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The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales

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When Diane Wolkstein, herself a well-known storyteller traveled throughout the Haitian countryside in search of stories, she harvested a rich collection of twenty-seven tales, each of which is illuminated by fascinating introductory notes. From orange trees growing at the command of a child to talking fish, these stories present us with a world of wonder, delight, and myst When Diane Wolkstein, herself a well-known storyteller traveled throughout the Haitian countryside in search of stories, she harvested a rich collection of twenty-seven tales, each of which is illuminated by fascinating introductory notes. From orange trees growing at the command of a child to talking fish, these stories present us with a world of wonder, delight, and mystery.


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When Diane Wolkstein, herself a well-known storyteller traveled throughout the Haitian countryside in search of stories, she harvested a rich collection of twenty-seven tales, each of which is illuminated by fascinating introductory notes. From orange trees growing at the command of a child to talking fish, these stories present us with a world of wonder, delight, and myst When Diane Wolkstein, herself a well-known storyteller traveled throughout the Haitian countryside in search of stories, she harvested a rich collection of twenty-seven tales, each of which is illuminated by fascinating introductory notes. From orange trees growing at the command of a child to talking fish, these stories present us with a world of wonder, delight, and mystery.

30 review for The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales

  1. 4 out of 5

    Naori

    I knew almost all these stories from growing up but the author gave really entertaining, yet still culturally authentic, versions of them. This is a 100% biased review. I was nostalgic for the stories of my childhood, jarred a bit that they had to be re-written for a more palatable tongue & mind, and ready to be done with them and move onto “grown” literature. It was like a terrible family reunion and I was the cocky uncle who’d moved abroad and bequeathed upon the community the possibility of p I knew almost all these stories from growing up but the author gave really entertaining, yet still culturally authentic, versions of them. This is a 100% biased review. I was nostalgic for the stories of my childhood, jarred a bit that they had to be re-written for a more palatable tongue & mind, and ready to be done with them and move onto “grown” literature. It was like a terrible family reunion and I was the cocky uncle who’d moved abroad and bequeathed upon the community the possibility of publication only if personally navigated by me, and I couldn’t promise any royalties. Ugh. In all reality, if you know nothing about Haitian folklore this is a great collection to read because it is accessible and palatable (read: non-violent). It just might be difficult for the Haitians who grew up with these stories, but also accompanied by the insistent melody of poverty, loss, famine, grief, and the things we will not name. Stories become what they mean to the reader, and that’s what they should be to you. You should connect them to your own life, and if you’re not from that island, your feeling of integration with it should make you that much closer to it. And that is a good thing. Oh Anansi...just leave me to my musings, for you are a trickster, and I often have a wicked mind...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    I've never been a particularly big fan of folklore, but I was curious about this particular collection because its stories are from Haiti. The Haitian diaspora is big in New York, so I've had Haitian friends and acquaintances since high school. It seemed time I learned more about their culture; what I've gotten mostly from our conversations is mostly about the immigrant experience. This book tells me a little more about the world they left behind. The book is structured like a collection of short I've never been a particularly big fan of folklore, but I was curious about this particular collection because its stories are from Haiti. The Haitian diaspora is big in New York, so I've had Haitian friends and acquaintances since high school. It seemed time I learned more about their culture; what I've gotten mostly from our conversations is mostly about the immigrant experience. This book tells me a little more about the world they left behind. The book is structured like a collection of short stories, but each one has a foreword in which the author/collector describes the circumstances in which she heard the story and describes a bit about the person who told it to her. Since these are well-known folk tales in Haiti, in many cases, she heard varying versions of the same story from multiple people in different settings. I often preferred the introductions to the stories themselves as they were about real life and not fantasy. Unlike the stories I'm used to, these don't usually end with the protagonist getting a happily-ever-after. They're more often cautionary tales in which some trickster gets his comeuppance. Some of the stories are downright amoral, one was sexual, and one had scatological jokes. I didn't like those so much. Some stories had amusing anachronisms, like animals, who are often the protagonists in the stories, using the telephone. There's even a fable comparing Haiti to New York, which goes to show the effect of the diaspora on the culture. All in all, it's a fun book, and though it may not have educated me about Haitian history or daily life all that much, it certainly whetted my appetite for more. I think next time I'll go for a memoir or some history. I still prefer fact to fiction.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    Folktales collected in the field. She introduces each one with notes about collecting it, but they are not simply recorded. Indeed, one, she knew she wanted it, but she had to listen to a dozen version before she could tell it as a tale, pulling them all together. The title "Magic Orange Tree" helps the stepdaughter-- and is less pleasant to the stepmother. "The Singing Bone" is, in fact, a tale of the type of "The Juniper Tree". "The Mother of Waters" has a new variant on the kind and unkinds gi Folktales collected in the field. She introduces each one with notes about collecting it, but they are not simply recorded. Indeed, one, she knew she wanted it, but she had to listen to a dozen version before she could tell it as a tale, pulling them all together. The title "Magic Orange Tree" helps the stepdaughter-- and is less pleasant to the stepmother. "The Singing Bone" is, in fact, a tale of the type of "The Juniper Tree". "The Mother of Waters" has a new variant on the kind and unkinds girls. We have "The Four Hairs from the Beard of the Devil" instead of the three, and "One My Darling, Come to Mama", where we have a beast tale in Grimm turned into a fairy tale. And many more. Includes notes about tale telling in Haiti and the songs that are sung with them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    CuriousLibrarian

