Friday, January 28, 2022

Africa at the Internet Archive: Spreadsheet (10)

Here is the final update post about the spreadsheet of African Folktales at the Internet Archive, at least for a while. That's because I'll be switching over to African American and Caribbean books starting in February (Black History Month!)... and that will mean a new spreadsheet full of books and stories. But don't worry: I will be keeping an eye out for new African story sources that get added to the Archive, and I'll update the spreadsheet accordingly.

For now, I am excited to say that the spreadsheet of African folktales (which includes more broadly myths, legends, all kinds of traditional storytelling) ended up here with over 10,000 items; 10,077 to be precise. Those stories come from 545 different books and articles that you can find online at the Internet Archive; all the links are in the spreadsheet, story by story. When I started this project back in May (here's the very first post), I knew I would find great resources at the Archive... but I never imagined it would be this comprehensive. There are materials here for readers at any level — K-12 students, college students, independent scholars, and all the book-lovers out there — to explore the storytelling traditions of Africa in real depth.

Some of those are public domain sources, and some are more recent publications available thanks to Controlled Digital Lending. If you are not aware of the current legal battle around Controlled Digital Lending, I would urge you to learn more about that and to lend your support. You can find out more here about the Internet Archive's legal fight in defense of their right to loan out digital copies of the physical books in its possession based on strict controls that mean only one copy of the book is ever in circulation at any one time:
If you use Twitter, you can tweet your support with the hashtag #ControlledDigitalLending.

As I've explained in previous spreadsheet updates, you can do searches and create data filters at this shared spreadsheet of stories from Africa, and you can also copy the spreadsheet for your own use. For example, I have my own copy of the spreadsheet where I keep track of which stories have animals, stories I want to use for a "tiny tales" project, etc. etc.

Below are just a few of the books I've indexed since the last update; the links below go to the book at Internet Archive: so many beautiful books, and all just a click away thanks to Controlled Digital Lending. As you'll see, one of the new books is one that I wrote, using the great resources available online at the Archive. So, as always, THANK YOU, Internet Archive, for making it possible for us to learn about the great storytelling traditions of Africa this way.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Africa at the Internet Archive: Tales from the Basotho

I've been sharing mostly books from western Africa lately, so today I have something from southern African instead: Tales from the Basotho by Minnie Postma.

Minnie Postma (1908-1989) was a South African writer who lived and worked both in South Africa and also in London. She grew up in the Orange Free State on the Lesotho border, and she spoke both Afrikaans and Sotho as a child, and her books later helped to popularize Basotho stories for an Afrikaans audience. You can find out more at Wikipedia (that's Afrikaans Wikipedia, but Google Translate can render the page in English).

This book was translated by Susie McDermid, a South African journalist who later settled in the United States, and she also wrote a very helpful introduction. There's a tale type and motif index in the back of the book supplied by John Vlach, a professor of African and African Diaspora Studies.

As you can see, it's a great mix of animal tale plus supernatural adventures too, very much representative of the great Sotho storytelling tradition. Enjoy!

by Minnie Postma

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Africa at the Internet Archive: Cameroon and Nigeria

I have two beautiful children's books to share today, both inspired by traditional stories from western Africa, and both just a click away at the Internet Archive!

The first is Sense Pass King: A Story from Cameroon by Katrin Tchana.

The title itself is a great excuse to talk with students about the many varieties of English in Africa, and the importance of African language heritage in varieties of American English too, like AAVE and Gullah (I'll have more to say about that when I start writing about African American resources at the Internet Archive in February). The story is full of adventure; page by page, you get to see the heroine come into her own powers, surpassing the king.

The illustrations are by Trina Schart Hyman. This illustration shows the story's heroine with her animal helpers:

Tchana and Hyman have collaborated on other books. One of those, The Serpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women, contains three different folktales from African (Egypt, Gambia, and Cameroon); here is an illustration for "The Marriage of Two Masters" (Gambia):

Another one of their books you can find at the Internet Archive is Changing Woman and Her Sister: Stories of Goddesses from Around the World, which includes two goddess from Africa: Isis (Egypt) and Mawu (Fon people of Benin). Here is Mawu:

And here is the frontispiece of the book; it shows "The Mother, who is the source of all goddess stories."

The second African folktale I want to feature today is In the Rainfield: Who Is the Greatest? by Isaac Olaleye.

Isaac Olaleye is a Nigerian writer, now residing in California (he's in his 80s, but I believe he is still with us!). Olaleye is also the author of fictional stories set in Africa, including Lake of the Big Snake: An African Rain Forest Adventure, Bitter Bananas, and Bikes for Rent!

The illustrations for this book are by Ann Grifalconi, a writer and artist that I've featured previously: Village of Round and Square Houses. The story is about the struggle among Wind, Fire, and Rain to determine who is the greatest of the three, and here's her rendering of the presence of fire in a gorgeous two-page spread:

And here is her rendering of Rain: wow!

So, children's books like these that develop a single story with vivid words and beautiful pictures are a great way to bring African folktales to life in your imagination... and you will find many more such children's books at the Internet Archive, with stories not just from Africa but from all around the world.

by Katrin Tchana

by Isaac Olaleye

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Africa at the Internet Archive: The Rainmaker's Dog

Today I want to share a really fascinating book that could be very useful to high school and college teachers, especially teachers of English language learners: The Rainmaker's Dog: International Folktales to Build Communicative Skills by Cynthia Dresser.

