Monday, March 25, 2019

Hausa tales of wisdom and adventure (Following folktales around the world 104. - Niger)

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!

With today's post, the series is going on a shirt spring break: The A to Z Challenge begins next Monday! Come visit any day in April, and read some wonderful Fruit Folktales from around the world :)

Hausa Folktales from Niger
Robert S. Glew, Chaibou Babalé
Ohio University Press, 1993.

The book contains forty Hausa folktales, translated by the author in the late 1980s. They were being broadcast in Hausa on national radio at the time. The tales were told by two storyteller ladies (Hadjia Rahamu and Hadjia Angéle), who at that point had been entertaining the country's children and adults for more than eighteen years on the air. They collected stories for children, especially stories with morals and teachings. The collection features animal tales, wonder tales, trickster tales, lots of monsters and adventures, and a few very bloody incidents. The book comes with a short introduction and a glossary.


picture from here
The tale of The girl who turned into a bird was very pretty, and a little similar to both Cinderella and Snow White. The girl was the daughter of a second wife, being abused by the first wife. One day she attended a celebration where she met a king's son, and he asked why she was wearing rags while her sisters were wearing nice dresses. She confided in him, telling him she was being treated badly, so he gave her some money. They fell in love and married, but the stepmother found out, and, braiding an amulet into the girl's hair, turned her into a bird. She was eventually found and rescued by her little brother and her husband.
In the story of The donkey who pretended to have horns, a donkey teamed up with a lion to terrorize animals - until a brave rabbit proved to everyone that the donkey has ears, not horns, and therefore he is harmless.
The boy who married the king's wife was a variant of my favorite superhero team-up folktale type, but it was so much fun that I have to highlight it. The team consisted of Dodger (who dodged everything), Seer-of-Things-in-the-Distance, Doer-of-Things-Quickly, Thief, Bushrat, and Potassium. I was eager to see what Potassium would contribute to the story, but all she did was carry messages between lovers. Bushrat didn't really do anything either.
Gizo, the local spider-trickster was also featured in several stories. The tale of Gizo and the snake, for example, was about trust. Gizo borrowed the snake's skin, but had no intention of giving it back, and so the snake had to live hidden and naked underground. Eventually the snake managed to talk a dove into helping him find Gizo and get the skin back. At first, the dove was scared of the snake, but she learned to trust him along the way. The story ends with a question - what do you think happened? I'd like to believe that the snake got his skin back. A girl named Daya was also saved by a dove from the monster she had been promised to before her birth.


Since we are in Africa now, of course there were a lot of tricksters. I have encountered the "trickster asks for a boon" tale type in the Caribbean before; here, Jackal asked a malam (wise man) for more cleverness, and the malam made him bring various hard-to-acquire things. When the Jackal managed to get all of them, it became clear that he is already more than clever enough. He also played the role of the judge in the classic "ungrateful rescued animal" story of The man and the crocodile. Next to Jackal, there was the above mentioned Gizo, the spider, who featured into several tales.
Some stories were similar to stories that also exist in Europe. The tale of Hare and the Hyena was like the King and Unkind girls, except here it was Hare who served in a mysterious house, and received a gift for it, while Hyena was punished for his rudeness. Another story, The Fulbe hero and the dodo (dodo is a monster) was of the same type; here the hero went to get his hair braided by the dodo's wife, and got away alive, but others who wanted to copy him failed. There was also an interesting Cinderella-variant, where the father had two wives, and the girl abused by her evil second mother was helped by her half-sibling in marrying the king's son. There was, of course, a Magic Flight story - A girl who married a snake was running from her husband with the help of various items thrown behind her. The girl who saved the king's son was similar to the Italian Canary Prince, and The Arab's daughter and the king was a nice variant of the sassy, dressed-in-men's-clothes mediterranean Basil Girl.

Where to next?

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