Monday, May 25, 2020

Secret worlds (Following folktales around the world 157. - Saudi Arabia)

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 here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Folktales ​from Saudi Arabia
Lamia Baeshen
Lamia Baeshen, 2002.

There are twenty-four tales in the book, collected from traditional storytellers in Jeddah at the turn of the 21st century. The author made voice recordings of the stories, then wrote them down in Arabic and in English. The introduction tells us about the storytelling tradition, and expresses hope that these tales will keep traveling and being told by future storytellers.


Highlights

I was greatly amused by Mikki's mother, in which a strange little mouse named Kakki pooped golden coins for a poor family. When a jealous neighbor borrowed it, however, it just pooped regular mouse poop. Similarly amusing was The matron of cats: a prim and proper woman accidentally burped, and her cat blackmailed her with the shameful secret. She went to complain to the Matron of Cats, who lined up all the burps in the world, and punished the offending one. In another funny story a man told a porter he'd pay nothing for his services, to which he started demanded a payment of Nothing, and a judge had to clear things up.
I loved the imagery of The fisherman and the basket of jewels. Catching an enchanted fish, the poor man became rich, and opened a jewelry shop; however, when he started keeping secrets about his income from his supernatural wife, she made all the riches disappear, and he had to return to fishing.
There was very interesting symbolism in the tale where a father worried about his daughter so much he kept her locked up in a cellar, and only fed her prime boneless meat. One day, however, she found a bone in her food, and she used it to dig her way into the world outside. On the other hand, The materialistic aunt was a story of all the horrors and injustices that can happen to women in the world - but at least justice came to the abusers in the end.
The rooster and the string of pearls reminded me of a Greek folktale. A girl helped a princess find her lost love enchanted into the form of a rooster. She brought the news through storytelling, and moved through seven curtains to get to the princess as she was telling the story. In the tale of Pearl, the daughter of Coral, it was a kind leek-seller who helped an enchanted couple find their way back to each other.

Connections

Once again there was a story about a clever man exchanging a wheat grain and a barley seed for increasingly more valuable things, until he ended up with a palace and a wife.
Jeddah, jewel market
Donkey Head was a super dark variant of the "animal husband" tale - here the husband was the talking, cut-off head of a donkey. In the end of course he turned into a prince, as his mother had conceived him from the flame of a lamp where the Lord of Light was imprisoned. The sultan and the chicken was similar to animal bride stories, and Spring of elixir reminded me of Canary Prince from Italy. In a wicked stepmother story (Our cow Sabha) it was curious to see that the stepson, after he found his fortune, took care of the stepmother and her children too, making sure they lived comfortably as long as they lived apart.
There were multiple "kind and unkind girls" stories in the book, including one where it was a ghoul guarding a well who doled out the gifts and punishments.
It was fascinating to read Cornelian Tureen, a Beauty and the beast version where the wife found out her husband has a secret lock on his chest. She opened it, and saw a whole hidden world inside, with craftsmen preparing things for the birth of their child. I have only even seen a version of this tale from Albania before.

Where to next?
Iraq!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Queen Bee (Feminist Folktales 18.)

Another Thursday, another post for Feminist Folktales! It's a series of traditional stories from around the world that display motifs that reflect feminist values. I am not changing any of the stories, merely researching and compiling them, and posting them here as food for thought. You can find the list of posts here.

Today is World Bee Day, so I decided to post about one of my favorite bee-related folktales :) 

Origin: Germany (Grimm)

The story

Image from here
The two eldest of three brothers fall into a "decadent way of life" and go out adventuring. Their youngest brother, nicknamed Simpleton, goes to find them and tags along on the adventure, despite their claims that he is useless, and they are much smarter. Along the way the brothers encounter various animals the two eldest try to hurt: an anthill they want to destroy for fun, ducks they want to kill, bees they want to smoke out. Simpleton stops them from doing so every time, feeling sorry for the animals.
The three brothers eventually end up at an enchanted castle, where a little grey man gives them three tasks to break the spell. They have to gather a thousand pearls from the moss in the woods, retrieve a golden key from a lake, and select the youngest out of three identical princesses. The two elder brothers fail, but the youngest gets help from the grateful animals, completes the tasks, and wins a princess for his kindness.
(And his disenchanted brothers marry the two other princesses.)


