Folk Tales

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Heale, Jay, and Dianne Stewart

African Myths and Legends

Illustrated by Gina Daniel and Angus McBride. Cape Town, South Africa: Struik, 2001. 96 p.
ISBN 1-86872-705-X. (Originally published as two separate books: Daughter of the Moonlight and Other African Tales, by Dianne Stewart, 1994; and South African Myths and Legends, by Jay Heale, 1995.) Ages 10 and up.

There are two collections of stories published here. The result is a book containing twenty-two assorted stories drawn from all over southern Africa and representing many cultures. Dianne Stewart’s stories, which form the first half of the book, are all from the folklore of Africa. They are traditional tales from a wide range of sources (such as San, Khoikhoi, Xhosa, Zulu, and Sotho) that explain animal traits or how best to behave. There is a San story about the origin of the sun and the moon, and a Swazi story about cattle herding. Jay Heale’s tales also come from widely different sources: there is a Zulu tale entitled “Seven Magic Birds” and a San story called “The Rain Bull.” There are also legends based on historical happenings (such as the ghosts of Cape Town Castle and the sad wreck of the Grosvenor) and legends of European African origin (such as the enduring story of Van Hunks and the Devil smoking on top of Table Mountain).

Gina Daniel’s pictures are deft and delicate, treating each human and animal with respect. Angus McBride is more dramatic and his illustrations provide impact, action, and suspense, as well as accurate historical detail. This collection also takes readers to many different types of African countryside, from the mountains of Lesotho through the once animal-filled veld, to the desert and the sea. Each story is allotted four pages that include the text, colour pictures, and a boxed inset of relevant factual information. The stories are suitable for independent readers, or they can be read aloud to younger listeners. While there are many books containing African myths and legends, this one is carefully researched and engagingly written, several full of humour and one or two decidedly scary. The original separate publications were also available in Afrikaans.

Folk Tales

South Africa

Struik Publishing