Wednesday, June 23, 2021

African Folktales at Internet Archive: Radin's African Folktales

The theme for this week is anthologies (see all this week's posts on one page), and today I want to write about a classic anthology of African folklore: African Folktales by Paul Radin, first published in 1952 as a book of sculpture and stories, and then reissued in 1964 with just the stories. The Internet Archive has both editions available: the African Folktales and Sculpture edition and also the text-only African Folktales book:


Here's a screenshot of the thumbnails display of the sculpture book; the sculptures are amazing, even just in the form of black-and-white photographs:

Plus the digital scan lets you zoom in, like this Baga idol from West Africa for example (more about the Baga people):

There are 81 stories in the book drawn from a variety of sources, including German-language sources that Radin translated into English. 

Paul Radin was a leading folklorist in the first half of the 20th century, specializing in Native American storytelling traditions, especially among the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) with whom he lived and worked in the years 1908-1912. It was through his work on Native American traditions, especially the figure of the trickster, that he became interested in African traditions. He was a prolific author, and you can find many books by or about Radin at the Internet Archive.

And hey, since the sculpture pages are not interspersed with the stories, here's an idea: you could check out BOTH books at once, looking at the sculptures in one browser window while enjoying the stories in another browser window: a simultaneous viewing option that the folktales and sculpture book itself does not allow. Beautiful images, beautiful stories, both at once:

African Folktales
edited by Paul Radin


African Folktales and Sculpture
edited by Paul Radin


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