Thursday, December 11, 2008

Take a 5 minute survey

A short 5 minute survey is up at surveymonkey to help provide some insight into reader's needs.

I've wondered, ever since the first visitors trickled into, "who visits my site?". Are they kids reading folktales for fun? Or are they reading for an assignment? Are they teachers? Are they parents? What are they really looking for when they stumble on this site?

I've received hints through readers who send me notes to ask questions or just to encourage my efforts. But I've never sought to get complete answers. Now, some 2 years and 10 months later, it finally occurs to me to ask. Just ask. So I headed over to and created a survey. And I'm asking you, allfolktales readers, to please participate in the survey.

What to do with survey results
You may be wondering, "what do you intend to do with the information"?

I mentioned in my last blog post that I have dreams for I'm ready to take this site to the next level. I'm overwhelmed by the magnitude of what I'm dreaming of, but intend to take it one step at a time, closer to that dream. While figuring out how to take the next big step, I intend to work on all those little details that I have ignored - a tweak here and a tweak there.

While tweaking here and there, I want to be sure that I keep you in mind. What do you need from this site? What do you use today? How can this site serve you better? How can I know if I do not ask? So I'm asking you to please take the survey and let me know allfolktales can serve you better?

Thank you
Thank you for taking the time to help. And thank you for visiting

- Omowunmi

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Putting my vision out here

For months now, I've been thinking about where I want to take this site, what I want to do next. I'm having a hard time recalling more stories, so is that it? Does that signify the end of this project? "No no no." It can't end like this. Something in me rebels against that thought. But what to do? I don't know. Or, I didn't know.

In the past few weeks, my thoughts are beginning to crystallize into a clearer vision. But it is a vision greater than myself. Greater than my limitations. "What are my limitations?" I decided I will not let those, real or imagined, hamper my vision. I will go about making it happen.

I started because of my daughter. I wanted to share these stories with her. She's turning five now and reading on her own. I want her to read the stories. I have a son who's one, and soon, I want him the site to be a resource for him too. I want kids to be able to read folktales on the site.

That's the essense of my vision. You can't write for kids and not have pictures. But alas, I don't know how to draw! This inability had loomed large from the onset. Back in June 2006, I cited a lack of colorful illustrations as one of the primary reasons I found it difficult recalling the folktales I heard and read when I was young. That statement should have informed my vision. I thought about it, I wished it, but concluded, "I cannot draw". I decided to focus on what I could do - collect the stories. Collection will be ongoing, for as long as I can find a new story, but it's time to shift my focus. Except, did I already mention, I cannot draw?

But I have now decided, my vision will not be limited by me. In the past, I was reluctant to publicize my goals for the site because I thought to myself, "what if I can't do it?", "what if I don't have the time?" etc. Those thoughts still plague me, but I'm ignoring them. And I'm taking the next step, one step at a time, to go where I need to go. And hopefully, if I find myself giving up, someone will read this post and set me straight again.

Now to my next step - figure out how to find an illustrator.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lyrics to the story of the three brothers and pot of porridge

I am very excited to receive an email from a reader, Enitan. She (I'm assuming she) sent me an email with lyrics to the story of the three brothers and the pot of porridge and she says the name of the youngest brother, yeah, the culprit, is Tegbe. The song goes like this:

`To ba se pe emi ni mo je koko arugbo (If I ate the koko yam)
Ko'kun o gbe mi, (Let the ocean take me)
K'Osa ko gba mi, (Let the sea take me)
Ke ma ri Tegbe ko ku o.

In the version on the website, I interpreted okun as sea. Enitan interpretes it as ocean. I didn't have osa. Enitan interpretes that as "sea: as in Lagos". Could it also mean Lagoon since Lagos is surrounded by those?

I speak Yoruba but I'm no literary expert in the language. It isn't easy translating from one language to another. My feeble attempts on this site has given me a healthy dose of respect for Wole Soyinka's translation of D.O. Fagunwa's Ogboju ode ninu igbo irumale into A Forest of a Thousand Daemons.

Enitan, thanks for stopping by and dropping a note.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Collective amnesia on folktales

There's an African folktale that tells the tale of how all the stories in the world were lost, and then recovered. I can't recall this tale in detail but think one of the Magic Cellar episodes was based on it. Or maybe I read the story somewhere.

Perhaps the story illustrates an actual event - one where the entire (village?) populace forgot their stories or history and needed a concerted effort to recall the lost memories. Perhaps it illustrates a fear that the oral histories can get lost and served to reinforce the importance of passing on the stories. (Too bad it didn't drive the development of some sort of writing.)

Today, there's a collective amnesia around the African folktales I grew up with. I thought it was just me...I almost remember the stories but they're just out of my grasp. I think if I think deeply enough, they will come back. So I throw out the little bits I remember and ask others to fill in the holes. I see eyes light up as they remember the story...they think they remember but then the story is just out of their grasp.

I've observed this often enough that I now expect it. "Oh, I will remember that one!", they say. "Shoot me an email to remind me. I will write it out and send it to you." End of story.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stories from Alawiye

Phetolo wrote to ask "May u pls send me the origin of the story about how the chimpanzees bottom got swollen and red."

