Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be commissioned to create an illustration for a book on British Literature, and specifically the story of Oroonoko by Aphra Behn. “Oroonoko is a seventeenth-century novella that tells the story of the eponymous hero, the prince and heir to the throne of the African country of Cormantien.” This was a pretty challenging illustration as there was quite a lot of story elements to include and details to get right but it was a challenge that I really enjoyed. Here’s the full backstory:
"Oroonoko’s tale is one of an exemplary man who falls in love with an exceptional woman, Imoinda. However, their love is thwarted by Oroonoko’s grandfather, the king, who desires Imoinda for himself. Despite the fact that Oroonoko and Imoinda are married, the King forces her to become part of his Otan, or harem, separating them. Imoinda refuses to submit to his desires, and Oroonoko manages to break into the Otan and consummate his marriage. As punishment, the King pretends to put Imoinda to death, when he has actually sold her into slavery.
Oroonoko is overcome by grief and distracts himself with the friendship of an English sea captain, who ultimately tricks the prince into slavery, taking him to Surinam where he is sold to the plantation where the narrator resides. There, his true identity is discovered—even as he is renamed Caesar—and he is promised his freedom. There, too, he discovers Imoinda, now named Clemene and the reunited loversfinally live as husband and wife.
Soon after Imoinda conceives a child, Oroonoko begins to suspect further treachery on the part of the English and stages a slave uprising, attempting to lead his fellow slaves to freedom. The uprising does not succeed and Oroonoko is betrayed by the Deputy Governor Byam, who promised him his freedom only to mete out a cruel punishment instead.
Burning with a desire for revenge, Oroonoko decides to kill Imoinda and their unborn child, before killing Byam and then himself. Once again, his plan fails and having killed his beloved wife, his strength leaves him. At the end of the novella, he is brutally killed by Byam’s associate."
Story synopsis from supersummary.com