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Emmanuel V. TRADITIONAL FOLK-TALES OF GHANA http://www.mellenpress.com/html/asihtrad.html
J. G., compiler. THREE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED GHANIAN PROVERBS (FROM THE ASANTE
AND FANTE LANGUAGE) Translated by Kofi Ron Lange Lange, Kofi Ron
E.J.P, Gold Coast and Asianti Reader, London, 1929.
I. PART 1. MFANTSI-AKAN TALES.
1. ANANSI-SEM AND NYANKU-SEM
1. Anansisem were formerly known as Nyankusem or Dadasem. Anansi desired
to buy them of Nyankupon, and the latter told him that as the purchase
price he should capture
(1) Mbrokotobia (kind of Bees);
(2) Nduwa (Bees);
(3) Abuwatsia (Ape);
(4) Saman (Ghost),
(5) Sibo (Leopard);
(6) Inyin (Python).
These were all ferocious and dangerous creatures to procure; but Anansi
determined to secure them by his usual cunning and deceit.
2. The Mbrokotobia are harmless so long as one passing by or under their
hive speaks loud enough, for silence suggests a furtive object, and they
are very soon on the war path to attack the enemy. Anansi procured a bag
and, going under the hive of the Mbrokotobia, spoke aloud to show that
he was no enemy; at the same time he cleverly passed his open bag over
the hive and quickly tied it up with a string, and carried them to
Nyankupon, who marvelled at his tact. Now, in order to keep these
creatures, Nyankupon caused a large menagerie to be erected, which was
entered from the top, and into which Anansi dropped the bag containing
3. Anansi next set out to entrap the bees. He procured a large ahina (an
earthen pot), into which he poured a quantity of sweet palm-wine, and
placed it near a bee-hive in the forest. Presently the surface of the
sweet beverage swarmed with bees, and Anansi, issuing forth from his
hiding place, quickly covered the mouth of the ahina with a piece of
kyenkyen (bark cloth), tied it up, and carried it to Nyankupon.
4. He went to secure the ape, for which purpose he carried a large sack
slung over one shoulder. After roaming for a long while in the forest,
he came across an ape which was just issuing out of his haunt.
Anansi, on seeing the ape, began to mutter to himself as follows:
"He will go inside all right."
"No, he won't; yes, I say it will take him in all right."
"No, it couldn't!"
"What is it, Anansi, you are talking about?" queried the ape.
5. "Ah, there you are, my good friend. Nyankupon had been arguing
with me that this sack would take you in all right and I said it
couldn't hold you."
"Why, this is a very simple matter, for I can well see that this
sack is large enough to hold me in," said the ape.
"I thank you, good friend," replied Anansi; "now, do you
mind my having a try with you in the sack before I demonstrate it to
"Not in the least," answered the ape. "I am much obliged
to you," said Anansi.
6. Anansi laid the sack on the ground and opened the mouth, into which
the ape dived.
Anansi said to the ape, "I must now make the sack stand on the
ground to see whether you are quite free in it."
He lifted the sack, the mouth of which he quickly closed and tied with a
string. The ape asked Anansi to release him. "Keep quiet, old chap;
I must carry you as you are, to prove to Nyankupon that you are even
much too small for it."
"But I did not bargain with you for that!" said the ape.
"I cannot help it - I must take you to Nyankupon as I have
said," and without further waste of words, Anansi took his burden
7. Anansi's next task, more hazardous than the three previous ones, was
to secure Saman, and this brought into full play all the ingenuity of
his strategic skill. He procured a sheep and went to Asamampowm' (burial
grove). Seating himself on a piece of stone, he announced in a loud
voice to the peaceful dead that he had just returned from a long travel
round the world, to offer them the usual sacrifice, and that they should
come out of theirgraves to partake of the sacrificial sheep which he had
brought with him for them.
8. One ghost came up and sat on another stone near Anansi. Anansi arose
and slaughtered the sheep, put the meat and blood into the bag and,
holding it up with the mouth wide open asked the ghost to get inside and
feast on the slaughtered sheep. The ghost obeyed and went into the sack,
but Anansi quickly tied up the mouth of the bag with a string, and took
it to Nyankupon.
9. The next creature to be captured was the leopard. After a weary
quest, Anansi came upon the lair of a leopardess which was watching by
the side of her cub. Anansi procured a sheep which he tied to the trunk
of a tree at some considerable distance from the lair, and holding a
large sack in his hand, hid himself behind a large tree. As the
leopardess pounced upon the sheep and was busy devouring it, Anansi
quickly came out of his hiding place, and miraculously passed the open
sack over her. After a hard struggle he secured her a close prisoner in
the sack, and took her to Nyankupon.
MBAN-DUA - THE HERRING STICK.
Mban-dua (herring stick) - 'Mi na muhu yew' de: I am easily attacked
because I am weak."
N.B. The mban-dua, i.e. the palm midrib or petiole, is pierced through
the fresh herring as a support for laying it on the oven rafts and
smoking it on the fire. The Coward attacks the innocent bystander
instead of the powerful aggressor.
3. ANANSI-SEM AND NYANKU-SEM - II.
1. The last instalment of the purchase price was the python. Anansi
provided himself with a long pole, which he carried on his shoulder,
seeking every nook and corner of the forest for this huge reptile. At
last he came to a small mound on which was a python basking itself in
Anansi began talking loudly to himself as follows: "He would be
about the same length as this pole;"
"No, he couldn't be;"
"Yes, I say he would be."
The python, overhearing Anansi's soliloquy, called out to him
"What's up, Anansi?"
"Oh, nothing much," answered Anansi. "It's like this:
Nyankupon had been arguing with me that this pole was not of your entire
length, and I argued the contrary."