    This is a good collection of Haitian folktales. I enjoyed the backstory for each tale of the teller and how she came to hear the story. Also the inclusion of melodies for the songs is very helpful.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Apocryphal

    Diane Wolkstein is a professional story-teller and collector of folktales, and this is a collection that she built after many visits to Haiti in the '70s - going from town to town and recording them. She's got 27 in this book, along with the music and lyrics for the songs that go with some of them. Many of them feature the antics of Dog, Cat, Owl, and Turtle. Others show us how young girls and boys can get the best of their evil stepmothers. All of them teach local wisdom. Each story is forwarded Diane Wolkstein is a professional story-teller and collector of folktales, and this is a collection that she built after many visits to Haiti in the '70s - going from town to town and recording them. She's got 27 in this book, along with the music and lyrics for the songs that go with some of them. Many of them feature the antics of Dog, Cat, Owl, and Turtle. Others show us how young girls and boys can get the best of their evil stepmothers. All of them teach local wisdom. Each story is forwarded by a reminiscence from Wolkstein on her time in Haiti, or tells us something about the character of the various people she learned the stories from. She really does manage to convey the Haitian story-telling method, which begins with a call of "Cric?" by the teller, and a reply of "Crac!" by the audience to show enthusiasm. The telling of each tale is accompanied by song, gestures, and even dance. Through the stories we learn that Haitians value community-building, mistrust the government, learn to be self-reliant, are economically savvy, love song and dance, respect nature, and believe that Papa God will think you are a fool if you cannot think for yourself. Here's a short video in which Diane describes her own experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyKJf... Recommended to fans of fables and folktales, and anyone curious about Haiti.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    A great little collection of folktales. Most of the stories are short, easy to read, and have an obvious moral without seeming preachy. There isn't a bad story in the book, which is extremely rare! I also loved the illustrations. The editor obviously has a passion for Haitian culture and it seems she put a great deal of care into this book—there's even a section that has the sheet music for all of the songs that appear in the stories! I disliked how Wolkstein introduces each story with an anecdot A great little collection of folktales. Most of the stories are short, easy to read, and have an obvious moral without seeming preachy. There isn't a bad story in the book, which is extremely rare! I also loved the illustrations. The editor obviously has a passion for Haitian culture and it seems she put a great deal of care into this book—there's even a section that has the sheet music for all of the songs that appear in the stories! I disliked how Wolkstein introduces each story with an anecdote about her time in Haiti. I don't care about her life and it's weird how she tries to insert herself into the traditional stories (some of these don't age well, either, like how she lightheartedly recounts how her daughter used a family's water rations just for washing her hands—teehee, it's so funny to be privileged!) I also wish that some of the stories were more substantial.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rati Mehrotra

    A delightful collection. I particularly like the notes before each story, where the editor explains who told her the story, and where. I have been telling them to my children - not reading aloud, but from memory, as a storyteller should, with the accompanying gestures and expressions. I must say they seem to prefer the more grisly ones.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sophie (RedheadReading)

