and other tales from Africa
by Alexander McCall Smith
This little book is a collection of African folktales from Botswana and Zimbabwe. It caught my eye on a display shelf at the library so I brought it home to read. The tales have a similar style and flavor to Aesop's fables, one also reminded me closely of a B'rer Rabbit story. There are stories of families and friendships, of keeping promises and secrets, of disobedience and greed, treating others fairly, appreciating kindness, and of course, clever tricksters. Animals mingle with humans: sometimes they are hunted, other times they are helpers, often they speak to people, or change their shapes, or even live together. Some stories explain characteristics of wildlife, others illustrate human follies. They all have a lesson, though it wasn't always what I expected to find when I reached the end! I loved the setting, the animals, and the imaginative quality of them. My favorite was the one about the wax child who longed so much to see the world he got himself into danger and melted, but then found freedom in another form, thanks to his family who let him go. And I was really curious about two stories that featured a "strange animal" which was never quite described, and kept wrapped in mystery. I wonder what the animal was- one the storytellers saw, but were unfamiliar with? did its identity change with each re-telling, or was it always an enigma? Well, the book is fun, and the stories very interesting and educational, though I must warn they're not always pretty - a lion gets his tail nailed to the floor, people get eaten by animals or beaten by others for their wrongdoings, many suffer from hunger and thirst. The stories of The Girl Who Married a Lion reflect the world, but throw light back on it so we see ourselves, and perhaps our relationship with nature, more clearly.
Rating: 3/5 ......... 189 pages, 1989
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