Monday, March 30, 2020

Afar folktales of foxes and hyenas (Following folktales around the world 149. - Djibouti)

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!

Image from here
Sadly I could not find a folktale book from Djibouti, not even an online collection of tales. I decided to read Afar folktales instead, since the Afar people live both in Ethiopia and in Djibouti.

I found fourteen Afar folktales this website. They were collected in the 1990s from the oral tradition in the region of Ethiopia that borders Eritrea.


In the story of the four brothers and the hyena four young men were attacked by hyenas in the woods. Each one of them puts his faith in someone else: one in God, one in his clan, one in Mother Earth, and one in the kindness of the hyenas. Naturally, the fourth brother gets devoured. Similarly sad was the story about the hyena and the donkey, where the donkey admired the hyena and wanted to be his friend, while the hyena only wanted to eat him.
I really liked the story about the clever girl who married an equally clever crown prince after several rounds of riddles and flirting. Even when her husband was later killed by bandits, he still managed to send her a coded message to help her take revenge for his murder.


There was a classic trickster story where three travelers decided to give their food to the one who had the best dream (and while two of them slept the third ate the food). There was also a man that exchanged useless things to increasingly more valuable ones, but in the end he got too clever, and destroyed his entire family. Oops.
The trickster in residence was the fox; when the lion stole a calf and claimed it was birthed by his bill, the fox was the one who revealed the lie. He also defeated hyena in a similar debate. In other cases his cleverness helped him escape predators, such as the lion, when he had to pick between his food and his life...

Where to next?

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