Retold by Kathleen Arnott, ‘Oxford Tales from Africa’ both entertains and teaches. The characters in the stories are both humans and animals, and the tales are full of warnings against certain kinds of behaviour, such as greed and dishonesty, and paint behaviour like courage and kindness as being desirable and likely to be rewarded.
The tales, both plausible and implausible, what of the talking animals and the magic involved, will thrill and at the same time serve as warning to readers.
The writer takes us through a fascinating spectrum:
Why dog and man are great friends – this came about when the dog, finding himself in need, went to man and was honest about his troubles. Man showed great kindness to dog and voila! Thus was born a great friendship
How dishonesty and gluttony killed the lizard – the lying lizard tricked the tortoise out of most of his salt, and the tortoise, after thinking it over, came up with a plan which led to the death of the lizard
The snake is shown to be friendly and helpful to a woman whose brother is determined to destroy her. The sister chose the father’s blessings while the selfish brother preferred the father’s wealth, which he proceeded to waste
The wisdom of being polite and accepting good advice – two sisters for whom the farther sought suitors. The hard headed rude one met her death whereas the polite and well-mannered one married the handsome chief
Respecting people you do not consider to be your equals – how the youngest and littlest of 11 brothers saves his ten older brothers from being killed and eaten by a witch
The hare, is depicted as clever, tortoise as slow but ever wise, and the ogre and witch are still as wicked as they were before I was born! Ill luck befalls all those who try evil deeds.
The stories are easy to read and full of surprise elements, but still as fresh as they were when first told to dozens of grandchildren through the generations!