Monday, July 17, 2017

Hostile Hummingbirds and Helpful Horses (Following folktales around the world 34. - St. Kitts and Nevis)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!


Folk-lore of the Antilles, French and English II.
Elsie Clews Parsons - Gladys A. Reichard
American Folk-lore Society, 1933.

For those small Caribbean countries where I could not find an individual book of folktales, I'll be reading chapters from this collection. Folk-lore of the Antilles is a three-volume opus that contains hundreds of folktales in French and English, organized by island.
Unlike the previous country, this one had stories collected for both major islands: No less than fifty-two for Nevis (all collected from the same 30-year-old storyteller), and twenty-two for St. Kitts (many of which have been gathered from children between the age of 10 and 16, signaling that the oral tradition was alive and well). Bonus points for the fact that all of them were in English this time.

 Highlights
Purple-throated carib
I was a little shocked to read a tale where Brer Hummingbird and Brer Rabbit had a cooking contest. Defying expectations, Rabbit proved to be the better cook with the sweeter food - for which the Hummingbird unceremoniously shot him dead. I don't usually encounter hostile hummingbirds in stories...
The most intriguing story in the collection was The horse that rescues - a tale about a girl who marries a man with golden teeth who turns out to be the Devil (duh), and ends up being rescued by the ugly yellow horse her father gave her. The horse takes her to another country, gets her a job as governor, and even takes her home in the end.

Connections
There were two resident tricksters, Anansi and Brer Rabbit, with all the mandatory trappings of tricksterhood, including swapped punishment, tricked horses, and tar babies (to which this time not only Anansi got stuck, but also his wife). There were also popular fairy tales such as Cinderella (whom her stepmother kept in an over, and a friendly parrot told the prince where to find her), Little Red (who got devoured by a giant dressed as grandma, end of story), and Bluebeard.
Of course there was no collection without races: My favorite this time was Cat and Turtle competing for a girl's hand in marriage. Turtle swam to be faster, but Cat hitched a ride on his shell unnoticed, and jumped to the shore first. Still, the girl wanted to marry Turtle, so Cat flipped him on his back to see how helpless he was...

Where to next?
We are moving on to the Greater Antilles next week! Starting with the Dominican Republic.

Friday, July 14, 2017

MythOff Budapest 2017 - Sun, Moon, and Stars

There is no summer without MythOff in Budapest! It was Szilvia's idea to pick the theme of Sun, Moon, and Stars, in honor of this summer's upcoming solar eclipse (and the lucky people who will get to see it). Everyone really liked the suggestion, so the agreed to choose our myths accordingly.
We made some good choices.
Once again, we outgrew our venue, so this time we performed at the RS9 theater; a space of almost 100 seats, which we managed to fill to capacity! (We would like to take this time to thank our wonderful, loyal, and ever-growing audience). Behind the emcee's microphone we had Varga-Fogarasi Szilvia, who did not only suggest the theme, but also took care of the music, the prizes, the announcements, and some fiery spectacles at the end of the show.
The myths and tellers were as follows:
(Watch the videos by clicking on the names!)

Round one: Lights in the night sky
Lovranits Júlia opened the evening by telling us a myth from the Philippines about the birth of the Moon. In it, the Sun demanded a princess for a wife; the girl, defying her protective father, rose up to the sky to light up the night for the people she loved.

Next we had Hajós Erika telling the heavy yet beautiful Greek myth of Callisto and Arcas (the Big Bear and the Little Bear) - she talked with grace and empathy about Zeus' violence, Hera's vengeance, and all the topics this story tend to bring up.
Voting question: If Hera went hunting, and her prey was defended by the kind-hearted Sulamyn, who would win the confrontation?
The winner: Greece

Round two: Sunrise 

This round was all about the Sun. Bumberák Maja told the Japanese myth of the goddess Amaterasu, how she hid herself from the world, and how she was lured out of her cave by the goddess of happiness and a mirror. Her telling was graceful and poetic, and showed some of the many meanings and layers of this important story.
She was followed by Gregus László, who brought is the Chinese myth of Yi the Heavenly Archer, who shot down nine of the ten suns in the sky to save the earth from being scorched to ashes.
(I blogged about this epic earlier)
Voting question: If you had to light up a storytelling event, what would you rather use - the chariot of the ten suns, or Amaterasu's mirror?
The winner: Japan


Round three: Lucky stars

In this round, the storytellers drew cultures (or cultural regions) from a hat, and they had to find their sun-moon-star myths accordingly.
Yours truly had the luck of pulling South Africa as a region. I spent a couple of weeks reading myths and folktales from various South African cultures, especially from the San and Khoikhoi peoples. In the end, I settled for a KhoiKhoi story called Windbird and the Sun - it is a tale about a girl who was loved by the Sun and the Wind and who loved colors, so both of them tried to make the world as colorful for her as they could.
(Video here, original source here, picture book here, I got my mythical background information here and here, among other sources)
The evening concluded with Nagy Enikő, who brought us some Hindu myths about the Pleiades, Mars, and the birth of Kartikeya, the god of war. Enikő is an elegant teller, who told us the stories with grace and wonder.
Voting question: If someone wanted to start a new fashion trend, should it be based on the colors of the Khoikhoi myth, or the sparks and lights of the Hindu myth?
The winner: Khoikhoi mythology

All in all, we had a great lineup of diverse stories, and a lovely audience that supported us, voted, and asked many questions about mythology. MythOff, once again, was a special experience.

We will do it again soon!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Six little pigs and a lion (Following folktales around the world 33. - Antigua and Barbuda)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!


Folk-lore of the Antilles, French and English I.
Elsie Clews Parsons - Gladys A. Reichard
American Folk-lore Society, 1933.

For those small Caribbean countries where I could not find an individual book of folktales, I'll be reading chapters from this collection. Folk-lore of the Antilles is a three-volume opus that contains hundreds of folktales in French and English, organized by island.
Sadly, the book contains no tales from Barbuda, but it has eighteen of them from Antigua, all in English (although in such a heavy dialect transcribed phonetically that I had some trouble sounding it out). The tales were collected from four different storytellers, the youngest of whom was only noted as "a boy of fifteen."

Highlights

I found a very neat little pourquoi tale about why chickens lift their heads while drinking. According to the story, during a drought in the past God only allowed one mouthful of water to each animal - so chickens still drink and then look up saying "it was only one mouthful!" (multiple times...).

Connections
I found yet another tale about a girl marrying the Devil (or in this case, a snake) - she was rescued by her brother, who was an "old witch" of some sort. In a "silent princess" story, a prince pretended to be dead to make the girl speak, and in the local version of the Three Little Pigs, there were no less than six pigs, with houses made of shingles, bricks, iron, copper (?), trash, and stone (iron won, btw.). There was also a fun guessing-the-name tale, which beat Rumpelstiltskin in sheer length by calling the old woman Paleewashreerahlickereewah...
Resident trickster is still Anansi.

Where to next?
To Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The girl who lived to dance (Following folktales around the world 32. - Dominica)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!


Folk-lore of the Antilles, French and English I.
Elsie Clews Parsons - Gladys A. Reichard
American Folk-lore Society, 1933.

For those small Caribbean countries where I could not find an individual book of folktales, I'll be reading chapters from this collection. Folk-lore of the Antilles is a three-volume opus that contains hundreds of folktales in French and English, organized by island.
The chapter for Dominica contained more than a hundred stories, collected from twenty-three tellers - but most of them were in French, so I only skimmed them with the best of my wobbly knowledge. Fortunately, enough were in English to provide a glimpse into a wonderfully rich oral tradition.

