Monday, March 16, 2020

Kindness and wisdom (Following folktales around the world 147. - Ethiopia)

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!

The ​rich man and the singer
Folktales from Ethiopia
Mesfin Habte-Mariam
Dutton, 1971.

The book contains thirty folktales, apart from a few all of them are of Amhara origin. Most of them were written down by the author from memory, from the tales of his mother from childhood. The introduction offers a brief glimpse into the history and cultures of Ethiopia.


I liked the story of The man and the snake, where a rich man fell on hard times, and learned, being helped by a rat, a monkey, and a snake, than the animals had way more kindness and empathy than his human friends (despite their negative opinions about the snake).
Another tale about kindness was the one where a father offered a reward to one of his three sons, the one that did the greatest act of kindness. One returned money he was entrusted with (that was honesty), one saved a drowning child (that was bravery), and the last saved his drunk enemy from rolling off a cliff. The last one won the reward.
I was amused by the story where three wise men revived a dead lion to prove their wisdom, despite the warnings of a bystander. They were, obviously, eaten. Very Jurassic Park.
The classic Ethiopian tale of The lion's hair had a variant in this book too. A woman learned how to slowly gain her husband's trust the same way she slowly tamed a lion.


There was a familiar tale about a husband who wanted to do household chores (and realized they were a lot harder than they looked). (Sadly, this story was counteracted by another one that claimed that women are too gossipy to hold responsible positions.)
There was the classic wisdom tale of a father showing his sons they are stronger together using a bundle of sticks. The king's riddles were answered by a clever man rather than a clever maid this time. The ungrateful animal rescued from a trap was leopard, who was lured back into the trap by a clever baboon.
A girl was rescued by three men from a crocodile: a musician played music to distract the beast, the hunter shot it, and the swimmer pulled the girl out of the water. The tale ended in a dilemma: who should marry her?
The resident trickster was baboon, who outwitted lion and hyena, and also a man named Aleka Gebrehanna, whose witty stories reminded me of Nasredding Hodja.

Where to next?

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