The Girl Who Married a Lion

The woman asked him to open the bag and he did so, making sure that the bird was unable to fly out of the open neck of the bag. The woman looked in and let out a cry of surprise.

“I have heard of that sort of bird before,” she said. “That is the sort of bird which gives milk.”

I’ve mentioned before my love for Alexander McCall Smith, so when I saw this book of African tales I couldn’t resist. Most of the stories in The Girl Who Married a Lion: and Other Tales from Africa are only a few pages, so it’s perfect to pick up here and there.

They come from the oral traditions of Zimbabwe and Botswana and feature expected elements like talking animals and morals at the end. Some stories punish wickedness while others praise cleverness, even though you pity the one being outsmarted. My favorite, perhaps, tells of a ghost who comes back to help her younger sister struggling alone with the chores. It’s sad, but happy at the same time.

Mr. Smith explains in his introduction that the stories are retellings, as language differences would cause a strict retelling to lose some elements of the original, but that they belong entirely to the people of Africa. I have mixed feelings about this. The cadence is similar to that the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, but now I am unsure if this is the style of African tradition or Alexander McCall Smith himself. I suppose this means I shall have to read more to figure it out.

Published in: on December 17, 2009 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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