Book Club: Children of Wax: African Folk Tales (International Folk Tales)

July 9, 2019

Children of Wax: African Folk Tales (International Folk Tales)

These recently collected tales are emphatically not children’s pabulum: they are full of danger, violence, and death. There is a near-obsession with food and water, hunger and thirst. Although anthropomorphic animals and other supernatural elements figure here, they are taken for granted. The dominant note is a vivid–even stark–realism. Behaviors most strongly condemned in the narratives are fickleness, foolish trust, greed, and overreaching, but selfish and even treacherous acts sometimes go unpunished. (One story describes a cruel revenge worthy of a 16th-century melodrama.) There is an apparently unironic account of the evolution of baboons from humans. While folktales from West Africa are familiar to many, this collection may give greater currency to the traditional tales of Matabeleland in Zimbabwe.
– Patricia Dooley, Univ. of Washington Lib. Sch., Seattle