Saturday, October 21, 2023

LibriVox: African Folktales

African folktales are amazing, and I am excited to share them with you here! Over the next couple of years, I hope to create an African Story Finder based on public domain materials available online; you can find out more about the Story Finder project here

To get started, I'm making audio recordings of the stories at LibriVox. When I started, there were around 150 folktales you could listen to; now there are over 300, and I have cataloged literally thousands more African folktales in the public domain that I want to record, story by story by story. (If you would like to start recording for LibriVox, just visit their website to learn more; it's a very supportive and encouraging community!)

Below this paragraph, you will see an African folktale displayed at random, and you can also see a story displayed at random in the blog sidebar. Just click the "play" button to listen, and you can also scroll down in the frame to see all the stories in that book. You can reload the page to see another story at random, and there's a complete listing of the audio stories below the frame, all free to listen to and to read online. Happy listening/reading!

Story List:

  1. A Chain of Circumstances
  2. A Family Quarrel
  3. A Journey for Salt
  4. A Lesson in Evolution
  5. A Plea for Mercy
  6. A Quarrel about Seniority
  7. A Question as to Age
  8. A Question of Right of Inheritance
  9. A Snake's Skin Looks like a Snake
  10. A Story of the Great Famine
  11. A Trick for Vengeance
  12. A Tug-of-War
  13. Abundance
  14. Adventures of a Jackal
  15. Adventures of the Jackal's Eldest Son
  16. Adventures of the Younger Son of Jackal
  17. Adzanumee and Her Mother
  18. Agenda: Rat's Play on a Name
  19. An Oath: With a Mental Reservation
  20. Anansi and Nothing
  21. Anansi and the Blind Fisherman
  22. Ants Carrying Bundles as Big as Themselves
  23. Baboon-Skins
  24. Borrowed Clothes
  25. Candor
  26. Chief Kekong's Daughter 'Ndere who Married a Python
  27. Concerning the Human Sacrifices
  28. Concerning the Ju-Ju against Elephantiasis
  29. Concerning the Okuni Witches and Cannibalism
  30. Crocodile
  31. Death Begins by Some One Person
  32. Do Not Impose on the Weak
  33. Do Not Trust your Friend
  34. Dog and His False Friend Leopard
  35. Dog and his Human Speech (version 1)
  36. Dog and his Human Speech (version 2)
  37. Essido and his Evil Companions
  38. Farmer Mybrow and the Fairies
  39. Goat's Tournament
  40. Goso, the Teacher
  41. Haamdaanee
  42. Honourable Minu
  43. How 'Nyambi Punished Chief Oga
  44. How a Cruel Inkum Chief Was Poisoned by His Slaves
  45. How a Father Tried to Kill One of His Sons but Failed
  46. How a Hunter Obtained Money from his Friends
  47. How Agbor Adam Broke the Hunting Law of Okuni
  48. How an Inkum Boy Was Drowned by His Companions
  49. How an Inkum Woman Abandoned One of Her Twins in the Forest
  50. How Beasts and Serpents Came into the World
  51. How Chief Alankor and All His Family Were Killed by a Big Frog
  52. How Elili of Inkum Died, and Was Brought Back to Life Again
  53. How Essama Stole Her Father's Goat in the Fatting-House
