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Speak, Bird, Speak Again

Palestinian Arab Folktales

Ibrahim Muhawi

Publication Year: 1989

Were it simply a collection of fascinating, previously unpublished folktales, Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales would merit praise and attention because of its cultural rather than political approach to Palestinian studies. But it is much more than this. By combining their respective expertise in English literature and anthropology, Ibrahim Muhawi and Sharif Kanaana bring to these tales an integral method of study that unites a sensitivity to language with a deep appreciation for culture.

As native Palestinians, the authors are well-suited to their task. Over the course of several years they collected tales in the regions of the Galilee, Gaza, and the West Bank, determining which were the most widely known and appreciated and selecting the ones that best represented the Palestinian Arab folk narrative tradition. Great care has been taken with the translations to maintain the original flavor, humor, and cultural nuances of tales that are at once earthy and whimsical. The authors have also provided footnotes, an international typology, a comprehensive motif index, and a thorough analytic guide to parallel tales in the larger Arab tradition in folk narrative. Speak, Bird, Speak Again is an essential guide to Palestinian culture and a must for those who want to deepen their understanding of a troubled, enduring people.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-xiii

It was with great pleasure that I watched a joint collaborative effort between a man of letters and a social scientist come to fruition. The marvelous results of this partnership lie in the pages ahead. Not only are there forty-five splendid Palestinian Arab folktales to be savored, but we...

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pp. xv-xvi

First and foremost, of course, our thanks are due to the women and men from whom the tales were collected—those for whom we have names as well as those for whom we do not. For initial encouragement to proceed toward publication, we are grateful to Dr. Sam Pickering. For...

Note on Transliteration

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pp. xvii-19

Key to References

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pp. xix-21

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pp. 1-48

The forty-five tales included in this volume were selected on the basis of their popularity and the excellence of their narration from approximately two hundred tales collected on cassette tapes between 1978 and 1980 in various parts of Palestine—the Galilee (since 1948 part of the state of...

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Notes on Presentation and Translation

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pp. 51-52

Following the scheme articulated in the Introduction, the tales are divided into groups, each of which is followed by an afterword. This commentary follows rather than precedes the selections in order not to interfere with the reader's individual response to the tales. Likewise, we hope...


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pp. 53-75

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Children and Parents

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pp. 55-83

There was once a woman who could not get pregnant and have children. Once upon a day she had an urge; she wanted babies. "O Lord!" she cried out, "Why of all women am I like this? Would that I could get pregnant and have a baby, and may Allah grant me a girl even if she is only a cooking...

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pp. 84-114

"I'm going to visit the sheikh,"3 he said to himself one day, "and maybe for the sake of Allah he'll give me some medicine to make these women conceive." He went to the sheikh and said, "I want you to give me a medicine that'll make my wives get pregnant."...

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Sexual Awakening and Courtship

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pp. 115-147

Once upon a time there was a little bird. She dug in the earth and dug, she dyed her hands with henna.1 She dug in the earth and dug, she dyed her feet with henna. She looked up to the Lord, and He beautified her eyes with kohl.2 She went on digging and digging, and found a bolt of...

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The Quest for the Spouse

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pp. 148-171

There was once the king of a city who had a very beautiful daughter. He announced that he would give her hand to anyone who could kill the ghoul. He also let it be known that the ghoul would be easy to kill: all one had to do was remove three hairs from his head. If they were removed,...


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pp. 173-195

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Brides and Bridegrooms

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pp. 175-205

The bracelets fell from the girl's wrists as she slept, and they opened the door. The old woman came into the house and woke up the bride. "Hush," she whispered, "don't let your husband know what's going on. Your father has just died." Immediately, the bride jumped out of bed and...

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Husbands and Wives

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pp. 206-229

There was once in times past an old woman who lived in a hut all by herself. She had no one at all. One day when the weather was beautiful she said, "Ah, yes! By Allah, today it's sunny and beautiful, and I'm going to take the air by the seashore.2 But let me first knead this dough."...

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Family Life

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pp. 230-250

Once there was a girl, the daughter of a co-wife.1 And, as everybody knows, a co-wife's daughter usually turns out meaner than her own mother. Her stepmother hated her, always saying to her "Come here" and "Go there" and giving her endless work to do....

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pp. 251-278

Once upon a time there were some women who agreed to meet on a certain day to go wash their clothes at the spring on the edge of town.2 As they were discussing the matter, a ghouleh who had hidden herself behind a retaining wall nearby heard what they agreed to do that day.3 On...

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pp. 279-293

One day the hyena saw her as she was leaving and discovered where her kids were.1 "By Allah," he said to himself, "I'm going to eat them." Now, the she-goat, before going out, would caution her kids, "If anyone should come and say, 'Let me in,' be careful not to open the door." Because...

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pp. 295-326

And, by Allah, on his way out of the house, he stumbled over a dog tied to a tree. Startled,4 the man fell backwards, and behold! he ended up in a well that happened to be there. It was a dry well and held no water at all.5...

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Folkloristic Analysis

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pp. 327-379

Tales are identified as to Type following Aarne and Thompson's Types of the Folktale (abbreviated as "AT"); citations for international parallels to the tales included here may be found in that volume as well. Motif numbers are drawn from Thompson's Motif-Index of Folk-Literature....

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Appendix A: Transliteration of Tale 10

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pp. 381-386

Note: For a description of the system used for rendering the Palestinian dialect, see the Note on Transliteration. In the transcription of the tale, glottalization (initial hamza) has been indicated much more extensively than in the smaller bits of discourse from the dialect occurring elsewhere...

Appendix B: Index of Folk Motifs

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pp. 387-402

Appendix C: List of Tales by Type

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pp. 403-404

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 405-412

Footnote Index

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pp. 413-420

E-ISBN-13: 9780520908734
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520062924

Page Count: 512
Publication Year: 1989