Monday, November 2, 2020

Heroic princesses and important lessons (Following folktales around the world 175. - Afghanistan)

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!

Folk tales of Afghanistan
Asha Dhar
Learners Press, 1999.

The book contains 22 folktales translated into English from the Dari language. The author re-told these stories to make the book more accessible to younger readers. Since the author is from India, short introduction and some of the tales highlight the cultural connections and encounters between India and Afghanistan.  
Each tale comes with short footnotes that explain some of the foreign words and expressions in the text. Sometimes the English phrasing sounded very modern, but it did not make the stories any less entertaining.


Image from here
By far the best story in the book was that of Princess Liyan (although it is so perfect I am not even sure it is a folktale). It's a great tale of adventure, where an evil magician takes over a kingdom, and the king's daughter sets out to destroy him and save her people. She is helped along the way by cat-peris, and flies on the back of the legendary Simurgh bird. 
I also loved the tale of The lock of the heart, where a mean miser saved a jinn princess, and in exchange he received a key that opened the lock of his heart, and helped him become a kind and generous person. In another wisdom tale a rich merchant's spoiled son kept skipping gold coins on a lake (instead of pebbles), until his father sent him out to find work. After working a whole year for one gold coin, he learned the value of money.


There were some familiar tales in the book too, such as the spider that saves the Prophet's life by covering a cave's entrance (The prophet and the khalifa), or Justice and Injustice (here Good Khan and Bad Khan - although in the end we find out that the Good Khan has also done some very questionable stuff while he was seeking his fortune). There was also a version of the classic, tragic love story of Ferhad and Shirin
The trickster in residence is Abu Khan, who is a lot like the Hodja Nasreddin. In one story he got a paper from the Amir proving he was allowed to kill flies anywhere anytime - and he used it to whack the Amir and his men on the head when they tried to take his house. He also took the role of the wise man in classic stories such as "scent of food, clinking of money", and "boiled eggs don't become chickens." 

Where to next?


  1. Hey.. LOVE this blog. It will be very nice if you could post where we could get these books too.. some of them appear to be rare books.

    1. Yes, a lot of them are hard to find... I got many of them through inter-library loan when I was studying in the USA. Others I have to buy online.