Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Let your children be what they want to be

Recovered somewhat from the computer crash and enjoying the holiday season with family visiting.

I was told the story of the farmer, his wife and their son…their son who wanted to be a hunter to the parents dismay. Then I was asked what the moral of the story was and before I had a chance to think about it, I was told “let your children be what they want to be”.

As I write this, there are three noisy kids running circles around me. I can’t help thinking that “I don’t want them to be what they want to be”. I want them to be quiet, well behaved, quiet and unheard. But then I guess they wouldn’t be children.

Back to our story, perhaps the moral we see in it now is a modern interpretation. Perhaps the story simply highlighted the relationship that may have existed between hunters and farmers. Perhaps farmers thought themselves to be superior to hunters. Hunting may have been the old, unpredictable and dangerous way of life but farming was the new, safe and sensible occupation. And the moral of the story may be “do not look down on hunting as a profession”. Maybe some hunters concocted this story to drive home their point of view but I think they could have done better, after all, the hunter in this story met riches through pure luck, luck that the farmer had as much chance of meeting on his farm as the hunter had of meeting in the forest. Oh well, it’s still a good story.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Computer crashes

To all those in the US, I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving day and wonderful Shopping thereafter.
It's been a while since my last post here, not because I had no story to post (in fact, I do) but because:

  • 1) There are work related projects to be completed before the end of the year
  • 2) I'm entertaining family from Nigeria (who have supplied me with more folktales)
Two very good excuses for not having time for posting stories, but then in accordance with Murphy's Law (except it's not really Murphy's law since the first two reasons are not wrong)

  • 3) My computer also crashed

On a positive note, today is CyberMonday, perhaps I'll find a good deal on a replacement computer. And when I do get back to updating the site, there will be more stories to post.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bird steals babies

Posted this folktale yesterday about a bird that stole Iyawo's baby, then rewarded the woman. Iyale gets greedy and tries to get same reward but is punished instead. Iyale and Iyawo are Yoruba words meaning "senior wife" and "junior wife" respectively. They are terms used to label wives in a polygamous situation to indicate their order of seniority and many tales abound in Yoruba folklore depicting iyale/iyawo interactions. Such stories, as in this tale almost always portray disharmony in the family - a mean iyale and a long-suffering iyawo with the husband rarely playing any role in the drama. Apparently, the tales did not warn enough people off the practice considering its dominance in ancient Yoruba culture.

Reading A.B. Ellis's Yoruba Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa helped me remember most of this story. In his version, there are three wives, not two so you may want to head over to read that.

I posted this commentary yesterday night. Then decided to upgrade to blogger-beta after reading about the new features. Completed the upgrade without a hitch (none expected either). Then today, I wanted to edit my post and alas, just like iyawo, my post was gone. Blogger-beta had taken my post and no matter how fervently I sang, it wouldn't give it back to me. I did not have copy of that post and I think it was nicer than this one. Lost posts always are.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Turn the World Around - a Guinea folklore inspiration

I enjoy Harry Belafonte's music. This video is of a 1977 appearance he made on the Muppet Show where he sang Turn the world around - a beautiful song. In the video, he explains that his inspiration for the song came from a storyteller he met in Guinea.

I went deep into the interior of the country and in a little village, I met with a storyteller. And that storyteller went way back into African tradition and African mythology and began to tell the story about the fire, which means the sun, and about the water and about the earth and that he pointed out that all these things put together turn the world around. And that all of us are here for a very, very short time and in that time when we're here, there really isn't any difference in any of us if we take time out to understand each other. And the question is, do I know who you are, do you know who I am, and we care about each other? Cause if we do, together, we can turn the world

I would like to learn the complete version of this Guinean creation story.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tales by Moonlight on NTA

This was one of my favorite TV shows on NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) when I was a little girl. I looked forward to watching Tales by Moonlight every Sunday evening when ‘aunty’ told folktales to a group of boys and girls perched on the floor listening intently to her story. Each tale was enacted by actors (and some of the kids) where they played many animal roles (the folktales were full of tortoise stories) and the acting may have been poor (as someone pointed out to me recently) but I loved it. At the end of each tale, the kids took turns to tell 'aunty' what they learned from the story.

