Saturday, February 6, 2010

Black History Month: African Folktales

Continuing Black History Month with African Folktales by Roger D. Abrahams, another Pantheon title that is a wonderful companion to the book I featured yesterday, African American Folktales: Stories from Black Traditions in the New World (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) by Roger D. Abrahams.

Product Description:

Nearly 100 stories from over 40 tribe-related myths of creation, tales of epic deeds, ghost stories and tales set in both the animal and human realms.

From Library Journal:

This volume sports a hefty 95 stories gleaned from the notes of the earliest missionaries on up to recent anthropological studies. Abrahams admits that reading the stories lacks the full impact of hearing them told aloud but contends that they can nonetheless still be enjoyed. The stories feature numerous illustrations.

Of course, with such a large continent, any book like this can only be considered a most basic overview. It is rare to find collections of folklore from specific African countries available in English so overviews are often the only resources available to casual and even somewhat enthusiastic readers. Still, this is one of the best of those available, especially for the price.

My specialty does not cover African folklore and fairy tales, but I have learned more in recent years with my research. There are also many titles available from the Golden Age of folklore studies, now available as scanned sources on Google Books or reprinted by enterprising small presses trying to preserve older books. I formatted three of them and published them on the SurLaLune main site, too. See them on the SurLaLune ebooks page. One especially is controversial since it uses the term Kaffir which has gained momentum as a derogatory term in modern times. I've received a few emails complaining about its appearance on SurLaLune where it appears as part of the historical record of folklore, not to represent or promote a mindset.

Golden Age of Folklore is my term, by the way, and for me covers most of the 1800s though about 1920, from Grimms to Jacobs and Lang with everyone in between. Some of it coincides with the Golden Age of Illustration. Just as so much European folklore is closely related, so is much of African folklore. Many tribes and cultural groups have similar stories. It is always interesting to see how some of these tales relate to European tales, they sometimes fit, but almost always on the slant.

This title by Abrahams is a better resource for comparison efforts since it is under the Pantheon imprint and thus follows somewhat of a series format.

No comments:

Post a Comment