Sunday, April 18, 2021

A stroll around seven thousand islands (Following folktales around the world 198. - Philippines)

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!

Tales from the 7,000 Isles
Popular Philippine Folktales
A.R. Guillermo & Nimfa M. Rodeheaver
Read Me Books, 1996.

A lovely volume with many colorful illustrations (some better than others), containing 20 folktales on a mere 87 pages. It was interesting, but I did not fall in love with it. The authors claim some stories were "rewritten" to make them more dramatic, but don't specify what parts they changed. There was a short introduction about the flora and fauna of the islands; they also mentioned they selected from the larger ethnic groups of the Philippines, but did not specify them with the stories. Names came with notes and explanations (animal's names were often the word used for that animal). There was not much extra information included, but it was an entertaining read.


Most of the memorable stories were placed among the myths in the beginning of the book. My favorite was the completely conflict-less story about how different plants went to the Great Spirit to be told where they will live. It was interesting to observe who became ambassadors to various plant groups: hardwood was represented by mahogany, grasses by bamboo, fruit trees by mango, food plants by rice, and tall trees by coconut, who was deemed the most important of all. Another interesting myth explained why sea is salt - it was about a hero who wanted to build a salt castle for his love, and while building a salt-bridge to another island the bridge collapsed under him. 
The book also had a short version of one of the great epics of the Philippines, Ibong Adarna the magic bird. I read the original in translation, so this summarized version was not nearly as exciting, but I was still happy to see it here. And the rainbow colored magic bird somehow got translated as a nightingale...


There were many. Most oft he stories belonged to familiar types, such as animals running a race (here buffalo and tortoise), fairy bride with stolen wings (or rather, star bride), and even an Aladdin story that was so close to the 1001 Nights I wondered how it ended up on the Philippines. There was also a version of the story where sea animals want a monkey's liver, but he manages to convince them he's left his organs on dry land. I knew this one from Japan.

Where to next?

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