African American Folktales

African American Folktales

African American Folktales

African American Folktales

Synopsis

African American culture has a rich tradition of folktales. Written for students and general readers, this volume gathers a sampling of the most important African American folktales. Included are nearly 50 tales grouped in thematic chapters on origins; heroes, heroines, villains, and fools; society and conflict; and the supernatural. Each tale begins with an introductory headnote, and the book closes with a selected, general bibliography. Students learning about literature and language will gain a greater understanding of African American oral traditions, while social studies students will learn more about African American culture.

Excerpt

African American Folktales is designed to provide educators, students, and general readers with examples of a range of traditional African American narrative types: fictional tales, legends, myths, and personal experience narratives. Moreover, the examples in this anthology attempt to represent the cultural diversity within African America. Because of the popularity of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus Tales, the popular image of African American narrative is the animal fable presented in the southern dialect as rendered by Harris and European American authors who followed the principles he established. In reality, the subject matter ranges from animal fable to the romantic fairy tale, levels of diction from the colloquial to the formal, and language forms from the Africanized English Gullah of the southern coast to French Creole. As noted in the body of this work, the folktales are informed by African, European, and Native American traditions— traditions that, in turn, were impacted by the resulting African American art forms. The tales reflect the environment, cultural adaptations, and prevailing concerns of the respective areas from which they are drawn, as well as more general features of the African American experience. The introductions to each tale comment on these issues. The concluding general bibliography provides additional resources for those readers who wish to explore these issues in greater depth.

The collection is divided into four sections. “Origins” encompasses those narratives that focus on beginnings and transformations: the creation of the world and its inhabitants, how animal species acquired their physical characteristics, and how the family came to be here, for example. “Heroes, Heroines, Villains, and Fools” presents a cross-section of major character types that populate African American folktales. “Society and Conflict” contains considerations of social issues ranging from conventional morality and intergroup conflicts to the common experience of bondage that many, but by no means all, African American families shared. Finally, “The Supernatural” concentrates on traditional tales of the dead, the magical, and the monstrous.

The narratives have been modified from their original forms for the benefit of contemporary readers. The modifications have been held to the . . .

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