What makes it a feminist story?

This is the first story that comes to my mind when someone talks about "feminist male heroes." I had a post in this series earlier about a hero whose strength is empathy. Here, we see the same thing, except said hero is male. On top of that, he is not just casually kind to someone on his way to kill dragons or whatever, but rather, the entire story revolves around his kindness. His main power is empathy.
Simpleton starts out from a disadvantaged position. His brothers believe that he is stupid and useless, and has no business seeking his fortune. An early English translation calls him an "insignificant little dwarf." Simpleton is not strong, masculine, or dashing, and because of this, his brothers look down on him. Since his main virtue is kindness, his brothers, who follow toxic patterns of masculinity, believe that he is weak. This is a common phenomenon: if a man shows traits that are traditionally deemed "feminine", toxic masculinity labels it as a sign of weakness and ridiculousness (think of all the jokes about male nurses or kindergarden teachers - caregiving is traditionally seen as a "woman's job").

The two elder brothers are the textbook example of violent, toxic, destructive behaviors. They want to destroy an anthill just to laugh about the scared ants scurrying around. They want to eat the ducks. They want to steal the honey. They don't need to do any of this, but they enjoy exercising their power over defenseless creatures. They feel like they are entitled to their enjoyment at the expense of others, and to fulfill their wants without any regard for the pain they cause to those who are weaker. On top of that, they base their ego on thinking they are stronger and smarter than their victims. This is pretty much the definition of toxic masculinity. 
(For those in the back: "toxic masculinity" is one form of masculinity. NO ONE is saying that masculinity is bad in general.)

Simpleton, in his own quiet way, is actually very strong character. He is kind and has empathy - he cares for what happens to defenseless, small creatures like ants, bees, and ducks. Also, and this is a crucial part of the story, he stands up to his brothers to defend their victims. "Leave those animals alone! I won't let you hurt them." He doesn't wait to quietly clean up the mess later, but rather stands up and stops his stronger elder brothers from causing harm in the first place. This is what we call bystander intervention. A man with healthy masculinity does not only avoid causing harm, but also actively works to keep others from doing harm either. The former is passive, while the latter is active behavior. It is a whole new level of male role model when he doesn't just avoid "ever doing that" himself (which is indeed good), but actively intervenes when something is not okay. "Hey, that joke was sexist." "Dude, don't talk like that about her." "Hey. No means no." Even when it makes him a target of ridicule.
(Also, this is not unique in the world of folktales, but it is an important and attractive trait that he accepts help when he needs it. It doesn't bruise his ego to solve the tasks with the help of the animals.)

Simpleton is a likable, empathetic, strong character, who doesn't think he is better than others, and stands up for those who are defenseless. This is what makes him a feminist role model.

Things to consider

As a storyteller I feel like Simpleton should earn himself a better name at the end of the story.
The Grimm tale is beautiful, but it is worth digging up and reading other variants of the same tale type. I got into researching African versions, and some of those were equally gorgeous, featuring a wide variety of animals. I ended up including a Malagasy variant in my upcoming feminist folktales book.

Sources

This story is in the Grimm collection under KHM 62, and belongs to tale type ATU 554 (Grateful animals). It has many versions around the world.

Read an older translation here.
Jack Zipes: The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition (Princeton University Press, 2016.)
Oliver Loo: The 1810 Grimm Manuscripts (2015.)

Notes

According to research notes, the story was contributed to the collection by Albert Ludewig Grimm (who was not actually related to the Grimm brothers). 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Pearls of wisdom (Following folktales around the world 156. - Kuwait)

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 here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

The tales from the next few countries are from two different books:


Folktales ​from the Arabian Peninsula
Tales of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, and Yemen
Nadia Jameel Taibah & Margaret Read McDonald
ABC-CLIO, 2015.

The Introduction tells us about the history and culture of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Ten stories are from Kuwait.