  54. How Ewa Abagi, an Inkum Woman, Was Drowned in the Cross River
  55. How Ibanang Okpong and Her Mother Were Swallowed by a Man-Eating Drum
  56. How Isuro the Rabbit Tricked Gudu
  57. How Jakhals Fed Oom Leeuw
  58. How Mushrooms First Grew
  59. How Oghabi Poisoned His Friend Okpa
  60. How the Frog Beat the Bush Buck in a Race
  61. How the Grey Parrots Got Their Red Tails
  62. How the Hare Traded With a Bag of Corn
  63. How the Jackal got his Stripe
  64. How the River Came into Existence
  65. How the Tortoise Got Its Shell
  66. How Tortoise Overcame Elephant and Hippopotamus
  67. How Two Bendega Young Men Changes Their Skins
  68. How Two Friends Fell Out: The Spider and the Grasshopper
  69. How We Got the Name 'Spider Tales'
  70. How Wisdom Became the Property of the Human Race
  71. Iguana's Forked Tongue
  72. Is the Bat a Bird or a Beast?
  73. Ituen and the King's Wife
  74. Jan the Animal Judge
  75. Kasanke the Little Red Bird
  76. King Chameleon and the Animals
  77. Kwofi and the Gods
  78. Leopard of the Fine Skin
  79. Leopard's Hunting Companions
  80. Leopard's Hunting-Camp
  81. Leopard's Marriage Journey
  82. Maku Mawu and Maku Fia
  83. Mkaaah Jeechonee, the Boy Hunter
  84. Mohammed With the Magic Finger
  85. Morning Sunrise
  86. Motikatika
  87. Musoke the Moon-boy
  88. Njiwo Died of Sleep
  89. Not My Fault!
  90. Nunda, Eater of People
  91. Nuts are Eaten Because of Angangwe
  92. Nya-nya Bulembu; or, the Moss-green Princess
  93. Of Chief Amaza, His Wife Achi, and the Tortoise
  94. Of the Fat Woman who Melted Away
  95. Of the Pretty Girl and the Seven Jealous Women
  96. Of the Pretty Stranger who Killed the King
  97. Ohia and the Thieving Deer
  98. Origin of the Elephant
  99. Origin of the Ivory Trade (version 1)
  100. Origin of the Ivory Trade (version 2)
  101. Parrot Standing on One Leg
  102. Quarcoo Bah-Boni
  103. Samba the Coward
  104. Saved by his Tail
  105. Setuli; or, the King of the Birds
  106. Soliloquy of Old Age in a Banana Garden
  107. Swine Talking
  108. Tasks Done for a Wife
  109. Tests of Death (version 1)
  110. Tests of Death (version 2)
  111. The 'Nsasak Bird and the Odudu Bird
  112. The Absent-minded Bridegroom
  113. The Affair of the Hippopotamus and the Tortoise
  114. The Alligator and the Moor Hen
  115. The Animals’ Dam
  116. The Ape, the Snake, and the Lion
  117. The Beauty and the Beast
  118. The Buffalo Maiden
  119. The Cannibals
  120. The Cat and the Hen
  121. The Cat, the Rat, and the Fox
  122. The Cheats of Kijongo
  123. The Clever Cat
  124. The Cock who Caused a Fight between Two Towns
  125. The Cock's Kraal
  126. The Cooking-pot and the Drum
  127. The Crimson-striped Lily
  128. The Cunning Hare
  129. The Daughter of Buk Ettemsuch
  130. The Death of Abu Nowas
  131. The Deceptions of Tortoise
  132. The Disobedient Daughter who Married a Skull
  133. The Dog and the Clever Rabbit
  134. The Dog and the Kingship
  135. The Dog and the Leopard
  136. The Dog and the Leopard
  137. The Election of the King Bird
  138. The Elephant and the Tortoise
  139. The Elephant That Wanted to Dance
  140. The Enchanted Buck
  141. The Fairy Bird
  142. The Fairy Frog
  143. The Famine
