Monday, October 28, 2019

Tales of strength and endurance (Following folktales around the world 128. - Namibia)

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!

Haiseb ​and the man who cooked himself
and other folktales from the Khoi of Namibia
Sigrid Schmidt & Veronica Eiases
Macmillan Education Namibia, 2008.

This book was written for entertainment reading, and contains 29 stories from the Khoi people of Namibia. There are no introduction or notes, only black-and-white illustrations, but the name of the storyteller is noted with every story.


The tale of the girl who married a springbok would be an excellent story for therapy. It belonged to the type where the girl marries into the spirit world and then has to escape, but it was a particularly powerful variant. Here, the springbok-husband "softened the bones" of his wife so she could not stand up or get away from him; she crawled home on her stomach, and had to win back her family's support before they helped her regain her strength. Another therapy-worthy story was that of the lazy horse. It told about a place where people had to cross lion-infested lands to get food; everyone hurried to make the trip faster, except for a man with a "lazy horse" that kept stopping to eat and drink. When the lions did attack, however, that horse was the only one that had the strength to get away.
I enjoyed the story of the chameleon and his twenty wives. The chameleon did not have the resources to care for that many women, so he kept feeding them some of his own flesh in secret. When they found out, they all left him, leaving their colorful dresses behind... and he has been wearing those every since.


There was yet another story that explained why chickens scratch the dirt (looking for a needle they borrowed from falcon and then lost). I knew the tale of the three elephants from Mali; the animals truned themselves into pretty women to trick a hunter into telling them all his secrets. His mother warned him to be more careful, and the kept one trick up his sleeve that helped him get away from the vengeful elephants.
It was interesting to encounter a story that I read from Venezuela before: a cannibal woman killed a pregnant mother and raised her twins as her own. The sister of the twins, Aga-abes, eventually revealed the truth to them, and they trapped and killed the cannibal, and revived their mother.
The resident trickster was Jackal, who in one story turned into grass just to be reincarnated as a calf and steal some cow milk. He also played the classic horse-riding trick with Lion and Lion's wife.

Where to next?
South Africa!

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