African Folktales Twins

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African Folktales Twins Powered By Docstoc
					African Folktales
The following folktales were told by storytellers Hadjia Rahamu and Hadjia Angele from Niger. Click
here to see where Niger is located in Africa. The tales were told in Hausa on Niger's national radio
station and then written down and translated into English.
In the first tale, Gizo, a spider, is a trickster. Many African folktales feature the antics of a trickster
figure, an animal character endowed with human qualities, whose mischievous ways and extraordinary
capabilities create problems for the other characters in the tales. The trickster figure in many Asante
tales from Ghana is Ananse, the spider. The tortoise, Ajapa, is a common figure in Yoruba folktales,
told among the Yoruba of Nigeria.

Read the tale that follows and respond to the questions. You may write your responses on a sheet of
paper and file it in your Exploring Africa Journal.
Gizo and the Lizard
This tale is about Gizo and the Lizard. One day in an isolated town there lived a king who had a
beautiful daughter. They tried and tried to find a suitable husband for her but failed. They could not
find a man she liked.
One day she announced that she would marry the man who could go to the fields and work from
morning until night without drinking the juice of the dimniya. This was a difficult task because the
juice of the dimniya is sweet and irresistible.
People heard the news of the king's daughter, but all those who came failed to marry her. People even
came from faraway towns but were unsuccessful in their attempts to marry her. There were several
men from the town who went to the fields and worked all day. But just as they finished their work they
drank the juice of the dimniya. When they returned to the town they said they had not drunk any. Then
someone looked in their mouths and saw that they had drunk some.
One day Gizo heard the news of the king's daughter. If you know Gizo and that he heard about the
king's daughter then you know how this tale will end. The quarrelsome and argumentative Gizo
thought about how he could marry the king's daughter. He went home and prepared to go to the fields.

The next day Gizo went to the fields with a full water bottle
and a stick and began to work. After he had worked for some
time he went to the dimniya tree and picked some fruit. He
drank and drank the juice until his thirst was quenched. Then
he took his water bottle and rinsed his mouth out with water.
He was careful to thoroughly rinse out his mouth. Then Gizo
returned to town but forgot his water bottle in the fields.
Although Gizo did not know, Lizard was watching everything
he did.

When Gizo returned to town, he went to the king's court and they looked carefully inside his mouth.
They announced that he had not drunk any juice of the dimniya, and he was married to the king's
beautiful daughter.
After the wedding the king's daughter was taken to Gizo's house. After some time Lizard came and
said, "Gizo, Gizo, you forgot your water bottle at the place where you drank the juice of the dimniya."
Gizo said, "Oh Lizard, I didn't know you were close by, Lizard you have ruined the celebration this
Then a man from the king's court came and said, "We've heard what Lizard said." Lizard repeated,
"Gizo, Gizo, you forgot your water bottle at the place where you drank the juice of the dimniya." Gizo
said, "Oh Lizard, I didn't know you were close by, Lizard you have ruined the celebration this year."
The people went to the fields and saw that Gizo had indeed left his water bottle there. Then they
returned home and the marriage was annulled.
1. Folktales are often told to children to teach them lessons. What lessons might a listener learn from
Gizo and the Lizard?
2. What type of man does the king's daughter want to marry?
3. How does Gizo trick the king and his daughter?
4. How does the Lizard reveal Gizo's dishonesty?
5. When the people learn of Gizo's trick, what happens to the marriage?

In the second tale, The Man and the Lioness, a hunter finds himself wed to a lioness whose cub he has
killed. He only learns of his wife's true identity when she leads him from the city and into the bush.
Read the tale that follows and respond to the questions. You may write your responses on a sheet of
paper and file it in your Exploring Africa Journal.
The Man and the Lioness
One day there was a hunter whose wife was about to give birth. The man said that if it was God's will,
his wife would only give birth on a lion skin. The other men said, "You're lying," and they chatted for
some time about it.
                                                     The man went home and lay down until
                                                     the sun came up. Then he took his bow
                                                     and quiver full of arrows and went into
                                                     the bush. While in the bush he searched
                                                     everywhere until he came to a place
                                                     where Lioness had given birth and left
                                                     her children to go and find food for
                                                     them. The man grabbed one of
Scraped calabash lion design, Dahomey.               Lioness's children, slaughtered it and
                                                     left the flesh, taking the skin home.

