Marriage of the Rain Goddess: A South African Myth

Marriage of the Rain Goddess: A South African Myth

by Margaret Olivia Wolfson, Clifford Alexander Parms
     
 

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The simple plot of this beautifully retold Zulu myth offers a profound lessonabout the marriage of heaven and earth, spirit and matter. Full color.Ages 6-11.  See more details below

Overview

The simple plot of this beautifully retold Zulu myth offers a profound lessonabout the marriage of heaven and earth, spirit and matter. Full color.Ages 6-11.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ripe with imagery and insights into South African culture, this expanded version of a Zulu myth is told with a natural ease. Mbaba Mwana Waresa, the rain goddess, chooses Thandiwe to be her companion. But because Thandiwe is a mortal, he must first be tested. Thandiwe proves himself steadfast in the face of ridicule and a fearsome storm, and then, in choosing the goddess's inner beauty over a mortal woman's outer beauty, demonstrates his wisdom. Wolfson, a professional storyteller, lets metaphors spring as if spontaneously into her prose ("a rainbow slid down from the heavens"), and her pacing is skillfully measured. First-time illustrator Parms, given the dicey assignment of representing an ethereal goddess amid a temporal world, resorts to somewhat literal interpretationsthe goddess's face lightly imposed on the sky; warrior gods posed atop fluffy clouds. Stylistically his compositions seem stiff and detached in comparison to the fluid prose. Ages 6-11. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
The lonely rain goddess Mbaba Mwana Waresa, unable to find a god to "stir love in her heart," seeks a husband among humans. When she finds Thandiwe, a young cattle-herder, he seems ideal, but must be put to the test. In a dream he is told to prepare a bridal home and wait for the goddess no matter what. Despite the taunts of villagers and the threat of an approaching storm, he obeys. The goddess has meanwhile selected and elaborately bedecked a lovely young woman, while dressing herself in rags and smearing herself with ashes. But Thandiwe sees the truth in the goddess's eyes. After their wedding celebration they journey to the African heavens where they "will always live." The story is simply told, but the descriptive language is rich with magic. The scenes which nearly fill the double-page spreads also focus on the romantic--exotic mixtures of some diverse African cultures, suggestions of landscapes, believable characters somewhat broadly rendered in mixed media. These are primarily atmospheric settings that serve to stimulate emotions, to evoke some of the mystery that undergirds such mythic tales. An Afterword clarifies the sources of both story and art. 2000 (orig.1996), Barefoot Books, Ages 7 to 10, $15.95 and $6.99. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5In this tale "inspired by a fragment of a Zulu myth," a goddess contrives to test the gentle mortal she has chosen for her husband. Wolfson's use of poetic language conveys a sense of wonder beyond the earthly world, and Parms's bold pastel illustrations give heroic import to the story. Though it looks like a picture book for young children, the book's rather complicated sentences, as well as its theme should make it interesting to older children. Having taken what is a brief story in the source cited, the author and illustrator have developed it using details of present-day "traditional" Zulu practices. However, it is important that stories presented as myths be authentic, accurately reflecting the deep beliefs of a specific culture; the sources cited in the afterword do not provide an adequate basis for evaluating authenticity. Yet while it may be a mistake to characterize Marriage of the Rain Goddess as a myth, it remains an appealing tale about a powerful and generous African female character who chooses a patient man who has insight and integrity.Loretta Kreider Andrews, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD
Karen Morgan
nger for reading aloud. Lush, dramatic illustrations enhance this picture book for older readers, based on a fragment of a Zulu myth about the rain goddess Mbaba Mwana Waresa, who searches for a mate who would move her heart. Not able to find the perfect partner among the gods, she looks among mortals, and in a simple village, she finds the cattle herder Thandiwe, who reveals much about himself as he sings of his love of land. She then arranges a most unusual test to judge whether Thandiwe is worthy of her affection. Parms' attractive illustrations, which show a mixture of modern styles of traditional dress and beadwork with older designs, are a fitting complement to the love story, which never becomes sentimental. With appealing characters and a strong sense of place, the book is a good choice for reading aloud, and it may prompt older children to investigate Zulu customs and traditions further. Wolfson discusses pronunciation of Zulu terms and sources in an afterword.
Kirkus Reviews
The Zulu rain goddess is looking for a husband and none of the gods appeal to her—they are all "too busy with their spears and shields." She flies down to earth and finds a cattle herder who strikes her fancy, and sends him her proposal in a dream. The cattle herder prepares everything for the wedding, while the goddess tests him first, by dressing up a mortal girl in wedding clothes, and shaving off her own hair and covering her face with ash. The groom, however, immediately recognizes the real bride, and the rain goddess knows that she has made the right choice.

In Wolfson and Parms's first book, a flowing, incantatory text, inspired by a fragment of a Zulu myth, is encrusted with poetic epithets ("glistening in oil and golden bracelets, her face half-hidden by the twisted leaves"). An afterword describes a little more about Zulu culture and custom, e.g., the goddess gives the cattle herder a love letter in the form of a bead ornament. The big, heavy paintings are filled with expressive bodies and faces, depicted against wide, rainbow-colored backgrounds. So well are text and art wedded that readers will close the book and feel as if they are the ones who have been in a dream.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781569247747
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
04/08/1996
Pages:
29
Product dimensions:
11.72(w) x 9.27(h) x 0.41(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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