Monday, October 7, 2019

Courage against cruelty (Following folktales around the world 125. - Equatorial Guinea)

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!

Leyendas ​y cuentos bujebas
de la Guinea Española
Arcadio de Larrea Palacin, Carlos Gonzalez Echegaray
Instituto de Estudios Africanos, 1955.

The 26 tales in the book were collected in 1952 (before the independence of the country) from members of the Bujeba (Kwasio) people, most of all a woman named Carmen Nsié. The introduction talks about the collection and translation process, the Bujeba storytelling tradition, and the indigenous way of life as portrayed in the folktales. The first chapter organizes all characters from the stories, listing information about them from the text, which is an interesting addition to a folktale collection, but not very useful up front until one has actually read the stories. Another smaller chapter listed other West African collections, and their comparisons to the tales in this book. The second half of the volume contains all the stories in Spanish mirror translation with the original Bujeba text.


Pic from here
I loved the story of the Rescue of Miánlumba, in which a mother protected her infant daughter with a machete from a father who would only let male children live. The girl was cast into the river, and found and raised by another woman with great care. Eventually news of her reached the birth mother, who thanked the foster-mother for her help; from that day on "the girl had two mothers", the tale concludes. Violence was similarly judged in the story about The cruelty of Ntung, a brother who tortured his sister until their aunt showed up from the Land of Dwarves (where she'd married), took the girl with her, and healed her. She later showed up to tell the father and brother that the girl was better off living with her - and she did. In a third story, a girl named Yanga wandered into the house of a man-eating monster, and made friends with his daughter. When the monster tried to eat Yanga, the two girls ran away together, found a new home, married at the same time, and lived happily. Cruelty reached a more tragic result in the story of Nzambi and the Chimpanzee, in which an ape cradled a human child left by the river and talked to the mother, but the father came along, saw the animal, grew angry, and shot at her, killing the baby in the process.
Among the animal tales my favorite was the one where Tortoise, Boa, and Genet set out on a journey together, but because of all their special things (Genet always ran home to poop, Boa digested lunch for days, Tortoise could not climb over obstacles) the trip became a disaster.


I found yet another fire theft story in this book (I love those!); here the rebellious son of the sky god(ess, hard to tell) stole the spark with the help of Eagle and a dry vine.

I was reminded of Sindbad's Old Man of the Sea by the story where Nquion met the Forest Spirit while hunting in a forbidden place. The spirit clung to his back and did not let go; finally the hero was told by his grandmother in a dream how to get rid of the demon weighing down on his shoulders. I was reminded of Red Riding Hood by the tale of Guambo and the Demon Chief, where a girl, cursed by her sister, met various demons on her way home through the forest. She managed to avoid them by singing, but their chief swallowed her. She was rescued from the demon's stomach, by her parents.
I was reminded of a tale from Gabon by the story where Tortoise won a girl's hand (by cutting a tree down with the help of all his relatives). Leopard took the wife from him by force, but Tortoise got her back by hiding in the latrine and clinging to Leopard's testicles until he admitted defeat.
The trickster in residence is, once again, Tortoise.

Where to next?
São Tomé and Príncipe!

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