The Lion and the Jewel (by Wole Soyinka)

The Lion and the Jewel

The Lion and the Jewel

Written by Africa’s well known dramatist, Wole Soyinka, the play – The Lion and the Jewel –  has its setting in the village of Ilunjunle in Yoruba West Africa. It was published in 1963 by Oxford University Press.

The play is characterized by culture conflict, ribald comedy and love, where the old culture represented by the uneducated people in Ilunjunle, led by Baroka, Sidi and the rest, clashes with the new culture led by Lakunle, who is educated, school teacher by profession is influenced by the western ways.

Like the title suggests, The Lion and the Jewel is symbolic. The lion is Baroka and the jewel is Sidi. She is the village belle. The lion seeks to have the jewel.

The play starts with Lakunle pouring out his heart to Sidi but she does not want to pay attention. If only Lakunle can pay dowry then she would marry him. But to Lakunle, that’s being barbaric, outdated and ignorant. If he could only make her understand. He says:

“To pay price would be to buy a heifer off the market stall. You would be my chattel, my mere property.”

Sidi does not pay attention. To her a girl for who dowry is not paid for will be hiding her shame for she will not be known as a virgin.

Her beauty has captured many souls, besides Lakunle. There is the photographer who took her photos and published them in a magazine, and even Baroka the lion, the bale/chieftain of Ilunjunle as well as other girls in the village. Sidi also brags a lot about her beauty. She is not afraid to speak of it in public.

Baroka has many wives though, despite his wanting Sidi for a wife. On seeing her in a magazine seated alone, he laments:

“Yes yes…………… it is five full months since I last took a wife…..five full months” (page 18)

Sadiku is Baroka’s head wife. As custom suggests, the last wife of the previous bale/chief becomes the head wife of the new chief once succeeded.

Her duty as a head wife is to lure any woman Baroka pleases to have into getting her. Sidi turns off Baroka’s proposal in the most demeaning way, through his head wife. She scorns him:

“Compare my image and that of your lord… an age of a difference….”

See how water glistens my face…. But he-his is like a leather piece torn rudely from the saddle of his horse.
Baroka blames it on himself when he gets the news of his rejected proposal. He says:

“My man hood ended a week ago.”

Sadiku rather glad about Baroka’s confession tells the news to Sidi. Sidi goes to see Baroka on the grounds that she did not intend to reject his invitation and proposal well knowing that he would not be capable of doing anything. In an unexpected turn of events, Baroka manages to seduce her and win her over Lakunle.

The The Lion and the Jewel is a very interesting play, and remains one of Wole Soyinka’s best works.





  2. Timeyin Olamide says

    The beauty of literature has always evaded my appetite-no thanks to my choice of geography as an alternative for literature while in school,the thirst for it brought me close to this waters.Big Ups Grandmaster!

  3. Nondumiso Nzama says

    wole soyinka stae play book is quite interesting i like sidi confidence in wanting the bride price.
    by nondumiso
    South Africa.

  4. says

    Fantastic! lakunle an educated or should i just say civilized man who wants to win the heart of a beautiful but seemingly old fashion village girl. No matter how civilized you are, you still have to bend your principles and radical belief by giving that which is for ceaser unto ceaser. Stop speaking grammar when the language understood by beuty and love is culture and tradition.


    this work of literature is such a thrilling one i did it during my ‘o’ level and now teaching it, i really find a powerfull use of symbolism right from the onset.

  6. Abby Arthur says

    Its just a parochial representation of the way of life. The rich (Baroka) always get what they want. The poor (Lakunle) always watcho. There is nothing to learn from it. It is a good read but just that. And it can not transcend into modern times where people are no longer heavily bent on traditions like Bride price. It was just one of those pieces that is highly publicised but does not match the hype about it

  7. says

    Great gratitude to prof wole soyinka. Am critically reading this book and to my perspective its forming a base and a reflection in my future. I like drama and the book helps in the acquisition of the excellent knowledge. It motivates, raises my self esteem, empathy and increases my spontaneity as far as the social skills are concerned.hope to come up with the best.It forms a vital role in my educational goals.big up prof

  8. Percy says

    Its a very exciting play…..pliz can those who understans it more give me the meanings of the terms used in the play within the play (noon part)when lankule is talking abt how Baroka refused to let the railway line pass thru her village,l mean the coconuts. Pot of beer etc pliz help its an assignment needed at xul and might help me to understand more……

  9. says

    i heard peole talking about the play,saying how exciting it’s, actually i don’t see it that way by now but im trying my best to understand it. My question i’d like to ask “if you were Sidi what would you do?”

  10. says

    its a good idea,which warn the whole society especially girls, that we must be very carefully with the decision we made. its me sheyla from tanzania,may god bless you

  11. says

    I love this book although I think sidi is a little too conceited about her beauty as see just realizes if after the stranger took her picture and placed it in the magazine but overall it is a very amazing book

  12. eunice w maina says

    I read this book more than 30 years ago and watched the play in the KENYA NATIONAL THEATER. It is fun and rich. Check this. “when a child is full of riddles, the mother has one water pot the less”

  13. suleiman Dauda says

    I read this play and it is very intresting. We the Africans have our own ways of life even before the coming of the white men, we should do our best to see that we stand by the truth…..

  14. nabale teresa says

    The love, culture and motivation expressed in this drama rely turns me on and i love it.the respect that sidi has,the way she wears ,the domestic work ,the way she believes in her self and i lyk it wen she insists on the bride price,i think its fantastic.and it seems this is enough 4 gals to from her
    big up to wole sonyinka.

  15. cherop Kenya says

    i liked the play and there are 2 challenges for us. the firm stand of lankule about not paying bride price always be firm on your stand.girls are jewels don’t fall into tricks of the lions in this world like sidi did.thanks

  16. says

    Its realy a pleasure that a reader gains from this piece of drama. proff. Soyinka realy tries to show how women and african cultural ideals battle with modermization as potray by Lankunle. I enjoy it becouse it tells us how women were treated brfore modermization

  17. Michael Raj.C says

    I read this book few days ago… I love this language.. there s a conflict between colonization mind and primitive mind…

  18. anjaly prakash says

    this play is quite interesting, a clash between old vand new is there in this play. also can understand a little about african culture

  19. Oscar Amanya says

    with lakunle as my best character in the play
    he never fell a prey to stupid tricks like what happened to sidi
    i really love it,it insipired to fiction

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