Misoso: Once Upon a Time Tales from Africa
. Alfred A. Knopf , Distributed by Random House . NY ,
PZ8.1.M665 1994 (Fable Collection, Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library)
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There are twelve stories in this almost square (10¼ x 9¾) book of some viii plus 88 pages. Three of them are called fables. Eight of the rest are called tales, while one is labeled A Swahili Narrative Poem. At the beginning one finds a foreword and an introduction including a map, and at the end a bibliography. The foreword describes these Once upon a time stories as mostly for entertainment. If the stories collected here teach a lesson, or illuminate the culture of a people, that is a plus (iv). In the introduction, Aardema points out that she has retold tales from early sources, e.g., from the 1850's and 1860's. The stories are taken from the perimeter of sub-Saharan Africa, beginning on the West Coast and travelling southward, then moving up the East Coast, and finally moving across the continent from East to West. The book's first tale, Leelee Goro, is an aetiological tale that gives the reason for eight different things, including the leopard's spots. It is unusual in explaining the origin of tears and the remedy for them, which is that people stop crying when they are hugged. The third tale, The Boogey Man's Wife, has a delightful ending. Just when the Boogey Man has had enough of his new wife and commands her to go back to her father, she obeys him! As he says, That was foolish of me. I let her go just when she started to obey me! (22). Alas, the first two fables, The Hen and the Dove (33-34) and The Cock and the Jackal (47-8), have been ripped out of the book! The third fable, Toad's Trick: A Kanuri Fable (59) has survived the slasher! A toad shows a rat that there is something he can do that the rat cannot: walk through a group of men. The men allow it because the toad eats bugs. When the rat tries to do the same, he is attacked and beaten. The fable ends with the stock closing That is it. Put it on top of the granary (60). That is, add this to your store of stories. The exciting illustrations, strong in warm African colors, are done in pencil and acrylic paints. A good sample is the full page village scene on 26 of Fly carrying a sleeping-mat into a village for his then-friend, Leopard. Another good example on 51shows a family in a king's palace. Besides the two missing fables, there is a 2½ tear at the bottom of 6. Now, some weeks later, consult the 1996 paperback version from Scholastic to see my comments on the two missing fables.