Monday, July 3, 2017

The girl who lived to dance (Following folktales around the world 32. - Dominica)

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!

Folk-lore of the Antilles, French and English I.
Elsie Clews Parsons - Gladys A. Reichard
American Folk-lore Society, 1933.

For those small Caribbean countries where I could not find an individual book of folktales, I'll be reading chapters from this collection. Folk-lore of the Antilles is a three-volume opus that contains hundreds of folktales in French and English, organized by island.
The chapter for Dominica contained more than a hundred stories, collected from twenty-three tellers - but most of them were in French, so I only skimmed them with the best of my wobbly knowledge. Fortunately, enough were in English to provide a glimpse into a wonderfully rich oral tradition.


I found The girl who lived to dance very interesting, even though it was not a happy story. A dance-loving girl was lured away at night from home by the sound of distant drumming by the devil. On the one hand, the moral seems obvious - but on the other hand, I suspect there is more to the cultural background of this story in the Caribbean context than "don't go out at night"...
I found one of the little anecdotes very amusing: An old woman's goat got stolen, and every time she received the sacrament from the priest, she would complain and whine about her goat. The priest finally told her to quit the complaining, but she mournfully said she could not - the priest's face reminded her too much of the goat...
Trickster made an appearance (both in storyteller and in protagonist) in the story of The frightened guest, where a cook ate the two doves meant for his employer and a guest - and in order to cover up the theft, he managed to convince the guest that the lord wanted to cut off his ears for dinner...

BonusA shout out for a wonderful storyteller from Dominica!


I am not bored yet of noting that once again, the trickster classics (e.g. the deadly rock) were featured in the collection, courtesy of the resident tricksters, Anansi and Brer Rabbit (Compére Lapin). There were also some classic fairy tale types (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast), and some stories that are popular in the region, such as the Salted skin (in which a woman takes off her skin at night and goes around flying - until her husband finds the skin and fills it with salt and pepper, so that she can't put it back on anymore). Of the darker tales, there were various zombie and loup garou (werewolf) stories - most of them in French.

Where to next?
Antigua and Barbuda!

1 comment:

  1. These sound wonderful! I'm afraid my French is a bit wobbly too. I'd need a dictionary beside me. I do love trickster tales, though, and that one about the old woman who kept bring reminded of her goat by the priest's face had me chuckling.
    Just Finished Reading Ballad For A Mad Girl