African Folktales

Below is a mixture of folktales from African countries. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a jumping off point for further research. You will find other web sites referenced in the text next to the picture. You may find these helpful in your search for information about the authors, illustrators, or for information about Africa in general.

Texts were chosen because they offered new stories, or new versions of familiar stories, because they are commonly included in children's basal readers, and/or because the illustrations were extraordinary.

Disclaimer ---

This site was created by Diane Brown and Michelle Madden to fulfill requirements for an Oklahoma State University graduate class. This site is not considered to be child-safe because some of the sites referenced within this site link to the world wide web.

This page last updated April 24, 2003

Anansi the Spider - a tale from the Ashanti

Adapted and Illustrated by Gerald McDermott

Anansi the Spider is the trickster character in folk tales from Africa and Jamaica. In this story, Anansi falls into trouble and is rescued by his sons, each one using his own special skills. In the end, Anansi wants to reward the son who helped him the most by giving him a special glowing ball. Because the sons could not agree on who had helped the most, Nyame, the God of All Things, takes the ball into the sky where it is now the moon.

Here is a site to help children and teachers become better web crawlers:

Click here to visit this site.

Here is a site where children have written Anansi poetry. Click here to visit this site.

Here is a site with a lesson plan for this story: Click here to visit this site.

Copyright 1972 by Landmark Productions
Published by Henry Holt and Company

ISBN # 0-8050-0311-8

Why do Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears?

Retold by Verna Aardema
Pictures by Leo and Diane Dillon

This folk tale from West Africa is told in the "House that Jack Built" style. Mosquito says something silly to iguana. Iguana puts sticks in his ears to avoid hearing such nonsense. Because he can't hear, a chain of events occurs which King Lion must untangle. This story is particularly good for teaching onomonopea, as each animals makes a peculiar and particular sound.

This web site has a good author biography. Here is a site with good art ideas for extension of this story. The lesson plans are extensive, with particular emphasis on making masks. Visit the Yale Education to read these lesson plans.

Visit Scholastic for more information on ordering this book.

Copyright 1975 by
Verna Aardema and Leo and Diane Dillon
Published by Scholastic, Inc.

ISBN # 0-590-10294-X

The Egyptian Cinderella

Retold by Shirley Climo
Illustrated by Ruth Heller

Every folk tale has a root in fact. Rhodopis, a slave in Greece, is believed to have been born in northern Greece, kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery. She was later taken to Greece and bought by a man named Charaxos. She later married the Pharaoh Amasis (570 - 526 BC) and became his queen. This story, originally written by the Roman historian Strabo in the first century B.C. gives the legendary explanation of her rise to riches.

Here is a web site kids can use before and during their reading of this book. It includes questions to help assess prior knowledge. Visit Kidreach

Visit this site Thinkquest A great source of information on Egypt, written in "Kid speak"

Copyright 1989 by Shirley Climo and Ruth Heller
Published by HarperTrophy

ISBN # 0-06-443279-3

Jirimpimbira - An African Folktale

Kathleen Arnot's Tale of Temba inspires this 25 minute animated videotape tells the story of a young boy, Temba, who fights off danger to find food and water for his village. He is given a set of magic bones by a wise old man. As repayment for the magic bones, he must remember that friendship is the best gift of all. In the end he saves his village from starvation.

This story has surprising twists and holds children's attention. It is an easy lead in to using folk tales to teach social conventions such as friendship.

Since this isn't available at a retail store, here is a site where you can order the video.
Visit cd universe

Here is a site with information about the continent of Africa, including the names of the countries, the languages spoken there, and pictures of the food.
Visit ImagesAfrica for more information

Copyright 1995 Greengrass Productions, Inc.

Produced and Distributed by ABC Video Publishing,Inc. ISBN # 1-56949-311-1