By Philip M. Peek, Kwesi Yankah
Written via a global group of specialists, the three hundred entries offer perception into many elements of African tradition and folklore.
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Extra resources for African Folklore: An Encyclopedia
Other facts make the complex nature of this linguistic system even more complicated, and its description and analysis more difficult. On one hand, the colloquial background may add its mark. This holds especially true for the lexicon: “local” material may spread over larger areas and enrich the common cumulative lexicon of folk literature. The result can be temporary or long-lasting misunderstandings; the latter case explains certain semantic or stylistic transformations. Beyond local variation, literature is produced within sociologically or geographically distinct communities (although often living in close contact): For example, Bedouin, rural, urban or regional.
Nuer take their own names from the colors and patterns, horn shape and size, and other attributes of favorite cows and oxen. A Nuer youth chants his ox-name as he dances before young women or engages in dueling with clubs or other sports; and in the old days, he would shout the name as he hurled a spear at an enemy or a game animal. Songs and poems are composed praising one’s cattle, and it is never quite clear—to an outsider, at least—whether the subject of these narratives is an ox or a person.
When Su offered to try, everyone laughed that such an insignificant creature would have such grand pretensions. Su entered the daughter’s house carrying a large bundle of straw with which he tried to thatch her roof—from the inside, rather than the outside. Su’s defiance of gravity meant that the straw fell all over him in a most comical way. The young woman could not contain her laughter, and when she called Su a fool, her father was so overjoyed to hear her first word that he gave her to Su to wed.