South-African Folk-Tales

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African Folk Tales – Background Information

As represented by some of these stories of the Bushmen, what races have not, then, had their influence on the folklore?

South Africa - Folklore and regional stories | Advertisement feature | The Observer

According to Stow, they were a wandering primitive race of small men, painters and sculptors, hunters and herdsmen, and withal a race showing traces of wonderful reasoning and adaptability, with a keen sense of justice and a store of pride. Mythological some of their stories are, but whether this is due to the influence of the Hottentots, a later race, it is difficult to say. And, lastly, there are the Kaffirs spread over the whole of South Africa, domineering, but backward. The varied influences which may have affected these stories before they reached us show what enormous possibilities there are for error in tracing the origin of the animal tales here presented.

Bleek finds that a greater congeniality exists between the Hottentot and European mind than is found between the latter and any other of the black races of Africa. Whether he means that this indicates a European origin of the fables, I cannot say. There is no doubt in my mind that the Bushmen came from the north and were the primitive race of south and tropical Africa, the dwarfs of Livingstone, Stanley, and other explorers. Considering, then, the great antiquity of this race, it naturally follows that if these stories are not original with the Bushmen, they are at least so modified as to bear no resemblance to Egyptian, Phoenician, or any other ancient race which the Bushmen may have come in contact with.


Herodotus described a race on the upper Nile which corresponds with later descriptions of the Bushmen in tropical and southern Africa. I agree with what the South-African Folklore Journal stated twenty years or more ago, that with the "vast strides South Africa is making in the progress of civilization, the native races will either be swept away or so altered as to lose many of their ancient habits, customs, traditions, or at least greatly to modify them.

There is so much done now to preserve what is still Bushmen folklore that I feel this small volume is indeed only a small addition to the folklore world. Anansi became the King of All Stories after proving to Nyame that he could trick a jaguar, hornets and a fairy.

Animals play an important role......

Anansi is often depicted as a spider, a human or a combination of both. Other animal tricksters common in African legends include the tortoise and the hare. There are even stories of animals who help humans. According to the San Bushmen , the praying mantis gave them words and fire.

The Bambara people of Mali claim that an antelope taught them agriculture. In other African Legends , animals play an important role in how death came into the world, such as the tale of the lizard that carried the message of death to mankind or the hyena that severed the rope between heaven and earth. Many stories are based on talking animals with human characteristics, such as greed, jealousy and loneliness.

Hippos Don't Eat Fish.

South Africa - Folklore and regional stories

The Tortoise and the Birds. African King - This Is Good! Faithless One. When he sells his cow to buy a goat, however, his problems are just beginning. What will it take for his luck change? Illustrations are done in a folkart style and filled with little details of South African rural life. Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at Amazon. Thank you! Author Interviews Meet your favorite authors and illustrators in our video interviews. Book Finder Create your own booklists from our library of 5, books!

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