloom? I have never told anyone about it. How did you know I have it under my roof?”

Priscilla laughed, “God told me now. It’s the spirit. Do as he had said and you will be fine!”

The little man chewed his lower lips as he imagined that his setback was temporary. He would live in luxury for the rest of his life if he turns the diamond over to Priscilla. Then he sat back and scratched his head. She was right about the diamond in the drawer, he thought. He decided to give this a try. Everything that she had said was true. As if he was under a spell, he rose to his feet and moved to the corner, and then returned to the table with the heirloom. Priscilla grabbed it and placed it in her pocket. “I like people who obey God,” she smiled and gave him a hug. “If you need another hug, just ask,” she heaved. “Follow me!”

“Where are we going?” Tom yawned and shifted his weight to one leg.

She rubbed her hands together. “I want to introduce you to a friend. If you have a little money, he knows how to multiply it many times over!”

Tom dreamed of the money. He said, “Thank you. I will be forever grateful, Priscilla.”

Priscilla held his hand and they walked out of the house.


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New Book to Read
The Adventures of Nihu

The Adventures of Nihu

Author: Omoruyi Uwuigiaren

Publisher: Fiction4All

Imprint: Dragon Claw Books



Nihu is falsely accused of a crime and is banished to the Lonely Forest. He is challenged with a mission by a magical character. As brave Nihu quests to fulfill the mission and gain his freedom, he is sucked into a world inside of a stone, visits a powerful ruler in an underwater city, and makes friends with a group of refugees only a hero could love.





Old Phil’s time was up. The next day he would be leaving for the countryside. “I am already dreaming of home. It will be the new start to the life I have always wished to live. It will be a heaven every night. A man is for himself, but God is for us all.” Old Phil was once again seated on the log outside the hut.         

            “Yes. You are right.” Nihu was straddled next to him. He nodded. “God is for everyone.”

“Even me. Surviving the perils in this Lonely Forest means so much to me. I ought to give gratitude to the one that protects my soul. I do not do it ordinarily. I have to be tough.”

            “I expect that of you. God is a tough mogul. We need to be worthy if we hope to find His favor.”

            “But which god do you think I’m talking about, Nihu?”

            “The god of our forefathers.”

            “Does he really exist?” He brought his hands together, making recitations as if he was praying. Then he stopped and turned to Nihu. “Any result in that? Nothing. I will say my prayers facing heaven henceforth. My deliverance must have come from there.”

            “Are you sure?”

            “I don’t know. I just want try new things since my past had not yielded any result other than troubles. However, I have prayed throughout my life. Good moral conduct must be trapped somewhere in my heart ever since I set my foot into this world of beauty and terror. Do you believe me, Nihu?” He looked deep into the boy’s eyes.

            “I can’t find falsehood in that, at all. But I think it is too late to start finding perpetual faults in your life.”

            “Oh, faults? They are gone. In the past, I had many. My life was no better than a rat’s, which is left to struggle for survival in the heart of the red sea. My weaknesses brought me a hard knock life. Macques would tell you my odds of survival if he were here with us. He tells my story more accurately and with a lot more feeling than I do. However, he had a talking impediment. Often, his tongue added more excitement to every word that walked out of him. One would think his words drop like wind-blown rain.”

            “That’s a terrible burden to carry.” Nihu thought of something else Phil had said. “Do you derive much pleasure in mediations?”

            “Yes, oh yes. My meditations have yielded results. The last time I was under the influence of morning mediation, I saw dwarf angel. It looked like a green mallard. It told me all would be well with me. I am sure it had come to give me hope of returning to glory after the truckload of the misfortunes I have experienced here. I will hold a holy service of songs when I return home. That is the first thing I will do when I get there.”

            “But you have nothing now. The King now owns your house.”

            “Of course. I expect to join my brother right away. He will be very happy to see me aliveThe celebration will carry to the next level.”

“What does he do for a living?” Nihu shifted on the log.

“He is a farmer. And his well is deep enough to swallow ten of your stature.”

            “Then you will be well. I thought you were just like every journeyman whose heaven is the street inn or corner. After every blessed day, he seeks comfort in a wonder of unholy women. When the police come to raid, you will only see his back.”

“This journeyman has served his time for offending others.” Old Phil removed his old hat that revealed rivers of sweat that were carefully gliding down his hollow cheeks. With the back of his hand, he rubbed them off his face and slapped the hat back on his head.

“I have a dream, a big one indeed. My survival means I was not guilty at all. There are people who believed in me because I have had a positive effect on their lives.” Old Phil straightened his shoulders, raising his chin.