Dresser developed the book as a textbook for her students in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Zimbabwe, and it contains stories from Africa (6 stories from Central Africa, 8 stories from Western Africa, 4 stories from Eastern Africa, 3 stories from Southern Africa), along with stories from Haiti, Australia, and Asia. Here's how she explains the book's purpose and goals: "The Rainmaker's Dog is a book of transformation and adventure that will take the reader to different parts of the world, using folktales to build vital communication skills. Guided on this journey by characters from the folktales, students will experience the stories and then discuss and write about characters, solutions, new ideas and their own experiences."

The wonderful illustrations and text decorations are by Tom Paisrayi, an artist from Zimbabwe; Kate Lannas, also from Zimbabwe; and Katerine Moir, an artist from Swaziland in South Africa. 

The stories are illustrated:

Plus there are illustrations as writing prompts:

And graphic games, like this maze:

There are also lovely text decorations throughout, like this section page:

It's a really remarkable book, and I hope it will find new audiences and uses by being so easily accessible at the Internet Archive, just a click away. There are also lots of very affordable used copies for under $10 as you can see via Highly recommended!

by Cynthia Dresser.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Africa at the Internet Archive: Why Leopard Has Spots

New books are being added to the Internet Archive all the time, and I'm always excited when a new book of African folklore shows up, especially if it's one that I've been on the lookout for, like this one: Why Leopard Has Spots: Dan Stories From Liberia by Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret Lippert.

The reason I was looking for this one is that the illustrations are by Ashley Bryan, one of my favorite illustrators. You can find out more about his work in these previous posts. His style is instantly recognizable!

Won-Ldy Paye is a Dan storyteller from northeastern Liberia; his grandmother initiated him into the storytelling tradition, and he is also a drummer and dancer. You can find out more at his website, and you can also enjoy his work in the form of videos too! For example, here is The Bird that Ate the Bull.

Paye cowrote this book with Margaret Lippert, a folklorist and author who has collaborated with Paye on some other books also; they began working together in Seattle in the 1990s (Paye is now based in Connecticut). Here are three other books available at Internet Archive: The Talking VegetablesMrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile (stories which both appear in the Leopard book) and Head, Body, Legs. These three books are all illustrated by Julie Paschkis; you can find out more at her website.

So, enjoy all the illustrations and the stories too... plus the videos! There's a great world of stories awaiting you online. :-)

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Africa at the Internet Archive: Animals and Tricksters

It feels weird to think about how this is the last week of posting African folktale books (I want to switch over to African American and Caribbean books in February), but here goes! Week 37 starts with another book of stories from western Africa: African Animal Tales by Rogério Andrade Barbosa (and translated from Portuguese by Feliz Guthrie).

Rogério Andrade Barbosa is a Brazilian author, and he wrote this book based on his experiences living in Guinea-Bissau (formerly Portuguese Guinea) as a United Nations volunteer. In retelling these 10 animal stories, Barbosa has created human frametales that set up the storytelling scene. For example, the story of "The Rain-God's Vengeance" opens with the story of a hippo hunt, while the story of "Why Dogs Sniff Each Other" is presented as the story a grandfather tells to his grandson. You can find out more about the author at Wikipedia (Portuguese).

The illustrations by Ci├ža Fittipaldi are inspired by Yoruban art traditions:

I also wanted to share another book focused on western Africa; this is not a collection of stories but instead a study of the trickster figure: The Trickster in West Africa: A Study of Mythic Irony and Sacred Delight by Robert Doane Pelton.

Robert Doane Pelton (1935-2020) was a Catholic priest who studied at McGill University and then completed a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago Divinity School. In this book based on his 1974 doctoral dissertation, Pelton examines four different West African traditions: Ananse stories from the Ashanti of Ghana, Legba stories from the Fon of Benin, Eshu stories from the Yoruba of Nigeria and Ogo-Yurugu stories from the Dogon of Mali. He also provides an introductory overview of scholarship on trickster traditions, plus his own theory of the trickster as inspired by these African traditions.

You can find other important studies of the trickster at the Internet Archive also, including From Trickster to Badman: The Black Folk Hero in Slavery and Freedom by John W. Roberts, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology by Paul Radin, and Trickster Makes This World by Lewis Hyde.

Trickster stories are my favorites, as you may have guessed, especially the African animal tricksters like Spider, Tortoise, Rabbit, Mouse-Deer, Mantis, and all the rest!

by Rogério Andrade Barbosa

by Robert Doane Pelton.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

African Folktales at Internet Archive: Week 36

So ends Week 36, and I'm getting near the end of this phase of writing about African books at the Internet Archive so that I can move on to African American and Caribbean books in February in celebration of Black History Month here in the U.S.

This week I reached a new milestone in the nine months of this project: I've now written up over 300 books at this blog; 308 to be precise! You can find them all on the Featured Books page.  And because one of the new books was the second volume of my own Tiny Tales, I was able to expand the story randomizer that you'll see down towards the bottom of this blog's sidebar: there are now 400 stories being randomized there, which is a LOT of random. :-)

Below you'll find the round-up of the books and posts from this past week, and I'll be back tomorrow with one more week of books from Africa. You can also browse all the round-ups from the year gone by: May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December, plus January.

So, here are this week's books and posts:

by Frédéric Guirma

by Peter Pinney

by J. Luke Creel and Bai Gai Kiahon