Highlights


I found The girl who lived to dance very interesting, even though it was not a happy story. A dance-loving girl was lured away at night from home by the sound of distant drumming by the devil. On the one hand, the moral seems obvious - but on the other hand, I suspect there is more to the cultural background of this story in the Caribbean context than "don't go out at night"...
I found one of the little anecdotes very amusing: An old woman's goat got stolen, and every time she received the sacrament from the priest, she would complain and whine about her goat. The priest finally told her to quit the complaining, but she mournfully said she could not - the priest's face reminded her too much of the goat...
Trickster made an appearance (both in storyteller and in protagonist) in the story of The frightened guest, where a cook ate the two doves meant for his employer and a guest - and in order to cover up the theft, he managed to convince the guest that the lord wanted to cut off his ears for dinner...

BonusA shout out for a wonderful storyteller from Dominica!

Connections

I am not bored yet of noting that once again, the trickster classics (e.g. the deadly rock) were featured in the collection, courtesy of the resident tricksters, Anansi and Brer Rabbit (Compére Lapin). There were also some classic fairy tale types (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast), and some stories that are popular in the region, such as the Salted skin (in which a woman takes off her skin at night and goes around flying - until her husband finds the skin and fills it with salt and pepper, so that she can't put it back on anymore). Of the darker tales, there were various zombie and loup garou (werewolf) stories - most of them in French.

Where to next?
Antigua and Barbuda!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Trickster slays a dragon (Following folktales around the world 31. - Saint Lucia)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!


Folk-lore of the Antilles, French and English I.
Elsie Clews Parsons - Gladys A. Reichard
American Folk-lore Society, 1933.

For those small Caribbean countries where I could not find an individual book of folktales, I'll be reading chapters from this collection. Folk-lore of the Antilles is a three-volume opus that contains hundreds of folktales in French and English, organized by island.
Fir Saint Lucia, the book lists 34 tales - 10 of them in English, luckily (for me). The French texts have been written down phonetically in dialect, and my French is not that excellent... The stories were collected from fifteen different storytellers, many women among them.

Highlights


There was a fascinating (and very dark) version for the Marrying the Devil tale in this books. A girl married the guy knowing that he was the devil (she was too much in love to care, she even hid the fact from his friends and brother), and then his brother ended up having to rescue her from her husband. I liked the dark details in this story. I knew it from Louisiana as Marie Jolie, but this rendition was definitely heavier on the horror.
I also liked the trickster tale where, between two times tricking Tiger, Brer Rabbit even had time to kill a dragon with nothing else but a small knife... I kinda like the idea of Trickster as the Dragon-slayer. Similarly entertaining was the anecdote about a priest who loved hot sauce, and people believed he had a sample off hellfire with him.

Connections

We are still in classic trickster territory. There was a tar baby tale, swapped executions (more than one, actually), and "trickster seeks blessing" (this time, Rabbit had to steal the golden tooth of a pregnant female gorilla to get into God's favors). There were also classic tale types like "mother killed me, father ate me" (I'm starting to wonder why the heck this type is so popular around the world), and Cricket (in which a poor man pretends to be a fortune-teller, even though he is simply very lucky). I was especially happy to find a version of the One-legged turkey - a story my grandfather used to tell me when I was little, and it can also be found in the Decameron. Some tales travel far.

Where to next?
Dominica!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Trickster continuity (Following folktales around the world 30. - Barbados)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Because I could not find a book of folktales for Barbados, I once again turned to folklore articles for appropriate reading. 

Barbados Folklore
Elsie Clews Parsons
The Journal of American Folklore, 38/148 (1925), pp. 267-292.

Exploring the Folk Culture of Barbados through the Medium of the Folk Tale
Linden Lewis
Caribbean Studies, 23/3 (1990), pp. 85-94.

The first article contains fifteen folktales, and more than a hundred riddles. It was written by the same author that wrote Folk-lore of the Antilles, but her collection of Barbados folktales was published here separately. The presentation is the same: The stories are written phonetically, in dialect, and sometimes you have to read them out loud to understand what is going on. The second article contains more "modern stories," anecdotes and later versions of folktales, embedded in a study of Barbados folklore. The stories in it focus on two main themes - thievery and necromancy (obeah) -, but other beliefs and folk creatures also make an appearance.

