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Ox of the Wonderful Horns, The: And Other African Folktales

de Ashley Bryan

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A spider, frogs, a tortoise, and a magic ox are among the characters in a collection of five traditional tales from Africa.
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One of several folktale collections created by African-American artist and author Ashley Bryan, The Ox of the Wonderful Horns contains five tales, taken from the folk traditions of three African nations. Unlike Beautiful Blackbird - the first of Bryan's titles that I read, which, save for the artwork, did not impress me greatly - the source material for these selections is prominently listed, at the beginning of the book. I appreciated that (unattributed, or clumsily revised folklore being one of my pet peeves), enjoyed the tales themselves, and thought Bryan's block-print illustrations were gorgeous. I'm glad I gave this author/artists another try! Included are:

Ananse the Spider in Search of a Fool, from the Ashanti people of Ghana, tells the story of the west African trickster spider, whose efforts to fool someone else into doing all the hard work of fishing for him, backfire. This tale, originally found in R.S. Rattray's Akan-Ashanti Folk-Tales, has also been retold by Verna Aardema, in a slightly different form, as Anansi Finds a Fool: An Ashanti Tale.

Frog and His Two Wives, from Angola, is the tale of a frog who takes two wives, establishing one in the sycamore grove on the east side of his land, and the other in the palm grove on the west side. Everything appears to be going well, until the rainy weather confuses the wives, and they both call Frog into dinner at the same time. This selection, like the next, is taken from Heli Chatelain's Folk-Tales of Angola.

Elephant and Frog Go Courting, a second Angolan tale, follows Frog as he convinces the pretty girls whom both he and Elephant have been courting, that his friend is really his steed - an impression confirmed when he tricks Elephant into giving him a ride.

Tortoise, Hare and the Sweet Potatoes, from the Tsonga people of South Africa (and Mozambique), tells the tale of calm Tortoise, who outwits the trickster Hare, giving him a well-deserved punishment for his theft of the other animals' food. This tale is originally found in Henri Junod's ethnography, The Life of a South African Tribe.

Finally, the titular The Ox of the Wonderful Horns is a South African wonder tale, following the adventures of a young boy named Mungalo, and his wanderings with his ox, whose magical wishing horns provide all he needs. It was taken from George McCall Theal's Kaffir Folklore, and is from the Xhosa people, I believe. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 18, 2013 |
Ashley Bryan is a storytelling delight in this retelling of African folktales. The Ox and the Wonderful Horns is about a mistreated son of a chief who is mistreated by his father's other wives and is gifted a magical ox with the power to conjure up food clothes or anything else with three taps of its right horn. After the ox dies, he carries the horns around on his belt and uses the power within the horns but tells no one ever again.
Grades 2-8 Audience: wide appeal. Group Read. Positives: great illustrrations, simple storytelling, spirited characters
negatives: only 5 stories ( )
  shumphreys | Mar 10, 2010 |
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A spider, frogs, a tortoise, and a magic ox are among the characters in a collection of five traditional tales from Africa.

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