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Dennis DrabelleIn these folktales, Smith (who was born in Zimbabwe and now teaches law at Edinburgh University) acts as a veritable bridge between cultures.
— The Washington Post
|A letter from Mma Ramotswe|
|Guinea fowl child||3|
|A bad way to treat friends||8|
|A girl who lived in a cave||13|
|Hare fools the baboons||23|
|Sister of bones||36|
|Beware of friends you cannot trust||53|
|Children of wax||57|
|A tree to sing to||72|
|A blind man catches a bird||78|
|Hare fools lion - again||82|
|Why elephant and hyena live far from people||99|
|The wife who could not work||107|
|The sad story of tortoise and snail||119|
|An old man who saved some ungrateful people||125|
|The girl who married a lion||141|
|Two bad friends||146|
|How a strange creature took the place of a girl, and then fell into a hole||152|
|Greater than lion||160|
|The grandmother who was kind to a smelly girl||169|
|The baboons who went this way and that||173|
|Two friends who met for dinner||177|
|The Thathana Moratho tree||181|
|Tremendously clever tricks are played, but to limited effect||185|
Posted October 8, 2011
Many of us have read Aesop's Fables, which teach us about man's foibles and morality, but I had never heard of many of these tales from Africa. These folk tales from Zimbabwe and Botswana are told by former law professor Alexander McCall Smith, a native of Zimbabwe, who now makes his home far to the north in Scotland. Africa maintains a rich tradition of oral literature and these stories are told with humor and spirit. Allow me to describe two of these tales to give the reader some idea of what I mean.
In A Girl Who Lived In A Cave, a cannibal confronts a girl returning to her family's home. When the family invites him to share a meal with them, he gobbles it up and abruptly leaves. The cannibal's appearance makes the family uneasy and they decide to depart. The young girl objects to leaving her beautiful home, but decides to live in a nearby cave while her family is gone. Soon, the girl's brother returns to check on his sister, singing her a special song to gain entrance to the cave. Unfortunately, the cannibal overhears the tune and later tricks the girl into allowing him to enter her sanctuary. The girl is captured and trussed up, while the cannibal lights a fire, preparing to eat her for his dinner. Like an avenging angel, the brother returns, pushes the cannibal into the flames instead and happily frees his sister.
The Girl Who Married A Lion is about Kumalo's daughter, who married a fine strong man. Soon, the woman's brother begins to worry that his sister has really married a lion in disguise. Several years go by and the woman bears two fine sons, but the brother worries that his brother-in-law still may have deceived his bride. Using a goat as bait, they trick the brother-in-law, finally driving him off. Now, the woman worries that her sons may somehow become lions, too. In a daring test, they cage the two sons in an area infested by lions, judging that if the boys are truly lions, the huge carnivores will not attack two of their own kind. The uncle is forced to defend his nephews to save the boys from the charging lions. Thus reassured, the woman once again welcomes her sons home.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! Children will really like this rare and wonderful departure from the more traditional folk tales. I embraced the difference and am the better for it.