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African Myths and Folk Tales

Dover Publications

Reviewed by Julie Price.

TO know Africa is to know the stories of their past.

I was initially attracted to this book, having visited Africa (Kenya) about 5 years ago.

These well described stories are for children to understand how to live in a community.

So many of the stories are of animals that are described within a human context, with human feelings and language; others are as if humans were animals.

They represent moral decision making with the wisdom of the forefathers.

Storytellers are important people in the life of our African communities, having been written down from a strong oral tradition over many generations.

As an adult reading the book, I appreciate the strong messages through proverb that would be unique to the culture.

However, I would think it could be quite frightening for children in our Australian context to read of a fearful daughter who had been disobedient to her parents, by not marrying someone from the village, and then having the consequence of being almost eaten by attacking cannibals, until an old lady hid her in her home.

So, don't disobey your parents!

The stories where animals learn to live together, where they learn that wisdom is a life giving asset; where friendship is to be held with both hands; where lies will always be caught where truth is known; where the tortoise is the hero and a rat can outwit a leopard, is great reading indeed.

Many of the stories would certainly be appropriate reading for young primary aged children.

Some are more suitable for 15 plus.

There are some very fine 1928 line drawings to illustrate many of the stories too.

The stories are age-old and we would do well to heed much of the message within them.