Monday, June 19, 2017

Trickster continuity (Following folktales around the world 30. - Barbados)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Because I could not find a book of folktales for Barbados, I once again turned to folklore articles for appropriate reading. 

Barbados Folklore
Elsie Clews Parsons
The Journal of American Folklore, 38/148 (1925), pp. 267-292.

Exploring the Folk Culture of Barbados through the Medium of the Folk Tale
Linden Lewis
Caribbean Studies, 23/3 (1990), pp. 85-94.

The first article contains fifteen folktales, and more than a hundred riddles. It was written by the same author that wrote Folk-lore of the Antilles, but her collection of Barbados folktales was published here separately. The presentation is the same: The stories are written phonetically, in dialect, and sometimes you have to read them out loud to understand what is going on. The second article contains more "modern stories," anecdotes and later versions of folktales, embedded in a study of Barbados folklore. The stories in it focus on two main themes - thievery and necromancy (obeah) -, but other beliefs and folk creatures also make an appearance.


There was a great version in the first article for the Brave Little Tailor - and accompanying it another, shorter one, which I especially loved, because the tailor spoke in his sleep and revealed that "seven at a whack" was actually seven flies, and both princess and king got really angry at him for that. When I was little, I always thought it was stupid that no one asked him "sever what?!", so I really appreciated the practicality.
There was an interesting tale in the second article about a boy who stole pumpkins, and his community cursed him with a ritual so that he grew up to be a kleptomaniac. He eventually was caught because he stole a wet dish rag, and his pants soaked through...
I also found a creature called the bacco quite fascinating. It is kept in a bottle or in a blanket, feed it bananas and milk, and it can be both useful and harmful, depending on its owner. The only way to get rid of it is to throw it in water. All cultures in the region blame someone else for it: Barbados people say they came from Guyana, Guyana people say they came from Suriname, and in Suriname, they say the Dutch sailors brought them in...


In "Trickster seeks trouble", this time Anansi (Brer Nancy) teaches Brer Rabbit what trouble is, by setting him up to be eaten by Tiger - but in the end, he also saves his fellow trickster, which is pretty nice. Rabbit, in turn, does what he does in the Uncle Remus tales, and rides Monkey like a horse, pretending to be sick. There was, of course, the classic mock plea story, where the captured Rabbit begs not to be thrown into the bushes - and then he is, he gets away laughing. I also found a Magic Flight tale - this type appears to be one of the most common I have encountered in this journey so far.

Where to next?
Saint Lucia!


  1. Sounds like a fascinating book! The bacco is related to the genie in a lamp, perhaps? Tropes in folktales tend to spread.

    1. Probably! It is also similar to the Hungarian belief of personal spirits that you always have to find work for...

  2. Is Bacco tha God of Wine and Fertility??? Or it is something else? Your journey itself is like a wandering tale of tales!!! Appreciate your passion to wander the world with the mission so unique...exploring folk tales of the world!!!
    How I wish you land upon India...coz here you will find the treasure of folk tales, biggest ever treasure in the world!
    Anagha From Team MocktailMommies

  3. What animal is Anansi on Barbados?

    1. It didn't say specifically, so I'm assuming spider. Or they might think of him as human.

  4. I'm loving the Bacco as it's so like other tales of little creatures that can be either good or bad like the Brownie in the UK who likes porridge and honey.
    Just to let you know that I've nominated you for the Mystery Blogger Award as I wanted more people to find your blog.

  5. It's like a vacation full of myths! Excellent work writing this post.