Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Destructive truth tests and true lies

Long before lie detector tests were invented in the Western world, Africa had a similar but deadlier test. Let's call it a destructive truth test (DTT). Destructive, because if the test subject tested negative for truth, the test subject would be destroyed. No recourse, no appeal. The result of lying during a DTT was instant death.

For an example of how this ancient science, DTT worked, read the story of the three brothers and the pot of porridge.

I wonder why the characters in the various stories did not 'fess up at the last minute, opting for shame rather than death. Perhaps they doubted the authenticity of the tests. It turns out that Ijapa the tortoise and his wife,Yanrinbo were skilled at fooling the test. In the book, True Lies by George Shannon and John O'Brien, Ijapa and Yanribo were accused of stealing their neighbor's yams. They were summoned by the Chief who administered a herbal drink DTT. "My hands have not picked a single yam", Ijapa said, swearing to die if he was lying. Yanribo also swore that she had never set her foot near her neighbor's storehouse. Neither one fell down and died and they were therefore exonorated from the crime. The truth was that Ijapa carried Yanribo on his back to the store house and Yanribo's hands picked the yams. They had told true lies.

Monday, February 02, 2009

One review per month. At least.

A Reviews section has been added to the site. I've started off with two reviews:

Since I'm so busy - my perennial excuse for not updating this site - I won't be surprised if you wonder if I will keep up the reviews. So I'm setting a goal and I'm doing it publicly.

I will do at least ONE review per month

A modest goal. Almost too simple. So I must not disappoint. Right? In fact, I feel it's a goal I can exceed except I remember that I planned to begin the reviews last November... Still, an easy to meet goal. I only hope I will not run out of material to review too quickly.

Girl in drum, gourd seeds, do these ring a bell?

Do you recall a folktale about a greedy boy, his sister and gourd seeds? Or one about a monster who traps a girl in a drum? A reader, Mary, is looking for some folktale volumes she had read as a kid. Here's her note and my response.

Mary said: I learned to read from a series of collected fables African fables,
Aesop's fables, etc. They were old rebound volumes in 1978. they were short
children's stories and had black/white wood cutting illustrations. I would love
to find out if these texts are still available. As far as the stories: I remember one about a girl whose parents died and her greedy brother took all the family goods and left only the hut. She found a gourd seed in the hut, planted it, and made a living selling gourds. The brother came back and was enraged that she "stole" from him and took the gourds, even cutting off her hand when she tried to protect them. I can't remember how it ends. I also remember a story about monster who traps a girl with a beautiful voice in his drum and makes her sing whenever he beats the drum. A prince found out about the girl and helped her escape, putting bees in the drum. When the monster beat the drum and it didn't sing, he opened it to beat the girl but instead the enraged bees flew out and stung the monster to death. Ringing any bells?

I said: Do you recall the title of any these books? I'm not familiar with the stories you mentioned. However, the one about the girl trapped in a drum does ring a bell. But it's a different version of the story. I recall a story where Ijapa (Tortoise) traps a boy with a beautiful singing voice in a drum. I can't remember how the boy came to be trapped in the first place or the rest of the story but I'm sure Ijapa suffered for his deceit as usual. I'm sorry I'm unable to help but I really appreciate you sharing these tidbits. Who knows, perhaps another reader recognizes these stories.

If these stories do ring a bell for you, please share your memories. Thanks.