Monday, March 9, 2020

How and why stories (Following folktales around the world 146. - South Sudan)

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!

Nuer ​folktales, proverbs and riddles
Christian Carlassare
Paulines Publications Africa, 2016.

The book contains fifty-one Nuer folktales, as well as many proverbs, riddles, and tongue twisters, both in English and in the original language. Interestingly enough, this collection was published by Christiam missionaries, in order to preserve traditional storytelling. According to the new mission guidelines of the Church, missionaries have a responsibility to help preserve the traditional cultures and identities of the people they work with. The book is illustrated by simple black and white drawings, and it is a fairly quick read, since all the stories are short.


In a story about The wedding of vulture's daughter the birds got into a huge fight, which resulted in a lot of them gaining their current voice, behaviors, and appearance. In another wedding tale the constellations Scorpius and Orion were portrayed as friends - until Orion made fun of his friend's big head at his own wedding. Ever since the two constellations have been avoiding each other.
Among the trickster tales I really loved the one about Fox and the monster, where Fox found all kinds of novel ways to get out of paying his life debt to a monster - including setting up his own tattooing business.


There was once again a cool "bystander intervention" story - here it was Stork who threw her eggs down to Fox, until Pelican told her Fox could not climb trees and therefore his threats were empty against her. There was also a Monkey's heart tale (here with a crocodile) and a race between Hare and Frog (frog won).
There was a tale explaining why marabou is bald (Fox did it, in a "party in the sky" type story), and another one about why dog lives with humans (despite the warnings of Fox that they will treat him badly). I also found a more classic "Tortoise goes to the party in the sky" story, where he used the usual 'my name is Everyone' trick to get all the food.
I was surprised to see a tale type I have last encountered in Oceania, about how originally women always gave birth by C-section. In this version, a mouse eventually taught humans how to give birth properly, without killing the mother. The story of the girls and the monster was similar to one from the neighboring Sudan - they lived in a house in the bush and kept the monster at bay. One of them even defeated it in wrestling.
The trickster-in-residence was the Fox, who usually tricked Hyena or Vulture, and was at least once outwitted by Nightjar. He even made two friends fight, the way Eshu does in Yoruba folktales.

Where to next?

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