“Things will be different for you now. Your travails are over.” Nihu sighed quietly, chin in hand. 

            “Surviving the Lonely Forest to tell the people of the devils here is news. No one in recent memory has returned from here alive. Do you realize that? I am the first. If you survive too, you can expect to increase your fortune ten-fold when you get back to the countryside. God will see to that.”

            “That will be a grand accomplishment for an old soldier like you. I cannot hope to follow you.” Nihu revealed a trail of discouragement on his face. “I will be well into my years by the time I am allowed to walk out of here. If I survive to that day.” He gazed desolately at the old man.

Old Phil looked straight into the eye of the disenfranchised youth, “Nihu, there is always hope. God has made sure of that. I believe you can survive just as I have survived all these years. Live bravely, your day will come.”

            He rose to his feet, “Let’s go out together to hunt for the last time. The animal we bring in will be my parting gift for you.” He smiled at the boy. Nihu returned it weakly. Old Phil would soon be gone for good.

“I will be with you in a moment.” The old man said. “I want to bring my old Dane gun that has always hit its mark.” He entered the hut as Nihu lowered his head between his thighs scratching in the Earth with a stick.

            In a few minutes, Phil emerged, fully dressed in his hunting attire. “Boy, you must get ready. The forest awaits our ambitions. So it would seem. But it is a beginning that brings us closer to the end.”        Nihu got slowly to his feet, as if he was being forced to go against his principles. He went into the hut to get all he would need for the hunt. He took the spear that was in the doorway and returned to Old Phil’s side. “I am ready,” he said quietly.      

            “Look, Nihu, upon our return to the cabin, we shall have a long swim in the river, you hear me?”


            “And I remember you told me you have a flute and that you can play very well. You must play for me. I will dance like a man celebrating in triumph before leaving for the countryside.”

            “I will play as well as I can. May the gods find favor.”

            “You will engender favor by celebrating with me. It is well that a body casts doubt and fear aside so that he might honor another’s good fortune. So, Nihu, I want the best from you.” He coughed and his hat fell off his head. He went for it and added, “I will send prayers for you every day that your sojourn here will be as uneventful as possible.”

            They walked down the path in silence for a while. Presently, Old Phil inquired if Nihu had his flute with him.

“No, I left it in my rucksack in the hut.”

            “I was tempted to ask you to play now a dreamy song of the countryside.” Old Phil sighed. “Oh well, it will wait until we return.”

They trampled the dry leaves, heading for the interior of the forest, Old Phil leading Nihu who followed slowly behind. Phil was almost skipping in happy anticipation as if heading to a glorious alter. After some time, the forest swallowed them up, as if wanting them to become a part of the Lonely Forest forever. It is hard to say which of them would have bargained harder for his freedom.

            By sunset, the two had not yet found a single animal that Old Phil could have gotten with a clean shot. The evening was beginning to stare them down and there was no animal in sight. The day had finally surrendered to the coming of the evening powers. Both were tired and had little strength left. Old Phil’s shoulder has sagged and Nihu could barely lift his feet. Without speaking, they stopped to rest under a tree. Old Phil broke the long silence that had stood between them. “Nihu, what shall we do? We cannot remain here like stagnant waters on the street of the local district. I wanted to celebrate properly, not in such a weak manner. The fun must start right away.”

            “What shall we do?”

“Just watch me. You may learn the way the army of the countryside celebrates their victories after a hard fought battle.” The old man got to his feet and sent bullets from his old Dane gun into the air. As excitement within him grew, he let more bullets into the air, chanting old spirited songs of victory that every soldier of the countryside sings when the mission has gone the right way. Old Phil let go more bullets until he had none left in his gun.

            Satisfied he turned to Nihu, “Boy, let’s return to the hut. The bullets have served their purpose. I feel as good as if they had brought down a tasty beast. What is more exciting than forest life? A forest where even the trees now believe in my prowess and wits?” He caught Nihu’s eye. “I can see you are glum. Lively up, Nihu. No need to bury your head in discouragement. We can get one of the monkeys near the hut to fill our bellies. I will show you the stores of provisions I have made and of course, the hut is yours to live in.  Tomorrow, I leave you to your life. A solitary life is not such a bad thing.  I have new-found confidence after I have eaten and lived with the jungle devils that never cease to arrive at my doorstep.”

            “At least, I was able to get to know you for a little while,” Nihu was resigned to his fate. “Living with you was not written into my banishment order. It was luck that I met you here and now circumstance is now setting us apart. Your time here is done. The providence that kept you alive all these years can also deliver me from painful claws of death.”

