Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Animal Stories from Africa: Styles Brainstorm

Topic. My Storybook will be about animal stories from Africa. My goal is to find four different animals from four different African storytelling traditions. One story I think I want to include is the Ugandan story, The Story of the Hippos, and another story I want to use is the Swahili Story of a Gazelle. I do not think I will have any trouble finding stories about different animals from the different African story collections which I have found online. The problem is really that there are so many stories. My criteria for choosing the stories is that each story should focus on a different animal and come from a different African tradition.

1. The Story of the Hippos, from The King of the Snakes and Other Folk-Lore Stories from Uganda, by Rosetta Baskerville (1922).
2. Story of a Gazelle, from The Violet Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang (1901).
In general, the Africa area of Sacred Texts is fantastic; that is where I will look for more stories.

Possible Styles:

Animals as storytellers. This is a logical choice for my Storybook - I think I definitely want to have the animals be the storytellers. Since all of the stories have animals in them, I could choose a character from each story as the storyteller, telling the story in first-person. Or I could invent some animal, like say a wise old elephant, who tells all four of the stories - third-person style. Either way, I know I want the animals to the storytellers in my Storybook.

Festival. So, the occasion for telling stories: I like the idea that the animals could be attending a festival and tell their stories on that occasion. It would need to be some natural occasion, like maybe the "Full Moon Festival" or the summer solstice or the winter solstice... the kind of holiday animals would celebrate. I would need to think about that, too, and figure out just where in Africa to have the festival take place.

Journey. A journey could work, too! I saw the most amazing film about bird migrations, and many of the birds fly all the way to Africa. The animals could be on a journey to the festival, or maybe the animals could be on a journey in quest of water, or finding a new home because human settlements have driven them out. That would be the frame, and as the animals journey around they could meet other animals who could be the storytellers. That is more complicated than the festival idea, but it would be fun!

American animals as storytellers. I also like the idea that American animals could be interested in these legends from another place, so it could be animals here in the U.S. telling stories about animals that come from African traditions. I'd have to figure out how to make that work... but maybe I could even play around with Bre'r Rabbit and that whole cast of characters, and use them as storytellers... the Africa connection would really make sense there, too, since the Brer Rabbit tradition itself goes back to Africa. Hmmmm, the more I think about that, the more I like that idea best of all: Brer Rabbit Fairy Tales or something like that! That definitely appeals. 

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