Summary of The Famished Road by Ben Okri

The Famished Road

Summary of The Famished Road by Ben Okri

Famished Road

Summary of The Famished Road by Ben Okri

Famished Road is a novel written by a Nigerian author, Ben Okri, published in 1991 and won Man Booker Prize for fiction, the same year. The novel was an inspiration for Roadhead’s “Street Spirit.”

Famished Road tells a story of a spirit child, Azoro, known as Abiku in the novel, who was destined not to survive infancy.

Azoro is tasked not to live beyond puberty and still comes again for rebirth. However, Azoro, who’s the protagonist of the novel, wishes not to die prematurely against the spirits’ wish due to his love for his birth parents.

Right from birth, Azoro’s parents knew he was a spirit child, so they tried to sever his ties with the underworld through witches. Sometimes, Azoro gets lost in his dream and has to be revived to life by powerful herbalists. His power shows in different ways, mostly in dreams, where he foresees events to happen in the future.

The spirit world adopts different approaches to get Azoro stuck in their spiritual realm, but Azoro always gets rescued by his parents. There was a day he almost got buried, but fortunately, he became conscious only on his way to a grave in a casket.

Azoro as a child was unaware of his actions but knew as he got older. He frequently got commands from the spirit world to flee his home to an unknown destination, causing his parents stress. He once ran from the home after getting clairvoyance from the spirits and ended in the den of priestesses, whose desires were to harvest his spiritual power for themselves.

Luck playing at his side, he escaped to a police officer’s home where he encountered another spirit, the police officer’s dead son, who was trying hard to get into him, but Azoro got saved by his mother.

Azoro’s mother also battled several spirits from the invisible world in the market. Azoro’s family was plagued by hardship caused by the crook government, leaving Azoro to make friends with a local businesswoman in his neighborhood named Madame Koto. Madame Koto possessed spiritual powers and was pregnant with a three-head spirit. Since Azoro’s family could not provide for his necessary needs, he relied on this woman who had a bar for food. However, his case was magnified after Madame Koto hung a talisman on his doorway, perhaps for protection and customers’ attraction.

The talisman attracted different spirits, which tended to capture Azoro into the spirit world since he had been downplaying their call, but he narrowly escaped their capture and returned home sick.

When he noticed that the talisman attracted spirits, he planned to steal it, and after he successfully did that, he buried the charm in the ground in the hope to expel the spirits from capturing him.

The novel also captures the political reality in Africa, especially in Nigeria, where hardship hits the commoners as corruption becomes the order of the day. The masses are only remembered on the eve of the election when political parties pass through the bad roads to the inaccessible interiors to gift them cheap things and promise them a better future.

The writer captured the nature of politics in Nigeria through the character of Black Tyger and Madame Koto.

In the novel, Political parties storm the longtime abandoned streets with loudspeakers to promise people a better future as they fondly do when the time for election nears. They shared spoilt milk with the masses, and the people beat them up and set their vehicles ablaze in anger.

A journalist who chronicles the events in the picture is declared wanted by the political thugs and went into hiding in Azoro’s home to avoid being eliminated by political-sponsored thugs.

Azoro’s father survived the boring hungry days in Madame Koto’s bar, although Koto’s bar had become more hell since she affiliated herself with a political party. Prostitutes took over her bar, making it uncomfortable for her clientele. Although Koko’s support for the corrupt party has earned her good fortune, her bar has become a place for a bout between people of conflicting political ideas.

Azoro’s family is not making any financial improvement. Their house rent was increased by the landlord after Azoro’s father had a troublesome encounter with him, despite the house’s roof leaking.

Azoro’s father overwhelmed by his life’s challenges chose to spend more time in Madame Koto’s bar, where he fought with others after a political disagreement.

One special day, Azoro got tricked into breaking the windows of a blind man by a three-headed spirit, so he got beaten badly by his father in return. Azoro is enraged by his father’s harsh beating and allowed himself to get tricked into the spiritual realm by a three-headed spirit but gets revived to life through powerful witches.

For Azoro’s father to get over beating his ailing son, he channeled his strength into boxing. He quits his job to face boxing. After beating several boxers in his neighborhood, he earned a name as a powerful boxer and nicknamed himself “Black Tyger.” 

One day, those he had beaten in the ring brought another powerful man, known as the Green Leopard, to challenge him to box. After hours of a tense fight with the Green Leopard, Black Tyger manages to beat him.

After Black Tyger heals from the injury he sustained from fighting Green Leopard, he ditches boxing for Politics.

After a while of Black Tyger not engaging in any physical brawls with anyone, he breaks it with a fight with a man in a white suite in Madame Koto’s bar. This time, he was brutally beaten up by the man in the suit. After several punches are thrown at him by the man in the white suit, Azoro’s father manages to pull the man’s suit unveiling a spirit. Everyone around began to run helter-skelter, while Black Tyger beats the spirit out of the man and goes home in severe pain.

He slept with the pain he sustained from his last fight for three days and fought other tormenting spirits in his dream. He woke after defeating all the spirits tormenting him and Azoro, setting Azoro and himself free from the torments of the spirits.


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The Clod and the Pebble – William Blake



Themes in The Famished Road by Ben Okri

There are many themes in the Famished Road, but love for family, social problems, corruption, and spiritualism are themes you can feel in each of the chapters you read.

The writer captured the battle that Azoro’s parents fought with the spiritual world in their efforts to sever Azoro’s spiritual connection with the spirits.

How did the Famished Road end?

The story ended after Azoro’s father woke up from sleep, defeated all the tormenting spirits, and freed himself and his son from spiritual bondage.

Facts about The Famished Road

The Famished Road was written by a Nigerian author, Ben Okri. The novel was published in 1991, in London, by Jonathan Cape, and it won Man Booker Award for fiction in the same publishing year. The Famished Road is a trilogy with the Songs of Enchantment and Infinite Riches.


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