Folktales from the Arabian Gulf
A selection of popular tales collected in the field
Dr. Fayyiz Shayyagh, Sylvia Ismail
Doha, 2003.

The stories in this book are from the archives of the Gulf Folklore Centre, which has been collecting traditional folklore from six countries around the Gulf for almost forty years. The short introduction talks about the work of the Centre, the process of selecting and translating the stories, and the cultural background of tales with female heroes. There is a separate chapter for opening formulas. The book contains four tales from Kuwait.

Highlights

The tale of the white pearl and the black pearl was beautiful, but ended tragically. A princess wished for a priceless black pearl that matched the one she already had; a young pearl diver volunteered to get one, since his father had lost his life acquiring the first pearl. He ventured into the cave of a giant octopus, and heroically obtained the second pearl - but because he could not marry the princess (white pearl), he killed himself in the end.
"Kill the man who killed the dog" was the story describing the arab tribes' sense of justice. Once people failed to protect a neighbor from the injustice of someone killing his sheepdog, many other injustices followed; an old man warned everyone they should have stopped and avenged the first one right away.

Connections

The helpful dog reminded me of the Swedish version of Princess and the Pea (or Puss in Boots). A poor girl pretended to be a noble lady and married a prince with the help of her dog; however, when she mistreated the dog, it told her secret to her husband.
The woodcutter and the treasure was familiar from other collections as well. A man decided to stay in bed, trusting that "God will provide" - and, thanks to a series of accidents, his donkey actually came home laden with treasure, proving him right.
There was also a classic Love like salt tale.
The trickster in residence is Jouha, a distant relative of Nasredding Hodja. For example he was the protagonist of the adorable tale where he loved his own singing in the bath - but once he tried to sing from the minaret people did not agree with his assessment. In the tale of Nesóp and the ungrateful snake it was the Fox who played the role of the clever judge.

Where to next?
Saudi Arabia!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Down the Rabbit Hole: Questions from the workshop about researching stories


Last night I taught a 90-minute online workshop as part of the Story Crossroads Spectacular! It was a lovely, lovely experience with a lot of amazing people from various countries. The title of the workshop was Down the Rabbit Hole: The how and why of researching stories. It was the "teaser" version of a 5-hour workshop I will be (hopefully) teaching in person at Story Crossroads next year.

People were curious and actively engaged all the way through. So much so in fact, that even though I left the last half an hour for Q&A, there were questions I still did not have time to answer! Because they were all exciting questions, I decided to pick out the ones I glossed over, and answer them here. I can't guarantee all the answers will be complete, so feel free to comment for more!

Are these resources (storyseeds, wikisource etc.) that you've listed only for stories that are already translated to English? Are other languages also included?

The ATU (folktale type index) does refer to many books that are not in English. This is both an upside and a downside. Upside, great for diversity of stories. Downside, it is annoying to do the whole four-step research process just to find a reference to a story you can't read. (But you can always pay someone to translate!).
There are other, regional indexes (e.g. Types of the Folktale in the Arab World) that refer to more non-English sources. Also, here is the link to the Japanese tale type index I promised!
There was a website called The Multilingual Folktale Database (mftd.org), but it has been down recently. It was a good initiative where people could upload folktale texts under the appropriate ATU numbers, in any language!

What about sources that use a different alphabet? Will Google Translate help you?

Oh, this one gets tricky. Yes, Google Translate does translate other alphabets, just not really well. And if you can't type said alphabet on your keyboard, all you have left is copy and paste. Whenever I hit this point in my research, I usually reach out for translation help.
(German texts written in Gothic letters are the bane of my existence. You can't even copy and paste those.)

Do emotions or personal attributes work as key words, example: pride, jealous, inadequate, self esteem?

(We were talking about using search terms in Google Books or the motif index)
Yes, they do. Usually the ones that would appear in older stories or texts. Things like "pride" and "jealous" show up in the motif index (try here!), but if you search for more modern terms like "self esteem" you might find publications talking about folktales in academic (or psychological) terms. The psychological analysis of folktales is a popular topic, so you might get lucky even with these terms.
Also, if you want to find stories, you can try searching for story phrases, such as "she was jealous" or "the jealous queen".

