Monday, November 11, 2019

Adventures are for girls (Following folktales around the world 130. - Lesotho)

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!

Tales from the Basotho
Minnie Postma
University of Texas Press, 2014.

The book contains 23 folktales, translated from Sesotho to Afrikaans, and then to English. The translator's introduction talks about the culture of the country and the Basotho storytelling tradition; among many interesting things I learned that Lesotho is the country, Sesotho is the language, Mosotho is the people of the country, and Basotho is both the plural of the people and the adjective. The stories were collected by a white African woman, Minnie Postma, who heard them in her childhood and learned to tell them in their original language. As an adult, she became a teller and collector, retaining the rhythm and language and life of the folktales. They were written down from her oral telling, which makes the texts exciting and enjoyable. The book also contains a type and motif index for the tales, and a bibliography.


I knew in advance what my favorite story was going to be from this book: Nanabolele shines in the night is the tale of a girl raising her two brothers alone. The boys want special outfits for their initiation, made from the shining skins of the water-dragons known as nanabolele. She sets out with a group of people, descends into the underwater realm, and gets the skins for her brothers.
There was a beautiful story about an exiled girl who was fed and protected by the spirits of her ancestors until she found an invisible husband, and settled down. She was only cared for by her grandmother (her mother abused her), so she ended up bringing the grandmother to her new wealthy home.
Whirlwind and the half-men was once again a variant of the tale about the girl who married into the spirit world, except here the girl was found and rescued (through various clever tricks) by her brother.


Minnie Postma
The tale of the kind and unkind girls featured a giant bird, Mothemelle, giving out reward and punishment. In the end, however, the unkind girl also managed to carve out her own happy ending, and hat the giant bird hunted down for trying to punish her... The story of Fenya-fenyane was a classic "false bride" tale, but with some fascinating details. The bride was sent to her groom's house alone because her brother had been killed by a water monster, and her mother was too deep in mourning to arrange her wedding procession. On the road she was joined by a monster who had a tail with a mouth under her skirt, and the monster took her place as bride. The girl was eventually helped by a kind old woman to regain her place in her husband's home.
I was reminded of Irish stories by the tale of an old woman dragged out of her grave who clung to the back of a young man until he found a way to get rid of the talking corpse.
There was once again a story about why chickens scratch in the dirt (still looking for hawk's borrowed needle), and the tortoise that talked too much, and while a friendly dove was flying it across a river, it spoke and let go of the branch it's been biting on (luckily, it fell into the water and became a turtle).
The resident trickster was once again Jackal, who rode on the back of Wolf. There was also a tale where Jackal threatened Dove, trying to eat her children, but Heron intervened, and risked his life to save the little birds, proving that Jackal was no threat to her because he could not climb trees. Jackal was also tricked by Hen in the story where he tried to convince her that world peace had been declared.

Where to next?
Eswatini! (Formerly known as Swaziland)

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