Monday, January 27, 2020

Magic and blood (Following folktales around the world 140. - Madagascar)

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!

Rafara, ​a Víz Lánya
Madagaszkári népmesék
Jeanne de Longchamps
Európa, 1960.

This book is the Hungarian translation of the French language folktale collection of Jeanne de Longchamps (for folktales in English, try the book I read for the Seychelles). It contains seventeen folktales. The introduction describes the island and its traditions in eloquent, poetic language; Longchamps and her husband collected the stories from all over Madagascar over the course of the years they spent there. Each story is introduced by a small vignette about the place and people it was collected from. The book has an Afterword by folklorist Linda Dégh, describing the history, cultures, and storytelling customs of Madagascar. Each story comes with notes, tale types, and a glossary.


One of my favorite stories in the book was that of Beanriake, the sailor, who was born for the seas, deserted  white man's ship, and rescued two princesses from a monster on an abandoned island.
I was fascinated by the story of Ivorombé, the goose woman. Her daughter unexpectedly hatched from a bad egg, and she raised her in love until the girl ran away with a man. The angry mother skinned her and took her eyes in revenge, but when her daughter's painful tears flowed to her house, she regretted her actions, returned her skin and eyes, and helped her fulfill tasks to win happiness.
In the story of Ifara és Ikoto brother and sister ran away from the cruelty of their parents; half of her body was made of wood, and he had a belly so big he could only crawl. They went through many adventures, fought and made up, and defeated a monster, winning its treasures.
I was also touched by the story of Revere, the great dancer, who stole some oxen and was caught because he was compelled to dance whenever he heard music. He didn't even mind being executed for his crime, as long as he could dance to his heart's content before.


Ancali's child was the bird who sang even after its death; it sang from the kitchen, even from the hunter's stomach that killed it, until the parent birds showed up, cut the hunter's belly open, and rescued their child. The tale of Ibotiti wondered who is the strongest being in the world, but instead of circling back around like in other variants, in this one the story concluded that there is no one stronger than Andriamanitra, the Creator. I enjoyed the Magic Flight story of Bibiolo and the clever boys, in which instead of throwing magic items over their shoulder the boys asked various plants to help them block the way of the monster; after that they spilled food on the road, which the frugal monster was compelled to stop and gather.
I don't particularly like "golden haired twins" type folktales (where the queen gives birth to children and they are swapped for puppies, so her husband chases her away), but the story of King Ravohimena was a pretty great variant. Here she was not chased away, rather turned into a lemur by evil women. Her husband set out to find her, and with the help of forest creatures he finally managed to track the lemur down, and bring the criminals to justice.  
Andrianuranurana reminded me of Isis and Osiris: the hero was tricked into lying in a coffin and thus killed; his wife sought hi for a long time while he turned into a giant snake and devoured all who wronged him.
The tricksters in residence were a couple of good friends, Ikotofeci and Imahaka, who committed mischief as a very efficient team, working together. Eventually an old woman outwitted them, and burned them inside a house. The tar baby also made an appearance in the story of Icihitananco, a boy who turned into an animal. He was caught by a female figure covered in wax, but managed to get away by claiming he could only be killed by fire, and thus the flames melted the wax.

Where to next?

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