  144. The Fate of Agbor the Hunter, Who Killed His Wife and Children
  145. The Fights of Mbuma-Tyetye
  146. The Fish and the Leopard's Wife
  147. The Flame Tree
  148. The Flying Lion
  149. The Foolish Hare
  150. The Frog and the Elephant
  151. The Frog and the Leopard
  152. The Frog and the Lizard
  153. The Game of Hide-and-Seek
  154. The Giant Goat
  155. The Golden-crested Crane
  156. The Grinding-Stone That Ground Flour By Itself
  157. The Guardians of the Snakes
  158. The Happy Age in the Animal World
  159. The Hare and the Lion
  160. The Hare Who Earned a Cow and a Chieftainship
  161. The Hawk and the Owl
  162. The Hawk and the Rooster
  163. The Heart of a Monkey
  164. The Holy Man
  165. The Home of the Rat
  166. The Hunter and the Tortoise
  167. The Hyena's Punishment
  168. The Hyena's Spots
  169. The Jackal and the Heron
  170. The Jackal and the Hyena
  171. The Jackal and the Leopard
  172. The Jackal and the Spring
  173. The Jackal, the Dove, and the Panther
  174. The King and the 'Nsiat Bird
  175. The King and the Ju Ju Tree
  176. The King of the Snakes
  177. The King who Married the Cock's Daughter
  178. The King's Magic Drum
  179. The Kites and the Crows
  180. The Law Concerning Fortune-tellers
  181. The Leopard and the Goat
  182. The Leopard and the Ram
  183. The Leopard, the Hare, and the Monkey
  184. The Leopard, the Squirrel, and the Tortoise
  185. The Leopard, the Tortoise, and the Bush Rat
  186. The Lies of Tortoise
  187. The Lion and the Wolf
  188. The Lion-girl
  189. The Lion, the Hyena, and the Hare
  190. The Lion, the Hyena, and the Rabbit
  191. The Little Hare
  192. The Little Red Tortoise
  193. The Locusts
  194. The Lucky Fisherman
  195. The Magic Drum
  196. The Magic Mirror
  197. The Magician and the Sultan’s Son
  198. The Man Who Knew Too Much
  199. The Monkey Finds Worry
  200. The Monkey, the Shark, and the Washerman’s Donkey
  201. The Mpa Bana Bird
  202. The Omanhene Who Liked Riddles
  203. The One-handed Girl
  204. The Orphan Boy and the Magic Stone
  205. The Ostrich Hunt
  206. The Owl and His Friends
  207. The Physician’s Son and the King of the Snakes
  208. The Quits of Gomba
  209. The Rabbit and His Ears
  210. The Rabbit and the Alligator
  211. The Rabbit and the Animal Wizard
  212. The Rabbit and the Elephant
  213. The Rabbit and the Moon
  214. The Rabbit and the Other Animals
  215. The Rabbit Escapes the Wolf's Anger
  216. The Rabbit Prince
  217. The Reward of Industry
  218. The Rival Roosters
  219. The River Fairy
  220. The Robber and the Old Man
  221. The Rover of the Plain
  222. The Royal Puff Adders of Budo
  223. The Sacred Milk of Koumongoe
  224. The Savior of the Animals
  225. The Sea-turtle When Caught
  226. The Sense of the Weasel
  227. The Serpent's Bride
  228. The Slave Girl who Tried to Kill her Mistress
  229. The Squirrel and the Kingship
  230. The Squirrel and the Spider
  231. The Stars and the Stars’ Road
  232. The Story of a Gazelle
  233. The Story of a Panic
  234. The Story of Dschemil and Dschemila
  235. The Story of Halfman
  236. The Story of Hassebu
  237. The Story of Igiri and Her Husband Inkang
  238. The Story of Kibate
  239. The Story of Kintu