Highlights

There was a great version in the first article for the Brave Little Tailor - and accompanying it another, shorter one, which I especially loved, because the tailor spoke in his sleep and revealed that "seven at a whack" was actually seven flies, and both princess and king got really angry at him for that. When I was little, I always thought it was stupid that no one asked him "sever what?!", so I really appreciated the practicality.
There was an interesting tale in the second article about a boy who stole pumpkins, and his community cursed him with a ritual so that he grew up to be a kleptomaniac. He eventually was caught because he stole a wet dish rag, and his pants soaked through...
I also found a creature called the bacco quite fascinating. It is kept in a bottle or in a blanket, feed it bananas and milk, and it can be both useful and harmful, depending on its owner. The only way to get rid of it is to throw it in water. All cultures in the region blame someone else for it: Barbados people say they came from Guyana, Guyana people say they came from Suriname, and in Suriname, they say the Dutch sailors brought them in...




Connections


In "Trickster seeks trouble", this time Anansi (Brer Nancy) teaches Brer Rabbit what trouble is, by setting him up to be eaten by Tiger - but in the end, he also saves his fellow trickster, which is pretty nice. Rabbit, in turn, does what he does in the Uncle Remus tales, and rides Monkey like a horse, pretending to be sick. There was, of course, the classic mock plea story, where the captured Rabbit begs not to be thrown into the bushes - and then he is, he gets away laughing. I also found a Magic Flight tale - this type appears to be one of the most common I have encountered in this journey so far.

Where to next?
Saint Lucia!

Monday, June 12, 2017

King Rufus gambles with the Devil (Following folktales around the world 29. - St. Vincent and the Grenadines)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!


Folk-lore of the Antilles, French and English I.
Elsie Clews Parsons - Gladys A. Reichard
American Folk-lore Society, 1933.

For those small Caribbean countries where I could not find an individual book of folktales, I'll be reading chapters from this collection. Folk-lore of the Antilles is a three-volume opus that contains hundreds of folktales in French and English, organized by island. The Saint Vincent chapter contained ten tales, collected from four storytellers whose cultural backgrounds were diverse, to say the least - they were a mix of German, Portuguese, Carib, African, Cuban, and "sailor." The youngest (and the fountain of Anansi stories) was only 14 years old. All 10 tales had been recorded in English.

Highlights

The best tale out of the ten was the one titled King Rufus gambles with the Devil. In it, Prince Rufus the Second decided to learn a trade - and he picked gambling. He was not very good at it, though, because he promptly lost all his belongings to Don Pedro, the Devil, along with his own life. After the game, he set out to meet Don Pedro at the seven gates of Hell by the River of Ever Ever of Crystal. He was pointed in the right direction by three consecutive old women who all combed coffee and sugar from their hair. In Hell, he encountered the three foster-daughters of Don Pedro (Roses of Night, Moonlight of Night, Sunlight of Day). From this point on, it was a Master Maid story, with the exception that in the end, Rufus made a mistake and ended up in Hell anyway...

There was also a lovely story about the doctor bird (story and teller came from Jamaica where the bird is very popular). In it, a pregnant woman sent the bird to tell her husband she was in labor - then rewarded the helpful animal with a pretty velvet cap it still wears today.


Connections

Of course there are no trickster - especially Anansi - stories without the classics: The tar baby, the cheating of execution, the deadly rock, the tricking of other animals (Shark and Lion), and the tug-o-war between Elephant and Whale. Note: I don't know if it happened because of the place, or the era of collection, but Anansi was not always his usual spider-self - he was named as a cat and a wolf too, among others.
There was also a fun version of the Magic tablecloth story - the last gift in the lineup was a bottle full of fairies. If someone opened the bottle, the fairies came out; in the end, the thieves who had stolen the previous magic items from the poor man got their asses handed to them by a jarful of fairies...
 
Where to next?
Barbados!