Monday, September 9, 2019

Animal friendships, animal enemies (Following folktales around the world 121. - Central African Republic)

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!

Central ​African Folk Tales
An Imaginative Collection of Wisdom for Children
Thomas G. Schaefer
XLibris US, 2014.

This book features twenty short folktales collected by a Peace Corps employee in the 1970s. Before violence broke out in the country, the oral tradition was still uninterrupted and stories could be gathered. Schaefer used these tales to teach English and show children that their own stories were just as valuable as the foreign literature used to teach French. He published a larger collection for educational purposes; this current ebook is a short selection from those stories. All tales are included in English and French, and accompanied by cute little drawings.


Out of the origin stories, the one about the origin of rivers was the most intriguing. It claimed that in the beginning people lived without water, drinking juices of fruit and animal blood, until a hunter found a well, and released the first rivers into the world.
The strange and eerie tale of Birds, birs, and more birds was included in the book in two slightly different versions. This story said that originally there was only one bird in the world, the Bird of God. A hunter trapped it and ate it, despite the warnings of his wife, and was punished: In one story his stomach burst and birds flew out, in another he himself transformed into thousands of birds.
Among the animal tales my favorite was the story of Pig and Tortoise. Tortoise lent his shell to Pig, who forgot where he put it, and has been rooting around in shame ever since, trying to find it and give it back. The scratching of hens was similarly explained in a tale where Dog and Hen shared a meal, but the impatient hen ate the top of the rice, and left the choice parts in the bottom of the dish. She has been scratching ever since to make sure she gets the best bits of food.


Image from here
Animals sometimes helped, and sometimes tried to outdo each other in the stories. Bee and Pigeon saved each other; Elephant and Hen had an eating contest (which hen won, on account of number of items consumed), and Lion and Mosquito fought for the throne of the jungle (Mosquito won). There was also once again a tale where a hunter was rescued from a lion by a mouse that pretended to be a lion-hungry monster.
I was reminded of all the sky-raising myths by the tale that explain why there is rainfall. It was a story of war between earth and sky; earth tried to shatter sky with mountains, while sky tried to melt earth with rain, even though the moon tried to bring them to peace.
There is not one famous trickster in residence here, according to the collector, but rather many tricky animal characters. Still, there was a mention of a mischievous character named Tere, but only in one tiny story.

Where to next?
The Democratic Republic of Kongo!

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