  240. The Story of Mpobe the Hunter
  241. The Story of Nsangi and the Apes
  242. The Story of Semai-mai
  243. The Story of the Chief Kasuju
  244. The Story of the Cock and the Hen
  245. The Story of the Drummer and the Alligators
  246. The Story of the Fairy Bee
  247. The Story of the Fairy Foxes
  248. The Story of the Frog
  249. The Story of the Grey Heron
  250. The Story of the Hero Makoma
  251. The Story of the Hippos
  252. The Story of the King's Son and the Magic Song
  253. The Story of the Lightning and the Thunder
  254. The Story of the Little Birds who lived in A Cave
  255. The Story of the Shining Princess
  256. The Story of the Two Friends
  257. The Story of the War between Inkum and Enfitop
  258. The Story of the Witch who Tried to Kill Her Husband
  259. The Story of the Wonderful Goat
  260. The Stranger
  261. The Suitors of Njambo's Daughter
  262. The Suitors of Princess Gorilla
  263. The Sun
  264. The Three Little Eggs
  265. The Tortoise with a Pretty Daughter
  266. The Treachery of Tortoise
  267. The Turtle, the Wolf, and the Hyena
  268. The Ungrateful Man
  269. The Unnatural Mother
  270. The White Dove
  271. The Wolf and His Two Dinners
  272. The Wolf's Butter
  273. The Woman with Two Skins
  274. The Woman, the Ape, and the Child
  275. Thunder and Anansi
  276. Tit For Tat
  277. To Lose an Elephant for the Sake of a Wren
  278. Tortoise and the Bojabi Tree
  279. Tortoise Covers His Ignorance
  280. Tortoise in a Race
  281. Tortoise, Dog, Leopard, and the Njabi Fruit
  282. Udea and Her Seven Brothers
  283. Unkind Criticism
  284. Walukaga the Blacksmith
  285. What Caused their Deaths?
  286. What Happened at Okuni When Anyone Was Killed by Accident
  287. Which is the Better Hunter, an Eagle or a Leopard?
  288. Which is the Fattest: Manatus, Hog, or Oyster?
  289. Who Are Crocodile's Relatives?
  290. Who Is King of Birds?
  291. Who Was King?
  292. Who Was the Thief?
  293. Why a Hawk kills Chickens
  294. Why a Python Never Swallows a Tortoise
  295. Why Dead People Are Buried
  296. Why Edidor Killed Her Husband and Her Lover
  297. Why Goats Became Domestic
  298. Why Leopard Can Only Catch Prey On Its Left Side
  299. Why Moon and Stars Receive Light from Sun
  300. Why Mosquitoes Buzz
  301. Why Spiders Are Always Found in Corners of Ceilings
  302. Why the Bat Flies by Night
  303. Why the Bat is Ashamed to Be Seen in the Daytime
  304. Why the Bat Sleeps All Through the Day
  305. Why the Bush Cow and the Elephant are Bad Friends
  306. Why the Cat Came to Man's House
  307. Why the Cat kills Rats
  308. Why the Flies Bother the Cows
  309. Why the Goat Left the Jungle
  310. Why the Hare’s Nose is Slit
  311. Why the Head of the Male Goat Smells So Strong
  312. Why the Heron has a Crooked Neck
  313. Why the Hyena is Lame
  314. Why the Lizard Moves His Head Up and Down
  315. Why the Mist Rises from the Water
  316. Why the Moon Waxes and Wanes
  317. Why the Plantain-Stalk Bears But One Bunch
  318. Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky
  319. Why the Worms Live Underneath the Ground
  320. Why Tigers Never Attack Men Unless Provoked
  321. Why White Ants Always Harm Man's Property

