African Folktales

By Roger D. Abrahams

Nearly 100 stories from over 40 tribe-related myths of creation, tales of epic deeds, ghost stories and tales set in both the animal and human realms.


My goodness this was a long, hard slog!

This was my second attempt at reading more mythology, fairy tales, and folk tales in my effort to increase my awareness of storytelling archetypes. I started with Native American stories and enjoyed that far more than the African ones.

It could be that, having grown up in a Western Plains State, the Native American story-telling structure was already part of upbringing. I didn’t feel like it was, but I just had such an easier time following and digesting what I was reading.

I have been picking away at this book for over six months. And it was pretty painful.

I think I had two problems with the African folktales: 1) the names and 2) the names of animals or things that I had no idea what they were.

Many of these African folktales including a song component and our a repetitive structure, similar to nursery stories like Goldilocks and The Three Bears or The Three Little Pigs. And whenever that would happen, I would find myself trying to skim the story and then getting confused.

American Indian Myths and Legends

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By Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz

Gathering 160 tales from 80 tribal groups to offer a rich and lively panorama of the Native American mythic heritage. 

This was a good and broad overview of Native American mythology and stories. Despite having grown up in the west, I wasn’t actually familiar with many Native American stories. I was primarily reading this book to do research for an upcoming project.

The stories were interesting and well-told. Most were pretty sure, which made it a nice before-bed book as I could read two or three then go to sleep.

The one thing I didn’t like was that some of the stories featured more modern elements in them…I was looking for something with more traditional stories. Most were more traditional, but a few were dated from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, after the Native American wars with the white man and their subsequent internment on reservations.

Some of these stories were pretty dirty. I wasn’t bothered by that, just surprised, especially as some reviewers for the book had mentioned reading them to their kids as bedtime stories.

I think this was a great introduction to some of the symbolism and archetypal story constructions that exist within the Native American story-telling tradition. I found the forwards at the beginning of each “section” very informative as they explained things like the creation myth, stories about trickster gods, and conceptions of death. The back also had a section with the names of Native American tribes in the US, their relative location, and some history about them.

As always when I read myths or legends, it’s interesting how many elements are shared. Creation of everything in the world, creation of language, a great flood, a deathly underworld and more.