As he arrived home, his wife went into labor. He dried the skin of the Lioness's cub, and a short time
later his wife gave birth on it.
When she returned Lioness looked everywhere for her missing cub. She followed the man's footprints
until she saw them leading into the town. Lioness transformed herself into a beautiful divorcee and
stuck an arrow in her head.
Many men asked to marry her but she said, "I don't have a bride price. I'll marry the one who can pull
this arrow out of my head." A man came forward and pulled with all his might, but the arrow did not
budge. A man said, "Someone is going to pull her head off. That arrow is stuck."
Many men attempted and failed. When the hunter heard the news he said, "Let me try and see what
happens." The man went and easily pulled the arrow out of her head and was married to the beautiful
One day she said, "I heard you're the man whose wife only gives birth on a lioness's skin." "Yes, that's
me," he replied, "I'm the one." She asked him, "If Lioness sees you in the bush what will you do?" "If
she tries to catch me, I'll run around until I lose her," he told her. Lioness learned all of his secrets.
Time passed and one day she said, "There's something I want to do. I've seen your town, but you
haven't seen mine. I want you to accompany me to visit my parents. After our visit we can return
here." The hunter agreed to go.
They traveled and traveled when suddenly his wife turned back into a lioness and tried to catch him.
The hunter repeatedly dodged her but could not escape. He did not know what was going to happen to
him. She told him, "I'm the lioness whose cub you slaughtered." He begged her to let him go, but she
refused. Then the man, who was in so much trouble, was saved by the grace of God and ran away.
1. Why does the hunter kill the lion cub?
2. How does the lioness trick the hunter into marrying her?
3. What secrets does the lioness learn from the man when she is disguised as his wife?
4. According to the story, why is the hunter saved at the end of the tale?
Author: unknown
Grasshopper and Toad appeared to be good friends. People always saw them together. Yet they had
never dined at each other's houses. One day Toad said to Grasshopper, "Dear friend, tomorrow come
and dine at my house. My wife and I will prepare a special meal. We will eat it together."

The next day Grasshopper arrived at Toad's house. Before sitting down to eat, Toad washed his
forelegs, and invited Grasshopper to do the same. Grasshopper did so, and it made a loud noise.

"Friend Grasshopper, can't you leave your chirping behind. I cannot eat with such a noise," said Toad.

Grasshopper tried to eat without rubbing his forelegs together, but it was impossible. Each time he
gave a chirp, Toad complained and asked him to be quiet. Grasshopper was angry and could not eat.
Finally, he said to Toad: "I invite you to my house for dinner, tomorrow."

The next day, Toad arrived at Grasshopper's home. As soon as the meal was ready, Grasshopper
washed his forelegs, and invited Toad to do the same. Toad did so, and then hopped toward the food.

"You had better go back and wash again," said Grasshopper. "All that hopping in the dirt has made
your forelegs dirty again."

Toad hopped back to the water jar, washed again, then hopped back to the table, and was ready to
reach out for some food from one of the platters when Grasshopper stopped him: "Please dorit put
your dirty paws into the food. Go and wash them again."

Toad was furious. "You just don't want me to eat with you!" he cried. "You know very well that I must
use my paws and forelegs in hopping about. I cannot help it if they get a bit dirty between the water jar
and the table."

Grasshopper responded, "You are the one who started it yesterday. You know I cannot rub my forelegs
together without making a noise."

From then on, they were no longer friends.