“It is good to hear you say such things. Nevertheless, be careful. Macquesemis had much faith in providence, but today his remains rest under the shade of an old oak tree. Let us go.” Old Phil put his hand on the boy’s shoulder as they set off in the direction of the hut.

            The light was waning and they went along quietly. The dry leaves crackled under their boots. Nihu’s eyes spied a walnut tree; the ripe fruits among its leaves spoke to his stomach. Up the tree he went. With a hand on one of the tree’s fruits, he called out, “Phil, I will be along presently. No need to wait but a moment.” He went for another as Old Phil continued alone.

“I will wait for you by the river. Just be careful.” His voice carried back as Nihu faded into the tree.

“Who would find me up here?” Nihu wondered in a whisper. “I will pluck some walnuts and catch up to him before the river.”

            Old Phil waved his left arm into the air by way of farewell as he went down the path, suffering the dry leaves and grasses under his worn boots. Just as he pursed his lips to whistle a tune for companionship, a lion leapt onto his path. Seeing the old man, it charged without hesitation. Old Phil had less than two seconds to face the animal with his Dane gun, ready with his finger on the trigger to dispatch the animal to its grave. In a twinkling, it dawned on him that the gun was empty and he had no other option but to flee. As he turned to run, the lion pounced.

            Nihu heard the roar and knew Old Phil was in peril. An agonized cry from the old man and another roar from the beast set the forest ablaze in the quiet night. Nihu jumped from the tree, took hold of his spear that he had left leaning against it, and hurried to the scene where Old Phil was battling to stay alive underneath a wild lion. The lion had the attack advantage and had Phil pinned to the ground. Old Phil was trying his best to roll away from the lion’s claws and teeth, but he cried aloud and panted for air.

            Nihu raised his spear above his head and raced into the melee to save Old Phil from becoming a meal for the wild beast. He struck the lion in the neck, a little below the mane. The spear stuck deep in the neck of the lion, but the handle came apart in his hand and Nihu could only hope that a second strike would not be necessary. He stood back, as the lion, knocked off his feet, struggled with fate. Old Phil, battling hard to overcome blackout, made a final effort to send his foe to the world beyond. He drew his jackknife from his boot, sat up and slit the lion’s belly. The lion lay still at last.

            Old Phil sank back and began to gasp for his life in the pool of his blood. Nihu rushed to him in a horrible fright, to see if he could save the old man from dying at the brink of his release. He knelt by the old man’s bloody head, took it onto his lap and tried to encourage the old soldier back to life. “Phil, you are strong. Stronger than the willows in the brook. You must not die.” Tears flooded his eyes. “I will care for you in the hut for as long as it takes.”

            Old Phil struggled valiantly against the incoming blackness. “No, Nihu, it is too late already for medicine. I have met my fate today. A soldier never travels through the woods with an empty gun. Had I remembered that, I would be worthy to see my home again. Former deeds cannot insure survival in hell. My life is tragedy and I hope you might learn something from it. I advise you to take your own life, my boy. Do not wait for the devil of beast or disease to ravage you. You must find a way out of here . . .” He gasped and choked as speech left him. His head rolled to one side as the last of life faded from his lips.

            Nihu stroked Old Phil’s face and wept bitterly as he recognized that the old man’s ghost had gone. “No, no, Phil. No! You cannot leave like this. This is not how it’s supposed to be!” He fell on the dead man and wept, harder than ever before in his life. He wailed aloud in the dark until he could cry no more.

            Somehow, he managed to drag the remains of the old man back to the hut where he found a shovel to dig a grave. After he finished the mound, he built a small fire and went in for his flute. Returning to the graveside, he began to pay Old Phil his last respects. The melody was a dirge, played for fallen heroes in the countryside. It was equally good enough to move one’s feet. However, Nihu remained seated on a log as he played out his despair.

            Presently, a deer came out of the woods into the clearing. It made few steps toward the fire and transformed into a white dwarf that began to dance to the melody. Nihu’s heart jumped into his mouth. He stopped playing and watched the creature, fear gripping his heart. In the absence of music, the dwarf continued to dance. The flute slipped from Nihu’s grasp as his grip relaxed and the dwarf, cloaked in animal skins, laughed. The eyes in the sockets of his skull were incredibly large and yellow and quite terrible to look at. The dwarf skipped forward a few steps and laughed a terrifying laugh in Nihu’s face, revealing a crooked set of yellow teeth.

