They died in the game of love


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They died in the game of love


Nigerian literature (English)


'They Died in the Game of Love' exemplifies the quintessential form of Onitsha Market Literature. It includes advice and wise sayings, letter writing, warnings against women, a picture of a European couple, and a romance that ends (obviously) with the death of most of those involved. It all serves to “advise boys of our youth” and cautions readers to “Beware of Ladies mostly school ones otherwise they buy you cheap,” (pg.44)

The advice on good behavior, particularly on how one can identify good boys and girls, is repeated in many other pamphlets. The romance story in They Died in the Game of Love follows the Onitsha “formula” quite closely. Thony, a desirable schoolboy, is walking one evening when he receives a letter from a girl he does not know. Thony exchanges letters with the girl, Cathe, and they begin “Love dealing.” (pg.16). The couple proceeds to exchange gifts, favors and letters without parental knowledge or approval until Cathe is pregnant and gets kicked out of school. She dies from complications, and the two sets of parents get into an argument. Thony’s mother dies of injuries (either emotional or physical) received during the argument. Despite this, Thony soon develops a relationship with another girl. This young woman dies from complications of an abortion performed by the infamous “native doctors.” Thony then commits suicide.

The pamphlet ends with a warning from the author of the dangers that stem from playing the game of love. Umunnah writes, “Well dear Readers, you have seen the bad effects got from girls...imagine this boy who would have grown into a position of loyalty, wealthiness and intellectual happiness of his youth. (a) Thony was no more alive. (b) He lost his beloved girlfriend. (c) He lost his mother,” (pg.44).

The author suggests that this could happen to all young men who seek corner-corner love, (pg.5).


Umunnah, Cyril


Onitsha, Nigeria : Njoku & Sons Bookshop


ca. 1960


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Onitsha market literature





Umunnah, Cyril, “They died in the game of love,” KU Libraries Exhibits, accessed March 2, 2021,