I went looking for information about the program, perhaps there is a story archive somewhere. Instead, I ran across this forum where someone alleged that the Tales by Moonlight videos are lost.
“I recently spoke with a family friend who says when he went to visit, he went to NTA to ask to buy the Tales by Moonlight videos. They told him they were all lost.If true, as they say then, only in Nigeria”

However, with some more searching, I was able to buy a Tales by Moonlight book published in 2002 from the African Books Collective at Michigan State University Press. The book is a collection of eight Tales by Moonlight stories representing each of Fulani, Urhobo, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Ijaw, Ibibio and Efik ethnic groups (just a few of the many ethnic groups in Nigeria). Now I would like to contact NTA to seek permission to post one or a few of these stories on allfolktales but alas, the Contact Us link on their website does not work and I see no email addresses anywhere. Similarly, the forum is currently unavailable. I hope these are fixed soon.

Monday, October 23, 2006

African history and a fable by Jomo Kenyatta

In search of books on early African history, I came across “A corpus of early Arab sources for West African history”. It looked like a good source since the Arabs had the earliest (recorded) contact with West Africa but I suspected it may be a difficult book to read. I went to Barnes and Noble, hoping to glance through a copy before purchasing but it was not in the store, so I ordered it in, waited a couple of days and went to check it out. A quick glance confirmed my suspicions – only those with scholarly intent and ability could succeed in deciphering the text, it obviously is not meant for a leisurely evening read after a hard days work.

Already impatient to read something, I strolled to the history section in the book store to see what I might find and ended up with a copy of Africa: A Biography of the Continent by John Reader. The book covers African history from the formation of the landmass (referencing archeological evidence) and present day with a huge gulf in between. It is however well written and pleasantly easy to follow however agreement or otherwise with the authors’ conclusions on several points is dependent on a deeper understanding of the numerous scientific and historical facts to which he makes references. I was disappointed that the coverage of Mansa Musa and the Mali kingdom was rather cursory but have learned of others such as Aksum and Jenne-jeno as well as the events and politics leading up to the formation of present day African countries - events which seem to be the essence of the fable below by Jomo Kenyatta, the first Prime Minister and President of an independent Kenya.

A Response to Imperialism
by Jomo Kenyatta

Once upon a time an elephant made a friendship with a man. One day a heavy thunderstorm broke out, the elephant went to his friend, who had a little hut at the edge of the forest, and said to him: "My dear good man, will you please let me put my trunk inside your hut to keep it out of this torrential rain?" The man, seeing what situation his friend was in, replied: "My dear good elephant, my hut is very small, but there is room for your trunk and myself. Please put your trunk in gently." The elephant thanked his friend, saying: "You have done me a good deed and one day I shall return your kindness." But what followed? As soon as the elephant put his trunk inside the hut, slowly he pushed his head inside, and finally flung the man out in the rain, and then lay down comfortably inside his friend's hut, saying: "My dear good frien d, your skin is harder than mine, and as there is not enough room for both of us, you can afford to remain in the rain while I am protecting my delicate skin from the hail storm.

The man, seeing what his friend had done to him, started to grumble, the animals in the nearby forest heard the noise and came to see what was the matter. All stood around listening to the heated argument between the man and his friend the elephant. In this turmoil the lion came along roaring, and said in a loud voice: "Don't you know that I am the King of the jungle! How dare anyone disturb the peace of my kingdom?" On hearing this the elephant, who was one of the high ministers in the jungle kingdom, replied in a soothing voice, and said: "My Lord, there is no disturbance of the peace in your kingdom. I have only been having a little discussion with my friend here as to the possession of this little hut which your lordship sees me occupying." The lion, who wanted to have "peace and tranquility" in his kingdom, replied in a noble voice, saying: "I command my ministers to appoint a Commission of Enquiry to go thoroughly into this matter and report accordingly." He then turned to the man and said: "You have done well by establishing friendship with my people, especially with the elephant who is one of my honorable ministers of state. Do not grumble any more, your hut is not lost to you. Wait until the sitting of my Imperial Commission, and there you will be given plenty of opportunity to state your case. I am sure that you will be pleased with the findings of the Commission." The man was very pleased by these sweet words from the King of the jungle, and innocently waited for his opportunity, in the belief, that naturally the hut would be returned to him.