If you are collecting these stories that have "questionable" English behavior, how do you market them?

This question came up because we talked about collectors "censoring" folktales to fit the tastes and sensibilities of their audiences (this was common in the Victorian era, and is still common in children's books). So, if you collect traditional stories that contain elements that are considered "sensitive" by modern standards (sex, violence, crude humor, etc.), what do you do with that?
I believe it largely depends on what the goal of your work is. If you are looking to publish a book on folklore, you have academic obligation to leave the texts as you collected them. In that case, you'd market it as an academic book, to the appropriate (adult) audiences. Sometimes you might give a title that point at the nature of those stories (such as Erotic Folktales from Norway, or Grimm's Grimmest), so that people know what they are getting into.
(People don't always know what "folklore" entails. A famous example is the "Folktales of Nations" series in Hungary, which was an excellent series of folktale collections in the 1950s-1970s... except people started buying them as children's books, and then freaking out over the uncensored gore and sex in the stories.)

Do you do such extensive research for EVERY story you tell?  I know publishing is a must….but telling - if its a folktale.

I do so much research because I am curious. I love knowing a lot about my stories, especially when they are from another culture. So it is less of an obligation and more of an exciting quest for me. But no, sometimes I run across stories and I just tell them to test them out. But if I want to integrate them into a show, or work with them extensively, then I go back and do the research. I believe it is an important part of my job as a storyteller.

How do you feel about telling stories professionally if they are outside your own culture?

This could be (and should be) a whole other 5-hour workshop. A panel, even. A series of round table discussions, ideally, involving lots of people from lots of different traditions. It is a super important topic that we need to talk a lot about.
Personally (short answer), I fall somewhere in the middle of the scale. I do tell a lot of stories from other cultures, with the caveat that A) I do a whole lot of research on them, and B) I do my best to respect cases where the stories belong to the kind of tradition that should not be told by outsiders. I still make mistakes sometimes, and I need to own up to that. But I do love stories of all kinds too much not to try.
(Also, I believe it is important to know one's own tradition very well, even if we venture into others. I think of Hungarian stories and lore as my currency, that I put out into the world in exchange for all the lovely things I take in. I make sure I hone and develop my knowledge of Hungarian tradition constantly.)

If you put together a story from several versions, how does that stand with copyright?

Good question, and it largely depends on the sources, and the copyright laws of the country you are in. For example, in Hungary there is no copyright on folktales, but there is copyright on creative re-tellings. So if I merge multiple folktales, that becomes my version of a story, and falls under my copyright.
Using multiple versions is good for making your own story, but then you have to pay attention to the claims you make about representing certain cultures. (We talked about this in the workshop.)

Is there a problem with the publishers not permitting the author to give permission?

Yes, this can happen. I just usually find it easier to ask the author first. Often they forward me to the publisher, but at least then I have an in, and they are more likely to respond to my request. With large publishers, you need to go through official channels, filling out copyright request forms (you can usually find these on their websites).

Thank you all for participating, and asking so many great questions! If you have more, or if you have a specific research topic you'd like help with, check out my Girl in the chair posts on this blog, and send me a message!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Wonders on wings (Following folktales around the world 155. - Bahrain)

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 here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!
The tales from the next few countries are from two different books:


Folktales ​from the Arabian Peninsula
Tales of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, and Yemen
Nadia Jameel Taibah & Margaret Read McDonald
ABC-CLIO, 2015.

The Introduction tells us about the history and culture of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Two tales from Bahrain.

Folktales from the Arabian Gulf
A selection of popular tales collected in the field
Dr. Fayyiz Shayyagh, Sylvia Ismail
Doha, 2003.

The stories in this book are from the archives of the Gulf Folklore Centre, which has been collecting traditional folklore from six countries around the Gulf for almost forty years. The short introduction talks about the work of the Centre, the process of selecting and translating the stories, and the cultural background of tales with female heroes. There is a separate chapter for opening formulas. The book contains four tales from Bahrain.