“You are good. You play well. If not, I would have had to eat you.” The dwarf stared into the boy’s eyes. “I have watched you bury your dead countryman and when you pulled out your flute I forgot everything to dance. I don’t get much chance for festivities anymore.”

Nihu’s eyes widened. He plucked up his spirit to ask, “Who are you?”

            “I am Magonda, the god of the Lonely Forest. I rule everything here.” The bulging eyes of the dwarf were fixed on Nihu. He did not look pleasant or friendly. A dwarf’s countenance can send one’s courage packing at the drop of a hat. Being stared at by one of them was an invitation to flee.

Cold jitters ran down Nihu’s spine. The bravery that had come to him in the face of the lion had gone. Nihu could only wait for the kind of consolation that old Philominenges got or the slow death that swallowed Macquesemis. Yet something the dwarf had said prompted an inquiry to the quick-thinking boy. As if probing a weak spot in the dwarf’s reply, Nihu crossed his arms over his body and threw out his question. “If you rule here as you say, why didn’t you prevent the lion’s attack and the snake bite that killed the men that lived here for so many years?”

            The dwarf was unfazed and laughed, covering his mouth with a hand as rough as the back of a turtle. This protected the dismal sight of his teeth from the eyes of the boy. The laugh bowed his body to the ground. Then he stopped abruptly, and threw a wicked look at Nihu. “Why didn’t I save your countrymen from their deaths? I ordered their deaths. It was as I wished. Your friends caused me no end of trouble since the day they arrived here.”

            “So you killed them?” Nihu could not take his eyes from the proud creature’s face. 

“Yes. Moreover, I can end you, too, with a devilish zap such as this. He drew a short battle-axe from his cloak and threw it at a tree. The piercing not only ravaged the tree, it destroyed other trees in a wide swath behind it. When Nihu turned to see the ruin, his eyes widened, for the battle-axe had cut down over ten trees with that one hit. The dwarf raised his hand to catch the axe that flew back to his grasp.

Nihu realized his peril, and his knees knocked ferociously together. “Please, let me go.”

            “Yes, indeed. Your fancy flute playing has saved your life. I will let you go on one condition. I want you to go to the western mountain.” He pointed with his left hand into the gloom beyond Nihu’s fire. “It is at the far end of the forest and is a home of evil powers; a place of frequent volcano eruptions that has cost this forest and other areas their natural beauty. When you get there,” he brought out a smooth, round stone, “you will drop this stone in the pit of fire. If you do that for me, I will spare you forever.”

            “Where is the pit of fire?”

            “It is right there in the mountain. Your intuition will lead you to it.”

            “Can’t you tell me the way?”

            “You will have to find it yourself. That is my price for your freedom. If you fail, I will kill you as I did to a thousand-man army that came to war with me many years ago. I am sure they are from your land. Look here and you will see.”

Magonda opened his cloak and raised his arm as if forming a large wing. Nihu saw a scene of a bloody war revealed in the cloth. A battle was being fought between the wood demons led by Magonda, and country army sent by his own king, who had believed the powers in the Lonely Forest, could be conquered as any foreign enemy they had successfully driven from the kingdom.


*     *     *


            Men approached the Lonely Forest like insects with swords, javelins, long spears, and short-handled battle-axes with heads as big as the head of a four-fisted wrecking ball. They carried shields meant to protect against the onslaught of the wood demons. As they advanced, the plain in front of the forest began to vomit horrible looking creatures. Zombies formed out of the ground, carrying weapons like those of the enemy. They prepared to confront the intruders in a showdown.

Seeing the zombies readying themselves for attack, the invaders roared and charged, raising their weapons above their heads. As they were about to close in, the army halted as if sizing up their opponents. The leader stepped forward. A man of a considerable height, his neck was as thick as the handle of his battle-axe. He instructed the soldiers handling the bows and arrows to step forward and then commanded them to shoot. A thousand arrows were let loose, which descended like night rain on the wood demons. They received the shots as if there was nothing significant about them at all. If an arrow pierced anywhere in their bodies, they drew it out and bit off the point, as if eating from a plate at a banquet. When the country army saw that their shots did no harm to the wood demons, the leader cried out to attack right away. The soldiers roared, raising their spears and axes to high heavens and raced across the field to the clash. Likewise, the wood demons ran down the plain to meet their adversary.

            Heads began to roll and blood flowed like a river. The zombies had the upper hand and the army fell like a pack of cards. Suddenly, the zombies began to vanish, disappearing into the forest as if they had lost all lust for battle. Greatly encouraged the survivors pressed their advantage and advanced into the woods.