The elephant, obeying the command of his master, got busy with other ministers to appoint the Commission of Enquiry. The following elders of the jungle were appointed to sit in the Commission: (1) Mr. Rhinoceros; (2) Mr. Buffalo; (3) Mr. Alligator; (4) The Rt. Hon. Mr. Fox to act as chairman; and (5) Mr. Leopard to act as Secretary to the Commission. On seeing the personnel, the man protested and asked if it was not necessary to include in this Commission a member from his side. But he was told that it was impossible, since no one from his side was well enough educated to understand the intricacy of jungle law. Further, that there was nothing to fear, for the members of the Commission were all men of repute for their impartiality in justice, and as they were gentlemen chosen by God to look after the interest of races less adequately endowed with teeth and claws, he might rest assured that they would investigate the matter with the greatest care and report impartially.

The Commission sat to take the evidence. The Rt. Hon. Mr. Elephant was first called. He came along with a superior air, brushing his tusks with a sapling which Mrs. Elephant had provided, and in an authoritative voice said: 'Gentlemen of the jungle, there is no need for me to waste your valuable time in relating a story which I am sure you all know. I have always regarded it as my duty to protect the interests of my friends, and this appears to have caused the misunderstanding between myself and my friend here. He invited me to save his hut from being blown away by a hurricane. As the hurricane had gained access owing to the unoccupied space in the hut, I considered it necessary, in my friend's own interests, to turn the undeveloped space to a more economic use by sitting in it myself; a duty which any of you would undoubtedly have performed with equal readiness in similar circumstances."

After hearing the Rt. Hon. Mr. Elephant's conclusive evidence, the Commission called Mr. Hyena and other elders of the jungle, who all supported what Mr. Elephant had said. They then called the man, who began to give his own account of the dispute. But the Commission cut him short, saying: "My good man, please confine yourself to relevant issues. We have already heard the circumstances from various unbiased sources; all we wish you to tell us is whether the undeveloped space in your hut was occupied by anyone else before Mr. Elephant assumed his position?" The man began to say: "No, but_" But at this point the Commission declared that they had heard sufficient evidence from both sides and retired to consider their decision. After enjoying a delicious meal at the expense of the Rt. Hon. Mr. Elephant, they reached their verdict, called the man, and declared as follows: "In our opinion this dispute has arisen through a regrettable misunderstanding due to the backwardness of your ideas. We consider that Mr. Elephant has fulfilled his sacred duty of protecting your interests. As it is clearly for your good that the space should be put to its most economic use, and as you yourself have not yet reached the stage of expansion which would enable you to fill it, we consider it necessary to arrange a compromise to suit both parties. Mr. Elephant shall continue his occupation of your hut, but we give you permission to look for a site where you can build another hut more suited to your needs, and we will see that you are well protected."

The man, having no alternative, and fearing that his refusal might expose him to the teeth and claws of members of the Commission, did as they suggested. But no sooner had he built another hut than Mr. Rhinoceros charged in with his horn lowered and ordered the man to quit. A Royal Commission was again appointed to look into the matter, and the same finding was given. This procedure was repeated until Mr. Buffalo, Mr. Leopard, Mr. Hyena and the rest were all accommodated with new huts. Then the man decided that he must adopt an effective method of protection, since Commissions of Enquiry did not seem to be of any use to him. He sat down and said: "Ng'enda thi ndeagaga motegi," which literally means, "there is nothing that treads on the earth that cannot be trapped," or in other words, you can fool people for a time, bu t not forever.Early one morning, when the huts already occupied by the jungle lords were all beginning to decay and fall to pieces, he went out and built a bigger and better hut a little distance away. No sooner had Mr. Rhinoceros seen it than he came rushing in, only to find that Mr. Elephant was already inside, sound asleep. Mr. Leopard next came in at the window, Mr. Lion, Mr. Fox, and Mr. Buffalo entered the doors, while Mr. Hyena howled for a place in the shade and Mr. Alligator basked on the roof. Presently they all began disputing about their rights of penetration, and from disputing they came to fighting, and while they were embroiled together the man set the hut on fire and burnt it to the ground, jungle lords and all. Then he went home, saying "Peace is costly, but it's worth the expense," and lived happily ever after.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Adapting tales: posted folktale of the Tortoise and the Princess

A long while back, while searching for West African folktales, I stumbled across The Internet Sacred Text Archive where there is have a collection of old books online. Amongst them are two books, Yoruba Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa by A.B. Ellis (1894) and Yoruba Legends by M. I. Ogumefu (1929), both of which contain a nice collection of folktales. I remember some elements from several of the folktales but some are unfamiliar.
I thought about posting the stories here but hesitated for long, after all, the stories are already online. However, I have decided to put hesitation aside because:

  1. I remember some of those stories a little differently and would like to rewrite it as I remember
  2. There are some comments I would like to add to some of the stories
  3. I need to stop creating excuses that lead to inaction

Here’s a story about the princess who never speaks from A.B. Ellis’s book. I remember hearing this story (even tried unsuccessfully for the part of the princess for a school play in primary school) but always thought it was an adaptation of Christian Andersen’s fairytale about the princess who never spoke until a stranger (I believe he had a duck) came along and formed a long train of people (people joined the train and became glued together), the princess saw them and could not contain her laughter. The stranger won half the kingdom.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Website Trends - April to September 2006

Here are some statistics for from April (when we signed up for Google Analytics) to September. It will be interesting to monitor the trend as time goes on. From the graph below, our traffic dropped in May and June before it started to pick up again. Several of those May/June visits can be attributed to myself - fixing, tweaking things and checking the pages - but I've applied the IP address filter in the analytics setting to avoid this in future. But I can't help but wonder what triggers the rise and fall in visits.

Here's another graph showing a graphical depiction of where our visitors are located. At least, where about 80% of our visitors are located (some locations could not be determined). What does it tell us? That people in the United States are most likely to be searching for folktales online? I don't know but again, it'll be nice to monitor the trend as time goes on.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

500 Gold Bars

A little digression here to talk about West African history.

I was chatting with a colleague when the subject of ancient West Africa came up. And I was ashamed to learn that I knew too little. I know of the Fulani and Ashanti empires, I know of Uthman Dan Fodio who was a great Islamic scholar and his influence in Northern Nigeria, then there was the slave trade accompanied by inter-tribal wars, there was colonialism, there was the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates to create a country called Nigeria - I proudly shared these facts remembered from primary school social studies classes. But was told, "no no, all that's recent, there's history way before that". And of course there should be, but somehow it's history that's overlooked or compressed into the term "pre-colonial times". It certainly did not help that the people of West Africa did not have a form of writing.
Now, allfolktales folks are digging around to learn more about West African history and some interesting bits here:

Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa Mansa Musa was king of the Mali Empire from 1312 - 1337 where the popular Timbuktu was centered. For some reason, it never occurred to me that Timbuktu was in West Africa - and not just a fabled place adventurers spent their lives prospecting for gold.
Mansa Musa is very well known because of his documented hajj to Mecca in 1324. He reportedly travelled with 500 slaves, each carrying a bar of gold. He was so generous to the people he met along the way, giving out gold and treasures that the price of gold in Cairo became depressed for 12 years.

The Mali empire was succeeded by the Shongai empire in the 15th and 16th centuries.

It is amazing that there could have been so much wealth then and so little now. But maybe that's not entirely surprising, considering how freely the wealth was given away. Mansa Musa reportedly spent all the gold he brought on the trip that he had to borrow money to go back home.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tale Snippet - Omode meta n sere

Rather than wait till we have all the pieces of a story, in which case we keep asking pestering the few people we have access to keep digging into their memory, we have decided to post the tale fragments we have here on the blog...and hopefully down the line, we'll develop the story enough to add to our folktale collection. If you know any part of this story, please do not hesitate to chime in.

A tale of three brothers

This is a story I heard frequently as a child but can no longer remember the details.
"Omode meta n sere" is a Yoruba sentence which translates to "Three kids are playing" and is the song which accompanies the story, made popular by the adaptation of the Plantation Boys (a Nigerian band).

In the story, these boys were brothers who set out to prove their prowess in their choice task. But why? And what happened afterwards? Was there a dying father who set them out on these respective challenges? These are the parts that we have missing.

The song comes in just after the boys pick out the choice challenge/activity. It goes like this:

Omode meta n sere
Ere o, erere ayo - chorus
Ikan lo wun o g'ope
Ere o, erere ayo
Ikan lo wun o we'kun
Ere o, erere ayo
Ikan lo wun o yin bon
Ere o, erere ayo


Three kids are playing
Playing, having fun - chorus
One said he would climb a palm tree (The challenge was probably to climb the tallest tree)
One said he would swim the ocean (swim the longest ocean)
One said he would shoot a gun (shoot the longest distance, may be an arrow)

They probably each completed their challenges but then what happened?

