Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

World on a Maple Leaf: A Treasury of Canadian Multicultural Folktales

Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

World on a Maple Leaf: A Treasury of Canadian Multicultural Folktales

Article excerpt

World on a Maple Leaf: A Treasury of Canadian Multicultural Folktales. Edited by Asma Sayed and Nayanika Kumar Edmonton: United Cultures of Canada Association, 2011. 102 pp.

World on a Maple Leaf is a compilation of twenty-five folktales by twentyfour authors with the aim of fostering understanding and respect for cultural differences in the multicultural contexts of Canadian life. These stories are folktales in a generous sense of the term in that they include rewritings of published tales, oral tales from grandparents, and original compositions. The brief directive given to contributors was "to re-imagine . . . stories . . . heard from parents, grandparents, friends and families, and to write them for Canadian children" (vii). The first thousand copies are for free distribution to libraries; further sales will support children in need. The writers and editors show such idealism and the project is so manifestly worthwhile that any criticism may sound peevish, but from a folklorist's perspective questions arise.

I had hoped, from the title, for a collection of newly recorded oral folktales from recent immigrants to Canada. Surprisingly, all but six of the contributors were bom in Canada or the United States. All are highly literate, identifying themselves as storytellers (nine), writers (eight), academics (three), and graduate students (four), with three of the students studying comparative literature at the University of Alberta. I would have expected Edmonton immigrant communities to have been canvassed, and perhaps they were because the introduction mentions a call that elicited "an overwhelming response" and the "painful" rejection of some "fascinating" stories (vii-viii). It is not clear whether any of the included stories came as the result of inquiry among new immigrants. This is a pity, especially because the final contributor, Roxanne Felix, writes eloquently about the value of "ask[ing] about a person's journey" (94). If this is just the first in a series, as the editors hope, it will be worth going to new Canadians and recording their stories directly, rather than relying on others, no matter how refined their storytelling skills, to speak for them.

It would surely be empowering for immigrants to know that their oral literature is valued in their new country This raises my second question: Why is this compilation so liter acentric1. Although all the contributors speak highly of oral storytelling, the average reader would assume from this collection that oral tales are just an imperfect stage on the way to becoming written stories. …

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