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Afro-American Folktales

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From the canefileds of the ante-bellum South, the villages of the Caribbean islands, and the streets of contemporary inner cities, here are more than one hundred tales from an "incredibly rich and affirmative storytelling tradition" (Choice). Full of life, wisdom, and humor, these tales range from the earthy comedy of tricksters to stories explaining how the world was creat From the canefileds of the ante-bellum South, the villages of the Caribbean islands, and the streets of contemporary inner cities, here are more than one hundred tales from an "incredibly rich and affirmative storytelling tradition" (Choice). Full of life, wisdom, and humor, these tales range from the earthy comedy of tricksters to stories explaining how the world was created and got to be the way it is, to moral fables that tell of encounters between masters and slaves. They includes stories set down in travelers' reports and plantation journals from the early nineteenth century, tales gathered by collectors such as Joel Chandler Harris and Zora Neale Hurston, and narratives tape-recorded by Roger Abrahams himself during extensive expeditions throughout the American South and the Caribbean.


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From the canefileds of the ante-bellum South, the villages of the Caribbean islands, and the streets of contemporary inner cities, here are more than one hundred tales from an "incredibly rich and affirmative storytelling tradition" (Choice). Full of life, wisdom, and humor, these tales range from the earthy comedy of tricksters to stories explaining how the world was creat From the canefileds of the ante-bellum South, the villages of the Caribbean islands, and the streets of contemporary inner cities, here are more than one hundred tales from an "incredibly rich and affirmative storytelling tradition" (Choice). Full of life, wisdom, and humor, these tales range from the earthy comedy of tricksters to stories explaining how the world was created and got to be the way it is, to moral fables that tell of encounters between masters and slaves. They includes stories set down in travelers' reports and plantation journals from the early nineteenth century, tales gathered by collectors such as Joel Chandler Harris and Zora Neale Hurston, and narratives tape-recorded by Roger Abrahams himself during extensive expeditions throughout the American South and the Caribbean.

30 review for Afro-American Folktales

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    A collection of folktales, from the West Indies as well as the United States. A lot of beast tales, including some recognizable variants on fairy tale types-- some fairy tales, not too many. Heavy on trickster tales. Some distinctly bawdy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Danelle

    Here I am at book number 15 (or 16?) of my collection of fairy and folk tales. I thought it would be remiss not to read this one now. Consisting of stories from North, South, Central Americas and the Caribbean, they are heavy on trickster stories. (What else would you expect from stories whose origins often stem from slavery times, though?) Each story lists it's origin at the end, whether it be Jamaica, Mississippi, etc. From the introduction: Make no mistake: this is a book of elaborate fiction Here I am at book number 15 (or 16?) of my collection of fairy and folk tales. I thought it would be remiss not to read this one now. Consisting of stories from North, South, Central Americas and the Caribbean, they are heavy on trickster stories. (What else would you expect from stories whose origins often stem from slavery times, though?) Each story lists it's origin at the end, whether it be Jamaica, Mississippi, etc. From the introduction: Make no mistake: this is a book of elaborate fictions told by tale spinners, first and last, for the fun of it, even when the stories are told in the face of a death in the community. In the Afro-American world, populated largely by blacks and yet commonly under the political and economical control of whites, the usefulness of learning wariness and counteractive devices of wit is obvious. One of the main differences in the stories in this volume as compared to other volumes of fairy and folk tales that I've read is the lack of a "the end" or a "happily ever after." There's an implied "to be continued" that I haven't encountered in many (except for a section in the Arab tales, I believe). And when you think about that, it makes sense, I mean, think of the characters: Anansi or Brer Rabbit. Getting on, there are seven parts to this book: 1. 'Getting Things Started: How the World Got Put Together That Way' - stories that speak to the value of accommodating yourself to the way the world is and to the fact that life isn't usually very fair. (When all the folks in the courthouse are foxes and you are just a common goose there ain't gonna be much justice for colored folk.) In this section, I learned that if you are visiting God, when you get there you have to ask for what you want and don't ever be late. Other lessons in this section - no good ever comes from being greedy and when you don't do what you're told to do, you will get into trouble sooner or later. Story #13, Tadpole Loses His Tail was one of my favorites. 2. 'Minding Somebody Else's Business and Sometimes Making It Your Own' - stories that are how problems first came to humans and how detrimental it is to do something in a "boastful manner." There were some similarities in the stories in this section to those of what one would call "typical" fairy tales. Story #31, 'A Boarhog For a Husband' has characters of a Boarhog that transforms into a man and a stepmother that's really a bird. Also #33, 'My Mother Killed Me My Father Ate Me.' 3. 'Getting a Comeupance: How (And How Not) To Act Stories - here are the stories that discuss how to behave, what's considered good behavior and bad behavior. There are also stories at how untrustworthy others are. One of my favorite stories in this section described how a wasp came to be shaped as they are: it's because one wasp laughed so hard and so long at mosquito, his waist began to disappear. The story went on to say that if he laughs today, he will split in two. 4. 'How Clever Can You Get? Tales of Trickery and Its Consequences' - here are more stories of tricksters, but now it's their immoralities that are in the spotlight. 5. 'The Strong Ones and the Clever: Contests and Confrontations' - in this section, many of the characters are animals with human traits or vice-versa. They participate in contests and fights drawing power from the 'non-human' world to help them. In this section we read about the "spirit world" and many of the stories revolve around dealings with the Devil. 6. 'Getting Around Old Master (Most of the Time)' - Inevitably, the experiences of slavery and the social marginalization that arose in the plantation world came to be recorded in the stories blacks told about the interactions between themselves and whites. Here we have stories re: the black response to their exclusion and exploitation. Many of the stories report both brazen and subtle acts in the face of Old Master's authority. Story #93, A Flying Fool, tells the story of a black man who died and went to Heaven: This colored man died and went up there to meet his Maker. But when he got to the gates, St. Peter said that God wasn't home or having any visitors - by which he meant 'no negroes allowed.' Well, this man waited until St. Pete had to pee, sneeks past the gates into Heaven, gets his wings, flies all over. Then St. Peter calls out for the "heavenly police force" to get him, he's caught and then thrown out. But he tells the story over and over again about how he flew all over. 7. 'In the End, Nonsense' - this section was short and was compromised of clownish routines, jokes, etc. Another excellent read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Malvika