Friday, September 01, 2006

We welcome Ananse

Rev P E Adotey Addo is a Ghanian-born folklorist and poet living in North Carolina. He has contributed two stories, Ananse and the pot of wisdom and Kweku Ananse outsmarts himself from his book, How the Spider Became Bald: Folktales and Legends from West Africa. So, we at heartily welcome Ananse, the popular Ghanian trickster spider to our site.

Rev Addo's website is at but it appears to be undergoing some work at the moment. Will update this once the site is available.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The folk tale of Oluronbi

Here's a story about Oluronbi, a young woman who makes a foolish promise. I remember the song pretty well but I'm a bit hazy about the story or where the song features in the story. I decided to go ahead and post it since everyone I ask about the story bursts out in the song but are less able to recall all of the story.

Based on the apparent popularity of the song and the number of people who claim to have seen theater or tv productions of Oluronbi (self not included), hopefully someone will help me out here or point me to book about Oluronbi so I can refine the story.

Okay, a google search would have been useful. I did this a while ago but believe I searched for 'Olurombi'. A search for Oluronbi now yields this link to a 1929 book of Yoruba Legends by M.I. Ogunmefu where Oluronbi was turned into a bird by the Iroko tree which sang the song. She was later saved by her husband, a woodcarver who tricked the Iroko tree into accepting a wooden child in place of Oluronbi's child.
There's another link to a movie based on the Oluronbi story, but a different spin is given here - Oluronbi went to the Iroko tree to sacrifice her child in exchange for riches.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A wicked half-sister story

A new story is long overdue so here is the story of two half-sisters and an old man.

This story is based on the “wicked half-sister” theme ever so popular in folktales and fairy tales the world over. The result of this popularity is that elements from other sources/stories got jumbled into my recollection, however I believe those have been sifted out now (with some effort). It reminds me of Cinderella but of course, there are certain marked differences e.g. like the stepmother already existed before the demise of the good mother (hence half-sisters rather than step-sisters) and there are no charming princes.

But just like Cinderella, the good sister bore her burden silently and did as she was told. In the various versions of this story, she is always nice and docile to an extreme and I silently wondered about these as a kid, wondering if one had to be extremely docile (sometimes bordering on stupidity) to be good. So when I read Hans Anderson story of Big Claus and Little Claus, I really liked it. The theme of that story is similar – poor little guy and rich big bully. But when little Claus came across his riches and big Claus shook the story out of little Claus, little Claus sent big Claus on a fools errand which ended up with him being beaten up. Of course he came back looking for little Claus but little Claus had more surprises for him.

Monday, July 31, 2006

More endorsements for Magic Cellar

Magic Cellar which was reviewed here has received a 3 Star endorsement from the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media in the KIDS FIRST!® program. As I understand it, the 3 Star endorsement is pretty rare, so we throw out 3 big happy cheers for the production team. Read the entire press release below.

Magic Cellar, the first animated series to be based on African culture, has been awarded a rare “All-Star” endorsement by the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media in the KIDS FIRST!® program. The Coalition recently announced its latest list of 50 titles it endorses. Included in the list are titles from well-known children’s series Barney, Charlie Brown, Clifford, Spongebob Squarepants, Fraggle Rock, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine and others. Only Magic Cellar received a coveted 3 Star endorsement. The Jury commented on Magic Cellar: “Lovely animation. Crisp, clear colors. Good stories. Imaginative. Great music.”

The KIDS FIRST!® endorsement is one of the most highly recognized film, DVD, audio and game rating programs for programming aimed at children. To receive a KIDS FIRST!® endorsement, KIDS FIRST!® evaluates the programming with juries of adult and child evaluators. More than 300 adult professionals and more than three thousand children participate as KIDS FIRST!® jurors. The adults are educators, child development specialists, children’s librarians, Girl Scout Leaders, and other interested adults. These adults have trained with and been certified by KIDS FIRST!® as a Juror facilitator. Each adult Juror has a group of children that he or she works with who evaluate and review programming, after it has been given a preliminary approval by the adult.

Adult jurors are vested with the task of determining whether or not the title meets the baseline criteria. In addition, they give it a numeric rating of 0 to 5 for ten questions in four different areas: appeal, content, production quality, and educational benefits. In these areas, KIDS FIRST!® examines its appeal and appropriateness for its intended audience; its structure, continuity and style; its accuracy; its production values; and its overall benefits.