Highlights

Prince Mohammad and the Winged Horse was a very beautiful story (flying horse, floating castle), and also quite fun - especially when the prince sprinkled hundreds of flyers from his horse among the people, describing the sins of his evil stepmother, like a veritable propaganda plane. A flying horse also figured into the tale of the Amazing bird, where the protagonist was a very likable young hunter. With the help of a magic bird he helped a prince find various things (including a bride), and lived happily with his royal friend in the end.
I was amused by the opening of the Magic eggs story, in which a man accidentally ate the fertility medicine of his wife, became pregnant, and gave birth to a baby girl. The girl, abandoned by her father, was raised by gazelles, until a hunting prince found her and married her.
There was also a beautiful legend about how the springs of Bahrain are born from stars that fall to the ground.

Connections

The woodman's daughter reminded me of other tales where a woman seduced her husband three times in a row in disguise (I read similar ones from Sicily and Turkey, for example). Aziz, son of his maternal uncle was surprisingly very similar to the Scandinavian legend of Sigmund and Sinfjotli.

Where to next?
Kuwait!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Riina and her Amazons (Feminist Folktales 17.)

Another Thursday, another post for Feminist Folktales! It's a series of traditional stories from around the world that display motifs that reflect feminist values. I am not changing any of the stories, merely researching and compiling them, and posting them here as food for thought. You can find the list of posts here.

Origin: Solomon Islands (Malaita)

The story

Image from Rejected Princesses
Two women are walking on the beach when two gosile swoop down and kidnap them. The gosile are ghosts who can fly, have supernatural powers, and eat human meat and brains. They take the women to their house on a rock in the middle of the sea and want to eat them, but the women cry so miserably that the gosile decide to keep them prisoners instead.
Meanwhile, the husbands of the kidnapped women gather a large amount of bounty for anyone who can rescue their wives. Men set out with a hundred canoes for the rescue, but when the gosile swoop down and eat two of them, they hastily retreat. Soon after, another volunteer appears: Riina, the blonde warrior woman with her group of Amazons from the island of Lumalao. Initially no one thinks they could possibly succeed where men failed, but Riina states that she can easily break the jaw of any gosile, even if it's a male one.
The Amazons set out in their canoe to the ghosts' island. The two gosile attack them on the way, but Riina wrestles one of them into submission, ties him up, and interrogates him about where his powers are hidden. When she finds the magic objects, she steps over the, desecrating them with her "female presence", rendering the gosile powerless. She then befriends him and tricks him into helping her get to the house on the rock. Entering the house she sits in places where a woman is not allowed to sit, angering the two gosile who attack her. Riina kills both of them with her boomerang, and rescues the women. They all return home, and the Amazons get all the bounty.

What makes it a feminist story?

Not only do we have strong, independent woman warriors in this story (who work as a team), but also, they actually win in this story. On a global scale it is hard to find Amazon legends that don't end with the Amazons being defeated, disappearing, or marrying and settling down. Riina and her Amazons succeed where men have failed, and they get appreciation and a reward for it. The latter they take as a team, although Riina asks for an extra gift for herself, and receives a household spirit.
I find it especially interesting that Riina overcomes her enemies by breaking taboos. She takes the first gosile's power by stepping over the magic items that contain it (it is a taboo for women to step over things in various cultures), and she angers the second one by sitting in places where women are not allowed to sit. Riina knows the rules limiting her femininity, and breaks them on purpose to gain an advantage. (This reminds me of the time in first grade when I found out that the boys who bullied me were afraid of cooties. Soon my parents were called in because I was "throwing kisses at the boys" to keep them away. Dunno, I think it was a pretty solid defense mechanism.)
From another story we find out more about the warrior women of Lumalao. We encounter Moaanawalo, Riina's sister and the leader of the tribe. We find out that the "light skinned" warrior women live in a type of house that is usually reserved for men. They form a real society: they hunt, they fish, and they take their wares to market. They make alliances and launch revenge campaigns if they are attacked. At one point Moaanawalo dresses up as a married woman (taboo for unmarried women) to make a plan succeed.