Moral: If you wish to have true friendship with someone, learn to accept each other's faults, as well as
each other's good qualities.
Author: unknown
Once there were two boys who were great friends, and they were determined to remain that way
forever. When they grew up and got married, they built their houses facing one another. There was a
small path that formed a border between their farms.

One day, a trickster from the village decided to play a trick on them. He dressed himself in a two-color
coat that was divided down the middle. So, one side of the coat was red, and the other side was blue.

The trickster wore this coat and walked along the narrow path between the houses of the two friends.
They were each working opposite each other in their fields. The trickster made enough noise as he
passed them to make sure that each of them would look up and see him passing.

At the end of the day, one friend said to the other, "Wasn't that a beautiful red coat that man was
wearing today?"

"No", the other replied. "It was a blue coat."

"I saw the man clearly as he walked between us!" said the first, "His coat was red."

"You are wrong!" said the other man, "I saw it too, and it was blue."

"I know what I saw!" insisted the first man. "The coat was red!"

"You don't know anything," the second man replied angrily. "It was blue!"

They kept arguing about this over and over, insulted each other, and eventually, they began to beat
each other and roll around on the ground.

Just then, the trickster returned and faced the two men, who were punching and kicking each other and
shouting, "Our friendship is OVER!"

The trickster walked directly in front of them, and showed them his coat. He laughed at their silly
fight. The two friends saw this his coat was red on one side and blue on the other.

The two friends stopped fighting and screamed at the trickster saying, "We have lived side by side like
brothers all our lives, and it is all your fault that we are fighting. You have started a war between us."

"Don't blame me for the battle," replied the trickster. "I did not make you fight. Both of you are wrong,
and both of you are right. Yes, what each one saw was true. You are fighting because you only looked
at my coat from your own point of view."
Source: Joseph Jacobs, Indian Fairy Tales
(London: David Nutt, 1892), no. 6, pp. 40-45
From Folklore and Mythology site
A certain Yoruba king, Ajaka, had a favorite wife of whom he was very fond. But alas for his hopes!
She gave birth to twins.

At that time it was the universal custom to destroy twins immediately at birth, and the mother with
them. But the king had not the heart to put this cruel law into execution, and he secretly charged one of
his nobles to conduct the royal mother and her babes to a remote place where they might live in safety.

Here the twin brothers grew to manhood, and loved one another greatly. They were inseparable, and
neither of them had any pleasure except in the company of the other. When one brother began to
speak, the other completed his phrase, so harmonious were their thoughts and inclinations.

Their mother, before she died, informed them of their royal birth, and from this moment they spent the
time vainly regretting their exile, and wishing that the law of the country had made it possible for them
to reign.

At last they received the news that the king their father was dead, leaving no heir, and it seemed to the
brothers that one of them ought to go to the capital and claim the throne. But which?

To settle this point they decided to cast stones, and the one who made the longer throw should claim
the throne, and afterwards send for his brother to share in his splendor.

The lot fell on the younger of the twins, and he set off to the capital, announced himself as the Olofin's
[king's] son, and soon became king with the consent of all the people. As soon as possible he sent for
his brother, who henceforth lived with him in the palace and was treated with honor and distinction.

But alas! jealousy began to overcome his brotherly affection, and one day as he walked with the king
by the side of the river, he pushed his brother suddenly into the water, where he was drowned.

He then gave out in the palace that his brother was weary of kingship, and had left the country,
desiring him to reign in his stead.

The king had certainly disappeared, and as no suspicion fell on the twin brother, he was made king and
so realized his secret ambition.

Some time later, happening to pass by the very spot where his brother had been drowned, he saw a fish
rise to the surface of the water and begin to sing:
       Your brother lies here,
       Your brother lies here.
The king was very much afraid. He took up a sharp stone and killed the fish.
But another day when he passed the spot, attended by his nobles and shielded by the royal umbrella
made of the skins of rare animals, the river itself rose into waves and sang:
       Your brother lies here,
       Your brother lies here.
In astonishment the courtiers stopped to listen. Their suspicions were aroused, and when they looked
into the water they found the body of the king.