    I actually enjoyed the stories, not enough to go wow, but I did end up chuckling every now and then. I especially loved the authors short note at the beginning of each section. I also love their portrayal of both the God and the Trickster, and the idea of how God becomes the God of only the white men. It sort of throws light upon the prevalant racism. I feel like the tales themselves highlight the marginalisation and the poor treatment of the blacks in the post war America. And then that one sto I actually enjoyed the stories, not enough to go wow, but I did end up chuckling every now and then. I especially loved the authors short note at the beginning of each section. I also love their portrayal of both the God and the Trickster, and the idea of how God becomes the God of only the white men. It sort of throws light upon the prevalant racism. I feel like the tales themselves highlight the marginalisation and the poor treatment of the blacks in the post war America. And then that one story where the old master tells his slave that it is not fire but evaporated something(?), that chapter reminded me of Beloved(by Morrison). I also felt that a couple of stories were somewhat similar to the fables(Aesops to be precise) I have read and I think the author mentioned that the stories themselves borrow heavily from the European folklores. There aren't any striking references to the folktales of Africa, minus Anansi perhaps? Certain ideas do find their way into the tales but I still feel that it is more americanized. If I don't make sense then I am terribly sorry. It is pretty late here and I am actually quite sleepy. But yeah. The book, I'd definitely recommend it. Although I would definitely suggest reading other folklores as well.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Doria

    This is a wonderful and diverse collection of folktales drawn from throughout the African diaspora. Despite being the work of a professional ethnologist-folklorist (i.e., the Aarne-Thompson category numbers are included in the annotation), the stories are presented clearly and unadorned with unnecessary scholarly adumbration. The tales shine on their own, accompanied only by their points of origin (Mississippi, Jamaica, etc) and also by exquisite yet simple illustrations. This is story-collectin This is a wonderful and diverse collection of folktales drawn from throughout the African diaspora. Despite being the work of a professional ethnologist-folklorist (i.e., the Aarne-Thompson category numbers are included in the annotation), the stories are presented clearly and unadorned with unnecessary scholarly adumbration. The tales shine on their own, accompanied only by their points of origin (Mississippi, Jamaica, etc) and also by exquisite yet simple illustrations. This is story-collecting at its best, equally as entertaining as it is historically and culturally significant. For folklorists and Storytellers, educators and read-aloud devotees, it is pure gold.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I came across this while browsing at a secondhand bookstore. As I seem to be on folklore kick lately (having read the Pink and Blue Fairy Books by Andrew Lang), l couldn't pass it up. A wonderful collection of ethnographic interest. Certainly the tales are often funny or amusing, but that is to do them injustice. As noted in the compelling introduction by the compiler, the tales are the product of the African-American slave experience, superimposed onto the ancient sub-Saharan oral and cultural I came across this while browsing at a secondhand bookstore. As I seem to be on folklore kick lately (having read the Pink and Blue Fairy Books by Andrew Lang), l couldn't pass it up. A wonderful collection of ethnographic interest. Certainly the tales are often funny or amusing, but that is to do them injustice. As noted in the compelling introduction by the compiler, the tales are the product of the African-American slave experience, superimposed onto the ancient sub-Saharan oral and cultural traditions--the only possessions left to the slaves. They are at times defiant, at others cautionary; sometimes merely vulgar, sometimes wise. Just as African-Americans today usually have some degree of white ancestry, so do these tales. So it's interesting to compare these to some of the European tales. One of the tales, "Black Jack and White Jack", shares a nearly identical plot with a story in one of the Lang "Fairy Books." But, notably, these tales don't have the "happily ever after" conclusion common to the European tales (even some of the Grimms'); even after a successful gambit or contest, nothing is truly won. What seems to matter is the means, not the ends: the trickster's tricks, the battle of wits, the fooling of ol' Massa. Certainly there is much more here than meets the eye, so be sure to read the Abraham's Preface and Introduction for a more serious academic analysis.

  6. 4 out of 5

    amandra

    Very interesting!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shila

    Excellent collection of stories. Great for children. It was nice to read one a day.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vincent F. A. Golphin

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jade Danielle

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carlos Eduardo

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kitty Foil

  12. 4 out of 5

    Daena

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fred Barron

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  15. 5 out of 5

    Xariez

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  17. 4 out of 5

    Angela

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kenna

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Wiley

  20. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

  21. 5 out of 5

    Modou Ndong

  22. 5 out of 5

    Reggie Parker

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amelia Fowler

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bunny Waring

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Phillips

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tarrant

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nate

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