"Well, if that be the case I am prepared to oblige you by allowing
you to measure my whole length with your pole," said the python.
2. "Very kind of you," replied Anansi. "Would you mind
straightening out yourself?"
The python stretched out his whole length and lay close to the pole.
Anansi passed a rope round the python to the pole, and the latter
ejaculated in surprise, "Hallo, Anansi, what are you after?"
"Why it's only to keep you close to the pole - O, don't be nervous,
The python acquiesced, and Anansi went on gently passing the rope round
him. On getting to the head Anansi suddenly tightened the rope and
lashed the unsuspecting python's head to the pole. The poor python was
helpless, and Anansi carried him to Nyankupon.
3. Having completed the last instalment of the purchase price of
Nyanku-sem, Anansi now demanded of Nyankupon confirmation of his
undisputed title to them. Nyankupon addressed Anansi as follows:
"I congratulate you on your successful efforts to purchase
Nyanku-sem, which I now make over to you. Henceforth they shall be known
as Anansisem, and you can diffuse them widely among the nations of the
world for their edification."
A wealth of
proverbs from the Twi-speaking people of Ghana, collected by Rev. J. G.
Christaller circa 1879 and translated for the first time into English by
Fr. Kofi Ron Lange, S.V.D.
African Literature No. 2] 0-88946-234-8 $99.95/£59.95 323pp. 1990 http://www.mellenpress.com/html/chrithre.html
Mary E. Modupe, An African View of Transatlantic Slavery and the Role of Oral
Testimony in Creating a New Legacy (in Tibbles, Anthony (ed.), Transatlantic
Slavery: Against Human Dignity, HMSO, 1994)
used oral as well as written poems, songs, folk-tales, proverbs, anecdotes,
parables and fables to transpose African culture to the new world as well as
relive their African experience.
Christiane (ed.) Trilingual Anthology of Akan Folktales, University of Science
and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, 1998 (Twi, English, French)
John-Parsons, Donald, Legends of Northern Ghana and More Legends of
Northern Ghana, Longmans, 1960
R S (collected and translated) Akan-Ashanti folk tales Oxford 1930 (notes)
Slavery . . . both as an indigenous institution
and much later in the degraded form it took under the impetus of trade
with the Europeans, was a very important factor in the dissemination of
folk tales . . . I believe that when a study comes to be made of the
Folk lore of the northern tribes of the hinterland of the Gold Coast,
tales very similar . . . will then be recorded.
x These tales are only permitted to be told after
dark. Story teller starts by disclaiming that his story is true
'We don't really mean to say so.' During story telling, actors may enter
the circle and give impersonations of various characters (old woman
dressed in rags and covered in sores, leper, priest with an attendant
carrying the shrine of his god, accouchement with midwives, adjuring
patient to confess with whom she committed adultery, lest she should
die, a case of theft.) Realistic, clever, calls forth
roars of laughter.
xi Licensed public criticism, objects not named
(e.g. ohene [king] = nyame [god]) Storyteller protected by disclaiming
truth of his story.
Doran H., More than meets the eye: Elephant memories amongst the Akan (in
Doran H Ross (ed) Elephant: the Animal and its Ivory in African Culture) U
of California Los Angeles 1992
A wonderful folktale collected by Rattray makes a strong
connection between the presence of hunters with guns and the
disappearance of the elephant from the forests. Titled by Rattray
"How the elephants came to go off to the long-grass country,"
the story begins with a head-butting contest between Ananse the spider
(the trickster in Asante folklore) and the elephant. Through a
series of deceptions the spider wins the contest and kills the elephant.
When the elephant's family insists that Ananse bury their relative
in a massive rock, the spider carves a wooden man with a gun, which
frightens the elephants to flee to the long-grass country. The
spider then eats the dead elephant. Aside from celebrating
Ananse's wisdom and cleverness, the tale clearly casts the musket-armed
hunter as the precipitating force in the disappearance of elephants from
Elephant hunting in Asante required certain ritual prescriptions. Rattray
documented an obligatory hunter's dance called the "elephant's
funeral" which was performed to appease the spirit of an elephant
killed in the hunt.
Belcher's selection of African Literature for Schools
Date: Wednesday, January 27, 1999 9:48 PM
Subject: Re: Query: African
Literature for Schools
This is a field that needs
fresh work, and I'm sure opinions will vary on the value of
different collections. So here are my nominations:
A. One of the better general
collections of folktales available is that of Paul Radin, African
Folktales (the original version of this book included artwork, but the
paperback just gives stories; the artwork connection would be worth
B. Harold Courlander's _A
Treasury of African Folklore_,issued in 1975 and reprinted recently
offers a good sampling of traditions available in a variety of forms,
concentrating on Anglophone sources.
C. M & F Herskovits,
Dahomeyan Narrative (1958) is probably the best collection for a single
group, although a number of the texts in the Oxford Library of African
Literature would offer good competition (e.g. John Mbiti's Akamba
Stories, Ruth Finnegan's Limba Stories and Story-Telling).
D. Besides the Roger
Abrahams title cited, there's William Bascom's African Folktales in the
New World (Indiana UP, 1992) for folklore in the diaspora.
Mythology is more of a
problem, and there's room for new collections out there.
Most of the available epic
material has been printed in French, but let me cite Oral Epics from Africa (Indiana UP) which John Johnson,Tom
Hale, and I edited in
the hopes of filling a need.
Titles added later:
Harold Scheub, *the African
Storyteller*, Kendall Hunt 1990 (really intended as a classroom
Harold Scheub, *A Dictionary of African Mythology,*
Oxford University Press 2000. The format of this material is sometimes
awkward (one has to go through indexes to identify stories from the same
culture, as the stories are listed alphabetically by main character or
original published title), but this is one of the more thorough
treatments now available.