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A Treasury of African Folklore: The Oral Literature, Traditions, Myths, Legends, Epics, Tales, Recollections, Wisdom, Sayings and Humor of Africa [Paperback]

Harold Courlander


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Book Description

Jan 1996
Africa is home to the oldest human cultures, whose storytelling is basically oral. A Treasury of African Folklore is a written collection of hundreds of traditional African stories, as well as riddles, epics, myths, love songs, proverbs, and parables that preserve a link to an ancient past that is still dimly remembered. Illustrations.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 636 pages
  • Publisher: Marlowe & Co; 1st Marlowe & Co. Ed edition (Jan 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569248168
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569248164
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 15.2 x 4.4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,399,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

From the Publisher

Marlowe & Co. is proud to present the works of H. Courlander

Harold Courlander (1908-1996) is the author of thirty-five books including The African, The Fourth World of the Hopis, The Drum and the Hoe: Life and Lore of the Haitian People, A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore (Marlowe & Co.: 1-56924-811-7), and Master of the Forge (Marlowe & Co.: 1-56924-789-7)

Take a look at praise for Treasury of Afro-American Folklore:

From Ralph Ellison: "This is the most important collection of Afro-American folklore compiled. Mark Twain would have loved it and anyone interested in investigating one of the main folk sources of American literature will find it indispensable."

Praise for Master of the Forge...

From the Washington Book Review: "The Master of the Forge, the latest in Courlander's almost phenomenal output, is a superb example not only of his mastery of the written word, but also of his ability to bring back to life the dust of the past."

From Library Journal: "Courlander's vivid imagination and careful control of his exotic material make this created epic a rich and intriguting work."


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Between the Sahara in the north and the treed steppes of the Sudan to the south of it, between the Senegal in the west and the Nile in the east, there lies a strip of grassland which would provide scant fare for pampered European stock, but which is considered a fine grazing ground by the Arabs. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Final Grade: a C-Plus 14 Jun 2007
By The Sesh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As far as compilations of oral literature from subsaharan Africa goes, this is one of the best. The problem is there aren't very good ones to compare it too. The translations are weak, in that they are vague and incomplete. The author reduces the African stories to the simplest sentences in order to be as brief as possible. Surely the story teller, in story telling mode, were more eloquent and elaborate. However, this is lost because the book is more concerned with giving accounts of numberous African stories rather than giving detailed accounts of just several.

Also, the colonial mentality of the author, though not as severe as his European contemporaries in the early 20th century, shines through. Thus even by around 1972, when this compilation was completed it was largely based on stories collected and written by the author and other European oral collectors decades earlier, during colonialism.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book that children will enjoy! 15 Nov 2011
By reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have to agree with the second commentator; having little knowledge of the subject over the years I have really enjoyed this book. You will find folklore from tribes you are familiar with, and those you might not have heard of before. Courlander attempts to introduce tribes not only of West Africa, but East Africa as well. They are plainly written true, however, Courlander was careful to make sure that the moral of the story and the anecdote comes through in most of the stories. However, the subject would have been more broadly served if he had included the folklore of the Tauregs, Berbers, Nubians, and traditional Arabs of West Africa as well thereby conveying the rich diversity which makes up the continent. Although they are not "Black" (with the exception of the Nubians), however to imply that they are somehow not as African as others is to regulate Africa to the confines of a "Tarzan" myth. Still, whenever I read the stories to my children animated with oral story telling, they always enjoy and ask for more! I therefore highly recommend the book, especially when you consider its low price.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stones are Gems of value when you know what they are!! 30 Mar 2009
By Hyper Thalmus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
With respect to the other reviewer it is very important that such a work exists especially for the cheap price that it is available making it a bargain. Everything is referenced so if you do find something of particular interest you can track it down. Courlander does not pretend that this is the complete African lore rather it is geared towards offering a source for a variety of styles and sources from the diversity of the African world. If you can afford it and have the time buy cultural specific studies that will specify the specific sub-groups and unique aspects of a certian group. However many of the smaller cultures will then be neglected by people that might know about one people and feel no desire to buy something about a lesser known group that may infact interest the reader. Please all those who have ideas of writing a better book do so but don't turn people away from having one of the most useful introductions to a broad range of the continents beliefs and creations for which I have bothered to read and utilised. There is something for every one: proverbs, tales, warrior epics, creation accounts and much more. It is far better than Abraham's books which adopt the same titles as both of Courlanders books yet are not half as deep nor well written.
Love and Blessings to all. If you are a serious researcher write a book that facilitates what is missing or is needed to a field. I try to reason with so many complainers who do nothing, please don't just complain that the wall is broken get up and fix it!!
4.0 out of 5 stars Some translations are odd 23 Jun 2013
By Zebracorn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am so glad someone recommended this book to me. I was looking for African folktales for inspiration as an illustrator. I am finding wonderful stories for this use, as well as just knowing and reading about folk tails other than the European ones we are always given by the likes of Disney.

Right now my only criticism is that the translations are sometimes weird or odd. For instance, I didn't know hens wore bridles. In one story the gender pronouns kept getting switched.

Other than that I am enjoying this book and intend to purchase other books by Harold Courlander.
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