AUTHOR & EDITOR
ELEPHANT AND FROG
Folklore, fairy tales, myths and legends from Central Africa
Like all human cultures, African folklore and religion represents a variety of social facets of the various cultures in Africa. These particular folktales are from Central African regions such as Uganda and the Congo, and they play an important role in many of these Central African cultures. Stories reflect a group's cultural identity, and preserving the stories of Africa helps to preserve many aspects of diverse and intriguing cultural groupings. Storytelling affirms pride and identity.
In Africa, stories are created by and for the ethnic group telling them. Different ethnic groups in Africa have different rituals or ceremonies for storytelling, which creates a sense of belonging to a cultural group. To outsiders hearing an ethnic group's stories, it provides an insight into the community's beliefs, views, and customs. For people within the community, it allows them to encompass their group's uniqueness. They show the human desires and fears of a group, such as love, marriage, and death.
Folktales are also seen as a tool for education and entertainment. They provide a way for children to understand the material and social environment. Every story has a moral to teach people, such as goodwill prevailing over evil. For entertainment, stories are set in fantastic, non-human worlds. Often, the main character of the story would be a talking animal, or something unnatural would happen to a human character. Even though folktales are for entertainment, they bring a sense of belonging and pride to communities in Africa.
There are different types of African stories: animal tales and day-to-day tales. Animal tales are more oriented towards entertainment but still have morals and lessons to them. Animal tales are normally divided into trickster tales and ogre tales. In animal tales, a certain animal would always have the same character or role, so the audience does not have to worry about characterisation. The Hare was always the trickster, while the Hyena was always tricked by the Hare. Ogres are always cruel, greedy monsters. The messengers in all the stories were the Birds. Day-to-Day tales are the most serious tales, never including humour, that explained the everyday life and struggles of an African community. These tales take on famine, escape from death, courtship, and family matters, using a song form when the climax of the story was being told.
African stories have certain common structural devices associated with them. Villagers would gather around a common meeting place at the end of the day to listen and tell their stories. Storytellers had certain commands to start and end the stories, "Ugai Itha" to get the audience's attention and begin the story, and "Rukirika" to signal the end of a tale. Each scene of a story is depicted with two characters at a time, so the audience does not get overwhelmed. In each story, victims can overcome their predators and take justice out on the culprit. Certain tools were used in African folktales. For example, idiophones, such as drums, were used to make the sounds of different animals. Repetition and call-back techniques in prose or poem were also used to get the audience involved in the stories.
One feature in this collection is a preponderance of tales from the region around the great central lakes. In particular, the culture of Uganda is made up of diverse ethnic groups. Lake Kyoga forms the northern boundary for the Bantu-speaking people, who dominate much of East, Central, and Southern Africa. In Uganda, they include the Baganda, mentioned in several of these tales.
The Baganda are the largest single ethnic group in Uganda. They occupy the central part of Uganda which was formerly the Buganda Province. They are a Bantu-speaking people and their language is called Luganda.
In the north, the Lango and the Acholi peoples predominate, who speak Nilotic languages. To the east are the Iteso and Karamojong, who also speak a Nilotic language, whereas the Gishu are part of the Bantu and live mainly on the slopes of Mt. Elgon. They speak Lumasaba, which is closely related to the Luhya of Kenya.
As ever with these fascinating collections, it has been a real journey of discovery working through tales and adapting them for today’s early twenty-first century audience. The journey is utterly rewarding, with so many delightfully entertaining, poignant and instructional facets to take into account. I do hope you enjoy these tales as much as I do.
You can also order Elephant And Frog from your local retail booksellers such as Waterstones (UK) using these ISBN's:
Hard Cover: 978-1-915081-03-2
Sound FX attributions under Creative Commons licensing via Freesound.org: