Monday, July 15, 2019

Brains over brawn (Following folktales around the world 115. - Burkina Faso)

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 the Moose of Burkina Faso
Alain-Joseph Sissao
Langaa RPCID, 2010.

The book contains forty-two folktales from the Moose people of Burkina Faso, collected from the oral tradition. We get a short introduction to Moose culture and storytelling, as well as a bibliography at the end of the book. The stories have been translated to French, and then to English, keeping their original wording. This is a folklore collection, definitely not a children's book, and some of the tales sound strange even to adult European ears. However, some of the strange tales were really interesting and enjoyable.


In the tale of The warthog and the lion, the king of the animals wanted to kill the warthog because others claimed he was stronger. Hare helped the warthog to get away, with a lot of cunning and some frustration, but the lion has been hunting his kind ever since. In another, more adorable escape story, a hunter picked up a hedgehog and her children. The mother kept telling the little ones "if God does not kill, the chief cannot kill either." Eventually the hunter set his bag down to kill an antelope, and the hedgehog family got away.
There was a fun chain story about a Beautiful girl who was kidnapped by a crocodile, and rescued by a turtledove. The dove began to sing, and the crocodile left the girl with a lizard to go listen to the music. The lizard wanted to listen too, so he left the girl with a frog, and so on, until she was finally left alone, and she could escape.
My favorite clever solution in the book, however, was for the dilemma of The chief, the hawk and the turtledove. In this one, a dove fleeing a hawk found refuge in a chief's pocket, and in return promised him whatever he wished for. The hawk promised he would have many children. The chief did not know which one to pick, but luckily a child came along, and asked what the matter was. His solution was simple yet great: he asked the hawk if he was trying to kill the dove specifically, or was just hungry. Since it was the latter, the child told the chief to bring some meat, and feed the hawk. Both birds got away content, and both of them gave their gifts to the chief.
There is always a third option.


There were also some familiar tale types in the book - for example, two variants of the Kind and Unkind Girls, both of which had an orphan girl for a protagonist. She returned home covered in gold or riches, while the lazy stepsister only got death and scorpions. On the other hand, the "clever maid" character who solved a chief's impossible tasks in this case was a boy.
There was yet another fun "dangerous rock" type trickster tale: in this case, everyone had to go A year without criticizing, because anyone who uttered a criticism would die. Hare pretended to plant a garden on a rock, and collected the possessions of the animals that made a critical comment on his foolish behavior. Eventually Guinea Fowl turned his own trick against him.
The trickster-in-residence is still Hare, who steals fruit from the chief's tree and collects impossible gifts (e.g. djinn brains). There was also a boy who was a great liar, making a fool of the chief and the whole village (gold-shitting donkey, stick that the revives the dead, classics), and swapped his punishment with someone else.

Where to next?

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