Elesin Oba, The King’s Horseman follows the story of a tradition in Oyo, Nigeria, where the king’s horseman must perform ritual suicide to join his deceased king in the afterlife. The movie is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
At the height of World War II, the king in Oyo, Nigeria, dies. As per the traditions, thirty days after the death of the king, Elesin Oba, the King’s Horseman, must commit ritual suicide.
Elesin’s spirit must journey with the king’s spirit to the afterlife. It is the duty of Elesin Oba to do so. If he fails, the king’s spirit will wander the earth and bring harm to his subjects.
The day has come, and celebrations are in the air for the ritual. Elesin Oba has accepted his fate but he also wants to make sure that he lives his last day on earth to the fullest.
Things change when Elesin’s eyes catch the sight of a woman attracting all the attention to herself. He is left charmed by her beauty and asks Iyaloja, the mother of all the children in the market, about her.
Though the woman Elesin saw is already engaged to be married, he asks for her hand in marriage. He wants to travel light and leave his seed behind.
Elesin manages to convince Iyaloja, who lets him have his wish, though the woman he saw is engaged to her son. She still warns Elesin that the seed he wants to plant shouldn’t come with a curse on their community.
The wedding preparations begin. The drums played and songs sung attract the attention of British District Officer Simon Pilkings and his wife, Jane. He questions his officer, Amusa, about it.
Simon soon learns about this tradition and sees this as barbaric. He asks Amusa to arrest Elesin before he commits suicide. Amusa tries to do so but ultimately fails and returns.
In the meantime, Elesin’s estranged son, Olunde, comes back, who had left the country to study at a medical school in England. Even Olunde is shocked to find out that his father is getting married on the day he will be sacrificing himself.
Elesin Oba, The King’s Horseman ending explained in detail:
Does Elesin complete the ritual?
The British officials are alerted about the ritual taking place, and Pilkings, who was at the ball with his wife, is left with no choice but to intervene himself.
While Pikings is away, Olunde stops by the masquerade party and crosses paths with Jane. They argue over their beliefs, and he lets her know that he is back here to fulfill his duty after his father dies.
The drumming they were hearing all along stops, and Olunde believes that his father has finally completed the ritual and has passed away.
What he doesn’t know is that Pilkings has invaded the proceedings and has stopped his father from sacrificing himself.
Why does Olunde walk away from his father?
After being arrested, Elesin is brought near the party. Olunde crosses paths with Elesin and discovers that his father didn’t finish the ritual.
Though Olunde had left to study in England, he still had faith in his customs and traditions. That’s the reason he came back. He had heard about the king’s death and knew that his father is going to sacrifice himself.
He came all the way to bury his father, but when he realized that his father had failed to live up to the traditions, he disowned him by stating that he has no father and called Elesin an unprincipled man.
Who sacrifices for the ritual?
Unable to fulfill his duty, Elesin is struck with grief and locked inside a cage by Pilkings. He regrets getting distracted on such a day and blames the British officers for intervening.
Iyaloja later visits Elesin and shames him for not being ready to complete the ritual. She also shares that since he can’t fulfill his duties, someone else did.
Turns out, Olunde sacrificed himself as he couldn’t bear to let honor depart from his lineage. Elesin himself wasn’t able to digest this and proceeds to hang himself to death inside the cage using the handcuffs on his hands.