Monday, December 2, 2019

Pig noses and exotic birds (Following folktales around the world 133. - Zimbabwe)

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!

Shangani ​Folk Tales
A collection of Shangani folk stories
C. Stockil & M. Dalton
Longman Zimbabwe, 1987.

The book contains thirty folktales from the Shangani (Tsonga) people of Zimbabwe. There are no notes or comments accompanying the stories, but there are a few black-and-white illustrations. The majority of the Shangani (a Bantu people) are located in Mozambique and South Africa, but a few thousand of them live in Zimbabwe, where the collection was published.


The hero (or anti-hero) of many stories was Nwapfundhla, the Hare - a true Trickster character. He did some very questionable things in some stories, while other were simply funny and entertaining. I enjoyed the story about The waterhole that the animals dug without Hare's help; when he kept stealing water from it anyway, Chibodze, the Tortoise, used his own shell as a tar baby trap to capture the thief. Trickster vs Trickster at its best.

There was an adorable story explaining why the warthog has a short nose, why the elephant shrew has a long nose, and why the nightjar has a wide mouth - the warthog fell off a tree and landed on his nose, which made the bird laugh and the shrew snort, and all of then acquired permanent new features that way. According to another tale Khumba, the pig has a short nose because he tried to imitate the lilac-breasted roller (see picture) who flies up high and then drops, only pulling up a hair's breadth before hitting the ground. Back then, pigs could fly but Khumba was not very good at it, so he hit the ground nose first, and has been too embarrassed to fly ever since. I also adored the story about how the warthog got his tail - God made tails for all the animals to pick from, but Elephant picked two, one for the back and one for the front, and the warthog was left out. In his shame, he dug up a root and stuck it to his back, and his tail has been sticking up ever since.


I have heard the story of Nganga, the python from storytellers before. A sick man needed a python-healer, but all his sons who went to fetch the serpent ran away in fear. Only the youngest child (already used to everyone being larger than him) was brave enough to carry the python around his shoulders.

The birds once again chose their own king; this time Eagle was bested by the tiny Fork-tailed drongo who flew higher on his back.
The resident trickster, as I mentioned, was Nwapfundhla the Hare. He featured into the story of the mutual dinner invitations with Baboon where neither let the other one eat. He also ran a race with Tortoise (and lost), and made Elephant and Hippo play tug-o-war. He also solved the problem when Baboon kept inviting animals to meet his in-laws, and then tricked them out of eating.

Where to next?

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