KIDS FIRST!® assigns a one-, two-, or three-star rating indicating the caliber of the work. Jurors use an additional three-star asset list that addresses qualities that contribute to a child’s personal competence, his or her social values, educational benefits, and address additional production values of the program.

The Coalition for Quality Children's Media is a national, not-for-profit organization founded in 1991 in the United States. The Coalition is a voluntary collaboration comprising more than 10,000 media professionals, lobbyists, policymakers, child advocates, educators, parents and families. The Coalition runs the
KIDS FIRST!® Film and Video Festival, the largest children’s festival in the world.

The missions of the Coalition are to 1) teach children critical viewing skills and 2) to increase the visibility and availability of quality children's programs. The goals are: A. To teach children to become critical media users; B. To help adults recognize the importance of teaching critical viewing skills to children; C. To help children identify and be aware of examples of outstanding media programming; D. To develop programs for children with special needs such as low-income or at-risk children.

The Coalition, through its well-known KIDS FIRST!® program, evaluates, rates, and endorses children's feature films, DVDs, videos, audio recordings and television using a volunteer, community-based jury comprising child development professionals, teachers and parents as well as children from diverse geographic, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. More than four thousand titles have been evaluated to date. Reviews of endorsed titles are published on the KIDS FIRST! web site, and in reviews provided to publications such as Access Learning, Parenting, and United Parenting Publications.

Magic Cellar is the first 3D animated series based on African culture. Beautifully produced entirely in Maya software, the series marks the first time Africa’s children see themselves reflected in an animated series.

The series celebrates Africa’s culture and traditions while promoting reading as exciting and adventurous. The series is based on African folktales, partially collected from interviews conducted with elders in villages across South Africa. Each episode is broken up into three sections: a brief introduction and set-up; the African story; and a wrap-up with the lessens learnt. Each episode is a self-contained, animated short.

Magic Cellar was commissioned by the South African Broadcasting Corporation and is a production of Chocolate Moose Media Inc. of Ottawa, Canada and Morula Pictures of Johannesburg, South Africa. Magic Cellar is directed by multi-award winning Canadian producer and director Firdaus Kharas.

Magic Cellar has won 8 international recognitions recently, including the Platinum REMI Award, 2 Telly Awards, 2 Aegis Awards, and the US International’s Silver Screen and 2 Certificates of Excellence and has been selected by the prestigious Hiroshima Animation Festival.

Further information may be obtained from the comprehensive web-site,

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A storytelling CD featuring an Anansi tale debuts

The CD contains 8 stories and includes one Anansi folktale. Anansi is a spider, the West African trickster character from Ghana. Read the complete press release below.

Long-Awaited 'Tell Me A Story' CD Debuts with a Storytelling Event at Village Books

LOS ANGELES, CA - July 11, 2006 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE)-- Stand-up comedian and recording artist, Poppie Champlin; singer and director, Lori Ada Jaroslow; and author, Amy Friedman, will be performing stories from their just-released audio book CD - "Tell Me A Story: Timeless Folktales from Around the World." The event, to take place on Wednesday, July 12, at 7 p.m. at Village Books in Pacific Palisades, CA, is designed to delight and enlighten.

"For over a decade, readers from around the world have enjoyed the nationally-syndicated newspaper feature of classic, multicultural tales from 'Tell Me a Story,'" Friedman explained. "Now, the printed word has come to life in a first-ever audio edition."

"Tell Me a Story: Timeless Folktales from Around the World," is authored by acclaimed writer, Friedman, directed by Jaroslow, and features the music of renowned composer Laura Hall - pianist and improvisational composer for the television show, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

Stage and screen talent narrate the funny, wise, and compelling stories. Lauren Tom, best known for "The Joy Luck Club," and "Friends," reads "Scotland's the Selkie Bride"; and Jack McGee, of "Rescue Me," gives a gravelly rendition of "Two Frogs from Japan" - the inspiration for Laura Hall's jazzy music that accompanies the tale.

Champlin reads "Searching for Fear." The tale is about a heroic raccoon with a hilarious attitude. Champlin entertains with countless animal impersonations.

Charlayne Woodard, an Obie award-winner, is the delicious voice on Czechoslovakia's: "The Clever Girl."

Rick Hall, of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Seinfeld," and "Third Rock from the Sun," tackles the plight of the notorious African trickster - Anansi.

