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African Tales

Compiled by Harold Scheub

Publication Year: 2005

The latest work from Harold Scheub, one of the world's leading scholars of African folktales, is the broadest collection yet assembled with tales from the entire continent of Africa, north to south. It brings together mythic, fantastic, and coming-of-age tales, some transcribed more than a hundred years ago, others dating to modern-day Africa. Scheub includes the work of storytellers from major African language groups, as well as many storytellers whose work is not often heard outside of Africa. This anthology offers a classroom-ready collection that should appeal to any scholar of African literature and culture. Realizing that these tales are part of a dying art, Scheub writes for the inner ear in everyone, bringing an oral tradition to life in written form.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

African Tales

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pp. iii


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pp. iv-vi


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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi-2

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1. Asante (Ghana) Kwaku Ananse and Aso

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pp. 3-7

"There once lived a certain man called Akwasi-the-jealous-one. His wife was Aso, and he did not want anyone to see Aso or anyone to talk to her. So he went and built a small settlement for Aso to live in. No one ever went into the village. Now Akwasi-the-jealous-one could not beget..."

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2. Apinji (Gabon) Akenda Mbani

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pp. 8-10

"Redjioua, a king, had a daughter called Arondo, and she was very beautiful. Redjioua said, 'A man may give me slaves, goods, or ivory to marry my daughter, but he will not get her. I want only a man who will agree that when Arondo falls ill, he will fall ill also, and that when Arondo dies,..."

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3. Arabic (Egypt) The Cock

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pp. 11-14

"There was once a man who had a thousand piastres, but he was afraid to go into business because of his money. Then he went away, not wanting to give anything to other people lest he should become poorer."

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4. Arabic (Morocco) Tale of a Lantern

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pp. 15-25

"There was once a man, a rich merchant of Fez, who had a very beautiful wife to whom he was greatly devoted. He gave her all that her heart desired and never allowed another woman, whether white or black, to share her place in his life."

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5. Batanga (Cameroon) The Favored Daughter

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pp. 26-29

"Ra-Mborakinda lived in his town with his women and sons and daughters and servants. Among his women were Ngwekonde, his chief wife, and Ngwe-lege, whom he neglected. But Ngwe-lege had a beautiful daughter named Ilâmbe, much beloved by him. Ra-Mborakinda prized this daughter so much that he left everything to her direction."

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6. Berber (Algeria) The African

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pp. 30-33

"Once there was a man who had seven wives and seven mares, but the wives had no children and the mares no foals. So he asked advice, and a wise man said, 'Go to a forest and get seven sticks. Break a stick on every mare. Go to market and buy seven apples."

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7. Berber (Libya) Dschemil and Dschemila

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pp. 34-47

"There was once a man whose name Dschemil, and he had a cousin who was called Dschemila. They had been betrothed by their parents when they were children, and now Dschemil thought that the time had come for them to be married. He went two or three days’..."

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8. Berber (Morocco) Half-a-Cock

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pp. 48-51

"In times past, there was a man who had two wives, and one was wise and one was foolish. They owned a cock in common. One day, they quarreled about the cock, cut it in two, and each took half. The foolish wife cooked her part. The wise one let her part live, and it walked on one foot and had only one wing."

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9. Bulu (Cameroon) The Boy and the Girl

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pp. 52-54

"Once, there was a man who was a hunchback.When he went courting, he saw a woman who was also a hunchback. He said to the woman, 'I wish to marry you, because you are a hunchback, even as I myself. Therefore, I wish to marry you.”

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10. Bura (Nigeria) Mbewa and Nkerma

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pp. 55-60

"For many years Mbewa and Nkerma were happy together. Nothing had ever come between them to separate them. Neither of them thought that anything could ever happen that would make them fight."

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11. Fiote (Republic of Congo) The Twin Brothers

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pp. 61-64

"A certain woman, after prolonged labor, gave birth to twins, both sons. And each one, as he was brought forth, came into the world with a valuable harm. One of the sons the mother called Luemba, the other Mavungu. And they were almost fully grown at their birth, so that Mavungu, the firstborn, wished to start upon his travels."

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12. Fuuta Jalon (Guinea) Samba Gueladio Diegui

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pp. 65-79

"This is the story of Samba Gueladio Diegui, Peuhl prince of Fouta. Samba Gueladio Diegui was the son of Gueladio, king of Fouta. When Samba arrived at the age of adolescence, his father died. The brother of the dead king, Konkobo Moussa, took command of the country. Konkobo..."

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13. Gourmanchéma (Niger) Fountinndouha

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pp. 80-84

"A man who was very jealous of his wife had retired to live some distance from the village, so there should be no possibility of her deceiving him. Another man named Fountinndouha determined to possess this woman. So he chose a fine fat sheep from among his herd and went to the cautious husband."

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14. Grebo (Liberia) The Man and the Leopard

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pp. 85-86

"A man once had for his personal friend a leopard. As times became hard and the financial condition of the town more straitened, he moved his little family out on to an elevated tract of land nearly fifteen miles from every neighboring community. Though it seemed..."

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15. Hausa (Nigeria) The Two Girls

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pp. 87-93

"One of two girls said to her sister, 'I am more beautiful than you.' Her sister replied, 'I am more beautiful than you.' The first girl said, 'If you are more beautiful than I, come, let us go into the world. Let us see who gets the most goods.”

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16. Herero (Namibia) The Fleeing Girls and the Rock

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pp. 94-97

"A tale goes like this: Girls were building houses in the river. And when they had built the houses, the kraals were removed to new pastures.57 As they were on the way, the children said, 'He who has a burden, let him give it to his mother! He who has a burden, let him give it to..."

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17. Jindwi (Zimbabwe) The Old Woman

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pp. 98-101

"There once lived an old woman who had four daughters and four sons with their two dogs. Her one knee was very large and looked as if it were swollen. She would walk about leaning on a staff. Now, this old woman wished to have some place where she could stay, and in search of this she at last came to a chief."

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18. Kabyle (Tunisia) Thadhellala

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pp. 102-103

"Thadhellala was a woman who had seven daughters and no son. She went to the city and there saw a shop rich in merchandise. She went a little farther on and perceived at the door of a house a oung girl of great beauty. She called the girl’s parents and..."

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19. Kanuri (Sierra Leone) The Cunning Young Woman

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pp. 104-107

"There was a man who had a beautiful daughter, and he saw that all the young men loved her on account of her beauty. Now, two young men who were rivals arose one day and went to the young woman, saying, 'We have come to you.”

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20. Khoikhoi (Southern Africa) The Little Wise Woman

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pp. 108-110

"A girl, it is said, went to seek onions. As she came to the place where the onions grew, she met some men, one of whom was half-blind, having only one eye. As she dug for the onions, the men helped her, digging also. When her sack was full, they said to..."

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21. Kikuyu (Kenya) The Old Woman, Her Sons, and the Python

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pp. 111-113

"A girl named Kasoni, on her way to get water for her father to drink, saw a large python basking in the sun near the path. The python had two mouths, and its hair was beautifully arranged like that of a warrior. Kasoni stood and admired it for some minutes."

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22. Krio (Sierra Leone) Five Dead Men Attend a Dance

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pp. 114-119

"One day, a big dance was held in a village.While this dance was going on, spirits from the forest came to attend. Dead people also came out of their graves to attend the dance. There were five young women who lived in this village and who were very fond of men. Five dead men came to the dance in the village. They..."

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23. Lamba (Zambia) The Hole in the Tree

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pp. 120-124

"A chief had daughters, and all of them except the youngest married. When it came to the youngest one, she refused to marry, saying, 'I want a man who can pass through a hole in the tree with a ball!' The chief was astonished."

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24. Luba (Democratic Republic of Congo) The Jackal and the Little Antelope

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pp. 125-129

"The little antelope had been going apace. He had been buying up in the market everything that was good and dear, food, drink, and the most costly raiment. Then, as the moon rose, he invited his friends, and the drums were beating and the animals were dancing and singing until the first rays of the sun drove them home."

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25. Malagasy (Madagascar) Andrianòro

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pp. 130-136

"Once there was, it is said, a man named Andriambahòaka-in-the-midstof-the-land, and this man had three children, one son and two daughters. The son’s name was Andrianòro, and those of his two sisters were Ràmatòa and..."

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26. Masai (Kenya) The Hare, the Hyena, and the Lioness’s Cave

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pp. 137-140

"The hare once met the hyena and proposed that they go for a walk. They went for a walk together and then separated, after which the hare went to the lioness’s cave and found it closed."

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27. Mbundu (Angola) Na Kimanaueze

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pp. 141-152

"We often tell of na Nzuá of Kimanaueze kia Tumb’ a Ndala, favorite of friends. Na Kimanaueze built, dwelt. His head wife conceived. She ate no meat, she ate no food, she wanted fish of the water. Na Kimanaueze would send his messenger, saying,..."

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28. Nandi (Kenya) The Hyenas and the Sage

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pp. 153-155

"The hyenas once all met together, and they decided to appoint a sage who would be able to advise them in all matters concerning the welfare of their country and who would divine future events and interpret omens and dreams. There was some discussion as to who should be invited to take..."

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29. Nyanja (Malawi) Kachirambe

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pp. 156-158

"Some young girls once said, 'Come, let us go and pluck leaves for a relish with our porridge.' And when they were gathering them, one of the children saw the egg of a hyena and picked it up and put it in her basket. She said to her companions, 'I have got all I want. I am going.”

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30. Nyarwanda (Rwanda) The Girls Who Went to Have Teeth Made for Them

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pp. 159-161

"I shall tell you a story, I shall stir you with a story. Some young girls said to one another, 'Come, let’s go and have teeth made for us.' But one of the girls no longer had a mother. The wife of her father always hindered her, and she was therefore unable to go with them..."

