Reading fairy tales and folktales is a passionate hobby of mine. And although I love the Brothers Grimm and the Hans Christian Andersen varieties, nothing gets me more excited than fairy tales from non-Western cultures, especially anything from Africa. Not only are those cultures much more rare (and therefore precious) to encounter in my English-speaking Californian locale, but they are personally dear to me. I was born in Botswana and lived there for the first three years of my life. I have grown up with stories of Africa and music of Africa and friends from Africa. Not only that, my brother-in-law is Ethiopian and I have been granted the great joy of visiting his home country three times already. It is a wonderful place!
I would like to share with you this amazing website I recently discovered that has compiled nearly three hundred folktales from the various regions of Ethiopia: Ethiopian Folktales
The stories have English translations but you can also read them in Amharic (yay!) and the website even has the original sound recordings, collected between 1997 and 2001.
I find the stories fascinating and intensely inspiring. Here is a snippet of an Ethiopian folktale and an illustration I drew a few years ago.
The Donkey and the Hyena
Long ago, the hyena lived in the sky. Every night she opened her mouth and began to sing. She sang very loudly. Everyone on the earth below could hear her.
The donkey heard the hyena too.
Who is singing like that? she thought. What a beautiful voice! I want to meet her. I want to be her friend.
So the donkey prayed to God.
“Please,” she prayed, “please bring the animal with the beautiful voice down to live on earth.”