And, on "A Sense of Theft," Jaroslow who also appeared on Broadway in "South Pacific" and many other musicals, employs her powerful singing and speaking voice to transport listeners to an Eastern European shtetl; Broadway veteran, William Thomas, Jr., reads "Rabbit on the Moon."

Excerpts from the 71-minute CD and a peek at the award-winning and accompanying artwork of Jillian Gilliland can be previewed at

A portion of the proceeds of each sale will be donated to, a day-recreation program for children who suffer life-threatening illnesses.

"So, bring your kids and pillows and settle in for pajama time at Village Books," Friedman encouraged. "A good time is sure to be had by all."

CDs are available at:

Send2Press(R) is the originating wire service for this story.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

That warm fuzzy feeling

I got it this afternoon when I checked mailbox and found that someone had emailed some feedback.

"What a pleasant surprise to happen on your site. I am a storyteller and I'm often looking for stories out of Africa. It hasn't been an easy task to
find a rare story. Thank you for what you are doing! "
Other than the obvious reason (it is positive feedback), I really liked this because it told me something about the reader. "Who's my reader?" is an unanswered question that I hope to unravel slowly as the website progresses and this is a start.

Friday, June 30, 2006

A different tortoise

I found this interesting Central African folktale about the tortoise and the eagle accompanied with nice illustrations too. The folktale described Tortoise as kind and generous - a different Tortoise from the West African folktale depictions, but not too different as this tortoise still kept his cunning ability.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Kiigbo Kiigba - a stubborn man

Kiigbo Kiigba is a Yoruba phrase meaning, "one who neither listens nor obey". That's the name of the main character in this popular Yoruba tale. In some versions of this story, he is simply known as Kiigbo. It is a tale that illustrates the importance of obedience.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

How the chipmunk got its stripes

Just posted a folktale about the Chipmunk and how it got its stripes. I was told the story last week as the story of Edun in Yoruba. I asked, what is Edun and was told it's the squirrel-like creature that's got stripes. I thought "that's a chipmunk but we don't have any in West Africa" but apparently, I'm very wrong. It's a pity that all my knowledge of chipmunks came from Alvin and the Chipmunks. Anyway, I digress.

Like with every folktale I hear, I try to identify the moral of the story if there is one. I was initially simply amused that the chipmunk got away with what he did and still got to keep his pretty new stripes. Later on as I was writing the tale, I realized that the other animals reaction to the chipmunks new do was disdain and clearly not envy. So I concluded that the moral is this:

Ill-gotten wealth ends up wasted on superficial things without obvious benefit to anyone.

The ancient Yoruba (from whom this folktale originated) must have believed the chipmunk's stripes to be completely useless. Which makes me wonder..."why does the chipmunk have stripes?". Time to google...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The defeat of African folktales in a picture book world

Here I am, an individual actively (a couple of moments a month) trying to collect West African folktales (at least the ones from Nigeria), yet whenever my two and a half year old asks “mummy, tell story” I instinctively begin to narrate the three little pigs, goldilocks and the three bears, snow white and the seven dwarfs or any of a myriad of fairy tales I read as a child. All of these I remember with great clarity including the colorful illustrations in the books.

Two nights ago when my daughter reached another milestone and told me a story instead, I basked in silent glory as I struggled to pick out her words “wolf knock on the door”, “little pig said”, “chin chin chin”, “huff and puff”, “blow down house”. I was not surprised that this would be the first story she would narrate considering how often I have told it to her. But I did begin to wonder why these are the stories I always tell her even after I started out on this West African folktale collection which I should be championing. The obvious reason is that I know these fairy tales better and can tell them well. But why is that?

My first conclusion was that the human mind remembers more vividly what is seen rather than what is heard. But then, I read African folktales and stories too just like my friends who also no longer remember most of the stories, so what was different?

Maybe it was the fact that I read fairy tale books before I was introduced to folktale books. I had fairy tales read to me before I could read (just like I now read to my daughter).

This sequence occurred probably because there were several fairy tale picture books with great colorful illustrations that a child could spend hours musing over while one had to be older to enjoy books that lacked illustrations. I cannot say the same for the books on African folktales which I read when I was a little older but I hope there are some great ones out there today.

