There are three key similarities among African folktales: a strong moral to the story; the personification of animals and nature; and a fairly generic location. Changes to the stories have resulted in their growth and reinterpretation by various authors over time. For example, some modern tales differ significantly from their originals because they include political messages in regard to issues such as slavery or colonialism. Others add supernatural elements or substitute them for humans with animals being the most common replacement. Finally, some stories are simply too embarrassing to repeat outside of private circles.
Moral tales include stories that teach children right from wrong, such as "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and "The Gingerbread Man." They may also include lessons about loyalty, friendship, or other life skills. The African folktale genre has many examples of these types of stories including "The Three Princes of Malia," "The Girl who Married the Lion Lover," and "The Peacock's Tail."
These include animals such as birds, lions, elephants, and dogs; mythical creatures such as mermaids, unicorns, and frogs; and real people such as Queen Mafuta of Swaziland and Chief Batwa of the Congo. It is believed by some scholars that these characters developed into what we know today as fairy tales by European writers.
The folktale was the most popular type of storytelling among these enslaved people. The main protagonists in most African folktales are animals. Stories about the hyena, lion, elephant, monkey, and trickster Anansi, the spider, may have been recounted in Africa. Enslaved Africans brought to Europe also told folktales; for example, they were one of the few types of story allowed during Christmas celebrations.
Folktales were passed on from person to person as part of a culture's oral tradition. They were not written down until much later when printing presses began making books available to a larger number of people. Today, some folktales remain unique to each country though many others are shared by several countries. For example, "Jack and the Beanstalk" is found in England, America, Australia, and India.
In Africa, folktales remained an important part of society long after slavery ended in 1900. Many Africans still tell stories at bedtime or before going to school to help children go to sleep or stay awake. Some are very old and some are new but all contain the same elements: someone will be punished for their misdeeds and often this involves being sent to hell or heaven where Aangyal (angels) will watch over them.
People love hearing fairy tales at night before sleeping because it's believed that if you hear something wonderful then you'll wake up smiling.
The Elements of African Folklore are oral stories or legends passed down from generation to generation that form part of a community's culture. African folktales frequently explain why nature is how it is. They frequently include an essential message to learn inside the narrative. These stories have helped shape many aspects of African society including religion, politics, and art.
There are several types of tales found in Africa. There are mythologies about gods and humans, about good and evil; there are stories that explain the origin of things; and then there are warnings against danger or temptation. All of these can be found in African folklore.
Some examples of myths and legends found in Africa include those about Zeus, Moses, Abraham, Jesus. Others include Kuamu, a god who was killed by his son who became king, Kenkeni, a goddess who changed herself into a grain of corn to escape her jealous husband, and Shango, a god who used his lightning bolts to destroy his enemies.
As for stories that explain the origin of things, they include ones about Chibombo, a wizard who lived in Ancient Congo who used his powers to create life; Nkisi, a spirit who could be either good or evil depending on how you treated her; and Otafire, a fire monster who was burned up by his wife who was angry he had taken another woman as a lover.
African folktales are an essential component of African oral society. They often connect to and explain the different cultural and traditional features of the culture from which they emerge. For example, "The Boy Who Was Talked To" explains why it is important for boys to learn how to fight using only their brains rather than their fists. It also teaches them that you should never talk to a stranger because he or she might be a criminal out to get you. Finally, the story warns them not to trust people who seem too good to be true.
Folktales play an important role in maintaining social cohesion within African communities. People enjoy hearing stories about strangers who turn out to be friends, or enemies who become allies. This makes them happy because it reminds them that everyone is capable of changing for the better or worse. Folktales also teach children valuable lessons about life. For example, "The Boy Who Was Talked To" tells them not to talk to strangers and if someone tries to hurt them, they should fight back.
In addition to teaching children about crime prevention and self-defense, African folktales also help them understand relationships. For example, in "The Monkey's Tail," a monkey steals a farmer's corn but gives him back his lost tail in return.