Monday, November 4, 2019

Diverse tales from a diverse country (Following folktales around the world 129. - South 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!

11 ​South African Folk Tales – 11 Official Languages
A Celebration of Democracy and Cultural Diversity
Aré Van Schalkwyk
Zytek Publishing, 2005.

The book, true to its title, contains 11 tales representing the 11 official languages of the country, retold by authors who create in those languages. Each story is presented in the original text and in English translation, and each is prefaced with a short introduction about the language, the culture, the customs, and the traditional dresses that belong to them. The book contains a foreword from the Minister of Art and Culture, and is closed by the lyrics of the South African anthem.


The English language was represented by Kwenda and the Tortoise, told by Margaret Kollmer. It was a lovely story about a mean old widower, whom a chief tricked into enjoying life again by sending him on a mission to gather colors along with his tortoise.
In the Xitsonga story a family set out on a journey, and the husband told the wife that if they encounter a wild beast, she should hold it by the tail so that he could kill it. When they were attacked by a lion, the woman grabbed the tail, but the husband got scared and fled, leaving her to wrestle the beast alone. Eventually the wife left in trouble was found and rescued by other people, and the husband was eaten by something in the bush.


I have encountered a similar story to the Zulu tale before. Here a single mother named Nanana was chased out of her community, and established her own home by the road, signaling that she was not afraid. When an elephant devoured her children, she set out to find it and kill it, saving everyone from the elephant's stomach. The Sesotho language was represented by a Cinderella variant about a girl named Analeti, while siSwati was represented by the tale of kind and unkind girls named Tsandzekile and Tondzekile, where the former was saved and vindicated by the village of her uncle.
Hare appeared as the trickster in the Xhosa story where he tricked King Lion into jumping down a well to fight his own reflection. In the Setswana story Hare, Tortoise, and Jackal all appeared as tricksters. Tortoise trapped Jackal (who was stealing water from the communal dam) by smearing himself in sticky gum - this is the first story I have ever seen where the trickster himself was also the tar baby...

Where to next?

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