My final conclusion as to why I can hardly remember African folktales is that the culprit is a combination of:

  1. lack of colorful illustrations, leading to
  2. reading these books later after developing memorable favorite stories
  3. smaller book selection

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Magic Cellar reviewed, folktales wanted

I expressed a simple wish to see Magic Cellar which since my last post has won two bronze Telly awards in the “Children’ and “Use of Animation” categories. The producer, Firdaus Kharas granted my wish by sending me the first three episodes in the series. Thank you. He also let me know that he is interested in featuring West African folktales in future episodes and would welcome story suggestions from readers of and this blog. So here is your opportunity to promote West African culture internationally.

Stories or story suggestions you submit as comments here may make it into Magic Cellar. Imagine that! Of course I cannot give you any guarantees being totally clueless about the selection criteria and entire movie/animation production process, but I can guarantee you that Firdaus Kharas is reading your comments. Read my Magic Cellar review over at

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The chimp's swollen butt

Here's a folk tale I posted about how the chimpazee's bottom became swollen and red. It's a story translated from Yoruba and provided a challenge in writing about fecal matter without sounding disgusting. The Yoruba version never seemed that way whenever the lion shouted "Su dundun", but how do you translate that into English? I had run into a similar situation with the folk tale of the three brothers and the pot of porridge but I did not hesitate in replacing any unpleasantness with stones. I couldn't perform a similar replacement here without losing the main elements of the story, so after testing alternate words and several hesitations, I thought "let's just do it".

But I wonder if I'm thinking way too much about this.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Africa’s first 3D animated series wins award

Magic Cellar, the first 3-dimensional animated series based on African folktales was awarded the prestigious Platinum REMI Award at WorldFest in April. Hopefully, this success will encourage other attempts. I have not yet seen it, I look forward to doing so and in the meantime, I accept the award as a proof of the quality of the production.

You can find out more about the characters and the animation at .

Friday, May 12, 2006

How many African folktales exist?

In my first first post, I alleged that very few African folktales had been documented out of the huge collection that must exist. Now, here is a reference which I found on to back that claim up. It says:

"Struck has estimated the number of African folktales at nearly a quarter of a million. Klipple estimates that five thousand different African myths and tales have actually been published, although her bibliography, prepared in 1938, contains references to nine thousand....Among the thousands of tribes in Africa, there is not a single one for which a complete collection of myths and tales has been published." " The Yoruba, for example, distinguish between myths and legends (itan) which they regard as historically true, folktales (alo apagbe), riddles (alo), proverbs (owe), songs (orin), praise names (orile), curses or incantations (ofo), and the Ifa divining verses (ese).."Funk & Wagnalls,Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend,pg.18).

I guess the actual number is anyone's guess, but there must be a lot.

Monday, May 08, 2006

New folk tale: Three brothers and the pot of porridge

This story of the three brothers and the pot of porridge was told to me recently.

I forgot to ask what happened to the youngest brother after he fell into the river. Did he drown, or did he get rescued and learn a lesson he would never forget? I resisted the urge to “fill in the gap” there, but could not resist creating a logical reason why the brothers declined the offer of supper in the first place because I imagine that they must have been hungry after making this long trip on foot. Also, within the context of African culture, even present day, it is perfectly normal (and expected) to share your hosts meals.

I forgot to add this. Any Yoruba-speaking person out there able to translate this phrase?
Ki okun gbe mi si erigidi ofun

There’s also the possibility that I’ve gotten that part of the song totally wrong, so if you’ve got suggestions, they’ll be much appreciated.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Integrated blog feed into website

I discovered FeedDigest which made it amazingly easy to incorporate a feed from this blog into the website.
So here is an archive of the former content that is now replaced by the blog feed:

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


This is a companion blog to - a website where I intended to post all the West African stories I can recollect from my childhood. I set up the site, got ready to write and realized to my dismay that I could hardly recollect any of the many folktales I surely know. Fragments of many different stories lay in a mangled mess in my memory, defying attempts to be put together in a proper order. I have therefore relied on family and friends to assist in the process but many find their memory in a similar condition.

I thank everyone who has offered comments, stories and suggestions. This blog is one of such and hopefully will provide an easy way to connect to anyone who is interested in contributing to this collection.

Oral story-telling, the traditional means through which folktales have been passed on for many generations, is dying. There are a few books which document stories from different parts in Africa but their numbers do not compare with the sheer volume of folktales which exist in our rich and diverse cultures. Is it too late to document them all? I do not know. But you and me, we will try.

The folktale collection today stands at a sparse 11 stories. The process is just beginning, so if you are familiar with West African folktales, please contribute your comments, stories (and story fragments) here. Thank you.