Abiku is a Yoruba word that can be translated as "predestined to death". It is from (abi) "that which possesses" and (iku) "death".
Abiku refers to the spirits of children who die before reaching puberty; a child who dies before twelve years of age being called an Abiku, and the spirit, or spirits, who caused the death being also called Abiku.
Not only is an abiku a spirit of a child who dies young, the belief is that the spirit returns to the same mother multiple times to be reborn multiple times. It is the belief that the spirit does not ever plan to "stay put in life" so it is "indifferent to the plight of its mother and her grief."
"Ben Okri's novel The Famished Road is based upon an abiku. Debo Kotun's novel Abiku, a political satire of the Nigerian military oligarchy, is based upon an abiku. Gerald Brom's illustrated novel, The Plucker, depicts a child's toys fighting against an abiku," as described by Pulse. An Abiku Child's return also occures in the writing of Slovenian Novelist Gabriela Babnik, in her novel Koža iz bombaža. We also see Wole Soyinka's poem 'Abiku' rely heavily on this occurrence.
A review of the oral histories around abiku note that:
"Such accounts (sometimes they are just hasty definitions) often mix facts about àbíkú with facts about ògbánje; represent àbíkú as homogeneous across time and space; fail to distinguish between popular and expert, official and heretical, indigenous and exogenous discourses of àbíkú; assume that the belief in àbíkú has a psychological rather than ontological origin; and hastily appropriate àbíkú to serve as a symbol for present-day, metropolitan concepts and concerns."
- Mobolade, Timothy (September 1, 1973). "The Concept of Abiku". UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center. JSTOR 3334754.
- "Histories of Errancy Oral Yoruba Àbíkú Texts and Soyinka's "Abiku"". Retrieved October 16, 2016.
- "Abiku - mythical creature". mythicalcreatureslist.com. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- Mounira, Soliman, (January 1, 2004). "From Past to Present and Future: The Regenerative Spirit of the Abiku". Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics (24). ISSN 1110-8673.
- Quadri, Zaynab. "Nigerian Poetry: 3 African poems about Abiku you should read - Pulse Books - Pulse". Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- "Wole Soyinka (Abiku) Poem by African Poems - Poem Hunter". PoemHunter.com. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- "Wole Soyinka's Protracted Struggle With Àbíkú, the Metaphor of the Nigerian State". www.theluminafoundation.org. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- "abiku definition - Dictionary - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-11-02.
- Jones, Gertrude. Dictionary of Mythology Folklore and Symbols. New York:Thevj Scarecrow Press, 1962.