Things to consider

The texts collected by Kay Bauman carry a lot of symbolism and cultural references. The book contains a short introduction for both stories, highlighting some of the exciting elements, but European readers might see these as simpler stories than they really are. It's worth digging deeper into the traditions of Malaita, to understand Riina's legends better.

Sources

Kay Bauman: Solomon Island folktales from Malaita (Rutledge, 1998.)
Bo Flood, Beret E. Strong, William Flood: Pacific Island Legends (Bess Press, 1999.)

Riina appeared in the Rejected Princesses series.

Notes

It actually happens on the Solomon Islands that dark-skinned Melanesian people are born with natural blonde hair.

Image from here

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Even more tales for a time of quarantine


This post is a follow-up to my two previous posts: Folktales for a time of quarantine and More folktales for a time of quarantine. Over the course of the past month and a half I had a lot of time to think about stories. I have been doing live storytelling on my Facebook page because I miss telling, and by now I have a new batch of stories I feel like have something to do with the continued lockdown mood. So, here we go:



The Jinn of Wadi Dahr (Yemen)

A man inherits a very comfortable tower-house and moves in, only to find out it is already inhabited by a jinn. The two of them start fighting about who should be allowed to stay, and the whole thing devolves into a poltergeist-type situation. Nothing works for exorcising the jinn. Eventually a wise man visits, sits both of them down, and convinces them to live as roommates. The conflict is resolved, and they eventually become friends, living in the tower together.

The maiden and the unicorn (England)

A princess falls on hard times and lives in a run-down castle with only an old nurse and a talking unicorn for company (hey, it could be worse!). One day she encounters house elves who had been chased away from their home, and invites them to stay with her. The elves happily move in and fix up the castle. When suitors start arriving, the princess asks all of them whether they would let the elves stay in their home. All suitors turn out to be horribly racist against elves, so she rejects all of them, saying she'd rather marry her unicorn friend instead. Luckily, the unicorn transforms into a prince in the end. All of them live on happily ever after in their castle.

The king who trusted his kingdom to his daughters (Jewish tale)

I blogged about this one recently in detail (see the link). It is a wonderful story where kindness and compassion saves a whole kingdom. I don't think we can have too many stories about kindness these days.

The curing fox (Cree legend)

A little girl falls very ill. Her mother calls the shaman who listens to her chest, and hears the sounds of an injured fox limping in the snow. The father sets out to find the fox. The shaman keeps hearing the sounds of the hunt through the girl's chest. Eventually the father returns with the fox, and the girl and the fox share their food and get well together.
This is a beautiful and powerful story, however, the girl's symptoms are very close to coronavirus symptoms, so I suggest caution in case it triggers feelings people need to deal with. 

The wee little tyke (England)

A family takes in a small black stray dog, and in return the dog keeps a witch away from the house, no matter how she tries to get in and harm the family. In the end, the family adopts the dog, even though he is shy and not sure he has a place with them. It is a lovely story, both because it talks about defending one's home from harm, and because it talks about acceptance and empathy.

The lazy horse (Namibia)


The people of a distant village in the veld have to cross lion-infested lands to go to the city market. All of them keep riding their horses at full speed to make the trip as fast as possible. One man has a lazy horse, but he sets out anyway. The horse keeps stopping to eat and rest. On the way back they are attacked by lions; all the horses are so tired they can't get away fast enough, but the lazy horse is well rested and has the strength to escape.
Self-care is important, people.

Go to sleep gecko (Indonesia)

Gecko makes noises all night, not letting other animals sleep. The chief/lion keeps asking what the matter is. This is a chain story: Gecko can't sleep because the fireflies are flashing their lights, the fireflies are flashing their lights to warn people about buffalo's dung on the road, buffalo poops on the road to cover potholes, etc. In the end it turns out everyone is connected, and if Gecko didn't put up with the small inconveniences, there would be no mosquitoes to eat.
People have a tendency to get annoyed easily at small inconveniences these days (I know I do). Gecko reminds us it's for our own benefit too.

As always: Stay safe, take care of yourselves, be kind to each other, and keep the stories going! :)

Monday, May 4, 2020

A to Z Challenge Reflections - Mission Accomplished!


