Saturday, September 15, 2018

Stories of monkeys who save themselves from water-dwelling false friends

Two similar tales from different sides of the Indian Ocean. "Monkey and the Shark" from the Kamba ethnic group of Kenya:
A monkey who lived near the ocean decided to befriend a shark. From his tree, he threw fruits to the shark, who gratefully ate them. After many days, the shark invited the monkey to a feast at his home to meet his parents.

The monkey was persuaded, and the shark carried it off on its back. On the way, the shark revealed that his father was ill, and a monkey's heart was needed to cure him. The monkey then lied, saying that he left his heart at home. With that, the shark turned back and swam back to shore to pick up the monkey's heart. As soon as the monkey reached land, he escaped up a tree and threw a big branch at the shark, rebuking his false friend.1
"Monkey and the Crocodile" from the Panchatantra Tales of India:
One day, a monkey living in a jamun tree by the river befriended a crocodile resting under the tree. He threw jamum to the crocodile. This went on for many days. Then the crocodile asked the monkey for some fruit to take home to his wife. The monkey obliged.

After eating the fruit, the crocodile's wife said that the monkey must be even tastier than the fruit. She demanded that her husband bring her the monkey's heart to eat. The crocodile was initially appalled, and refused to do this. But his wife refused to eat anything until she could eat the monkey's heart.2

So the crocodile invited the monkey to dinner at his home to meet his wife. After some persuasion, the monkey go onto the crocodile's back. Once in deep water, the crocodile revealed that his wife wanted to eat the monkey's heart. The monkey then lied, saying that he left his heart in the tree. With that, the crocodile swam back to the monkey's tree. After the monkey escaped into the tree, he scolded the shark for his deceit and faithlessness.
Although the two folktales are structurally similar, there are some differences in interpretations. In the Indian version, the crocodile is described as actually enjoying the fruits. In the Kenyan version retold by Dr Vincent Muli Wa Kituku, the shark's acceptance of food outside of its natural diet is interpreted as a pretense to win the monkey's friendship.1 Dr Kituku equated the shark to people who present a fake lifestyle in order to win a relationship, only to show their true colors later. (I think we've all met that sort of person at some point)

Notes
  1. "Monkey and the Shark", East African Folktales, Dr. Vincent Muli Wa Kituku
  2. The Monkey and the Crocodile, Cultural India. Web. 31 October 2017

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Bridge of Love

A shout out to all the organizations and individuals that have been working to reunite families. Their work is not yet completed. Some of them are listed in the comments.
People holding up a bridge on which a parent is reuniting with a child

Friday, July 27, 2018

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Tales of married women murdered by their stepmothers even after they moved away from their abusive step-family

These 3 folktales from Armenia, India and Vietnam share strikingly similar motifs. But the differences are just as interesting:

The Golden Maiden (Armenia):
There was a young woman who whose father married a widow who mistreated her and her younger brother. The stepmother pressured her husband into abandoning his two children in the mountains. The siblings managed to find their way home, but not before the brother had been magically transformed into a lamb. The stepmother wanted to eat the lamb, so the maiden took her brother and fled once more into the mountains. There, she met a fairy crone who took pity on her and changed her into a golden-haired fairy maiden with golden garments.

The golden maiden returned home with her brother and hid her golden garments. But she could not hide her golden hair. Her stepmother, on hearing how her stepdaughter came by her golden hair, sent her own daughter by a previous marriage to the mountains. But the fairy crone disliked the stepsister and turned her into a hideous being. Because of that, the stepmother hated her stepchildren even more.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Friday, April 27, 2018

Animals that attack their own reflections: Tales from Africa, Asia and Europe

From the Avatime ethnic group of Ghana:
A dog got into its master's house when its master went out and left the door open. It took meat from the table. Then it saw its own reflection in the large mirror in the room. Seeing another dog with meat in the mirror, the dog attacked it to get the other dog's meat. The mirror fell on the dog and killed it.1
From India:
In the Foolish Lion and the Clever Rabbit from the Panchantara tales, an old rabbit saved itself from becoming the lion's meal by setting the lion against its own reflection in a well.
From Greece:
The Dog and Its Reflection" is one of Aesop's fables.
Notes
  1. "The Greedy Dog", West African Folktales, translated and collected by Jack Berry

Monday, March 26, 2018

Portrait of a Jengu

Close up of the Cameroonian water goddess in Jengu.
face of Cameroonian mermaid