Ulioko is a Swahili word which means “what’s present” or “whatever is at a precise moment.”
He is a character in a story I wrote, called Fire. He is known as the Palace Informer, a drunk and comes off as a comedian to most of the readers, and a friend asked me about him yesterday. He wanted to know, where the idea of creating a character as Ulioko came from, and why he was so funny.
I told him two things: first, it’s that I do not find Ulioko funny, but rather a mystery and second, I was inspired to write about someone who was close to the King. You have a powerful King, who is widely feared as he is respected, but to make him human or to portray him not just as a brute but also as a kind person, you need to have someone that he listens to and can laugh with.
Now, this person cannot be of the same status because then it would be a show of pride, and this person cannot also be a woman because there is his wife, so who else? And that’s when the idea of a palace informer came to mind.
I would admit that at some point while writing the story I felt like Ulioko was more of a snitch than an informer and so I had to give him some qualities that would strengthen his role in the story.
With words like:
You see beyond your nose my King, yet it still remains on your face.
He is but a man, should a cock inform every chicken of its business?
Leave the barking to the dogs, my King, please, listen to what I have in mind.
No, my King, the burden of being the one who always knows everything weighs me down. How would you know?
Courtesy is the mark of all noble men. Hand me a drink.
I cannot wait to see what I can do with a character like Ulioko, since talking to my friend and hearing what his experience was while reading Fire. I am glad that the few friends and family members who have read Fire love it, and it has urged me to write and publish a better book that’s next in the series.