Well, this was one of the stories that I remembered just a small fragment of, but I clearly remember where I knew the story from. It was one of the stories that I learned from Alawiye (by J.F. Odunjo), the textbook that we used for Yoruba when I was in primary school. I can't remember if it was from apa kini, apa keji or apa keta (part 1, part 2 or part 3). But all I could remember from the story was Su dundun which my best effort translated to "Give me sweet feces."

One of the first books I intended to get were the Alawiye series, so I asked my sister in Nigeria to get them for me. She told me that the books she saw did not have "all those stories". I still haven't obtained a copy and I haven't verified that statement.

Someone else eventually refreshed my memory of this story. Thank you Id.

As far as story origin, it's from the Yoruba people of West Africa (that's why it was in a Yoruba textbook, right?)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Alu Jon Jonki Jon

One of the earliest stories I posted is the story about how Dog hid his mother in the sky during a famine. There's a song that goes with that story and I can't remember why I left it out. I've now updated the story to include the song.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti (late Nigerian Afrobeat musician) used it in one of his songs and you can listen to that clip on BBC. The story is narrated on that page, but it is the Tortoise who hides his mother in heaven. Perhaps this is a different version but Fela and I both agree that it was the Dog who hid his mother in heaven. He sings "Aja gbe ti e, o d'orun" (meaning "Dog has taken his mother to the sky.") Oh, don't ask me what "Alu jon jonki jon" means. I have no idea.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Not quite slow and steady

The Aesop story of the Tortoise and the Hare is a very popular one and it teaches us that "Slow and steady wins the race". However, when I was growing up, there was another version that was also popular where Tortoise won by tricking Hare.

I tried to come up with a short phrase/adage/wise words that perhaps explains the moral of this 'win by trickery' version (which I also think predates the Aesop's version). So I've got,

"Never say never"

"It's not over till it's over"

"It's not brawn but brains"

"Cross all your 'T's and dot all your 'I's" (obviously running out at this point)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mosquito and Ear

I was told the story of why mosquitos buzz in people's ears over a year ago but I didn't want to post it until I read the book that goes by the same title (by Verna Aardema). After all, I didn't want to be accused of plagiarism in case the stories were the same. Well, how could they be the same? I ordered the book and read it and it's a very interesting story but completely different from my mine. Oh well, except for the title.

Just like the multitude of stories about the tortoise's broken back, I wonder if there's a similar multitude about the mosquito and its ferocious habit of buzzing in people's ears. (Perhaps the habit can be logically explained: the mosquito's buzz is only heard when it's near the ears. But this is a folktale site - logic out.)

I forgot to ask the person who told me this story who Ear married after ridiculing Mosquito. If you know, please share.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sikulu and Harambe

Sikulu the spider and Harambe the hippo are two characters developed by Kunle Oguneye. The first book in the series, Sikulu and Harambe by the Zambezi river: An African version of the Good Samaritan Story should be published in July 2008.

Now, I haven't read the story, but I'm already won over by the cover illustration. I hope it is representative of illustrations throughout the book. One of the reasons I believe I cannot remember many of the folktales I heard growing up is because the stories were not reinforced
with images (pictures or movies). Most of the books on African folktales lacked visual appeal so it is exciting to see that changing.

I wish Kunle Oguneye all the best with his book. I would love to be able to preview a few pages of the book but the "click here to read the book" link did not quite work for me. If you visit the site, check out the video of the author - he explains his inspiration for the characters - and I really like his concept. If the stories are well written, I easily see those characters becoming a hit with children.

Note: In my last post, I referred to a third email that I would address in another post...this is it.

A short note to say I will be back...

It took about 5 months for me to quit feeling guilty about not even trying to post a new story or say something on the blog. Initially, I blamed the site inactivity on various things - laptop crashed and I replaced it with a desktop instead of another laptop, then I moved to a new city, have a new 'busier' job and now a new baby. When SOLOMONSYDELLE said "Haba, update nah!", I was long gone. And I chose not to respond because I thought it was better to be gone than to make up more excuses. I had excuses (perhaps), but maintaining this site is something I continued to think about.

For a while, I checked emails from the website and it was a chore because it became all about deleting spam. So I stopped. And the longer I went without checking, the more I dreaded the spamfest I would encounter if I did. Last Friday, I decided to log in and do some mass deletes, but some emails caught my attention. One from Soyini was very encouraging. Soyini said

I have just discovered your website, and I have read your reasons for not submitting more stories.
I love the ones you posted so far...they remind me of the stories my grandfather use to tell us from his rocking chair on the front porch of his big house down in Americus, Georgia.
Please continue the stories...I read them to children in my youth program.
Some of us are called to do whatever we do...think about it...following your calling, you will not regret it.

Who wouldn't want to continue posting stories after reading that? Thanks Soyini!

To Ezinwoke who wanted to know if he could contribute stories...your stories would be most welcome. Just email me the story and I'll post it to the site. To your second question about reusing stories...the stories are 'public domain' AFAIK. The stories have been retold over and over in different fashions and you can retell in your own words. But if you reuse a story 'as is', then you need to cite the source - Note that this only applies to the stories written by me. If it was contributed by another author, their own rules will apply.

There's a third email that I will address in another blog post. If I missed your email in my mass delete frenzy, I apologize. And I thank you for writing.