Sunday, January 8, 2023

Hedgehog hero (Following folktales around the world 201. - Western Sahara)

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!

Western Sahara (the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, SADR) is a non-autonomous country that has been fighting for independence from Morocco for decades. In the neighboring Algeria there are refugee camps giving shelter to thousands of Sahrawi people. When I was going through Africa with this challenge, I didn't have a book to read so I skipped it. But now I do, so I circled back for a 201st stop.

Los cuentos del erizo
Y otros cuentos de las mujeres del Sáhara
Ana Crisitna Herreros
Libros de las Malas Compañías, 2017.

The book contains 30 folktales collected from Sahrawi women in refugee camps in Tinduf, Algeria. Spanish storyteller Ana Cristina Herreros and artist Daniel Tornero visited the camps - that have been in existence for 40 years - in 2016. Ana recorded and collected folktales (in the original language, to be translated to Spanish later), and Daniel conducted workshops with children, where illustrations for the book were made. Original photos and recordings can be found on the publisher's website.
The introduction was written by the SADR's Minister of Culture.


The trickster hedgehog (who is featured in the title and on the cover) sometimes did real heroic deeds in the stories. In one, he talked the animals into standing up to a tyrannical lion. When the lion tried to eat him, the hedgehog stuck in his throat, choking and pricking him to death.
The most beautiful and unique story, however, was that of the Ostrich Boy. A baby was lost in the desert and raised by ostriches. Even when he grew up and was returned to his people, ostriches still followed him around, and he could run just like them.


The resident trickster, as mentioned above, was the hedgehog. He was the protagonist of such classics as "lions stacked on top of each other" (and scaring the bottom one into running away); "top of the crop and bottom of the crop"; ungrateful animal in a trap; dividing food between lion and wolf; race between animals (him against a swallow); and even a tale where he shared meat with wolf the same way Prometheus had tricked the Greek gods out of their offerings.
Another trickster who made an appearance was Yuhaa, the Arab cousin of the Hodja, playing the classic trick of putting hot peppers on a donkey's ass to make it run faster. Another familiar tale was about a foolish king who outlawed scratching - but three clever women still found a way to scratch themselves without being punished.
Among the non-trickster tales I found a version of the goats and the wolf (The red goat and the four kids), and the cursed brothers (Sraysru Dahabu).

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes the morality of trickster tales may seem questionable, but putting the long history suffered by the Sahrawi with their stories makes it understandable. (I'd also love to know how those 3 clever women did the scratching!)