Honestly, I thought this April was going to be slow because of the quarantine, but in the end it really flew by. Going in, I was not sure what the challenge was going to be like this year, because of all the things going on in the world... but I found that A to Z 2020 was a very positive experience for me!

We had fewer blogs participating, and I had fewer daily visitors, but maybe this was exactly what made this year feel friendlier and... cozier, in a way. I got to know my visitors, and the blogs I was following. I also enjoyed my theme of Folktales of Endangered Species. I pre-wrote all my posts, to make sure I had all my research done and I could spend time visiting in April!
My most popular posts this month:

Amazon river dolphins

Dugongs

Pangolins

Javan slow lorises

Chameleons

You can find a list of all the posts in alphabetical order here!

I usually got about 10-25 comments on each post, which is a nice number. I was also happy that this year seemed to be the year of dedicated commenters: Everyone was kind and enthusiastic, and left comments with substance, rather than 'hi, nice post, read my blog' type things. It was always a delight to read the comments in the morning. Thank you!

Once again, there were several themes I enjoyed a lot, and I kept returning to read the posts daily. There were too many of them to list all (I visited somewhere between 25 and 40 blogs a day!), but here are some highlights, in no particular order:

Story Crossroads collected folktales and legends of kindness and healing

Sue Bursztinsky did an excellent series of posts on Arthurian legends

Sarah Zama did another fun series on life in the 1920s, but more importantly I read her book and it was awesome

Virginia Waytes was the first adult themed blog I've followed during A to Z, and I loved the diverse cast of supernatural characters

Ronel the Mythmaker posted great resources for folk and fairy lore

Anne E. G. Nydam did illustrations and fun commentary on nursery rhymes

I also loved the Quilting, Patchwork, Appliqué blog where we got to see some gorgeous quilts every day.

As for the genealogy blogs (another category I enjoy), Genealogy Challenges and Finding Eliza were my top favorites this year.

Thank you all for participating, posting, commenting, and visiting! See you all next year! :)

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Great women in a small country (Following folktales around the world 154. - Qatar)

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 here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

The tales from the next few countries are from two different books:


Folktales ​from the Arabian Peninsula
Tales of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, and Yemen
Nadia Jameel Taibah & Margaret Read McDonald
ABC-CLIO, 2015.

The Introduction tells us about the history and culture of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Three tales are from Qatar.

Folktales from the Arabian Gulf
A selection of popular tales collected in the field
Dr. Fayyiz Shayyagh, Sylvia Ismail
Doha, 2003.

The stories in this book are from the archives of the Gulf Folklore Centre, which has been collecting traditional folklore from six countries around the Gulf for almost forty years. The short introduction talks about the work of the Centre, the process of selecting and translating the stories, and the cultural background of tales with female heroes. There is a separate chapter for opening formulas. The book contains four tales from Qatar.

Highlights

I really liked the tale about the invention of the first sail, in which pearl divers had a boat race to decide who has the rights to dive in the best location. A woman joined the race with her ship, and suddenly she raised a triangular sail - the first people had ever seen. She won the race and the pearl claim, but in exchange she taught everyone else how to sail.
I really enjoyed the story of The four women and the cow-seller; it reminded me of Zaynab and Dalilah from the 1001 Nights. Four friends decided to play pranks on a man; three of them got him into trouble, but the fourth got him out of it.
There was a short and concise wisdom tale about how if Love is present in a house, Wealth and Success follow (after people invited a traveler named Love in first).

Connections

The helpful fish was once again a Cinderella variant, very much like the one I read from the Emirates. The golden cow was one of those folktales where a girl hides (in this case, inside a golden cow), and only sneaks out occasionally until a prince catches her. The thorn tree was a classic Basil Maiden story, where a girl exchanged banter and pranks with a man until he admitted that she is smarter than him.
The story of Assoom and Arooy, the two sheep, was a chain story which followed the usual pattern: one of them wanted a wolf to eat the other, but by the time the animals and people in the chain started acting, the wolf mistook his target, and ate the traitor instead. A very fitting ending.

Where to next?
Bahrain!