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31. Ronga (Mozambique) Nwampfundla

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pp. 162-169

"The lion is the chief of all the animals. He is the great chief of all the animals that are in the wild. He is chief even over the elephants, though they are bigger than he. There is no beast of them all that does not say, 'Hail, king!' when they meet him on the path.

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32. San (Namibia) The Young Man Who Was Carried Off by a Lion

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pp. 170-175

"A young man of the early race was, while hunting, ascending a hill, and he became sleepy. While he sat looking around for game, he became sleepy. And he thought that he would lie down, for he was not a little sleepy. But what could have happened to him today, because he had not previously..."

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33. Sena (Mozambique) The Magic Mirror

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pp. 176-180

"A long, long while ago, before ever the white men were seen in Sena, there lived a man called Gopáni-Kúfa. One day, as he was out hunting, he came upon a strange sight. An enormous python had caught an antelope and coiled itself around it. The antelope, striking out in despair with its horns,..."

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34. Shilluk (Sudan) Nyajak

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pp. 181-185

"A woman was with child, and she bore a child; she was named Nyajak. One day, the drum was beaten in a village far away. The people went to dance to the drum. This village where the drum was being beaten was the village of a lion."

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35. Somali (Somalia) The Sultan’s Wife

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pp. 186-187

"There was a sultan who had a son. His son said, 'I want to marry.' So the sultan gave him many presents and also a ship. The sultan’s son set sail and came to a town. When he arrived at the town, he became friends with a sultan, and the sultan gave him a house."

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36. Sotho (Lesotho) Monyohe

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pp. 188-193

"There was a young woman called Senkepeng, the sister of Masilo. Senkepeng refused to be married. On a certain day, they went to a singing party at Morakapula’s. They arrived, they sang, they sang the whole day."

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37. Swahili (Tanzania) The Physician’s Son and the King of the Snakes

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pp. 194-202

"Once there was a very learned physician who died, leaving his wife with a little baby boy, who, when he was old enough, she named, according to his father’s wish, Hasibu Karim Ed Din. When the boy had been to school and had learned to read, his mother sent him to a tailor to learn his trade, but he could not learn it. Then he..."

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38. Swati (Swaziland) Untombinde, the Tall Girl

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pp. 203-208

"It happened. . . . There were some girls, they went to dip ochre. There were four of these girls. The girls set out. Among them was one who was younger, smaller than the other girls. Her name was Ntombinde.

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39. Tigre (Ethiopia) The Man Who Passed the Night in the Middle of the Sea

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pp. 209-211

"Abunawas was very clever. And when the chief of his country heard of his cleverness, he sent messengers to him, saying, 'Tell him: ‘The chief says this to you: Come to me quickly and in a hurry. But do not come to me when the sun shines, nor come to me when there is shadow. And do not come to..."

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40. Tswana (Botswana) The Hare and the Lion

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pp. 212-216

"The hare once said to the lion, 'Come, let us make a fold for the beasts.' The lion agreed. The hare cried, 'Fold, make yourself !' And the fold made itself. Then the hare said to the lion,..."

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41. Vai (Liberia) Spider

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pp. 217-219

"There was a spider. And a great famine came into the country so that there was no rice, no cassadas, no plantains, no palm-cabbage, no meat, no victuals: a great famine had come into the country. The spider and his wife had been begetting children for a long time: a hundred children."

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42. Xhosa (South Africa) In Quest of a Wife

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pp. 220-229

"Now for a story. . . . In a certain homestead was a young man who wanted a wife. But his father did not want to take a wife for him. His father wanted the youth to work for himself, to get his own dowry. The young man spoke to some other..."

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43. Xhosa (South Africa) Children of the Anthill

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pp. 230-237

"Now for a story . . . A woman of a certain homestead was pregnant. Because she had become pregnant before getting married, she realized that her condition was shameful. She hid her growing stomach, she attempted to disguise her pregnancy."

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44. Yoruba (Nigeria) The King and the Kini-kini Bird

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pp. 238-241

"The Yoruba folk-lore tales are very numerous. The word now commonly used to mean one of these popular fables is alo, which more properly means a riddle, or something invented, literally something twisted, or inverted."

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45. Zulu (South Africa) Untombi-yaphansi

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pp. 242-255

"There was a certain king who had dug a large field. At the proper season, many men went to dig the garden. That king had only three children. The eldest was called Usilwane,160 the second..."

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46. Zulu (South Africa) Combecantsini

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pp. 256-272

"There was a certain king of a certain country. He used to have children who were crows, he had not one child that was a human being. In all his houses, his children were crows. But his queen had no child; it was said that she was barren. She remained a long time without having any child. All used to jeer her, and..."


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pp. 273-282


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pp. 283-286

E-ISBN-13: 9780299209438
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299209445

Publication Year: 2005