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Tricksters, Monsters and Clever Girls. African Folktales-Texts and Discussions

Tricksters, Monsters and Clever Girls. African Folktales-Texts and Discussions

Entertains by first-hand African folklore and stimulates the researcher by its detailed study
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Subtitel: African Folktales - Texts and Discussions
Author: Sigrid Schmidt
Series: Afrika erzählt, Band 8
Rüdiger Koeppe Verlag
Köln, 2001
Softcover, 15x23 cm, 381 pages


Publisher's announcement:

This book has two aims: to entertain the reader by first-hand African folklore and to stimulate the researcher by its detailed study. The 64 tales have not been published before, the author recorded them in Namibia between 1960 and 1997, and they range from myths to animal tales, from magic and ogre tales to legends and personal experience stories.
This book has two aims: to entertain the reader by first-hand African folklore and to stimulate the researcher by its detailed study. The 64 tales have not been published before, the author recorded them in Namibia between 1960 and 1997, and they range from myths to animal tales, from magic and ogre tales to legends and personal experience stories. Part II gives background information on the narrators and the distribution of these stories in South-ern Africa. Part III summarizes and updates the theoretical discussions which the author provided in the seven volumes published in German (1991-1999).

They are the fruit of 40 years of attachment to Namibian folklore and the insights gained by listening to hundreds of different story-tellers. The study focusses on the traditions of the Nama-speaking peoples but they are always seen in relation to further African lore. Special emphasis is laid on the stories about the mythical trickster because they are a unique treasure of the Khoisan peoples. But the essay also debates basic questions of the remaining genres:

What are the characteristics of African magic tales in relation to Western magic tales? Why do African storytellers enjoy animal trickster tales inspite of the hero's questionable moral standards? Why do storytellers and audience laugh when gloomy ogre tales are told? Are there stylistic particularities and motif-like expressions in personal experience stories? The author wants to help African readers to appreciate fully their local heritage but also to see it in relation to further African and international traditions, and to help Western readers to understand and appreciate African lore.


"Haiseb, Mrs. Sleeping Rug and her Maid Close-by-breaking-wind

One day Haiseb went to visit the woman whose name was Sleeping Rug. She was a very rich woman. She had a maid who was called Close-by-breaking-wind. For this woman closed the house tightly by breaking wind, and if she wanted to open it she broke wind again. When Haiseb entered the house of Sleeping Rug he saw nobody. He only saw a sleeping rug lying on the floor. But he saw many cattle outside. Now Haiseb thought: "Nobody is at home. This is a good chance to lift cattle!" And he took half of her herd and drove it away. But while he was driving the cattle Close-by-breaking-wind had noticed the theft.

"The cattle have gone! The cattle have gone!" she shouted. Then she whistled aloud. And as soon as the cattle heard her whistling they turned around and ran back home. After a while Haiseb sneaked to the cattle-post and again drove part of the herd away. But Close-by-breaking-wind had noticed the theft again, and she shouted:
"The cattle have gone! The cattle have gone!" And when she whistled the cattle returned to the kraal again. Haiseb tried and tried but when the sun went down and rain set in he gave up. He went back to the house of Sleeping Rug and began to beg: "Oh please, I am so hungry. I am dying of hunger. I have been struggling in vain to get something to eat. Please, give me one of your oxen that I may slaughter it!"

"Oh," the woman replied, "why didn't you come first to ask me? But no, you tried to steal the cattle again and again. And only now when you have found out that you cannot steal any you come to me and beg!" But then she gave him a cow.

He took the cow and went to Close-by-breaking-wind. The cow was killed and then Close-by-breaking-wind helped him to butcher it. And it rained and rained and rained. Now they carried the meat into the house of Close-by-breaking-wind, and when all the meat was inside and Haiseb was outside to fetch the skin, Close-by-breaking-wind farted "go!" and the door closed. It closed firmly. Haiseb tried to get into the house. He pulled and pushed the door and he shouted:

"Close-by-breaking-wind, open again! Close-by-breaking-wind, open up again! Close-by-breaking-wind, open up again! Close-by-breaking-wind, open up again!" But no, the door remained closed, and Haiseb had to stay outside in the rain all night long. Only at daybreak she farted again, the door opened and during the day they continued to cut up the meat. When it turned dark they went to sleep, but while Close-by-breaking-wind was asleep Haiseb killed her.

And when Close-by-breaking-wind was dead, Sleeping Rug could not do anything. For it was her maid who had protected her and her possessions. Now Haiseb packed up all the meat and other things and drove her cattle away. He had killed Close-by-breaking-wind, and he had tricked Sleeping Rug; she had become poor but Haiseb had become rich.