    Very good for someone who is not at all familiar with Haitian stories! It served as a really great introduction and I enjoyed learning more about the process/performance of the tales as well. That said, I don't know how this book would hold up to someone who already knew these stories! Very good for someone who is not at all familiar with Haitian stories! It served as a really great introduction and I enjoyed learning more about the process/performance of the tales as well. That said, I don't know how this book would hold up to someone who already knew these stories!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vicky

    Seems like ever since I read Mountains Beyond Mountains for book club things about Haiti are popping up all around me! I heard of this book through a folktale blog I started reading recently and decided to read it just for fun. It really was interesting to read folktales that are completely different from what I'm used to. In fact, they're so different from what I know that I really didn't understand the point of most of them! That didn't make it unenjoyable, it just made me realize that because Seems like ever since I read Mountains Beyond Mountains for book club things about Haiti are popping up all around me! I heard of this book through a folktale blog I started reading recently and decided to read it just for fun. It really was interesting to read folktales that are completely different from what I'm used to. In fact, they're so different from what I know that I really didn't understand the point of most of them! That didn't make it unenjoyable, it just made me realize that because our cultures and circumstances are so different, there are lessons to be had from Haitian folktales that are beyond my understanding from this perspective. Only one tale was familiar, and that one is similar to a children's book that has stuck with me ever since I heard it when I was very young (1st grade or so?). The book is "The Talking Eggs," and is based on a Creole folktale from the South, so it makes sense why it is so similar to the folktale from Haiti. There are several stories in this book but each one is fairly short, so it didn't take long to read them all. I think it's neat that the music to the songs that are in the tales is in the back of the book. I would have loved to hear what they sounded like.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Raquel

    Lo único que haría mejor a este libro sería que tuviera un dvd con ejemplos de las narraciones en boca de cuentacuentos haitianos, sobre todo porque en la introducción a cada historia Diane Wolkstein hace mucho énfasis en los estilos de narrar y en la interacción de los narradores con su público. Las historias, por su parte, son hermosas y dicen mucho, no sólo de Haití, sino de la humanidad. Como consigna el libro que dijo el pintor André Pierre: "Los secretos de la vida están en las historias". Lo único que haría mejor a este libro sería que tuviera un dvd con ejemplos de las narraciones en boca de cuentacuentos haitianos, sobre todo porque en la introducción a cada historia Diane Wolkstein hace mucho énfasis en los estilos de narrar y en la interacción de los narradores con su público. Las historias, por su parte, son hermosas y dicen mucho, no sólo de Haití, sino de la humanidad. Como consigna el libro que dijo el pintor André Pierre: "Los secretos de la vida están en las historias".

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Simmons

    A diverting collection of folktales, made all the more delightful by the fact that I was staying in a Haitian village when I read them. One of the guesthouse workers recited to me over a shared bottle of Prestige his own version of "The Magic Orange Tree", and it was fun to match up the similarities and differences from what Wolkstein writes down here. A diverting collection of folktales, made all the more delightful by the fact that I was staying in a Haitian village when I read them. One of the guesthouse workers recited to me over a shared bottle of Prestige his own version of "The Magic Orange Tree", and it was fun to match up the similarities and differences from what Wolkstein writes down here.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    These folk tales were collected during many storytelling sessions held over several years throughout Haiti. I found that most of the stories end in completely unexpected ways, and include surprising, seemingly-anachronistic references. An interesting introduction to Haitian story culture.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rogue Reader

    True woo woo, the voodoo of Haiti. Cautionary tales, reflecting universal themes couched in the dialect and cultural experiences of the place. Love the ethnographic introduction to each story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

    Definitely a fun read. Interesting and colorful. Enjoyed it very much.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marie Michelle

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michelle M. Roenke

  17. 4 out of 5

    M

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dana Jean

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dakota

  20. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Eugene

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ted Parkhurst

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Perry

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura-marie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erin

  26. 5 out of 5

    Merissa

  27. 4 out of 5

    diwili

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aven

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joselyne

  30. 5 out of 5

    Willow C

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