Thus the secret of his disappearance was disclosed, and the wicked brother was rejected in horror by
his people.

At this disgrace he took poison and so died.
ANANSI AND TURTLE Author: unknown

One day Anansi the spider picked some very fat and tasty yams from his garden. He baked them with
much care and they came out smelling quite delicious. He could not wait to sit down and eat them.
Just then there was a knock at his door. It was Turtle, who had been traveling all day and was very
tired and hungry.
"Hello, Anansi," said Turtle. "I have been walking for so long, and I smelled the most delicious yams
I've ever smelled. Would you be so kind as to share your meal with me?"
Anansi could not refuse, as it was the custom in his country to share your meal with visitors at
mealtime. But he was not very happy, for Anansi was a little too greedy and wanted the delicious
yams all to himself. So Anansi thought to himself and came up with a scheme.
"Please do come in, Turtle. I would be honored to have you as my guest this evening. Sit down, have a
chair and help yourself."
Turtle came inside and sat down, but just as he reached for a yam, Anansi yelled, "Turtle, don't you
know better than to come to the table with dirty hands?"
Turtle looked down at his hands and saw that they were filthy. He had been crawling all day and had
not had a chance to clean up. Turtle got up and went to the river to clean his feet. He walked all the
way back up to the house and Anansi had already begun to eat.
"I didn't want these tasty yams to get cold, so I had to begin," said Anansi. "But please do join me
now, Turtle." Turtle sat down again and reached for a yam, but again Anansi yelled at him.
"Turtle, did you not hear me before? It is not polite to come to the table with dirty hands!"
He looked down and saw that his clean hands had turned dirty once more, since he had to crawl on
them to get back to the house. So he walked down to the river once more to wash himself off. And
when he returned this time, he was careful to walk on the grass so his hands would stay clean. But by
the time he sat down at the table, Anansi had finished up the last bit of the tasty yams and not so much
as a morsel was left.
Turtle looked at Anansi for a moment and then said, "Thank you for sharing your meal with me. If you
ever find yourself near my house, please let me return the favor." And then he slowly walked out the
door and continued on his way. The days went by and Anansi thought more and more of that meal that
Turtle had offered. He got more and more interested in a free dinner and finally could not stand it
anymore. He set off one day to find Turtle's house.
He found Turtle sunning himself on a riverbank just around dinnertime.
Turtle looked up and saw him and said, "Hello, Anansi, have you come to share evening meal with
"Oh yes, yes!" said Anansi, who was growing hungrier and hungrier by the minute. Turtle went
underwater to his house to set up the dinner table for the two of them. Soon he came back to the bank
and said, "Your place is waiting and the food is ready. Please join me, Anansi."
And then he dived underwater and began to slowly eat his meal.
Anansi jumped into the water, but could not get down to the bottom of the river. He tried to swim
down, but he was so light that he kept popping back up to the surface.
He tried diving. He tried belly flops. He tried a running jump, but nothing would help him get down to
the river bottom.
In the meantime, Turtle was slowly eating his meal.
Anansi was not about to give up a free meal, and was running around wondering what he would do.
Finally he had an idea. He started grabbing stones and rocks and stuffed them into his jacket pockets.
Now when he jumped into the water he sank right down to the bottom and was able to take his place at
the table.
The table was so beautiful and full of delicious foods. Anansi could hardly believe how many tasty
foods were before him and could not wait to start his meal.
But just as he reached for the first morsel, Turtle stopped eating and spoke. "In my country, we do not
wear our jackets to the table." Anansi noticed that Turtle had removed his own jacket before sitting
down. Anansi started to remove his jacket, and as soon as it was off of his shoulders, he went zooming
back up to the surface and popped out onto the riverbank. He stuck his head down into the water and
saw Turtle slowly enjoying that wonderful banquet.
Moral of the story: When you try to outsmart someone, you may find that you're the one outsmarted.

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Description: African Folktales Twins