Friday, September 8, 2023

About the Story Finder

This "Story Finder" project is inspired by the Story Finder books by Sharon Elswit; you can find out about all four of her books — Caribbean Story Finder, Latin American Story Finder, Jewish Story Finder, East Asian Story Finder — at her webisite: They are incredibly useful resources! Each volume in the series features hundreds of stories, and for each story she provides a detailed summary along with variant versions across multiple sources. Here's a screenshot of a two-page spread from the Latin American Story Finder, so you can get a sense of the approach she has taken (click on the image for a larger view):

In those books, Elswit relies on a variety of published and online sources, some of which are readily accessible (i.e. available in local libraries or at used booksellers, etc.), but some of which are not. Since discovering her books, I started wondering what it would be like to create some Story Finder books that are based on public domain and open access resources that everyone can read.

My own focus for the past couple of years has been folktales from Africa, and I've done a comprehensive survey of English-language public domain and open access materials available as online books or online articles at the Internet Archive. That includes public domain books published before 1928, books published after 1928 whose copyrights have lapsed, plus materials that are available with Creative Commons licenses or other forms of open access. I completed that survey in conjunction with the books that were available by controlled digital lending from the Internet Archive; you can see the bibliography guide I published here: A Reader's Guide to African Folktales at the Internet Archive (free ebook). Unfortunately, the big publishers' lawsuit against the Internet Archive has put the future of controlled digital lending in doubt, but there is still an abundance of public domain and open access material available.

What finally prompted me to start working on an actual Story Finder project was that I started recording for LibriVox in August 2023. I made an index of the African folktales already available at LibriVox (142 stories from 5 different sources), and then I started recording more African folktale sources. I completed one book which has been cataloged (Stafford's Animal Fables) and another book which is still waiting to be cataloged; meanwhile, I am working on my third book! By the time that third book is done, I will have added 130 more stories, nearly doubling the number of stories available. And I have LOTS more sources to record. There are over 1000 African folktales available in public domain books, and that many again (actually more) in public domain articles from journals like Folklore, The Journal of American Folklore, etc.

So, I am going to be recording (and recording and recording...), and I am also going to be writing posts at this blog featuring the story motifs and story types that reveal the inner workings and creative invention of African storytelling traditions. These posts will, in turn, provide the raw material for a book I would eventually like to write about African storytelling, something similar to Elswit's Story Finder books, although instead of summaries I will include public-domain texts of the stories. Of course, it won't be enough just to rely on public domain sources; I will need to supplement these colonial-era sources with more contemporary work, with an emphasis on work published by African storytellers and scholars, citing those resources in the bibliography and in the variant versions. Still, I am excited about building the book with a core of public domain materials that everyone can access online all over the world.

Here are the posts I've written so far:
Meanwhile, just for fun, I made a randomizing widget which displays LibriVox recordings of African folktales embedded right here in my blog. You can see the widget below, and also in the blog sidebar. I'll update the widget as more and more stories get added — and if you are curious about such widgets, I build them with a free program created by a former student:

Happy listening!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Type: Trickster and Dupe on a Journey

Today's story — "How Isuro the Rabbit Tricked Gudu" — is from The Orange Fairy Book by Andrew Lang, published in 1906 (for more stories, see the index). You can listen to today's story via LibriVox and which you can read online at the Internet Archive. The story is item 5 in the audiobook playlist:

Of all Lang's Fairy Books, the Orange Fairy Book is the one with the most stories from Africa, and you can find all of the African stories from the Fairy Books here: African Folktales in the Fairy Books of Andrew Lang. This particular story comes from the Shona storytelling tradition, and the characters have their Shona names: Isuro (tsuro) the rabbit and Gudu (gudo) the Baboon.

The book is illustrated by Henry Justice Ford, and here is his illustration for the story, showing the first trick, when the baboon gets the rabbit to drop his food in the water, while he only pretends to drop his food, dropping a stone in stead.

This story type is Trickster and Dupe on a Journey. The role of the trickster usually shifts at some point in the story. For example, in this story, the baboon starts out tricking the rabbit, but finally the rabbit gets wise to what is going on, and in the final part of the story, the rabbit is the trickster and the baboon becomes his dupe.

To see another story of this type, take a look here:

"Baboon and Hare" in "Tales and Proverbs of the Vandau of Portuguese South Africa" by Franz Boas and C. Kamba Simango published in Journal of American Folklore. This version has a different role reversal: on the first journey, Baboon travels with Wild-Cat, and Baboon tricks Wild-Cat every time. When Wild-Cat comes home, he tells Hare what happened. Baboon then asks Hare to journey with him, Hare makes Baboon his dupe. Then Baboon wants revenge and he takes Hare on another journey, but again Hare outsmarts him. You will find both the Ndau version here and a literal English translation.