Favorite African Folktales

Front Cover
Nelson Mandela
W. W. Norton & Company, 2004 - Fiction - 240 pages
4 Reviews
Mandela, a Nobel Laureate for Peace, has selected these thirty-two tales with the specific hope that Africa's oldest stories, as well as a few new ones, be perpetuated by future generations and be appreciated by children throughout the world. In these "beloved stories, morsels rich with the gritty essence of Africa," we meet, among many others, a Kenyan lion named Simba, a snake with seven heads and a trickster from Zulu folklore; we hear the voices of the scheming hyena and learn from a Khoi fable how animals acquired their tails and horns. Several creation myths tell us how the land, its animals, and its people all came into existence under a punishing sun or against the backdrop of a spectacularly beautiful mountain landscape. Whether warning children about the dangers of disobedience or demonstrating that the underdog can--and often does--win, these stories, through their depiction of wise animals as well as evil monsters, are "universal in their portrayal of humanity, beasts, and the mystical."

What is particularly exciting about this book is that many of the stories, in their oral form, are almost as old as Africa itself. Most of them were, in fact, first told in various African tongues around evening fires in centuries past--tales from, for example, the San and the Khoi, the original hunter-gatherers and livestock herders of Southern Africa. Translated into English and other European languages chiefly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from their original languages--be they Karanga, Nguni, Xhosa, or one of many others--these folktales are a testament to the craft of storytelling and the power of myth. Accompanied by dozens of enchanting, specially commissioned color paintings, Favorite African Folktales--culled from African countries as far-flung as Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya--presents a fountain of precious knowledge that will be treasured by children, as well as adults, for years to come.

What people are saying - Write a review

Review: Favorite African Folktales

User Review  - Gerardo Escobar - Goodreads

Nice children folklore , mix of cultures. A funny way to understand Africa. Read full review

Review: Favorite African Folktales

User Review  - Sam - Goodreads

I only read this because these are Mandela's favourite folktales. They are generic short stories with a predictable moral at the end of each one. This would be suitable for a the younger reader. Read full review

Selected pages


The Enchanting song of the Magical Bird
The Cat Who Came Indoors
The Great Thirst
King Lions Gifts
The Message
The Snake Chief
How Hlakanyana Outwitted the Monster
The Wolf Queen
Van Hunks and the Devil
Wolf and Jackal and the Barrel of Butter
The Cloud Princess
The Guardian of the Pool
The Sultans Daughter
The Ring of the King
The Clever Snake Charmer

Words As Sweet As Honey from Sankhambi
Mmutla and Phiri
The Lion The Hare and the Hyena
Kamiyo of the River
Spider and the Crows
The Hare and the Tree Spirit
The Mantis and the Moon
The Snake with Seven Heads
The Hares Revenge
Asmodeus and the Bottler on Djinns
Sakunaka the Handsome Young Man
The Mother Who Turned to Dust
Mpipidi and the Motiopi Tree
Fesito Goes to Market
Sannie Langtand and the Visitor
About the Authors
About Nelson Mandela

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

About the author (2004)

Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa. His teacher later named him Nelson as part of a custom to give all schoolchildren Christian names. He briefly attended University College of Fort Hare but was expelled after taking part in a protest with Oliver Tambo, with whom he later operated the nation's first black law firm. He eventually completed a bachelor's degree through correspondence courses and studied law at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He left without graduating in 1948. Mandela was part of the African National Congress (ANC) and spent many years as a freedom fighter. When the South African government outlawed the ANC after the Sharpeville Massacre, he went underground to form a new military wing of the organization. In 1964, he was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. Instead of testifying at the trial, he opted to give a speech that was more than four hours long and ended with a defiant statement. While in prison, he received a bachelor's degree in law in absentia from the University of South Africa. In 1990, Mandela was released from prison after 27 years. He served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with former South African President F.W. de Klerk in 1993 for transitioning the nation from a system of racial segregation. After leaving the presidency, Mandela retired from active politics, but continued championing causes such as human rights, world peace and the fight against AIDS. He died on November 5, 2013 at the age of 95.

Bibliographic information