            The battle took a new turn when they got to the forest. The soldiers stood in amazement as they discovered that the demons they had chased were nowhere in sight. They seemed to have mixed with the air. As the armies were still looking confusedly to every side, strange cries like wild wolves filled the air. The howling grew and the men stood in fear, holding their weapons in an iron grip.

            A rumble shook the ground and moments later a pack of giant wolves leapt upon the men from every direction, sending a host of them to early graves. The soldiers did not give up in the face of the massacre. They fought gallantly and were able to overcome the wolves that turned to ashes when a capable soldier’s lance made good its mark. After a ferocious onslaught, the wolves retreated into the wooded forest.

            The men were still lamenting the huge number of deaths to their camp, when they noticed trees around crackling. They fixed their eyes on the developing cracks. Mythical zombies like the ones they battled earlier began to come out of the trees. Immediately, they pounced on the remaining army and another round of breathtaking battle ensued. These zombies were even more horrible than the first contingent was. They were cannibals whose fingernails skewered their prey as they feasted on all they could lay their hands on. This completely demoralized the remaining troops. They took to their heels. As they ran, trees began to vomit arrows after them. At every turn, men fell and died. The zombies increased their numbers and made many meals out of the corpses. They were still in frenzy when Magonda, the ruler of the Lonely Forest, emerged to survey the scene. Recognizing him at once, the creatures got up and bowed to their god. Then quietly, they retreated into the trees from whence they had come.


*     *     *


Nihu watched the scene fade with a heavy heart.

            “You are but a gnat in my teeth,” said Magonda. “A wolf would make short work of you.”

            “That is what I want. Kill me now. No need to send me to a place where I will die like a poor dog. And now I know I am not meant to return home from this place.”

The dwarf laughed, “So you prefer to die, Nihu?”

            “Yes. It is better. I am ready now.”

The white dwarf opened his mouth. A whirlwind came out of it and transformed into a great gorilla. The beast roared, beating hard on its chest. Without thinking of his prior resolve, Nihu took to his heels with his feet almost touching the back of his head like an antelope broken loose from the snare of a desperate hunter. The beast had the speed of ten men and chased Nihu around the camp. They went past trees and bushes with amazing speed. Nihu was no match for the agile beast who finally pounced, crushing him to the ground. He roared with the roar of a rampaging river that has broken free of a dam. He grabbed hold of one of Nihu’s legs and suspended him in the air. Magonda came forward.

            “STOP!” the dwarf ordered. “I have no reason to want you dead, Nihu. You did not disrupt my home like your compatriots. You did not upset my animals, you did not hurt my trees, and you did not make noise. I am pleased with your playing. Those countrymen of yours got what they deserved.”

            “Will you free me?”

            “I will. Are you ready to do as I asked?”

            “I will, if you let me go.”

            The dwarf signaled to the gorilla. He dropped Nihu on the ground and stalked off into the dark night. “If you do as I instruct, the powers in the mountain will not destroy you. However, if you try to outsmart me, you will never come back alive. The trail to the mountain is as difficult as walking on the wheels of fire. However, the quest must be completed. I must confess, even if I knew where the pit was, I could not tell you. I will give you this battle-axe. Once you cast the stone into the pit, it will start work for you.”

            “If I may ask, why can’t you cast the stone yourself?”

            “You will find out when you get there.”

            Magonda handed the stone and the battle-axe to Nihu. He took them gingerly. “The axe will work for you immediately upon accomplishing the task before you,” repeated the dwarf.

            Nihu was still contemplating the Herculean task that was ahead of him when the dwarf became a black panther and bounded beyond sight of the glowing embers. Nihu shuffled through the dark to the hut and sank onto the wooden bed, covering himself with a cover of animal skin he found on the bed. The darkness grew as a giant troll, making it dangerous to venture out for a night hunt, as hunters would do in the bush tribes. Stars refused to smile, starving the Earth of brightness.

            Nihu had yet to put the day behind him. He kept thinking of the white dwarf and could not sleep. The days ahead held so much uncertainty. There was no lamp in the hut and it was pitching dark. As the night sunk into every crevice and corner, Nihu threw the cover off his body. He got hold of the battle-axe and the stone and began to run his hands over them in the huge darkness. After some time, he sank into sleep. An old soldier like Phil or Macquesemis might have been wakeful, knowing from experience what things he might face by embarking on such a journey, a mission full of danger and with little hope of success. Nihu however was only a boy and he began to snore very hard in the quiet hands of the night.

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