Taking a step away from the usual slice-of-life or fantasy novel or inspiring nonfiction resource, folktales are a wonderful genre of their own. Typically full of symbolism, life lessons, and interesting characters, folktales are today’s reminders of our world’s rich cultures. But as we become more digitally centered, many of these previously common verbally-told stories have begun to be forgotten.
In Africa, there is no shortage of these intriguing, entertaining, and even educational stories. That brings us to “Book of Griot: A Collection of African Folktales.” Inside this relatively short book lives a compilation of 15 unique and curious tales, organized by their origin: southern, eastern, and three unspecified ones.
While all different in lesson, characters, and length, they are all interesting in their own ways. From Why the Heron has a Crooked Neck (about Tante the Dove, Oom Jakhals (the Jackal) and Oom Reijer — the Heron), to The Ape, the Snake, and the Lion (about, you guessed it, an Ape, Snake, and Lion, as well as a poor boy named MvooLaana).
Many of the stories involve talking animals that lived among people long, long ago. Sometimes the stories are about human behavior, animal behavior, or life lessons told through interactions between animals or people. Although they’re individually quite short, their meanings are relevant to this day. And while they are all translated into English, the names of animals, places, people, and even foods or plants are all transliterated (written in English but still pronounced like their native language). Thanks to this, these stories can now be shared more globally and be preserved for generations to come.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The tales were entertaining, and it was nice to step out of my comfort zone and read something completely different for a change. By nature, the stories did sometimes feel a bit childish, but for the most part they were still interesting and entertaining. And the author did a good job collecting a wide variety of unique folktales, which I appreciated.
I recommend this to anyone interested in the genre or if you’re simply looking for a light, but entertaining read.