African Folktales

More interesting facts about Africa.

Over generations and generations, African folktales have been passed down from one mouth to another. In days gone by, these stories were told after a longs day’s work at night by the fire. More recently, you can find televised re-enactments of these “tales by moonlight” shown across the continent as mode of conveying these valuable stories and their life lessons to the current and future generations of children using modern technology.

I remember being told some of these stories by older family members on nights when everyone was gathered together and they were trying to get us children to calm down after a hard day of playing.

The Essence Of Folktales In Africa

Essentially, folktales are a way of communicating and passing down various customs, traditions and African facts by word of mouth. In Africa, in the grand scheme of things and time, printed material is a fairly new development, so these stories had to survive through generations without being written down. African folktales are intended to teach people, particularly the young people, about life lessons and ways they should conduct themselves in order to succeed in life and love.

These fireside chats don’t/didn’t only consist of folk tales, but other forms of oral history and interesting facts about Africa such as:

Common Themes In African Folktales

Anansi The Trickster

Anansi (as he is known in Ghana), the famous spider is usually the “bad guy”; a frequent trickster in folktales circulated around the vast continent, he goes by many different names depending on the country and tribe where a story is being told. Through the character of Anansi, listeners can learn from his wise, humorous, and sometimes idiotic ways. This legendary character of Anansi has even travelled as far as Caribbean island folk tales, where he has the name of “Ti Malice” in Haiti for example.

Another very common characteristic of folk tales from Africa is the use of nature. In almost all stories, animals play a significant role, sometimes taking on human characteristics such as becoming the protagonists and cameo roles from which the main lesson or moral of the story is learned. Some of the common animal characters include:

  • Monkey
  • Giraffe
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Zebra
  • Crocodile
  • Rhinoceros
  • Snake
  • A wide variety of birds
  • …and many others

african folktales, african traditions, facts about africa

The natural habitat and environment of these animals also teaches the listener about the land in which they live. Many folktales talk about the landscape and climate of the African continent, such as:

  • The suffering of the dry season or of droughts when rain hasn’t come for several years
  • The fruitful times of the rainy season that allow the rivers to swell and plants to produce

The vast savannas, muddy rivers, and spectacular sunsets provide a diverse backdrop against which the stories take place.

Just like in real life, and quite unlike the majority of Western folktales, not many African folktales end with “happily ever after”, but they spread important life lessons of selflessness, community engagement, honor, loyalty, honesty, and friendship. Today, many folktales are available in both print and digital form (like the one below), and if you read them really carefully, you just may catch a whiff of wood smoke as you imagine the folk tale being told under the African stars.

I have put together a collection of some common West African proverbs. The first section are all primarily Anansi stories and the second section includes other folktales.

These stories help give greater insight into African cultures and ways of life and are great to read to children.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, you may do so by clicking the “Download Now” button below.

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Other African Folk Tales Books

If your preference is to get these wonderful stories in hard copy and share them then below you will find some of these books on sale on eBay.

Either way, the most important thing is to share and keep on sharing these stories so that traditions will live on.

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