Monday, March 2, 2020

Nuggets of story wisdom (Following folktales around the world 145. - Kenya)

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!

East ​African Folktales 
For all ages from the voice of Mukamba
Vincent Muli Wa Kituku
August House Publishers, 2005.

The book contains eighteen short Kamba folktales in English and in the original Kikamba language. The author was born and grew up in Kenya, and then moved to the United States where he decided to write down the teaching stories of his mother's tradition in the 1990s. Each story comes with comments about the moral, but the author does note that stories can mean different things to different people. The book has black-and white illustrations, and motifs from Kenyan cloth patterns. The introduction was written by none other than David Novak, one of my favorite American storytellers.


There was a very poignant story in which Hamster's grandmother was handing out tails to the animals so that they could keep the flies away. Hamster did not bother to show up early for a tail, thinking his grandmother was going to put one aside for him anyway. However, grandma did not play favorites, and hamster was left with a small stub of a tail.
In a tale about the origin of death Raven and Chameleon competed in getting a message to the people. If Chameleon had won, people would come back to life after death - but Chameleon walks very slowly, so Raven got to us first with a more depressing message.
I also liked the small story about Hyena and the rock, in which nice king Hyena tried to start a conversation with a rock, and when all attempts failed, he peacefully walked away saying "at least you listened."


The story of the monkey's heart was familiar from many other places; here once again it was the shark who got tricked. The story of the dog who fought his own reflection for a bone was a classic teaching tale. Matema, who cut the tree under himself was familiar from Nasreddin hodja's antics, and the man who cried hyena got into trouble just like the boy who cried wolf.
The resident trickster was Hare, who scared a hungry hyena away.

Where to next?
South Sudan!

1 comment:

  1. I need to read that book! These folk tales sound super interesting.