Thursday, April 6, 2017

African Fairy Tales

by Frank Boles 

As part of the Clarke Library’s speaker series, Kayla Foley made a most interesting presentation about African fairy tales, myths, and creation stories on March 20.  Ms. Foley, a CMU student who spent a summer working with orphans in the townships of South Africa brought to the talk her personal experiences and shared what she had learned speaking with and sharing stories with South African children, students, and adults.

Her working title for the evening was “spider tales.” In many areas of Africa “spider tales” is the term used to describe what Americans would call “fairy tales.” One of the videos Ms. Foley shared explained why the stories are named after the spider.  As the legend had it, the spider was annoyed that he received little credit for what he did, and asked a great king to name the tales after him.  After some thought the king said he would, if the spider could accomplish three tasks: bring to the king a bowl full of honey bees, a snake tied straight to a stick, and a living tiger.  Through clever strategies the spider completed each task, and the king, good to his word, declared for all time to come the stories would bear the spider’s name.
Another video, one of particular impact, explained why children cry for no reason.  According to the legend “Nothing” was a beloved person who was killed by a jealous neighbor. After his death, all who knew him cried. Children who cry for “Nothing” cry on behalf of a good man done in by evil.

As might be expected the evening was full of questions asking how the stories from Africa both differed from and paralleled those told in North America and thoughts about points of convergence and divergence.
It was also interesting to learn that Ms. Foley has been invited by teachers to share her work with grade school children in the Mt. Pleasant area.

Ms. Foley is the president of the African Humanitarian Educational Research Organization (AHERO) is a registered student organization at CMU. AHERO is a part of the non-profit organization, and is the first student branch. The purposes of the non-profit is: 1. To raise money to benefit the education and lives of children in places like Nigeria, South Africa, and other African nations. 2. To educate and bring awareness to the different social and political issues found in different countries and cultures in Africa. 3. To create lasting relationships and connections among members. More information about AHERO an be found at